Editor’s note: This article was updated October 1st, 2015
Yes, you can use your smart phone in Nicaragua!
*This article is about how to load data on your phone. Many people disable their data, and just use Wi-Fi that is located almost everywhere in the city, like for free in the Central Park. *
To get data on your phone, the best thing to do is to have your phone “unlocked” by your service provider. (If you have an Iphone 5 this is not necessary.) You will need to let them know that you are moving out of the country and that you would still like to use your phone, but not their service. We suggest you purchase a plan from one of the two major providers here in Nicaragua, due to the ease of which you will be able to recharge your data/minutes. In Nicaragua Claro and Movistar are the two biggest provider’s, and they can sell you a local SIM/micro SIM card, and the data associated with it. 1G of data, which they say should last 30 days cost less than 8 U.S. Dollars.
If your phone is still in use with your home plan when you are in a foreign country be sure to turn all applications off including your, facebook, twitter, SKYPE, emails, and gaming apps or anything using “data”. You should only turn on apps that use data from a wifi hotspot. All the functions that “push” your data like email, Facebook, twitter, etc are using up data every minute so if you are overseas with your home plan, you may be paying $ 1 or $ 2 a minute! It’s easy to rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars of charges doing nothing but having your phone on if you do not turn off your data.
Here are some articles with more information.
How to set up your service in Nicaragua.
In Leon, there are dozens of cell phone stores to choose from, and to recharge your “data” when needed. You can go to most provider locations to purchase a new SIM card for your phone as well. When you arrive in the store have your phone with you and ask for details on the plans available. (Keep in mind most places you go to, the employees will only speak Spanish. ‘Celltown’ store owner Denis speaks English, and his store is located ½ block west from the central park.) You can purchase the SIM card and phone plan at the same location. You may need to have a safety pin with you to pop out the SIM card cover. You should also bring with you a little baggie to keep your old SIM card or some scotch tape to hold your SIM card to something so you don’t lose it. One day when you return home, you may want that same card so you can use the same phone number. If is very helpful to back up all of your numbers on the cloud before you leave but especially before you switch to a local number.
Most plans available are for data, making local calls, and texting. (You may want to download WhatsApp, which is free texting using a Wi-Fi internet connection.) Often times the Nicaraguan service providers have specials, and they run several times a month. The best specials run around the 15th of the month. The best one is called ‘Quintuplica’ When you buy prepaid minutes on quintuplica day you receive five times the minutes purchased.
How do I minimize my data charges when I use my smartphone outside the U.S.?
-Turn Data Roaming “OFF”
-Use Wi-Fi instead of 3G/GPRS/EDGE
-Turn Fetch New Data “OFF”
-Consider purchasing an international data package
-Reset the usage tracker to zero
I have a cellular contract. How do I cancel my plan?
The best advice we can give you is to let your provider know well in advance that you will be cancelling your service because you will be studying and moving abroad. They may request proof from you. You can show them your Terms and Conditions along with your TEFL class payment receipt. It is best to begin this process long before your arrival. If you need further documentation of your relocation and you are a registered student with ITAN. They may also allow you to put your current plan on hold for up to a year.
What is the Nicaraguan country code?
The international calling code for Nicaragua is +505. If you are making a call from outside of Nicaragua to Nicaragua for example the US, you will need to dial 011 + 505 + the eight-digit phone number.
Can I make international calls for free from Nicaragua?
Absolutely, If you have a computer and the internet you can call internationally. SKYPE is a free to other Skype account users, and is a universal service you can use to communicate with anyone around the world. You can also purchase prepaid packages where you can call pre-determined countries on a prepaid monthly basis, or unlimited monthly basis.
International TEXT Messages:
As mentioned earlier, you can use WhatsApp or WeChat to send text messages through a WiFi connection. The other person you wish to text with needs to sign up for an account also.Voice messages can also be sent through the apps.
What if I need to call a landline or cell phone that is not in Nicaragua?
You can use SKYPE form this service as well. With your SKYPE account you can pay as you go or pay for a subscription to a pre-determined country of your choice. (Normally you have to choose one country to call to.) You will need a credit card to set up this service, and may want to set this up before you leave your home country, however you can set up this service while you are here in Nicaragua.
So there you have it. A basic guide to using your existing smartphone in Nicaragua without purchasing another phone. Please keep in mind that the best policy is to contact your current service provider to get the most accurate information regarding your phone and plan/contract.