- Costa Rica is a rugged, rainforested Central American country with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific. Though it’s capital, San Jose, is home to cultural institutions like Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, Costa Rica is known for its beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, teeming with wildlife including spider monkeys and quetzal birds.
- Most of the country’s 755 miles of coastline is on the Pacific side, where three peninsulas add to its contour and frequent rocky points divides it into countless beaches. The Atlantic coast is comparatively shorter, with remarkably straight palm-lined beaches that stretch off as far as the eye can see.
Visa Regulations and Guidance
- The visitor to Costa Rica is required to be in possession of a valid passport. U.S. citizens and green card holders do not need visas. Nationals of other countries must check the list of visa exempt countries to see if they need to apply for visas.
- As a general precaution, all travelers are advised to carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from their passport.
- Costa Rican currency is the Colon. US dollars are widely accepted in C.R. and you can easily exchange your US dollars at a fair rate in most of the hotels in C.R. It is recommended that you do not exchange your US dollars for the local currency of “Colones” before arriving at your hotel in Costa Rica, unless you go to a local bank. Normally when you spend dollars you will receive your change in colones at a fair exchange rate (approximately CRC525 to CRC535 per dollar). Sometimes the exchange rate is rounded down to CRC500 per dollar when spending dollars on things priced in colones. This is equivalent to paying a 5% commission which is a very bad rate. You should either pay in colones or ask for a fair exchange rate. Canadian dollars and Euros are not accepted in Costa Rica, except for exchange in banks. Most hotels, restaurants and stores accept Visa and Mastercard, some accept American Express and other credit cards. In smaller towns, you may be charged extra to pay with a credit card.
- Tipping is not customary in Costa Rica, but in the tourism industry tipping for professional services is universal. It is considered polite to tip guides and drivers for performance and services rendered. While largely a personal decision, a tour guide may be tipped $2 - $10, depending on the size of your group.Note that all restaurant bills include a mandatory 10% tip, and leaving extra is uncommon.
Health and Medical Information
- There are no mandatory vaccines, but the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers be up-to-date on routine vaccines (MMR DPT, etc.), as well as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid. Dengue fever is a virus transmitted by certain species of mosquito present in Costa Rica. If you are traveling to tropical areas, especially along the Caribbean coast, make sure to pack bug spray. Insect repellent with deet is recommended if you are traveling deep into the jungle. Costa Rica is internationally recognized for its top-notch medical services, both public and private, thanks to its wealth of skilled surgeons and state-of-the-art facilities. For minor aches and pains, visit a local
- pharmacy. All pharmacies are required to have a licensed pharmacist on staff, and they can diagnose certain ailments and prescribe medication on the spot.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
- Costa Rican cuisine is mostly mild and savory. Spicy food is uncommon, and traditional dishes go heavy on the Latin American favorites of rice, beans and local produce. Small diners, called sodas, serve up generous portions of homemade meals and are very economical, you’ll pay $3-$5 for a full plate of food and a natural fruit drink. You can drink the tap water throughout most of the country. In certain remote areas, water may not be potable. You will see warning signs of “Agua No Potable”.
Climate and Weather
- Costa Rica has a temperate tropical climate marked by two seasons: the dry (December – April) and the wet (May – November). The average temperature throughout the year is between 71 F and 81 F. During the rainy season, also known as the green season, mornings are generally sunny followed by later afternoon showers. San Jose, which lies between those two extremes, has the perfect climate all along the year, with an average temperature of 72 F (22 C). The days can get fairly hot in the capital, but it always cools down so that you may need a sweater or jacket.
Electricity and Plug Standards
- Costa Rica’s electricity operates at 110 volts and 60 hertz, the same as in the United States and Canada. Visitors from countries with other electrical systems, such as those in Europe will need adapters for their electrical devices.
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