Costa Rica Quick Facts
- Depending on your country of origin you may enter Costa Rica without a visa. USA, Canada and most European countries have this privilege.
- All visitors officially need a round trip ticket as an entry requirement.
- The water is potable in most of the country. We recommend using bottled water, specially in areas around the coast.
- All major credit cards are widely accepted. You will find ATM machined distributed throughout the country.
- You have to pay a Departure tax of $26, can be paid in US Dollars, colones or with credit cards
- Our Sales tax is 13%.
- In Emergency Situations you must to Dial 911 for immediate assistance.
- When you rent a car, carefully inspect it for minor dents and scratches.
- Always carry a copy of your passport and keep the original in the safety place.
- Use only banks or authorized agencies for exchanging your money. Don't exchange your money in the Airport they normally give you the lowest exchange rate you can find (like changing $1 as if it where just $0.70).
- If you aboard a public Taxi, don't forget ask for the Meters (we call "Maria" in Costa Rica). The meters are no used on long trips (from one City to another one....), so arrange the fare with the driver beforehand.
- When using taxi services, verify that they comply with the legal established requirements, such as the yellow triangles printed on the doors and a Meter(the drivers call the meter "Maria").
- If you are driving avoid stopping when a stranger asks you for a ride.
Costa Rica's Health System
Costa Rica is possibly the most sanitary of Central American nations. There are plenty of farmacias around should you require medicine, but most medications are imported (largely from Europe and the US) and expensive.
Tap water in San José is safe to drink but you may wish to employ caution elsewhere. If you are hiking and camping, either drink boiled water or have iodine tablets available. If the taste perturbs you, add a bit of powdered drink mix or squeeze a lemon or lime into your water glass or bottle.
In most rural and urban areas, in case of medical emergency, the local Red Cross has ambulances ready to transport patients to hospital. These ambulances do not charge for their service. The 911 telephone emergency system has been operating for a while and works fine in case of emergency.
Local time in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time ( -6 GMT), which is equivalent to Central Time in North America. There is no daylight saving time.
The national currency is the Colón (colones in plural) and dollars are easily exchanged at all banks, other foreign currency can be exchanged through private agencies. All mayor credit cards as well as travelers checks are widely accepted. The colon exchanges at 510 per dollar (as of October 2011) and can be expected a change per day.
The standard in Costa Rica is the same as in the United States: 110 volts AC (60 cycles). However, three-pronged outlets can be scarce, so it's helpful to bring along an adapter.
Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 3:30pm, although many have begun to offer extended hours, specially the private banks that are open from 8:00 to 6:00 pm. Offices are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm (many close for 1 hr. at lunch). Stores are generally open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm (many close for 1 hr. at lunch).
From late December to mid-April is dry season is traditionally the best time to visit Costa Rica. During this time, beaches resorts tend to be busy and often full on weekends. Easter week is booked months ahead. School children have their main vacations from December to February.
Starting in late April, when the rains begin, many of the dirt roads in the back-country require 4WD vehicles.
Driver's License & Permits
If you rent a car, your driver's license from your home country is normally accepted.
There are two main air lines from San Jose to many other domestic destinations. The bus system is cheap, reliable and thorough and travel throughout the country. As it is not always clear when the buses arrive and leave, you would have to ask. There is a good network of roads, although conditions vary from potholes and random bumps to open manholes, especially after the rains. The railway network was damaged and is not operating.
It's not difficult to stay connected to your email account in Costa Rica. The cybercafés are popular and are popping up all over San Jose and in most other towns. Most Hotels and Restaurants offers Free Wi-Fi all around the country.
Official holidays in Costa Rica
- January 1st: New Year's Day, celebrated.
- March 19th: St. Joseph's Day, patron saint of San Jose.
- Easter: Holy Week, Semana Santa. Dates vary annually but businesses will often close for the entire week preceding Easter weekend.
- April 11th: Juan Santamaria Day. Public holiday to commemorate the national hero who fought at the battle of Rivas against the American invader William Walker in 1856.
- May 1st: Labor Day. Día de los Trabajadores.
- June: Corpus Christi
- June 29th: St. Peter and St. Paul's Day
- July 25th: Anexión de Guanacaste Day. To mark the voluntary annexation of Guanacaste to Costa Rica in 1824.
- August 2nd: Virgin de los Ángeles Day. Patron saint of Costa Rica.
- August 15th: Mother's Day and Assumption Day
- September 15th: Independence Day, with big patriotic parades celebrates Costa Rica's independence from Spain in 1821.
- October 12th: Día de la Raza (Columbus Day). Limon province only, marked by carnival, which take place in the week prior to October 12.
- November 2nd: All soul's Day
- December 8th: Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
- December 25th: Christmas Day. Family-oriented celebrations with trips to the beach and mountains, so you don't find anyone in the city...