About Costa Rica

The Climate:

Located between 8° and 11° north of the equator, Costa Rica enjoys a temperate tropical climate marked by two seasons: the rainy (summer, or verano) and the dry (winter, or invierno) season.

The rainy season generally runs from May until early December with April and November being months of transition. During the rainy season, mornings are usually sunny, with afternoon storms moving in later in the day. There is an average of four or more hours of sun per day during the rainy season. The dry season runs from mid-December through April. Read more about the climate.

 

Safety/Travel Advisories:

Currently there are no travel warnings for Costa Rica. It is one of the safest countries in the world to visit. Visit the CIA World Fact Book page and see for yourself!

 

Time Zone:

Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Saving Time. From March through October, during U.S. Daylight Saving Time, Costa Rica's time zone is equivalent to Mountain Standard Time. November through March, Costa Rica's time zone is equivalent to Central Standard Time.

 

Language:

Costa Rica's official language is Spanish, though a large number of its citizens are at least moderately bilingual. In fact, all Costa Rican public and private schools require a second language and to graduate, all students must pass an English or French exam.

English, due to its status as the international language of tourists, is the most common second language in Costa Rica. In most areas frequented by tourists – hotels, restaurants and national parks – visitors will find signs in English and employees who speak it fluently. In addition, the Caribbean coast considers its local creole, which is very similar to Jamaican English, as one of its unofficial languages.

However, when you stop for a snack at a roadside stand, enjoy a typical meal at a family-run restaurant, or order some beachside ceviche, you may want to give your high school Spanish a test run. You'll find Costa Ricans to be very accommodating and patient with your Spanish, no matter how rudimentary, and you'll have a blast communicating with a combination of dictionary words and lively charades.

 

Religion:

More than 75% of Costa Ricans are practicing Catholics and approximately 14% are evangelical Christians. Other religions include: Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, and none 3.2%.

 

Legal System:

Costa Rica is a civil law country, which means that the organization of the legal system is derived from the French Napoleonic Code as opposed to English common law. Under Napoleonic Law, you are presumed guilty and must prove your innocence, whereas in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, you are presumed innocent and the government must prove you guilty. Our advice: don't do anything illegal and the legal system differences won't matter.

 

Currency:

The national currency is the colon and both dollars and Euros are easily exchanged at banks. Major credit cards are widely accepted in heavily touristed spots, but you can't use them in some of the more rural areas. Hotels and restaurants will generally accept credit cards and dollars, but once you fan out from San Jose, small businesses, restaurants, and hotels will ask for cash payment in colones. Don't worry, ATMs are scattered throughout the country, and usually offer good exchange rates.

Name: Costa Rican Colon (Colon)
Symbol: ¢; CR colones

Current Exchange Rate: U.S. Dollar Exchange as of February 2010
Buy: 544.0 CRC per 1 U.S. dollar
Sell: 553.5 CRC per 1 U.S. dollar

Electricity:

Your North American appliances are compatible with Costa Rica's electrical system, which functions at 110 volts. If you bring 3-pronged appliances to Costa Rica, make sure to bring a converter, as many of Costa Rica's outlets are only 2-pronged.

 

Business Hours:

The majority of banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., although some now offer extended hours. Business offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (many close for one hour at lunch), and most stores are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

Communications:

Send and receive your letters and packages with confidence in Costa Rica. Postal branches are located in nearly every city and town. The Central Post Office is located in San Jose on Second Street between Avenues 1 and 3, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7a.m. to noon. Radiografica Costarricense is located on Fifth Avenue between Streets 1 and 3. This company provides telex, fax, international data transmission, and many other services (including Internet access).

The country code for Costa Rica is 506, and there is no area code inside the country. All calls within Costa Rica are considered local calls. Note: Effective March 20, 2008, all land line phone numbers must have a 2 dialed first, and all cell phone numbers are preceded by 8.

Costa Rica is a technologically advanced country, and you’ll find Internet cafes on almost every city corner. Most cafes charge 400-600 colones per hour (roughly 75 cents to $1.20). Before you go looking for a cafe, keep in mind that your hotel or hostel might offer free or discounted Internet access. In addition, many hotels now offer free wireless Internet in their lobby and rooms.

Read more about Communications: Phone and Internet service in Costa Rica

 

Transportation:

International Flights: Most air traffic to and from Costa Rica is handled through the Juan Santamaria International Airport, located 30 minutes from San Jose, in the city of Alajuela. For more northern locations, visitors can opt to fly into Liberia's Daniel Oduber International Airport, located in the heart of northern Guanacaste Province.

Domestic Flights: There are two domestic airlines serving Costa Rica, Nature Air and Sansa. Nature Air is based at the Tobias Bolanos Airport in Pavas, four miles west of San Jose, about 20 minutes from Alajuela. Sansa flights depart from the Juan Santamaria International Airport 11 miles northwest of San Jose. Both airlines offer adventure passes for unlimited numbers of flights for one or two weeks to any of their 17 plus destinations in Costa Rica. Visitors can also charter planes for private groups. A network of internal airports serve popular tourist areas including: Liberia,Tamarindo, Barra del Colorado, Tortuguero, Limon, Quepos, Golfito, and Arenal.

Domestic Bus Service: Costa Rica has one of the best public transportation systems in Latin America, consisting almost exclusively of bus travel. Local city buses will take you almost anywhere within city limits, and intercity buses are inexpensive, comfortable and widely available. In addition to being a very inexpensive and comfortable way to travel, taking the bus leaves the tricky, potholed driving responsibilities to someone who is much more accustomed to Costa Rica's road conditions. And while the bus driver maneuvers mountain roads and bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy Costa Rica's beautiful scenery. Read more about Riding the Bus in Costa Rica

International Bus Service: TICA BUS, TRANS NICA, SIRCA and TRACOPA offer round trip service to Panama, Nicaragua and other Central American countries from San Jose.

Automobiles: Costa Rica has a good highway network, the majority of which is paved. In most places there are adequate traffic signs. There are toll booths on the major highways (San Jose-San Ramon, San Jose-Guapiles, San Jose-Cartago, San Jose-Ciudad Colon). Tolls run from 75 to 275 colones (about 25 to 75 cents). Full-service gas stations are scattered throughout the country, some open 24-hours a day.

Driver Requirements: A tourist may drive with a current license from his country of origin and his passport during the three months that his tourist visa is valid. Warning triangles should be carried at all times by all drivers, and seat belts are also required for drivers and front-seat passengers. Motorcyclists are required to use helmets.

For more information, see:

Getting Around in Costa Rica

Driving in Costa Rica

Maps and Driving Routes

 

 

Entry/Exit Requirements:

With a valid passport and round trip or onward ticket, citizens of the United States of America, Canada, Germany, Spain and Italy can travel to Costa Rica for a 90-day stay without a consular visa. To stay legally beyond the period granted, travelers will need to submit an application for an extension to the Office of Temporary Permits in the Costa Rican Department of Immigration.

Normally, tourist visas are not extended except under special circumstances, such as academic, employment, or medical grounds, and extension requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. On the way out of Costa Rica, you'll have to pay a $26 exit tax, payable with cash or credit card at the international airport. If you're traveling with an underage child without his/her second parent, you will need extensive paperwork to be allowed out of the country. Don't come without it. Persons who have overstayed previously may be denied entry to Costa Rica.

For more information, see Passport & Visas, Exiting Costa Rica

 

Vaccinations:

As of this time, Costa Rica does not require visitors to have any particular vaccinations, although you should make sure that all of your normal vaccinations are up to date.

Read more about Travel Advisories

 

Medical Facilities & Services:

Any foreigner who is temporarily in the country has the right to receive health attention at hospitals and clinics in case of an emergency, sudden illness or a chronic disease. Costa Rica has a modern medical system, under the administration of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).

Read more about Health Care

 

Emergencies:

Costa Rica has a 911 system for reporting emergencies. Crimes that are no longer in progress should be reported in person at the nearest police station. In the event of a traffic accident, vehicles must be left where they are, and not moved out of the way. Both the Transito (Traffic Police) and the Insurance Investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles are moved. Although sometimes slow to respond after notification, these officials will come to the accident scene.

Emergency telephone numbers: (all phone numbers within Costa Rica are considered local calls)
Emergencies . . . . . . .911 (Metropolitan area)
Fire Department &
Rescue Units. . . . . . .118
Traffic Police. . . . . .2222-9330/ 2222-9245
Police Department . . . .117
Rural Police Department ...127
Red Cross . . . . . . . .128

Airports:

Juan Santamaria International Airport Phone: 2441-0744

Limon Airport. Phone: 2758-1379

Tobias Bolanos International Airport. Phone: 2232-2820

Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport: (Liberia, Guanacaste). Phone: 2666-0695