Costa Rica Travel Information
Costa Rica Travel Information
Visas & Passports
UK passport holders won’t need a visa, unless you love Costa Rica so much and want to stay for more than 90 days. Please ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after entry and you have enough space for entry and exit stamps – 2 blank pages is the recommended minimum.
There is a $29 departure tax for all international outbound flights. This can be paid in dollars or colones. This should now be included in ticket price.
Costa Rica has no immunisation requirements for entry into the country but it is advisable that you are up to date with the most common vaccines such as hepatitis A, typhoid and tetanus.
Health & Safety
Costa Rica is considered a safe and stable destination and has an excellent reputation
Drinking Water: Although the water in Costa Rica is safe to drink, you may want to stick to bottled water for drinking – just in case. No one likes to get ill on holiday.
Capital and Government
The capital is San José, which has a population of almost 1 million. Costa Rica is a democratic republic, officially the Republic of Costa Rica. It has been independent of Spain since 1821.
Language & Religion
Spanish is the national language in Costa Rica with English as the unofficial second language. There are five indigenous languages that are still in use, these are mainly spoken by the remaining indigenous population, Bribri, Cabecar, Maleku, Guaymi and Buglere languages.
Roman Catholicism is the main denomination and every town in Costa Rica has a Catholic church built on the centre of the town facing east. Many of the towns and cities of Costa Rica and named after patron saints, the capital city, San José is named after Saint Joseph. A small percentage of the population are Protestant Christian and there are a number of churches that are Christian built by Protestant missionaries in the 19th Century.
Payment methods & costs
Cash machines are widely available and usually dispense both colones and US dollars.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted (though often with transaction fees), but be sure to carry cash when in remote areas as it may be cash only. When paying in dollars, change will often be given in colones.
Travellers cheques can only be exchanged in banks in Costa Rica. If taking US$ cash we recommend smaller bills – US$ 100 bills are often not accepted due to there being many forgeries in circulation.
Banks are open from 9.00 to 16.00 Monday to Friday and some are open 9.00 to 12.00 on Saturdays.
Area & Geography
Costa Rica is a rugged, rainforested Central American country with coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific. Bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.5 million, of whom nearly a quarter live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San José. Costa Rica covers 50,660 sq km, which is slightly smaller than Ireland. Costa Rica is known for its beaches, volcanoes and immense biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, rich with wildlife including spider monkeys and quetzal birds.
Climate & Best Time to Visit
Costa Rica has a tropical climate. Some areas receive rainfall year round, though the amount will vary. As a general rule the ‘dry’ season is December – April. May through to July and November are ‘shoulder season’, this is when the rains become more frequent. This leaves August through to October as the ‘rainy season’ with September and October seeing the heaviest rain. Don’t rule out the rainy season though – chat to us about what you would like to see in Costa Rica – it may be that one of your ‘must sees’ will be in one of the quieter months.
Country code: +506. Outgoing international code: 00. There are no area codes within the country. There are very few public phones. MOBILE PHONES: Coverage is generally good except in the remote mountain regions. Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies. Please check with your provider. EMAIL & INTERNET: Internet cafes can be found throughout Costa Rica and most hotels have wi-fi internet access, though services can sometimes be slow but they are generally improving.
Food & Drink
Experience the cafés where the locals eat, these are known as sodas. These are a cross between an American Diner and an English transport café/greasy spoon. Here you can get typically Costa Rican food, simple, low cost and very tasty. Try Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) for breakfast, served with a fried egg. Sopa de Frijoles Negros (Black-bean soup) and arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) are also popular dishes. Ticos (Costa Ricans) generally have a sweet-tooth and enjoy their desserts, Arroz con Leche (rice-pudding) is a firm favourite and found on most menus.
With coffee being one of Costa Rica’s exports, it’s not surprising to learn that Costa Rican coffee is amongst the best in the world. It is mellow tasting and is traditionally served in a jug with a separate jug of heated milk on the side. For those preferring a cold drink refrescos are made by blending fruit, ice and either milk or water. Herbal teas are also popular in Costa Rica and are widely available. With all this on offer, you won’t go thirsty.
In San Jose you’ll find the standard shopping malls selling goods at resasonable prices. The Central Market sells handcrafted wooden furniture including wood and leather rocking chairs which can be dismantled for export. In local markets you’re likely to find carved masks, ceramics, leather handicrafts and gold pre-Columbian replica jewellery, all of which make good gifts and souvenirs. On the Pacific coast you can buy hippy-style jewellery made by resident ex-pats, while in Monteverde Cloud Forest there are some attractive blown glass decorations in the form of hummingbirds and quetzals. Bargaining is not allowed in shops or local markets. Shopping hours: 09:00-18:00 Monday-Saturday is the norm.
Local time: GMT -6 hours
Public holidays 2016
1st January – New Year’s Day
24th & 25th March – Easter, many businesses close for the entire week preceding Easter weekend.
11 April – Juan Santamaría Day.
1 May – Labour Day
25 July – Guanacaste Day
2 August – Virgin de los Angeles Day (Patron Saint of Costa Rica)
15 August – Mother’s Day
15 September – Independence Day
12 October – Columbus Day
25 December – Christmas Day
The currency in Costa Rica is the colón = CRC
Exchange rate as of May 2016:
£10 = 7,748 CRC
Guide to costs
Coke from £1.00
A beer in a hotel from £1.80
A set lunch in a basic cafe around £5.00
110 volts AC, 60Hz, using American style plugs with 2 flat pins.