Costa Rica Tips

Dear Costa Rica visitor,

On behalf of the staff of EcoAmerica Tours, we wish you a most pleasant experience exploring this exciting tropical destination. In Costa Rica the visitor can enjoy lovely tropical beaches, the grandest adventures, the wonders of nature, scintillating culture, all the necessary components of an ideal vacation. That is why thousands of tourists have made Costa Rica their top travel choice and while traveling with us, it is our goal to have you enjoy a trouble-free adventure.

So please, before starting your trip, take a few minutes to review the following tips and information; it might be useful!


Travel Documents

Before living your city of origin, please take a few moments to review all your documents for accuracy.

US and Canada Citizens must present proof of citizenship in the form of a valid passport. As of May 1998, visas are not required. Citizens of other countries, please contact the nearest consulate for information on travel documents (i.e. visa, tourist card, etc.) before departure. The normal processing time for a passport is four to six weeks (a longer period exists during certain times of the year), and a passport can be obtained quickly from your regional passport office. Please contact your regional passport office for details.

We will provide you a master voucher, which will be exchanged at your first point of contact, when applicable, for a series of individual service orders for each and every one of the different travel services contracted, booked, confirmed, and prepaid by our office and to be provided by different suppliers throughout your adventure.

After deplaning, you will need to go through Immigration and Customs before exiting the airport. Our associates are not allowed into the Immigration/Custom areas. If you are to receive an arrival transfer, please look for our representative with a sign with your name and our company name on it. At this point, you will exchange your master voucher for an individual voucher packet. The suppliers involved in the handling of your travel arrangements also aim to provide you with the finest possible service, and to make sure that your travel needs are to your satisfaction.


Packing

Pack wise, pack light! Pack only what you know you will use and avoid unnecessary items, such as hair-dryer, basic toiletries (soap or body wash, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion), unless of course, you prefer a specific brand; the hotels we choose for your program will provide you those items and much more!


Clothing

City Attire For daytime attire it is suggested that men wear pants (jeans are OK), and women should wear skirts, pants or Bermuda length shorts. During the evening hours, men should wear nice slacks and shirt (sports jacket is optional), and women will feel comfortable in nicer casual evening attire. A light jacket or sweater may be necessary from November to April when winds make it cool at night.

Beach, Jungle, and Mountain Resort wear for the beaches is best; casual is the rule. When hiking through the jungle it is recommended that long pants and long sleeve shirt be worn for protection. Cotton clothing is best suited for the tropics. Avoid blue jeans or denim apparel as much as possible since it can be quite warm in the tropics, and if denim gets wet, it takes a long time to dry. A jacket, sweater or sweatshirt is suggested for visits to the cloud forest or the higher altitude volcano parks. Be prepared with two pair of boots or shoes, since one pair can be worn while the other dries from the previous days use.

Sports Activities For all activities, a hat, sun visor, or cap is strongly recommended. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are best when exploring.


Safety

For your safety and convenience, we recommend that you exercise caution (as you would in any part of the world) with the handling of large amounts of cash or showing off expensive jewelry. It is a good idea to leave your jewelry at home. Violent crime is minimal in Costa Rica; however, be cautious for pick pockets. Always make photocopies of your passport, and place the passport in the hotel safe while carrying the photocopy with you all times. Exercise the same degree of caution in Costa Rica that you would at home.

Scan your passport and air tickets (if not the e type). Store this (in an email sent to yourself) in your web based email account. You can also store the details of your emergency ‘lost card’ telephone numbers in your web based email account so you know who to contact if your credit card or ATM card is lost or stolen. This way, even if you lose everything, you have immediate access your all important information.


Water

Costa Rica’s tap water is fine for drinking; however, bottled water is recommended and it is available throughout the country.


Currency

The currency in Costa Rica is the Colon (co-loan). It is best to exchange money at your hotel or at any bank. We strongly recommend against exchanging your money with a street vendor. Most major credit cards are widely accepted. It is not necessary to exchange money in the US, and dollars are accepted in quite a few places; however, the change coming back will be in local currency. Many people will not accept torn paper currency, so make sure that all your US currency is in good shape and tear free.

For your convenience, below you will find a currency converter. Please keep in mind that this is an external third-party tool and it is provided for illustrative purposes only.

Voltage

The electrical current for Costa Rica is the same as in the US (110 volts). No adapter needed.


Tipping

In Costa Rica, restaurants are required by law to add a 10% service charge, in addition to the sales tax, to all bills. If your restaurant server has provided excellent service, an additional tip of 5-10% is recommended. Bellboys, porters, guides, and tour bus drivers generally receive a tip for their services. Suggested tipping: bellboys – $1 per person for parties of two or more, single travelers – $1 per bag; airport porters – $0.50 per bag; tour guides – $3 to $5 per person per day; tour bus drivers – $1.50 to $2 per person per day.


Time Zone

Costa Rica is in the Central Standard Time Zone and daylight savings time is not observed.


Taxis

The program you selected includes all the transportation you need; however, in case of an emergency, your hotel will be able to call a cab for you. Taxis are usually red (except for the orange “Taxis Unidos” cabs, which specialize in carrying people to and from the international airport, and have a distinctive license plate. There are quite a few illegal “pirate” taxis, which for common sense reasons you should try to avoid.


Postal Service

The mail service in Costa Rica is as secure and efficient as it is in most other countries; however, it is a bit slower. Only Costa Rican stamps may be used, and most hotels and gift shops will sell stamps. You will be able to send mail from your hotel or from the many mail boxes found in the country (look for dark blue boxes marked “correo”).


Holidays and Office Hours

The national holidays are: Jan 1, Mar 19 (Saint Joseph day), Good Thursday and Friday, April 11 (Juan Santa Maria National Hero day), May 1 (labor day), July 25 (Guanacaste Annexation day), Aug 2 (Virgin of the Angels Costa Rica’s Saint Patron- day), Aug 15 (mother’s day), Dec 8 (Immaculate Conception day), and Dec 25.

Office hours are usually within the range from 8:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. For commercial places (i.e. shopping centers), the range is from 9:00 a.m. to 09:00 p.m., depending on the season.


Medical Treatment

Without being too negative, we would like to point out that accidents or sickness can occur while on vacation. Costa Rica does offer up-to-date medical facilities. Carry with you all the times your basic medical information: blood type, allergies, and medications. Bring with you a full supply of the medications you will need. Most medications are available in Costa Rica, although the particular brand or type may not be available. You will often have to pay for any medical treatment; however, check with your health insurance provider prior to departure to see if they will cover you while on your vacation, and to the extent of the coverage.


Immunizations

There are no special immunization requirements necessary for travel to Costa Rica. If you have specific health concerns, you should speak to your personal physician before traveling. Your doctor will have the most up to date immunization recommendations.


Language

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica; however, you do not need to know Spanish to comfortably travel in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are required to take a second language in school, and many take English. Although knowing Spanish is always an advantage when traveling within Costa Rica, it will not be a hindrance if you do not. Most members of the tourism industry in Costa Rica speak English, and quite a few of the local people also speak English.


Weather

Costa Rica is a tropical country, and it lies just ten degrees north of the equator. At this latitude, the sun can be very powerful and precautions should be taken. Because of the high altitude of many areas of Costa Rica, temperatures throughout the country vary. The capital city of San Jose, lies at 3,000 feet, as well as most of the central valley. This area enjoys a mild spring-like climate, with temperatures during the day average 78º, and in the evening can get as low as 62º.
The second type of climate zone is slightly warmer and includes areas like the San Carlos valley, the Arenal area, the Turrialba valley, and the Cartago to Cerro de la Muerte area.

On the coastal plains of both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts the temperature and humidity are tropical. Temperatures range in the mid-eighties and can get a bit higher from December to April. During this time of year a warm dry wind called “el papagayo” can be found in the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The areas found in this climate zone include the Tortuguero park, the Caribbean coastal area, the Osa peninsula, home to the Corcovado park, the Mid-Pacific areas of Manuel Antonio / Quepos, Jaco beach, and Puntarenas, and in the entire Guanacaste region.

Temperature is only half of the equation; the second half, is precipitation. Costa Rica is lush and green because it enjoys a mild rainy season from mid-April to November. A typical day will be clear and bright in the morning and early afternoon, with thunder heads forming as the day progresses. The rains will start in the afternoon, or may not start at all, and continue on and off until sunset. There is a very high chance that the evening will be a clear and starry tropical night; if it isn’t, prepare yourself for a lightning show that is unmatched. Don’t let the rains ruin your vacation plans. Many feel that the Green Season (rainy season) is the best time to travel to Costa Rica, as the rivers are flowing, the country is lush and verdant, the amount of other travelers is decreased, and it is a less expensive time to travel.


Jungle Bugs

Don’t let the thought of bugs get you down. Many areas of the US have more bothersome insects than Costa Rica. This is not to say they aren’t there, but you can have an enjoyable vacation and not have a bug ruin your adventure. The right type of protection and common sense can make your trip worry-free. When entering the forest, wear light weight cotton long sleeve shirts and long pants. Cover all exposed skin surfaces with insect repellent. Avoid being outdoors at dusk, as this is when many of the insects feed. Using these simple tips will make your trip enjoyable. Please remember that not every bug is out looking for you, but they are there (especially if you are visiting them in their home: the rain forest). Don’t let it ruin your adventure.


Exit from Costa Rica

As of today, the Costa Rica international departure tax is not included in your airfare. You will have to pay $26 (or the equivalent in Colones) in the special departure tax (Impuesto de Salida) window inside the terminal; be prepared to show your passport.


What to Bring Recommendations – Summary

The following is a general list of those items that we, at EcoAmerica Tours, have found to come in handy while traveling.

Clothing

  • Aqua socks or river sandals
  • Bandana
  • Casual resort wear for the beach resorts, including men’s long pants for dinner time.
  • Cotton or synthetic blend socks
  • Cotton shirts, some long and some short sleeved
  • Light sweater or sweatshirt
  • Lightweight water resistant hiking boots
  • Lightweight water resistant jacket or poncho
  • Long pants (cotton or synthetic blend; avoid jeans since they do not dry fast)
  • Shorts (cotton or synthetic blend)
  • Sun hat or baseball cap
  • Swimsuit
  • Tennis or walking shoes
  • Warm jacket (for higher elevations only)
  • Windbreaker

Health Kit

  • Antibacterial ointment (Neosporin)
  • Band-aids
  • Cortisone cream
  • Imodium A.D.
  • Insect repellent
  • Moist wipes
  • Presciption medication
  • Solarcaine lotion or gel

Gear

  • Backup prescription eyewear and medication (if needed)
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with fresh batteries and large capacity memory card (or lots of film)
  • Day pack or fanny pack for nature walks and a plastic water bottle
  • For natural history enthusiasts, we suggest you bring a field guide, such as birds of Costa Rica
  • Insect repellent (waterproof)
  • Lip balm (waterproof)
  • Resealable plastic bags in assorted sizes to keep your cosmetics and/or toiletries from spilling
  • Small flashlight or headlamp
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen or sunblock (waterproof)
  • Valid driver's license
  • Valid Passport (original and photocopy) of everyone in your party
  • Waterproof disposable camera

Traveling with small children? here are some additional recommendations

  • An interesting book or a coloring book with crayons and color pencils
  • Some table or electronic games to play
  • Rubber boots and a lightweight poncho

Dress in Costa Rica, for the most part, is very casual. Temperatures and clothing needs vary depending on elevation. Packing soft sided luggage with wheels will make traveling around the country much easier. The selected hotels in your program have laundry service available for guests. We have found that traveling light makes for a more enjoyable adventure and in addition to that, international flights may be restrictive!


Important Notice:

Since the information provided above has been collected from several sources and even though we attempt to keep it updated, it tends to change, and we cannot guarantee its accuracy.