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.
Some national parks and reserves have trails that are wheelchair friendly. For example, you can park your car at the Poas Volcano National Park parking lot, get on a wheelchair, go onto the paved crater trail and see the main crater. Carara National Park also has a flat trail through old-growth and new-growth rainforest that is wheelchair friendly. It is best to call in advance to determine park conditions and trail possibilities.
Sansa and Nature Air are Costa Rica’s two regional airlines. Both service major tourist destinations with daily flights, while more remote destinations may only see one or two flights per week. Sansa is headquartered next to the international airport in Alajuela and Nature Air flies out of Pavas, about 20 minutes from the airport.
To enter Costa Rica, you must show proof of onward travel, either a pre-paid airline or bus ticket to exit the country. Airlines do not always ask for this documentation, but Costa Rica Immigration may deny you entry without proof of onward travel.
Yes, but the exchange rate is not favorable. Try and exchange currency at a local bank. If you must get colones at the airport, exchange the bare minimum and then head to a bank to exchange larger denominations. Airport taxi drivers will accept U.S. dollars.
Yes, bringing a dog or a cat to Costa Rica is a relatively simple process. These pets are not subject to quarantine, provided they have the correct paperwork and vaccines. Birds, snakes, horses and other “exotic” or agricultural animals may be subject to additional restrictions.
Many Costa Ricans speak conversational English in the tourism industry. As you travel into more rural areas of the country, you will encounter more people who speak only Spanish. Costa Ricans are known for being friendly, so if you’re having trouble communicating, a smile, hand gestures and an English-Spanish dictionary will serve you well.
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.
No, your home license is valid in Costa Rica for the duration of your tourist entry stamp. When driving, always carry your passport, or a copy of your passport ID page and entry stamp page, showing proof of legal status in the country.
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. Travelers coming from some African countries as well as Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Guyana must have a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Not necessarily. The months of September and October usually see the most rain and showers can be minimal – usually limited to late afternoon thunderstorms that last one or two hours. In exchange for a bit of rain, you’ll receive of up to 10-40% off high season hotel rates.
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.
Be warned that potholes are common, but for travel to many of Costa Rica’s vacation hotspots – Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, and Tamarindo, for example – you will not need a 4WD vehicle. If Monteverde or some of the country’s more remote areas are on your itinerary, 4WD is suggested and sometimes necessary. During the rainy season (May-November), all roads are susceptible to landslides and flooding, and 4WD is highly recommended.
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 late afternoon showers.
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.
Regular unleaded gas costs about $5.00 a gallon, and diesel fuel is a little less. All gas stations in Costa Rica are full service and prices are set by the government – no need to shop around for the best price!
All passengers on outbound flights are required to pay a $28 departure tax, payable in cash or by credit card at the airport. If departing the country overland or by sea, the departure tax is waived.
Due to its location, Costa Rica is rarely affected by hurricanes on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts. Hurricanes generated in the Caribbean basin can increase rainfall in the country, but direct hits are seldom experienced.
Costa Rica has a reputation for safe travel, and women traveling alone rarely encounter problems. However, keep in mind that “machismo” is a key element of Latin American culture, so you may be exposed to more catcalls and whistling than you’re used to.
Internet is very common throughout the Central Valley and many tourism destinations. Hotels often provide free WiFi service, and local Internet cafes offer high-speed connections for around $1 per hour.
Yes, 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.”
If you are short on time and visiting more than two destinations, we recommend a car rental. Distances can be deceiving and winding mountain roads often take longer to negotiate than planned. Your own transport will be much more efficient than public buses. Another option for getting around is one of the country's private shuttle companies that offer door-to-door service to most tourist destinations for less than $40 per person each way.
Costa Rica is a Catholic country, and its most important holidays revolve around religion. Holy Week, known as Semana Santa, is the week leading up to Easter Sunday – and a very popular travel time. Christmas (December 25) is also important, followed by Costa Rica’s Independence Day, celebrated on September 15.
Costa Rica has two international airports, one in Alajuela (SJO) and the other in Liberia (LIR). There are many small airports throughout the country serviced by domestic airlines, Nature Air and Sansa.
For citizens of the United States, Canada and most European countries, you must present a valid passport upon entry. Immigration will stamp your passport with your approved length of stay – usually 90 days for tourists. For all entry requirements, visit our passport & visa page.
Dengue fever is a virus transmitted by certain species of mosquito present in Costa Rica. If you’re 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 does not observe daylight savings time, so it operates at GMT-6 year-round. During daylight savings time in the United States (mid-March through early November), Costa Rica is in the Mountain Standard (MST) time zone. The rest of the year, Costa Rica is in the U.S. Central Standard (CST) time zone.
Costa Rica is a popular destination for gay travel in Latin America. Many tourism destinations are gay-friendly, but keep in mind that Costa Rica is a Catholic country and sexuality can be a sensitive topic. By far, Costa Rica’s two most gay-friendly locations are San Jose and Manuel Antonio.
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.
Costa Rica’s currency is called the colon (CRC), named after Christopher Columbus. In most tourist towns, stores and restaurants accept U.S. dollars. You can exchange U.S. dollars and Euros at banks throughout the country.
In an emergency, please dial 911.
Every month in Costa Rica offers its own rewards; excellent wildlife watching and adventure tours are on offer throughout the year. The main difference between high season and low season is the amount of rain -- between December and April, most of the country receives little to no rain. Travel during the low season, or rainy season, has its own set of perks including fewer crowds, lush countryside and discounted hotel rates.
That depends on your provider; call in advance to arrange international roaming. Once in Costa Rica, you may also purchase a pre-paid phone card for use with your GSM or 3G cell phone. Phone cards are available at the international airport and may be purchased for $10.