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. The rest of the year, Costa Rica's time zone is equivalent to Central Standard Time.
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.
Unless specifically labeled "no potable," you can drink Costa Rica's water. This means that you don't have to worry about fruit or vegetable salads, fruit drinks, or any other food item made with water that has not been boiled.
Shots & Inoculations
You must have a current yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from some African countries as well as Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Guyana. Otherwise, there are no mandatory vaccinations to enter Costa Rica.
Mosquitoes & Dengue Fever
Dengue fever, a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes, is found throughout Latin America. Though not a major problem in Costa Rica, it affects hundreds of people in isolated pockets of the country every year. The virus is most prevalent in urban communities. Also known as break-bone fever, it causes severe flu-like symptoms, lethargy, nausea, joint pains and a rash. There is no treatment for Dengue other than rest and re-hydration. Symptoms can last anywhere from one to three weeks. As there is no inoculation for the virus, prevention is key. Be sure to use plenty of insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts on buggy evenings.
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, the local currency. Don't worry, ATMs are scattered throughout the country, and usually offer good exchange rates.
You can find camera memory cards for sale on almost every San Jose corner, though heavy import taxes make them expensive. Try to bring backups from home.
Restaurant bills will almost always include tax and tip, except in certain tourist areas. Before you buy, look for I.V.I. on both the menu and bill which means that a 13% sales tax and 10% tip have already been added. Note: 10% can seem like a stingy tip, but in Costa Rica, it's perfectly acceptable. If service is exceptional, feel free to round up or add a small additional tip.
At hotels and the airport, $0.50-$1/bag is an appropriate tip for concierge or baggage handlers. On the street, you'll often find guards willing to watch your car until you return. For their services, a $1 tip is appropriate. Don't tip the taxi driver, unless you want to round the fare up a bit.
Most Costa Rican sewer systems cannot process toilet paper. If there is a trash can placed strategically close to the toilet, discard your paper products there.
Coin laundries are virtually non-existent in Costa Rica. Instead, you'll find lavanderias throughout the country, where employees will wash, dry, and fold your laundry for less than $5 per load. Many upscale hotels and resorts offer laundry service for a reasonable fee.
Leaving Costa Rica
When flying out of Costa Rica, you'll have to pay a $28 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.