Costa Rica

Visitors to the Republic of Costa Rica will find that despite its small size, the country has an incredible number of attractions and activities to offer.

 

Five per cent of the world’s biodiversity can be found within Costa Rica’s borders and great efforts have been made to preserve this rich resource; protected national parks make up almost 25% of the land – more than any other country in the world.

 

From fishing and surfing to white water rafting and exploring volcanic regions, Costa Rica is the perfect playground for nature lovers and adventures seekers alike.


Entry Requirements

Visas & Passports

British nationals don’t need a visa to enter Costa Rica. You may stay as a visitor for up to 90 days under a tourist visa waiver.

You can find the latest entry requirement information on the UK government website here:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/costa-rica/entry-requirements

Please note that visa requirements can change at any time and it is your responsibility to check you have the correct documentation for travel.

Your passport will need to be valid for a minimum of 1 days validity after the date of your departure in Costa Rica.

Airport tax

There’s a departure tax of $29 when leaving the country by air. Most airlines include this in ticket prices; a few have still not done so.

If in any doubt, check your booking confirmation details to see if this is included or not.

Yellow Fever Certificate

There is no risk of Yellow Fever in Costa Rica. However, a certificate of vaccination is required if you are travelling from a country where Yellow Fever is present. This includes Argentina and Panama. You may be denied boarding of your aircraft if you are unable to provide this certificate.

https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/country/58/costa-rica#Vaccine_recommendations


Banking and Currency

Currency

Costa Rican Colón (CRC; symbol ₡) = 100 céntimos. Notes are in denominations of ₡50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of ₡500, 100, 50, 25, 20, 10 and 5.

US dollars are also widely accepted so if you have Dollars, it's a good idea to take some.

Occasionally, paying with credit cards may not be possible for technical reasons. Bringing a good supply of US dollars in cash is advised, as many things such as entrance fees to national parks or meals at restaurants, can be paid for with US dollars.


Although travellers can avoid additional exchange rate charges by taking traveller's cheques in US dollars, fewer and fewer businesses in Costa Rica are willing to accept them, and it is better to use the ATM.

Banking

Banking hours: State banks Mon-Fri 09h00-15h00. Private banks Mon-Fri 08h00-16h00.

Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa credit cards are all widely accepted; American Express slightly less so. Many banks will only process MasterCard for cash credits. Cash may be the only form of payment in smaller towns and rural areas, but many places will take US dollars, giving change in colónes.

ATMs are common throughout the cities and small towns. They will usually accept foreign cards but in some regions only Visa cards are accepted.


Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Domestic Flights

Costa Rica has domestic airline services which offer flights around the country. Much of Costa Rica is riddled with poor roads, so flying is often preferred by locals, although as a visitor it's most likely you'll be travelling by road to see the country.  

SANSA operates services between San José and provincial towns and tourist resorts, including Tortuguero, Tamarindo, Quepos and Golfito.

Roads in Costa Rica

Costa Ricans drive on the right side of the road. Stretches of the Pan-American Highway leading to and from the major cities tend to be okay, but roads elsewhere tend to be a mix of dust, gravel, potholes and mountainous roads.

Self Drive in Costa Rica

You must be over 21 to hire a car, and though an international driver’s license is safest, you are likely to be able to use a full license from your own country. You will need a credit card for the deposit.

You will need to be very confident indeed to drive in Costa Rica and be prepared for potential issues with flat tyres and so on.

Taxis

Taxis are numerous and inexpensive in San José. The taxis are coloured red (except those serving the Juan Santamaría International Airport, which are orange).

Be sure to use an official taxi and not a so-called 'taxi pirate' as you run the risk of being fleeced, or worse. Always look for an official taxi.

Bus Transport

Public transport via road in Costa Rica ranges from the large coach companies such as the Tica Bus and Transnica, which are comfortable and air-conditioned, to little shuttle buses in the Nicoya Peninsula.

Travel by Rail

Costa Rica also has a railway system that offers visitors a fun way to explore parts of the country. This is limited however and not a way to travel around the country.


Health and Medical Information

Medical Facilities

Health and medical facilities in Costa Rica are generally of a high standard. Medical costs in Costa Rica can be expensive so it is essential for you to have some travel insurance in place.

We are not medical professionals, so we highly recommend consulting a medical professional well in advance of your trip in order to ensure you are prepared.

You can find up-to-date health advice relating to Costa Rica on the the UK Government website here:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/costa-rica/health

Further excellent information is available on the NHS Fit for Travel website:

https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations/central-america/costa-rica

You'll find further information on the link below regarding specific health issues relating to Costa Rica:

https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/country/58/costa-rica#Other_risks

Vaccinations for Costa Rica

We recommend consulting a specialist travel medical centre prior to travel, such as MASTA.

https://www.masta-travel-health.com/

Your GP and a Health clinic will almost certainly recommend having Hepatitis and Typhoid inoculations. These are standard and routine.


Safety Notices

Costa Rica is generally a safe country for travel, however there are some precautions you should take.

For the latest UK Government advice, please consult the FCO website here:

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/costa-rica/safety-and-security

Use your hotel safe to store valuables. It's easy to become complacent about your personal belongings, but using the hotel safe is always recommended for looking after any valuables.

When out on tour, never leave valuables or cash unattended in your car. Theft from cars is a common occurrence. This advice applies to anywhere, not specifically to Costa Rica. Avoid flashing expensive jewellery and be careful with valuable personal items, particularly in the cities or busy tourist areas.

You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK, including when using ATMs. Petty theft of personal items including passports is a significant problem. in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a volcanic country but there is usually plenty of advance warning of danger of eruptions. Rip tides from some of the beaches can be an issue, so take care when swimming. There are no life guards at the beaches.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Costa Rican Cuisine

Costa Rica is a not a major foodie destination, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in choice.

The Caribbean coast tends to be more influenced by the island nations. Jamaican-style jerk chicken is a staple; rice and beans (gallo pinto) are ubiquitous, but more likely to be prepared with coconut milk; and curry spices feature heavily as ingredients, creating dishes with a very distinct flavour from their counterparts on the Pacific coast.

The Costa Rican diet is fairly healthy with low use of dairy or high-fat dishes. Fresh fruits and vegetables make up a high proportion of meals, while pork, chicken and beef are the most popular meats.

Seafood is available throughout the country, particularly in coastal regions, with sea bass being the most common fish on menus.

Mains water is normally heavily chlorinated and, whilst relatively safe to drink, may cause mild abdominal upsets.

Drinking water outside main cities and towns may be contaminated and sterilisation is advisable. Bottled water is available and is advised for the duration of the stay, especially for those who are liable to sensitive stomachs.

Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.


Climate and Weather

There are 27 different micro-climates in Costa Rica, so it's not very straightforward!

In the Central Valley, where the main centres of population are located, the average temperature is 22°C (72°F) and the region enjoys a spring-like climate year round. In the coastal areas, the temperature is much hotter and humid, while the Pacific Northwest can be extremely hot and dry.

The rainy season starts in May and finishes in November, although there are distinct regional variations. June and July are the wettest months, particularly on the Caribbean side, but the season can run from May until December.

The 'warm' dry season is December to May, though temperature differences between summer and winter are slight. March is the height of the dry season, and the humidity is lower at this time, making this a popular time for visitors.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight cotton and linen clothing is recommended for most of the year with warmer clothes for cooler evenings. Loose-fitting clothing is best. Consider taking clothing that will wick away moisture, as you will likely be sweating quite a bit in the humidity, especially if you're visiting the rainforest.

Costa Ricans are quite informal and you'll be most comfortable in shorts, flip flops and beachwear by the sea. The cities of course tend to be more formal.

If you're heading to Monteverde, San Jose or the Central Valley then long trousers and a jacket are essential as it can get pretty cool at high elevations.

Waterproofing is highly recommended during the rainy season (end of April to beginning of October). A rain jacket should also  probably be on your list if you’re heading to Monteverde, Ulviat, the Oso Peninsula or  Dominical during dry season. Consider taking some quick drying clothing as well - you won't find many clothes drying facilities in Costa Rica.

Wear neutral browns and greens for birding and wildlife viewing. Always bring mosquito repellent for both day and night and long sleeves and trousers are useful for covering up to avoid mosquito bites.

Hiking sandals are pretty useful to have, as they are usually very comfortable to wear and quick drying. Although hiking boots or well soled trainers are fine for the jungle, hiking boots can be a bit miserable with wet socks.


Electricity and Plug Standards

Electrical Sockets

Electric sockets in the Republic of Costa Rica are Type B (NEMA 5-15) and/or Type A (NEMA 1-15). If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in.

Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.

Electrical Supply

Electrical sockets supply electricity at 120 volts AC / 60 Hz frequency.  If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

If your appliance isn’t compatible with 120 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.


General Guidance

General Advice

The UK government website has a useful checklist of things to consider before travel to Costa Rica.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-checklist

Tipping

Tipping is not mandatory in Costa Rica although restaurants will usually add on 10%.

Round the bill up if you wish or leave a small tip if you have been happy with the service - it will always be appreciated. Rounding up a taxi fare is common.

Tipping guides is another matter and it's certainly polite to tip your driver and guide if they've looked after you.

You can consider tipping a guide $10 and upwards per day in total and a driver half of that. Tip in US Dollars or Colon. If you have the same guide for a few days, wait until the end of your trip before you give any tips over.

We find this website very useful for tipping advice:

http://www.whototip.net/tipping-in-costa-rica

LGBT

The situation for LGBT travellers is better in Costa Rica than in most of Central America which is culturally conservative.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Costa Rica but public displays of affection among same sex couples is not common, with the exceptions of Manuel Antonio and Quepas which are very gay friendly indeed.

Checking into hotels as a gay couple should present no problems in Costa Rica.


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