A Few Answers To Common Questions
Is the water safe to drink in Costa Rica? The water is fine in nearly all locations. When in very remote or rural areas, you may wish to drink bottled water. Also, if you have a very sensitive stomach, bottled water may be better.
What Language do they speak in Costa Rica? The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish. It pays to know a few words before you go, as many people don’t speak English.
Do I need a passport to go to Costa Rica? Yes! A valid passport is mandatory to enter Costa Rica. All passengers need a passport and there must be at least six months remaining before the passport expires. In addition, make sure your passport is in good physical condition. It is not uncommon to be refused entry to Costa Rica if you arrive with a damaged passport
Do I need a visa to go to Costa Rica? Depending on your country of origin you may enter Costa Rica without a visa. Actually, the stamp you receive in your Hiking Tenorio National Park passport as you pass through immigration IS your visa and expires based on what country you are from.
Citizens holding valid passports from the following countries are permitted to stay in Costa Rica for up to 90 days without a visa.This is no longer automatic.
Germany, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, United States, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Principality Of Monaco, San Marino, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Africa, United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland , Czech Republic, Republic Of South Korea, Hellenic Republic (Greece), Romania, Vatican City, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Republic Of China (Taiwan), Trinidad And Tobago and Uruguay.
What is the difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest? One of the key differences between cloud forests and rainforests has to do with the elevation of the forest itself – that means how high it is above sea level. Rainforests are located at lower elevations, and as a result, they tend to be much warmer, especially during the dry season. Cloud forests, on the other hand, are usually located at much higher elevations, and are much cooler. This difference in temperature contributes to the mist and fog that is often visible in cloud forests, as the milder temperatures slow the evaporation process. However, despite being a little cooler than rainforests, cloud forests are very humid.
What is the currency in Costa Rica? The Costa Rican currency is called Colon. US dollars are accepted in larger areas but in many out of the way places, the Colon is the only currency accepted. It is very easy to change various currencies into Colones in many parts of Costa Rica.
Are credit cards accepted in Costa Rica? In the major tourist areas, yes. However, many smaller areas in out of the way places will accept only cash.
What are the medical concerns and suggested vaccines? Health care in Costa Rica is very good and sanitary standards are high. First class hospitals are found throughout San José and some of the other largely populated areas. Since long ago, diseases such as malaria, paludismo, and yellow fever were eradicated in Costa Rica. There are no plagues like in other countries, and no special vaccine recommendations for travelers more than the influenza and the tetanus vaccines. Hospitals and the Red Cross will provide any medical treatment in case of emergency.
What number should I dial in case of emergency? Dial 911. Do not expect the operator to speak English.
Do I need an electric adapter? What is the voltage in Costa Rica? That depends on the voltage in your home country. Outlets here are 110 V, with standard US two prong plugs (or three prong if grounded). Your laptop and all other appliances will work fine. Those of you from New Zealand, Australia & Europe will need the adapter thingys, hard to find easily in Costa Rica. Bring yours!
Is there an exit or departure tax in Costa Rica? How much is it? Departure tax is $29, can be paid in US Dollars, Colones or with a Visa card. This must be paid at the point of exit.
What is the sales tax in Costa Rica? Sales tax is 13% but some other travel related taxes are 17%
Which countries border Costa Rica’s? Costa Rica is bordered in the North by Nicaragua and the South east by Panama.
What are the customs regulations? No customs duties are charged on personal luggage, which includes an array of items for personal and professional use, as long as they do not appear in quantities that suggest commercial intent. Costa Rican law requires that baggage be examined and that travelers submit customs declarations listing all articles acquired abroad, including fruit, vegetables, meat, meat products, biological products such as vaccinations, serums, etc. In the case of families, one declaration can be filled out by the family head.
What are the business hours? Most banks are open from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and do not close for lunch. Credit cards are widely accepted in the larger cities, with Visa, MasterCard, Diners and American Express being the most popular. Government offices are open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Most commercial business open from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Stores and other businesses at commercial centers from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Most restaurants open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm. Hotels and some restaurants are open 24 hours.
Can I get online easily in Costa Rica? Yes. Internet cafes can be found in most places and most hotels have wifi available.
What is the time zone in Costa Rica? Costa Rica is the same as U.S. central standard time, but does not observe daylight savings time – 6 hours ahead (but a day behind) of New Zealand and 8 hours ahead of Australia.
Costa Rica - In Brief
Costa Rica’s miles of stunning coastline, swathes of virgin forest, abundant wildlife and varied landscapes provide the perfect stage for all manner of activities and travel indulgences.
From gentle short coastal walks & tropical rain forest to a heart pumping multi-day adventure hike through the highlands and highest volcanoes of Costa Rica, there are endless hiking opportunities. No matter what length or difficulty of hiking you’re looking for, you’ll certainly find it. Some of the best hiking in Costa Rica can be found in Monteverde Cloud forest, Corcovado national park and in the Arenal area.
A long history and culture of sustainability and conservation has ensured Costa Rica’s unparalleled biodiversity will certainly continue to flourish, meaning you’ll not go home without seeing something weird and wonderful. You’ll instantly recognise sloths, monkeys, toucans and iguanas, as well as discovering lesser known creatures, especially in areas such as Corcovado national park, Sarapiqui, Manuel Antonio and Tortuguero. No matter where you go however, you’re bound to bump into tree or ground dwelling “locals”. If you’re traveling to Costa Rica with kids, they will LOVE it.
Costa Rica is the home of zipline canopy tours. So much of the vibrant life in the rainforest or cloud forest takes place in the canopy, so it makes sense to get up high, and get amongst it – sometimes at at least 60 metres high, and hundreds of metres in length! You’ll find canopy tours in many places in Costa Rica, although the best can be found in Monteverde Cloud forest and Arenal. If ziplining is a little too fast and furious for you, there are just as many sky bridge walks that will take you high into the forest canopy as well.
Costa Rica and white-water rafting were made for each other. The variety and number of rivers that crash their way down from the central mountain ranges to both coasts is endless. That means there’s something for everyone. For first timers and families there are easy class I, II and III rivers in the Arenal and Central Pacific regions, and for those looking for a little more white-water spice in their life there are incredible class IV & V options in the Sarapiqui region and of course the Rio Pacuare that offers arguably the best one day and short multi-day white water rafting experience in the world.
Costa Rica means “rich coast” in Spanish. The conquistadors gave it this name as they were convinced the country was rich in gold, but we’re sure the miles of picture postcard tropical coastline had something to do with it as well. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better part of the world to kick back on the sand in the shade of a palm tree with a good book, take a dip in the body temperature water and top it all off with a ice cold drink. Both Coasts are abound with small secluded coves, long stretches of white sand beach and coral coves with crystal clear water. Our Costa Rica beach going picks are Manuel Antonio, Playa Samara, Nosara, Punta Uva, Mal Pais & Cahuita.
It’s no secret that Costa Rica cultivates great coffee. There are many places where plantation tours are available. Learn about how beans goes from plant to cup, as well as get an insight into Costa Rican farming practices in the coffee industry and other industries.
Marlin and sail fish are synonymous with Costa Rica in fishing circles, as are species such as dorado, wahoo and bonito. For good reason too – Costa Rica is a charter fishing dream come true. Due it’s sustainable culture, Costa Rica for the most part is generally a “catch and release” sport fishing destination, although you’ll certainly be able to take something back to the table if you’re keen.
Many regions in Costa Rica are home to retreats focused on rest, relaxation & rejuvination. Arenal with it’s hot springs & rain forest environment on the doorstep have many options, while the Caribbean & Pacific coasts offer secluded spots such as Punta Uva, Cahuita, Manuel Antonio and Samara.
Foodies will not be disappointed in Costa Rica. While the staples here mostly consist of rice and beans, there are some divine specialty treats in Costa Rica that will leave you writing down a recipe to relive the moments when you get back home. Specialties include: Ceviche – tilapia, octopus or dorado marinaded in lime juice & chilies; Empanadas – corn turnovers stuffed with varied meats and spices; Gallo Pinto – the national dish of savory rice & black beans; Patacones – fried green plantains; Tamales - steamed corn-meal & vege/meat parcels wrapped in banana tree leaves.
Costa Rica is exposed to two bodies of water, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and with a coastline as varied as it is beautiful, there’s a surf break suited to anyone keen to jump on a board. From beginners to experts, Costa Rica has arguably more variety of surf than any other place in the world. From the easy beach break learning environment in Mal Pais on the Nicoya Peninsula, to the heaving slabs that hit the shallow reefs off the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo – it’s a wave riders mecca. The water is warm, the locals are friendly, and there’s never a beach shack too far away where a cold drink awaits after a hard days surfing.
Bath temperature water, few humans and abundant marine life. Sound good? It is. With fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities on both coasts, Costa Rica diving and snorkeling is all about massive schools of fish and larger marine animals such as turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales. The Caribbean, around Cahuita and Punta Uva are better for snorkeling beginners, as Playa del Coco on the Pacific side, while experienced divers should check out the Isla del Coco, one of the best dive spots in the world.
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