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Know Before You Go
General Information and Insider Tips
Your passport must be valid for at least six months prior to arrival in Costa Rica. It is your own responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of valid and correct travel documentation.
Insider Tip: There is a 29USD departure tax that you must pay when leaving Costa Rica by air. SOME airlines include it in your flight ticket price, but not all, so double-check. If it is not included, there is a special line for the departure tax and you can pay with US dollars, Colónes or credit card.
If traveling from a country that has yellow fever, you will be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink, except for the most rural areas. Use a Steripen with our refillable water bottle when in uncertain areas.
Sockets use the US-style two-pronged (Type A) or three-pronged (Type B) plugs. Electricity in remote eco-lodges may not be reliable, so bring a flashlight/torch. You may also want to consider a portable USB charger for your electronics.
Hello = Hola
Goodbye = Adios (formal) Chao/Ciao (informal)
Please = Por favor
Thank you = Gracias
Excuse Me = Perdón
Insider Tip: Pura vida (literally “pure life,” also meaning “simple life” or “good life”) is something you will see and hear all over Costa Rica. Pura vida is more than a phrase, it’s a way of life.
The Colón is divided into céntimos. Both US dollars and colónes are accepted throughout much of Costa Rica. ATMs (cajeros automáticos) even give the option of dispensing money in USD or CRC, and they are found in all but the most remote areas of the country. Credit cards are also widely accepted in major towns and cities, particularly Visa and MasterCard, with American Express accepted in some places. All banks in Costa Rica will exchange money.
Insider Tip: Some ATM machines stop dispensing money at night to prevent theft, so best to withdraw money during the day—preferably during bank hours in case there is a problem.
- Restaurants – A 10% service charge may be added to your bill. If one isn’t included, leaving 10% is appreciated.
- Cabs – No tipping, but you can round up the change if you want.
- Hotels – Tip bellmen 1 USD per bag, and housekeeping 1-2 USD per day.
Insider Tip: So as not to rush you, your server won’t bring the bill (propina in Spanish) until you ask for it.
Costa Rica’s temperate tropical climate is defined by a wet season (May-November) and a dry season (December-April). While hot and humid most of the year, trade winds cool things off. Note the Caribbean east coast is slightly different from the rest of the country with their dry season hitting February-March and September-October. Peak season is during Christmas and around Easter.
Insider Tip: The rainy season is sometimes referred to as the green season, for not-very-cryptic reasons.
Insider Tip: As with many Latin cultures, time isn’t an absolute. La hora Tica is the term for Costa Rican time… which is at least 30 minutes later than actual time.
- Trail shoes or running shoes for trekking in the jungle
- Water shoes or sturdy sandals for walking and water sports
- Lightweight sweater or jacket for cool evenings
- Heavier jacket or fleece for higher elevations
- Light rain jacket or umbrella—even in the dry season it can rain
- Mosquito repellant
- Sunglasses and hat
- Daypack for trekking
- Binoculars for wildlife spotting
- Microfiber towel or sarong for beach-going
- Dry bags if taking electronics into the jungle/river raft
- Simple medical kit with over-the-counter drugs and first aid (including anti-diarrheal and stomach meds)
- Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
- All prescriptions
- Flashlight/torch for possible power outages
Insider Tip: A lightweight mesh bag is great for storing wet clothes and swimsuits until they dry.
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