Costa Rica travel expert

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our local expert in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica Highlights

Costa Rica Highlights

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Costa Rica & Panama

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Costa Rica Family Trip

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Adventurous Costa Rica

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Know Before You Go

General Information and Insider Tips
Residents of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa for travel to Costa Rica of up to 90 days. For other countries, check visa requirements here.

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.

There are no particular requirements for Costa Rica, but make sure all routine vaccinations are up to date (MMR, polio, tetanus, etc.). Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended, and Zika is currently a risk in Costa Rica. Check the latest information about Zika warnings. We recommend all vaccines be completed at least six weeks prior to travel.

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.

The safety of our clients is of the utmost importance to us, and our local experts are always well-informed about the current situation in Costa Rica. For up-to-date information about safety, security and travel warnings, please refer to the US State Department, UK Foreign Travel Advice, or your local government resource.
Capacity: 120V/60Hz

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.

The official national language is Spanish. Here are some useful words to know:

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 local currency is Costa Rican Colón (CRC)

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.

When to go?

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.

Costa Rica has been heavily influenced by the Spanish, with a distinct Caribbean culture existing on the east coast. They have a high Catholic population and strong family values with many homes being multi-generational. Confrontation is considered impolite, so you will rarely see locals (also called Ticos) yell or create a scene in public. They also refrain from overusing the word “no,” replacing it with “maybe” in an effort to be polite.

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.

There are a variety of activities in Costa Rica—from jungle treks to wildlife spotting to zip lining to river rafting to diving and more. What you pack will depend on what you’ll be doing. The country is casual overall, so no need to bring overly-conservative or dressy attire. Long pants and sleeves can help protect against sun and mosquitoes, but shorts, t-shirts and flip flops are culturally acceptable.

Must-pack items:

  • 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
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Sunglasses and hat
  • Daypack for trekking
  • Binoculars for wildlife spotting
  • Swimsuit
  • 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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