Traveling to any place in the world means knowing a little of that country before your arrival to make your stay more comfortable and safe, besides that it shows culture and respect for the place where you travel and know a little about Costa Rica is not the exception.
Besides knowing about its beaches white sand, volcanoes and rain forests is also important to know about its culture, economy, history, traditions and even about its cuisine, this way you will discover the true meaning of the Pura Vida lifestyle.
Who can come to Costa Rica? Visas & Immigration
Citizens holding valid passport from the following countries are permitted to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a visa:
Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France and dependencies, Germany, Greece, Holland and dependencies, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay
Citizens holding valid passports from the following countries are allowed to stay in Costa Rica for 30 days without a visa, although once they are in the country, they can apply for an extension (Prórroga de Turismo) from the Immigration office (Migración), which allows them to stay a total of 90 days:
Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, San Cristobal/Nevis, San Marino, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Suriname, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, The Vatican, Venezuela
Citizens of all countries not listed above must obtain a visa from a Costa Rican embassy or consulate before their arrival.
Flying to Costa Rica
Flights can arrive to the Juan Santamaría Int Airport (SJO) located just 17 km from the Capital of Costa Rica, San José. Also flights can land in the Daniel Oduber Q. Int Airport (LIR) or Liberia Airport, situate just 25 minutes drive from the Papagayo Gulf and 60 minutes drive from Tamarindo, Flamingo, Conchal, located in the province of Guanacaste.
Airlines flying to and from Juan Santamaría Int Airport include the following companies:
Aero México (México)
Aerovías de México (México – Aeroméxico)
Air Canada (Canadá)
Air France (Francia)
Air Panama (Panamá)
Air Transat (Canadá)
Alaska Airlines (EEUU)
American Airlines (EEUU)
British Airways (Reino Unido)
Condor Flugdienst (Alemania)
Copa Airlines (Panamá)
Cubana de Aviación (Cuba)
Frontier Airlines (EEUU)
Interjet Airline (México)
Southwest Airlines (EEUU)
Sunwing Airlines (Canadá)
United Airlines (EEUU)
US Airways (EEUU)
VECA (El Salvador)
Airlines flying to and from Daniel Oduber Q. Int Airport (LIR) include the following companies:
Air Canada (Canadá)
Air Transat (Canadá)
American Airlines (USA)
Condor Flugdienst (Alemania)
Copa Airlines (Panamá)
Frontier Airlines (USA)
JetBlue Airways (aerolínea de bajo costo de USA)
Southwest Airlines (USA)
Sun Country Airlines (USA)
Sunwing Airlines (Canadá – charter)
Thomson Airways (England)
United Airlines (USA)
US Airways (USA)
Costa Rica Exit Tax
Please note that there is a $29 USD departure tax payable at the airport with USD / Costa Rican cash or VISA, Master Card or American Express. This tax must be paid before you check in for your flight.
Costa Rica Health & Sanity
You are unlikely to encounter any serious diseases in Costa Rica. Sanitary standards are high and the health system is excellent. During the past two wet seasons there have been several outbreaks of the mosquito-borne disease dengue but so far there have been no reported cases of the more serious hemorrhaging dengue. No vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica as epidemic diseases have been all but eradicated throughout the country. Infectious hepatitis, a serious problem throughout Central America, is reported only rarely in Costa Rica.
Several private hospitals in San Jose offer emergency medical services to foreigners are reasonable prices: Clinica Biblica (avenida 14, calles central & 1, tel. 223-6422) also has a 24-hour pharmacy. Costa Rica’s Social Security system (the Caja) offers a medical insurance assistance program for foreigners needing emergency medical assistance. The coverage can be bought at travel agencies, language schools or through tour companies.
Costa Rica Holidays & Festivities
January 1st: New Years Day
April 11th: Juan Santamaria Day, National Hero.
Holy Thursday and Good Friday: Religious activities.
May 1st: International Labor Day.
August 15th: Mothers Day.
September 15th: Independence Day.
December 25th: Christmas Day.
July 25th: Annexation of Guanacaste Day.
August 2nd: Virgin of the Angels Day.
October 12th: Christopher Columbus Day.
To make your stay in Costa Rica the most enjoyable experience, take into account these personal traveling tips:
1. Take along a photocopy of your passport. Make sure a photograph of you is easily seen, your personal data and the date you entered the country may all be in it too.
2. Deposit your valuable belongings (money, passport, plane tickets and traveler’s checks) in your hotel’s safety box.
3. Keep a list of all the numbers and serial numbers of your personal documents.
4. If you stay in popular multiple use cabins, find out about the security of maintaining your valuables within your room.
5. It’s best not to carry jewelry with you.
6. Avoid changing money on the street. Use banks or well known exchanging offices. Check in your hotel for recommendations on the subject. Try to take only the amount of money you are going to use during the day.
7. Don’t leave unattended objects such as cameras and video cameras. Keep your wallet in an inconspicuous place.
8. Make sure you know the address where you are going. Tell the people at your hotel about your destination.
9. Used cabs whose identifications are exhibited on the door. The license plates must have red numbers and the cars must be red too. As boarding a cab see that the meters shows ceros, or negotiate with the cabby the price of your trip prior to start the trip.
10. When driving do not give rides to people you don’t know. Try not to park in dark or deserted spots. Use parking lots. These places are legally responsible for your car and anything left in it. Tell the administrator about anything you want to leave in your car.
11. The emergency number is 911. They speak English.
12. Always find out whether the 13% sales tax is included in the goods price your are purchasing. In restaurants and bars additional 10% tax is charged. Tipping is optional there.
13. Light clothes are recommended, but may be wise to carry a sweater or jacket since nights tend to be cool. At sea level shorts are good enough. If you plan to walk in the forest, long sleeve shirts, jeans, boots and a hat are more appropriate. Be sure your clothes are made of cotton. Don’t forget a mosquito repellent, sunglasses and suntan lotion or cream. During the rainy season (May through November) a jacket and an umbrella are a must.
14. Telephones, faxes, cellular phones, Internet, as well as audiovisual equipment are always at hand
15. Most establishments work from Monday to Sunday and are open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Some private places close at noon. Bars and other recreation businesses are open still late at night. Government offices open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Banks open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Some banks have offices that remain open until 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm.
16. To rent a car, a current driver’s license is necessary, along with a credit card. The drivers must be over 21 years old and a deposit should be paid. You drive on the right side lane and the international signs are used on streets ands roads.
17. About electricity, there is 110 or 220 volts power all over the country. Check with the people in your place before connecting any electrical apparatus on to the line.
Money & Exchange
CURRENCY: The COLON is our official currency and the US $ is widely accepted also. Colon is Spanish for Columbus. Christopher Columbus “discovered” Costa Rica in 1502 on his third and final voyage to the new world.
US Dollars are widely accepted throughout Costa Rica. Try to bring only bills in decent condition, not excessively torn or heavily marked as some places may not accept them if in bad condition. This is because false dollars are not as durable and deteriorated bills could be suspect for being false. Dollar bills do not have to be in “mint” condition, so don’t go out of your way to get new bills.
EXCHANGE RATE: The current exchange rate as of May, 2017 is 564 colones to $1 (US).
Do not exchange your US$ for Costa Rican currency in the U.S. before leaving. The US dollar (cash) can easily be exchanged here at a fair rate. When you exchange your US$ for any foreign currency in the U.S. you receive approximately 30% less for your dollars.
Airport currency exchange offices in the U.S. offer about 25% less. Hotels here generally will exchange your US$ to “Colones” but they will usually use a slightly lower exchange rate of about 1% less as a commission for handling the transaction. Many hotels offer the “official exchange rate of the day”, while others offer slightly higher or slightly lower rates.
CREDIT CARDS: AMEX, VISA and Master Card credit/debit cards are widely accepted in retail establishments, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, etc. VISA is currently the most widely accepted.
ATM’s are also available in major cities accepting Visa, and others accepting only Master Card. Some accept both. Amex is also fairly well accepted, but not as much as Visa & MC.