The colon is the official currency of Costa Rica. Named after Christopher Columbus, it is considered one of the most stable currencies in Central America. Bills come in 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000 colones increments and coins come in 5, 10, 20 25 ,50, 100 and 500 denominations. You can exchange money at most banks weekdays between 9 and 4 pm. It is well advised to go in the morning as the lines can seem never ending in the afternoon.
All that is needed is a passport or resident ID when exchanging money. Money can also be exchanged on the street for nearly the same rate as at the bank. Most hotels can also assist you with cashing travelers checks and other simple financial transactions when banks are closed. American dollars are accepted in many locations, especially in San Jose and major tourist areas. Care should be exercised when using a money exchange operation that is not been recommended or is on the street. It is wide to carry American dollars when arriving in Costa Rica as you will get the best exchange once you arrive as the currency is on a fixed devaluation schedule.
Most vendors would prefer cash, so there is often a discount offered for you not to use your credit card for purchases. It is wise to check with your credit card company to see if they charge fees for converting transactions from colones to dollars. Travelers Checks are accepted in many places, but there is occasionally a fee of 2 or 3% added for transaction fees.
How much money should I bring?
How much money you decide to travel with really depends on what you plan on doing and seeing while you are in Costa Rica. Food and drink is relatively inexpensive here, with a typical lunch running around $5 at an affordable restaurant and a beer or cocktail running about $2. Taxis can be found in major areas for a reasonable price, but become more expensive in less populated areas. Costa Rica can be very affordable if you plan your activities and accommodations with a budget in mind, or can be very expensive if cost is no object and hedonistic luxury are the goal of your vacation. Just remember the conversion rate from dollar to colones; look for bargains and enjoy your visit!
Should I get Immunizations?
Epidemic diseases have been mostly wiped out in Costa Rica, so there is no proof of vaccination requirement to enter the country. It is always a good idea when traveling to have current tetanus and infectious hepatitis immunizations regardless of any requirements. The Centers for Disease Control has a hotline that will advise of any unusual outbreaks, but generally your trip should be worry free as far as your health goes.
Can I drink the water?
The Costa Rican government has gone to great measures to make sure that drinking water in Costa Rica is perfectly safe for visitors, but bottled water is available almost everywhere in case you are worried. This is definitely not Mexico, but there is always a possibility that local bacteria in the water may upset your digestive tract as it could anywhere, so being careful of what you eat and drink is recommended.
What sort of food is available?
Native Costa Rican meals consist primarily of chicken and fish served with rice or beans. All cooked in a safe and healthy way- Costa Rican cuisine is delicious and nutritious. Seafood is widely available in the beach areas and many new and varied restaurants are available in San Jose and other growing areas. The Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and the Yellowfin tuna are always popular choices and are always tasty and fresh. The many types of interesting and exotic fruits and vegetables make eating in Costa Rica an adventure!
Passports and Visas?
A valid passport is required for entry into Costa Rica. Upon entry every visitor is issued a 90-day tourist visa. If you are planning on staying in the country for more than 90 days, please make sure that you leave the country and re-enter, so that a second 90 day tourist visa is issued. It is also a good idea to have several copies of the cover page of your passport in different locations in case it is stolen or lost. If you are not a US citizen, then please check with your local Costa Rican embassy for information regarding travel requirements. Travelers from some countries must have a visa, as well as a passport, prior to entering the country. If you do NOT meet the entry requirements upon arrival in Costa Rica, you will not be admitted and will have to leave on the next plane. In addition, most Central and South American countries, including Costa Rica require a departure tax. If you are departing to a neighboring country, the tax may be inconsequential, but if you are returning to the U.S., currently this departure tax is of $27 per person and can be paid in cash or by Credit Card.
Passport and Visa Rules for Traveling with Minors?
Many countries, including Costa Rica, impose restrictions on minor children who travel alone, with only one parent, with someone who is not their parent or who are nationals of another country, including dual nationals. Any child must present written, notarized authorization for travel from the absent parent, parents, or legal guardian. If the parent or guardian traveling with the child is the sole custodian, the court order granting custody may, in some cases, serve as the authorization document. It does not hurt to have this documentation translated into Spanish and authenticated by the Costa Rican Embassy prior to departure. Any questions about more specific situations or circumstances should be addressed with your local Costa Rican Embassy.
People of Costa Rica?
The population of Costa Rica is now approximately 4,000,000 people. This number includes about 40,000 natives that belong to several different cultural groups. The official language here is Spanish, but English is a required course in school, so nearly everyone speaks some. The Costa Rican people are lovingly referred to as Ticos (Tea- coes) and are well known as friendly and welcoming to all that visit. Costa Rica's constitution requires 6% of its Gross Domestic Product be dedicated to education. This has resulted in a higher literacy rate of 95%- than the United States and makes Costa Rica a leader in Central America.
Computers are available all over the country- even at most Post Offices and internet access is widely available. This is a progressive, well educated population! Many students from all over the world come to Costa Rica to attend some of the well respected language schools that exist here. Most of Costa Rica is Catholic, as is most of this region of the world. The government is secular but very conservative, primarily because of the heavy religious influence. Most observed holidays are religious in nature.
The current in Costa Rica is 115v the same as the US and Canada. Three prong outlets are scarce, however, so bring an adaptor if you have items that require that sort of outlet. Anything that runs on USA or Canada voltage work just fine in Costa Rica!
What are the High and Low Seasons?
The high and low seasons in Costa Rica generally coincide with the dry and wet/green seasons. The dry season generally begins in late November and continues thru mid-April. The rains are heaviest during the months of August, September and October. Most experts consider the beginning and end of “green” season to be the best time to travel to Costa Rica. Prices can be somewhat more reasonable and there are way fewer tourists. The foliage is a breath-taking, lush green and wildlife abounds. Beaches are generally sunny most of the day, with an occasional afternoon shower. The mornings during the “green” season are spectacular. Because of Costa Rica’s proximity to the equator, sunset is pretty much consistently at 6pm year round. Some areas of Costa Rica, especially the Osa Peninsula, get so much rain that travel can become difficult during the low season. Roads that can be trying under good circumstances become very muddy and sometimes impassable. There is really not a bad time to visit Costa Rica- it is just important to have realistic expectations- it is a tropical country after all!
Crime and Precautions?
Crime in Costa Rica is no worse than in many parts of the world. As is the case anywhere, precautions should be taken when traveling here. Making copies of all of your documentation; your license, passport, etc., protects you in case something is stolen or lost. It is also smart to avoid bringing expensive jewelry and electronics. Car doors should always be locked and windows rolled up when parked and it is smart to NEVER leave anything valuable visible inside your parked car. Walking together in a group at night is advised and general caution should just be taken. Valuables should not be taken at to the beach and you should use hotels safes to hold your important stuff when not in use. Costa Rica is a very safe country to travel in- you just need to use common sense with your belongings and self while there.
Do I Need an International Driver’s License?
No, you do not need an International Driver’s License to rent or drive a car in Costa Rica. As long as you have a valid Visa, and your local driver’s license; your driving privileges are intact.
Driving in Costa Rica?
The driving here can be a challenge! Not only are potholes sometimes dangerously big, but there are often no signs, making it difficult to find your way around. Lanes can just suddenly end without warning, bridges often have no guardrails and lighting can be an issue. There are a couple of points to remember if you choose to drive in Costa Rica:
a. Take your time, be refreshed and expect the unexpected.
b. Never leave valuables in plain sight in your car.
c. Try to avoid driving at night until you are very comfortable with your
surroundings- taxis are everywhere and reasonably priced in most cases.
d. lots of bridges are one way and have no yield signs, so be careful.
e. Be VERY careful of motorcycles- they race in and out of traffic and seem to
appear from no where.
f. Drive defensively and with caution.
Even highway driving in Costa Rica presents problems- animals and people cross the highway everywhere and you must be able to stop suddenly. Animals sometimes sleep on the pavement because it has retained the heat from the day and can’t be seen until it is too late, so be very careful driving at night. If you choose to rent a car- remember to go over every inch with the rental agent and document every single ding and dent- this will save you big bucks when you go to turn it in at the end of your visit. Remember that car rental agencies will put a huge deposit on your credit card- effectively freezing the funds, so be prepared if your credit limits are low. If you are in an accident while on your visit- remember to not move your vehicle until after the police AND an insurance adjustor arrive on the scene- you may hold up traffic, but it is the law here. Driving in Costa Rica can be just one more of the adventure stories you have to tell about your vacation, but with some care and caution, you should be able to drive anywhere you choose.
Do I need Sunscreen?
At only ten degrees from the equator- the sun in Costa Rica is a powerful thing. Be prepared always, as the UV factor is almost twice what it is in Florida and Arizona. Don’t spend a few days of your valuable vacation in pain because you forgot to take precautions- bring lots of sunscreen and use it frequently.
Generally all restaurants in Costa Rica add a 10% tip to the bill automatically. You might want to add more, but it is not required and rarely it is done by local Costa Ricans. Dollars- not coins- are acceptable tips for maids, parking lot attendants, baggage guys, etc.
Getting Married in Costa Rica?
What a great idea! Getting married in paradise! Lots of things to think about, but here are the few things that are required to make the whole thing legal and binding. If both parties are not Costa Rican, than the rules are that both parties must possess valid passports that will be current for at least six more months and a local attorney and notary must be present at the wedding. There is some paperwork that only a Costa Rican attorney and notary can complete to make the whole thing legal. Marriages performed in Costa Rica are legally binding in all other countries as long as all of the criteria have been met and your marriage certificate will be issued within approximately three months of the ceremony. Your marriage will be legally recognized in the United States or Canada if either you or your attorney presents the documentation to the local embassy office. This documentation must be translated into English by an officially recognized translator, notarized (usually by your attorney), authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and certified and signed off by the embassy’s consular section.
Seems like a lot of paperwork, but with good planning the whole thing can be pretty seamless. There is a booming wedding business industry in Costa Rica, so getting in touch with the right people is not that difficult.
What Should We Pack?
For a small country, Costa Rica has tons of different weather conditions which make packing a challenge. That coupled with weight restrictions on flights within the country that are almost half of what you get on the larger airlines that you take from the states, can make the whole packing thing difficult. Just remember a couple of things- it is really not necessary to bring a lot of dressy things- this is a pretty casual country and you will save tons of space in your luggage. Comfortable shoes are important as you will do a lot of walking, whether you are in San Jose at one of the enormous malls or hiking a National Park. The rule of thumb is, the higher the altitude- the cooler the temperatures. Pack accordingly- a sweater or light jacket are necessary sometimes in the evening- especially in the green season. Light, cool clothing works almost everywhere. Most importantly: bring sunscreen, bug repellant and your camera!
Costa Rica Packing Check list.
* amphibian hikers or river/reef sandals
* hiking/walking shoes
* beach sandals/flip-flops
* dressy sandals or light-weight dress shoes (consider this an extra)
* 3-5 T-shirts, one or two long sleeved for bushwhacking and to protect your
* 1-2 dress shirts or blouses.
* 3-4 pairs of shorts. One or two pairs of quick drying nylon and one or two pairs
of dressy cotton shorts or tropical weight/length skirts.
* active/sports swimsuit and a tanning suit You may also want a sarong or other
casual beach cover-up.
* 1-2 pairs of long pants. Something dressy and something for the bush. If you
can find a pair you like, convertible pants (zip-off legs) can serve as shorts and
* 5-8 pairs of underwear.
* 2-8 pairs of socks.
* Jacket- It is the tropics, but you will need something to keep you warm at
higher elevations, or on the open ocean.
* bandana, baseball cap or brimmed hat. (consider this a must have item)
* mesh bag for wet clothes.
* toothbrush with cover, and toothpaste
* shampoo and conditioner
* brush or comb
* wash cloth
* toilet paper
Books & Maps
* Good Costa Rica Map
* Nature Guide
* Spanish/English Phrase book
* Bird Book
* Serious naturalists might want Janzen's "Costa Rican Natural History.
* money belt or passport pendant-somewhere to carry your documents.
* drivers license
* money, credit/debit card, traveler’s checks.
* insurance card and contact information.
* Personal prescriptions should be filled before you leave home.
* sunglasses (consider this a must have item)
* Contact lenses and cleaning solutions
* If you wear prescription glasses, pack a spare pair
* Plastic bags
* A photo of your home or family
* Your Internet logon information
* address book
* Water bottle or bag
* Flashlight (consider this a must have item)
* A drinking cup.
* Croakies® or other glasses retainer system for your prescription or sunglasses.
* pocket knife (consider this a must have item)
* mp3 player
* zip ties
First Aid Kit (basic) (consider this a must have item)
* band aids® Butterfly closures are useful to close deep cuts.
* eye drops- Artificial tears (e.g. NeoTears®)
* Imodium® OTC or Lomotil® (by prescription in the US) to treat diarrhea
* Dramamine® or other motion sickness prevention
* neosporin® (over the counter) or terramycin® (by prescription in the US) to
prevent infection of small cuts, scrapes, and insect bites
* tweezers- needle point/surgical
* tape- waterproof, flexible, breathable surgical tape
* insect repellent- > 95% DEET for mosquitoes, and Avon's Skin-so-Soft® for
* pain relievers/fever reducers (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and/or Aspirin)
* sun screen- at least SPF 20, waterproof
* $US 20 bill (if you want more emergency cash carry more twenties.. fifties and
hundreds are regarded very suspiciously)
* vitamins- what ever you normally take
First Aid Kit (Advanced)
* alcohol pads & benzalkonium sterile wipes
* Aloe Vera gel- 100% pure, no perfume or color added; relieves the pain and
speeds the healing of sunburn.
* anti-histamine tablets- there are all sorts of new pollens to react to, and these
can help control the swelling and pain from insect, spider and scorpion stings.
* anti-bacterial soap
* anti-fungal cream
* codeine and/or valium
* Dramamine® or other motion sickness remedy
* electrolytes- to ease dehydration due to diarrhea or vomiting.
* mole foam- to prevent and protect blisters
* peroxide based water purification system
* scalpel or razorblade
* sterile surgical gauze
* stainless steel nail file
* super glue- emergency repairs of equipment and an alternative to sutures
* tampons- for the obvious reason, and they also work well in a pinch as
relatively sterile absorbent wound packing (o.b.®, no applicator).
* waterproof lighter
Other things to have handy in your first aid kit
* micro led flashlight- in a night time emergency. (consider this a must have item)
it might be the only light you have.
* 100 lb. test braided nylon line
* spare contact lenses
* emergency contact information ( names, addresses and phone numbers of
closest family, doctor, etc.
* nylon sewing thread and needles
* phone card
* ear plugs - the compressible foam ones are by far the best.
* compass if you know how to use it.
* take 2 copies of all your important documents, passports (main page with
photo) driver's license, itinerary, birth certificates, emergency contact info, any
medical condition info, (each person traveling should carry a separate copy).
Puerto Viejo Cabinas