COSTA RICA PRACTICAL GUIDELINES

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES

COSTA RICA

Packing List

When you are planning a roundtrip through Costa Rica and will visit different parts of the country it is recommended to bring these items: light travel clothing, raingear (poncho), a sweater (it may be cool and even cold in the highlands), sandels, hiking shoes, a sun cap, watershoes, moneybelt, binoculars, lintern, suncream, insect repelent, evt plug adapter (Costa Rican standard is the same as American standard)

Crossing the Border

Your passport must have validity for six months from the moment you enter Costa Rica. You need a return ticket or otherwise be able to prove that you are going to leave the country. You can stay for 90 days in Costa Rica. After this period you’ll have to leave the country for at least 72 hours before entering it again (for a maximum period of 90 days). Please, notice that if you fly via the United States, your passport must be machine legible. New rules of the US government require you to apply a permission to enter the country, also if you just pass by in transit. This permission is obtainable on the following site: www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/ Maybe you’ll need a visa. Check with the US-embassy in your country. In case you need a visa for the US, check possibilities to fly via other countries to Costa Rica. The Airport in Alajuela (Juan Santamaría) is within a half hour distance of the capital San José. It is not recommended to change money at the airport: exchange rates are high. There is an ATM cash machine available.

Safety

For Costa Rica do not apply special safety considerations. The quiet, relaxed atmosphere and kindness of the local people makes Costa Rica a very pleasant country to travel through. The danger may be that you turn overconfident but it is always important to keep an eye on your belongings Use the safety boxes in your hotel room and if they are not available leave your valuable objects in the hotel’s safe. If you are victim of criminal behaviour you have to make a report at a local office of the OIJ (organisation for judicial investigation, say: oh, ie, ghottah). 911 is the number to dial in case of an emergency. Swimming in one of the warm shore waters of Costa Rica is delicious. But you have to be very alert on strong currents. Dangerous coastal waters sometimes are marked by a red flag (a green flag means that it’s safe to swim). If there are no flags and nobody is swimming it makes sense to ask locally if it’s safe to swim. Always stay close to the coastline.

Transportation

The most important and cheap way of public transportation is the bus. San José is a transportation hub from where buses leave to all parts of the country. You can find here a timetable for buses leaving to the most important tourist destinations of the country. It is a wise thing to buy your tickets one day before you leave. You can buy them at the bus terminal from where your bus leaves. There are private shuttle bus companies (Interbus, Greyline). They maintain a network between the different tourist destinations. Of course they are more expensive than the public buses. But they offer a more comfortable door-to-door service and the travel time in general is shorter. For those travelling with less time exists the possibility to take a domestic flight. The big destinations lay within 1 hour flying time from San José. Sansa and Nature Air are companies offering flights within the country. In the cities taxis abound. They are easy to identify by their red colour and yellow triangle on the front doors. The legal cabs all have taxi-meters (they are called ‘María’. You stop them at the street by just lifting your arm. Most time there are taxi ranks at the central square in the cities.

Communication

Telephone: There are various mobile telephone companies active in Costa Rica: the national Kölbi, Movistar and Claro. At this moment Kölbi offers the best coverage. Be conscious that coverage in the mountainranges is not always satisfying. It is quite easy to get a chip and a national mobile number: take always your passport with you when you buy a line. Internet: Most hotels in Costa Rica offer free Wi-Fi for their guests.

Climate

Costa Rica has a tropical climate. Maximum temperatures in San José vary between 22 °C and 30 °C, at the Pacific and Caribbean coasts around 30 °C. It may be very humid. Rainfall varies between 1500 and 7000 mm. Seasons The idea of Costa Rica having two seasons isn’t entirely correct. There is a difference between the climate in the Pacific (west) coast and Atlantic (east) coast. The weather in the Pacific is better predictable: it is dry between December and April/May. In the dry season there is no rainfall whatsoever. In the rainy season (May/November) you must be prepared for a heavy shower in the afternoons. On the Caribbean side of the country the weather is less predictable and less stable. Through the year rainy days follow days with clear blue skies. Months with low probability of rain are: September, October and November. Besides this Costa Rica is known for its ‘micro-climates’. Climate depends on height. And heights vary heavily in the country. It means that you can encounter changing weather conditions while travelling through Costa Rica. One day you can leave in hot sunshiny weather, encounter fog and rain halfway and arriving at your destination under a blue sky (the order may change!). And maybe you just travelled for a hundred kilometres! So always be prepared for drastic changing weather conditions: take sun block, a cap, a poncho and a sweater with you!

Health

For questions about vaccinations it is wise to ask your medical doctor for advice before you are going to travel. Healthcare in Costa Rica stands on a high level. In the private hospitals the service is quick and very professional in general. Medical tourism is a growing sector in Costa Rica!

Money & Spending

The Costa Rican national currency is the colon. De biggest note is 20.000 colones (± $40), folowed by 10.000 (± $20), 5000 (± $10), 2000 (± $4) en 1000 (± $2). Besides colones, American Dollars are accepted almost everywhere. Bring small notes ($1, $5, $10 or $20). Euros or English pounds are accepted very uncommonly. You can change them (Banco Nacional, BCR). But it may take quiet a lot of time. A better idea is to leave them at home. It is NOT recommended to change money inside the airport. The exchange rates are much lower than normal. But there are cash dispensers. Cash dispensers: In almost all bigger places it is possible to withdraw money from cash dispensers. Most of the times you’ll get Costa Rican colones, at some banks it is possible to withdraw dollars (BAC San José, for example). Credit card: Paying with credit cards is possible in almost every place. VISA, AMEX and Mastercard are widely accepted. Restaurants: Include 13% taxes and 10% service costs in their prices. Please note that these additional costs are not always included in the prices in the menu: they are charged when paying the bill. Tips: Tips are most of the times included in the bill you pay in restaurants. Extra tipping is always appreciated. Tipping is usual in hotels for maids, bellboys, drivers and guides (in short: people offering service in the tourist sector). Tipping is not usual for people offering service in the non-tourist sector (supermarkets, taxi drivers, public buses). Bargaining for better prices is not a nationwide phenomenon. Please, just limit this behaviour to the souvenir shops. It is very easy to offend a Tico if you try to do it elsewhere!

Scary creatures

Costa Rica is a tropical country where live insects, reptiles and other animals, which are considered ‘scary’ by some people. There is no way avoiding them in Costa Rica. So be prepared. Take insect repellent with you (always) and start using if you notice mosquitoes or other insects. There is no product that gives 100% protection. No doubt you’ll find little ‘pets’ in your hotel room (gecko’s for example). It is Impossible to avoid them in tropical Costa Rica!

Miscellany

Electricity: Voltage in Costa Rica is 110. ‘American’ plugs with flat pins are in use. Bring adapters with you if you are from Europe! Black outs are quite common, especially in the countryside. Don’t forget where you packed your flashlight. Time in Costa Rica is Greenwich - 6

Additionally: 10 ways to be a responsable traveler

  • All places have their own history , traditions and culture, please RESPECT that , and make sure that your behavior and attitude during the trip will not cause any harm.
  • Live in harmony with nature, walk in silence along the trails, respect the regulation of protected áreas
  • Do not touch, feed or bother the animals. Avoid and denounce illegal extraction of plants and animals
  • Avoid and denounce the commercialization archaeological pieces and cultural heritage.
  • Save natural resources , such as water and energy, please use it in moderation.
  • Do not throw garbage, please separate and recycle your waste.
  • Consume products made by locals, taste the local gastronomy, learn and enjoy local traditions in each destination.
  • Sexual Explotation, children prostitution and the consume of illegal substances are strictly prohibited by law. Please denounce this situations.
  • There are many environmental organizations and foundations, such as Fundación Corcovado, Mar Viva, Equipo Tora Carey and others. We invite you to get involved and collaborate.
  • Finally, we invite you to calculate and neutralize the carbon footprint generated during your trip, and in this way contribute to reduce the impacts generated. If you wish to compete your footprint, you can visit the Site: http://www.fonafifo.go.cr/inversiones/huella_carbono.html

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