Traveling in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Timezone

Local time is GMT -6.

 

Electricity

Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Flat- two--pin plugs are standard. 

 

Official Language

Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken.

 

Health

There are no vaccination requirements for Costa Rica but typhoid and Hepatitis A immunization is recommended. There is a small risk of malaria in some areas all year round and advice should be taken on precautions. Water in cities is generally safe but it is advisable to buy bottled water, especially outside the main towns where there is a risk of contamination. Dengue fever is one of a number of diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region, especially during the rainy season; protection against insect bites is the best prevention. Medical services are reliable in cities and the standard of hygiene and treatment is very high. 

Tipping

Hotels add a 10% service charge plus a 3% tourist tax to their bills. In tourist and upmarket restaurants a tip of 10% is usual, however some establishments already include a 17% sales and service tax in the bill. Tipping is rare in smaller restaurants that are frequented by locals. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, but tour guides usually are. In general if service has been particularly good service staff appreciate a 5 to 10% tip.

 

Passport & Visa

Entry requirements for Americans:

US nationals do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days. A passport valid for 30 days is required.  

 

Entry requirements for UK nationals:

UK nationals must have a passport that is valid at least 30 days after the date of entry. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days provided the passport is endorsed with British Citizen, British National (Overseas) or British Overseas Territories Citizen. Extensions can be arranged on arrival. In all other cases, a passport must be valid beyond six months and a visa is required.  

 

Entry requirements for Canadians:

Canadians must have a passport that is valid at least 30 days after date of entry. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. Extensions can be organised on arrival.  

 

Entry requirements for Australians:

Australians must have a passport that is valid at least 30 days after the date of entry. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. An extension can be organised on arrival.  

 

Entry requirements for South Africans:

South African nationals must have a passport that is valid at least 30 days after the date of entry. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. An extension can be organised on arrival.  

 

Entry requirements for New Zealanders:

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid at least 30 days after the date of entry. A visa is not required for a stay of 90 days. Extensions can be organised on arrival.  

 

Entry requirements for Irish nationals:

Irish nationals must have a passport that is valid at least 30 days after date of entry. A visa is not required for a stay of 90 days. Extensions can be organised on arrival.

 

Passport/Visa Note:

All visitors must hold an onward or return ticket and sufficient funds. An exit visa must be obtained from the Immigration Department for all passengers staying in the country for longer than 30 days. No exit permit is required for those staying less than 30 days as long as a disembarkation card can be shown. Passports must be valid for at least 30 days after date of entry for visa exempt nationals and for six months for those requiring a visa. Admission to Costa Rica is refused to gypsies of any country and anyone with insufficient funds. Indecent clothing and long, unkempt beards and hair is prohibited. From 23 January 2007 all US citizens travelling to and from Costa Rica by air will require a valid passport; by 1 January 2008 the requirement will be extended to include all land and sea border crossings as well. 

 

 

Costa Rican Weather

Costa Rica's stunning scenic heritage unfolds in an ever-changing panorama of steaming volcanoes, forested mountains, dramatic skies and bucolic countryside. Dark lowland jungles give way to rolling savannas; Pacific surf crashes against rocky headlands, sharp contrast to the tranquility of palm-fringed Caribbean beaches.

 

The climate is idyllic. In the lowland, which are dry in the Pacific northwest and humid elsewhere. Daytime temperature range is typically in the eighties to nineties degrees. Usually in the seventies at middle elevations, the mercury can fall as low as the forties and fifties at the top of the mountains. Even night time frost is not a uncommon occurrence on the highest peaks. Within each elevation range, temperature remain relatively constant year-round. Rainfall, on the other hand, is subject to annual and regional patterns.  

The northwest (Guanacaste) has a fairly well-defined dry season ("verano" summer) from November to May. The dry season is a month of two shorter along the southern Pacific coast. July also tends to be a dry month on the Pacific slope. Welcome rains during the balance of the year bring about a general greening and freshens the countryside. Rain usually come in afternoon cloudbursts, leaving the morning sunny and the night sky filled with stars. This period is called "invierno" (winter or rainy season) or "Temporada verde" (green season). Rainfall on the Caribbean slope is more evenly distributed throughout the year, with marked dry periods in May-June and again in September-October.

 

Because it is a tropical country, located between two oceans and with a complex topography, Costa Rica is a country of varied weather conditions.

 

Throughout the year there are no great temperature variations between the rain (green season) and dry seasons (summer). The average temperature varies approximately 10 degrees from one season to the other. The most important annual variation is that of the precipitation level, which is mainly due to the interaction of the different wind systems that effect the country's topography. Even do Costa Rica is in the Northern Hemisphere it has similar station as in South America. With Summer starting in December and going until March, however from May to August the country offers a mild raining season. The two month in which rain the most are September and October. But this does not apply to the whole country when in September and October it rains a great deal in the Pacific side the Caribbean has a summer type weather. Making Costa Rica a destination you can visit all year long and always able to find sun.  

Temperature variations are more defined with altitude. In those regions located between sea level and 3000 feet temperatures will range from 80 degrees to 95 degrees. In those region located from 3000 feet to over 8,000 feet above sea level, they vary between 80 degrees and 55 degrees and those regions located higher than 8000 feet endure temperatures below 55 degrees.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their country embassy.

Safety

Costa Rica is generally considered to be a very safe country and Costa Ricans on the whole are honest and friendly people. Any crime that does exist tends to be opportunistic, rather than involving out-and-out assault. The main things travelers have to worry about in the city are street mugging and pick pocketing.Other good advise includes: Do not get drunk in public so as not to invite mugging, do not argue with inebriated persons, do not walk around in secluded areas or in the city during the night. If you decide to take a companion up to your room, be forewarned that prostitutes are notorious for cleaning out their customers pockets before leaving.

 

Recreational drugs other than alcohol and tobacco are illegal in Costa Rica. Do not deal with drug dealers, specially on the street and perhaps more importantly, do not carry drugs while walking around the city, and especially while leaving or entering the country. Sentences for international drug trafficking go from 3 to 25 years in prison.

 

It has been also known for luggage to be stolen while you are distracted or while it is being kept supposedly secure in a left-luggage facility. Never hand your baggage top strangers, except the airport porters, who have official identification. If storing your luggage in a hotel or guest house while you are traveling around the country, make sure it is locked, has your name prominently written on it, and that you have left instructions for it not to be removed by anyone but yourself, under any circumstances.

 

Car theft - both cars and the things inside - also occurs, so always lock your car. You should not leave anything of value inside your car, even locked in the trunk, anywhere in Costa Rica, day or night. If you must leave something in the car make sure it is in plain view and that it is apparent that it is of no value. In addition, never park your car on the street in San Jose, the Valle Central towns, Puntarenas or Limon; use the parking lots, this might seem overly paranoid, but it may save you a headache. Heavily touristic National Park parking places are also vulnerable, unless they are within the park where the park rangers can keep an eye on them.

If you take the common-sense precautions outlined above, you should get by unscathed. In addition, keep copies of your passport, your air ticket and your travelers cheques, plus your insurance policy at home; and if possible, extra copies in your hotel, as well as a little cash should calamity strike. If the hotel offers safety deposit boxes, use them. In Costa Rica you have to carry an ID on you at all times, and for foreigners this means carrying your passport. A photocopy will do, but if you are stopped and asked for ID, make sure you can produce the real thing from your hotel just in case the police demands to see it.

 

Perhaps the most dangerous part of our country are the beaches which every year claim tourist lives. Be very respectful of waves, riptides and the ocean in general. Stay always near other bathers, do not swim into the ocean, even if you are a good swimmer. Be specially wary of open beaches, which tend to prolong in a line, as opposed to safe harbor horse-shoe shaped bays. Be cautious while bathing in any beach with a river mouth.

 

A word of caution to women, do not follow or be led by any impromptu tour guide impersonator to far away or secluded places. Always stay with your group, if you are alone, do not trust men you have not been properly introduced to by someone you know.

 

After summing up all the bad things that could happen to you the only thing left to be said is: "Don't Panic! If you use common sense none of this will ever happen to you."