What Are The Entry Requirements?
No visa is necessary for most travelers coming to Costa Rica (including folks from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the majority of European countries). However, everyone must have a valid passport, good for at least six months after the arrival date into the country.
Moreover, most visitors must be traveling on a round-trip ticket, with proof of onward travel.
No vaccines or shots are necessary.
Where Should I Fly Into?
Costa Rica has two major international airports: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), just outside of San José, in the Central Valley, and Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR), on the outskirts of Liberia, in the northwestern Guanacaste province.
If you’re just planning a beach vacation, or some adventures in the northwest, I recommend flying in and out of Liberia. However, if you want to visit a wider range of destinations inside of Costa Rica, particularly the Central and Southern Pacific coasts and Caribbean lowlands, then San José is your best gateway.
An interesting fact, the Arenal volcano area is approximately a 3 hour drive from either San Jose or Liberia, making it a moot point in logistical planning. Monteverde also offers very similar drive times from either airport. However, the Rincon de la Vieja volcano and Rio Celeste areas are much closer to Liberia, whereas Manuel Antonio is much, much closer to San Jose’s airport.
Money, Credit Cards And Currency Conversions?
Costa Rica’s currency is the colón, which is almost always spoken of in its plural, colones. The exchange rate for colones fluxuates, but has held steady around 500 colones to the dollar for the past few years. As I write this, it is 530 colones to the dollar. For up-to-the-minute currency conversions, check out: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Colorful Costa Rican bills come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 colones. The latter bill, worth around $100USD.
Most banks will change money at the going rate. Moreover, when you take out cash from an ATM, you will also get the official rate. There are a couple of ATMs in each airport. Be careful, the Global Exchange money changing operation inside the airport charges about 10%, and I recommend that you skip them. The airport taxi service accepts dollars and credit cards, and you should be able to get to your hotel, settle in and change money, or visit an ATM at your leisure.
Do not change money on the streets. There’s no need to and you run the risk of getting ripped off or given forged bills.
Credit cards are widely accepted around Costa Rica, especially at hotels, restaurants and tour operations in the principal tourist destinations. Mastercard and Visa have the greatest acceptance, with American Express lagging behind them, and Discover and Diners Club pulling up the rear.
Check with your credit card company and bank before traveling. Make sure you’re using a no foreign fee credit card, and that there aren’t any hidden fees for charging or withdrawing money.
Can/Should I Drive A Rental Car in Costa Rica?
Most major international car rental agencies operate in Costa Rica, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrifty. There are also a series of reputable local companies to choose from.
Your current driver’s license is good for the first 90 days you are in Costa Rica.
Check carefully with your insurer at home, your own car-insurance policy or implied credit card coverage doesn’t always work abroad. And even if you are covered by your own policy or credit card policy, many local agencies insist you accept the local liability coverage as well.
Will I Be Able To Stay Connected?
You’ll find Wi-Fi connections and Internet cafes readily available across Costa Rica, particularly in the popular tourist destinations and resorts. Most hotels these days provide fairly acceptable Wi-Fi connections. although in the smaller and more remote areas, the Wi-Fi is often only available in the restaurant, lobby or other public areas.
What About Phones?
Costa Rica uses GSM networks. You can easily by a local chip to put in any unlocked international GSM phone. These can be purchased at the airports, or at any number of cell phone stores and outlets around the country. You could even get a cheap phone and chip package to use while you are here.
If you want your home phone to ring down here, check with your local provider about roaming availability and rates.
Is Costa Rica Safe?
In broad terms, yes, Costa Rica is very safe. That said, petty crime and robberies against tourist are very common. Pickpockets pry on flashy shows of wealth and distracted tourists, especially on crowded city streets and buses. Leave your good jewelry at home, and be especially protective of your belongings as you walk about. Never leave anything unattended on the beach or visible in a car. Make good use of your hotel safe. Use common sense and caution.
Can I Drink The Water?
Most tap water in Costa Rica is treated and potable. That said, in the more remote regions this may not be true. Moreover, many travelers have delicate digestive tracts that may react negatively to tap water here, so we recommend you drink bottled water whenever possible.
Will My Hair Dryer And Battery Chargers Work?
Costa Rica uses the same 110 volt 60-cycle electricity and two-or three-pronged outlets as are used throughout the United States and Canada. That said, if you are bringing any three-pronged devices, it’s a good idea to also bring along an three-to-two-prong adapter.
What About Taxes & Tipping?
Costa Rica has a 13% sales tax on all goods and services. In addition, most restaurants also add on an additional 10% service charge, which is supposed to go to the waiters and waitresses, although this is not always the case. Ticos rarely tip. However, feel free to add on an additional 5%-10% tip at restaurants, especially if you feel that the service deserved it.
What Time Is It?
Costa Rica runs on Central Standard Time, 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Costa Rica does not observe daylight saving time.