INFO FOR A TRIP TO COSTA RICA
This small tropical paradise that joins North and South America is home to more biological resources than any other country of its size. The grandeur of the landscape and the friendliness of its peace-loving people—who enjoy interacting with tourists and learning from them—make your visit to Costa Rica a magical experience.
Among its most admirable merits, Costa Rica abolished its army and has lived peacefully with its neighbors for over five decades, setting an example for the world of peace and goodwill.
Costa Rica’s efforts to protect its natural resources and live in harmony with nature have turned this small country into one of the most popular destinations for ecotourism. Currently, 27% of the country’s land area is protected.
In addition to preserving its resources and securing a natural heritage for future generations, these efforts allow us to enjoy and admire the vast biological diversity of the country’s protected areas.
A mountainous country, with countless rivers, beautiful Caribbean and Pacific beaches, active volcanoes, and lush forests that are home to numerous bird and animal species, Costa Rica has great tourism potential for any traveler and much to offer as a vacation destination. With a well-established tourism industry and warm, welcoming people, Costa Rica shines as a destination for the world traveler.
The country has the highest standard of living in Central America, and the government and its people have achieved sustainable environmental development that, together with steady growth in infrastructure and the promotion of the tourism industry, have made Costa Rica an attractive place to visit. Costa Rica is an exciting country that combines comfort and unparalleled natural beauty.
Given our vast experience and knowledge of Costa Rica, we prepare customized itineraries for individuals, families, and incentive groups. In short, we provide any tourism service you require in Costa Rica.
We love Costa Rica and would love to share it with you!
CURRENCY AND EXCHANGE RATE
Costa Rica´s official currency is the colon, plural colones – named after Colon ( Columbus ) himself. At present US $ 1.00 dollar is equivalent to C.546.00 colones. The colón floats freely against the American dollar, which means the exchange rate varies. The U.S. dollars, in cash or in travelers checks can be exchanged in almost all hotels and in the banks. The exchange rate in hotels and at the banks is almost always the same and in some cases, when there is a difference, it is minimal. It is recommended to exchange your money at the hotel, otherwise you will spend a lot of time at the bank. All hotels accept your U.S. dollars or your credit cards as a payment. Most of the times you will receive your change in local money and not in dollars. If you are staying in a small hotel or a lodge, the money exchange will depend upon the availability of money at the cashier. It is recommended to exchange some money on arrival to the country.
Most restaurants accept credit cards. The one that is used the most is VISA ( on first place ), Mastercard and American Express. There is a black market in San Jose, where you can obtain a little more for your U.S. dollars, but the difference is minimal and the counterfeit risks are very high and therefore not recommended. Obtaining cash with your credit card is possible in some banks or automatic cashiers in San Jose city. It is easier with VISA or Mastercard. This is an operation that lasts between half an hour and an hour. You can also do this transaction in some chief cities, but is easier to do in San Jose.
TIPS AND TAXES
Restaurants charge an addicional 23%, which is found on your check: a 13% belongs to a sales tax and a 10 % for service. Both are law binding. The 10%, at first, was considered as a tip for the waiter, but in many cases this tax is the salary of the service personnel, so people leave a tip if the service is good. This tip is not mandatory.
The bellboys at the airport and the hotels expect a tip for their service. They usually receive a dollar for each large bag. It is customary to tip the tour guides and the drivers if they have done a good job and you receive what you have expected. The tip is also voluntary. At the airport you have to pay a departure tax of US$ 29.00 per person. You can pay for this tax in dollars or colones. You also find a state bank that accepts your colones in exchange for dollars up to a maximum of US $50.00. The bank opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 3:00 p.m.
Costa Rica abolished it’s army almost 67 years ago, and it has remained as the most stable democracy of Central America.
It is a safe country that has a peaceful atmosphere and is friendly to visitors. The transfers and trips to the different attractions do not represent any danger. You can walk and visit San Jose city without any problem providing that you take the precautions of any big city. The use of jewelry is not recommended and you should keep your belongings in sight at all times. It is also recommended to leave your rented car at guarded parking lots and never to leave your luggage or personal items visible in the car. Even though criminality exists as in any other country of the world, you can still feel free to walk and travel around the country with liberty and peace. This is one of the reasons that Costa Rica has good reputation and acceptance as a tourist destination. In most hotels you find safety boxes in your room or at the reception desk.
CLIMATE AND CLOTHING
Costa Rica is located 10 degrees north of the Equator, and has no seasons as found in the temperate zones. The temperatures are the same all year long with small variations. In the Central Valley, where the capital city San Jose is located, the temperature average is 21 degrees centigrade ( 74 Fahrenheit ). On the coast the temperatures vary from 24 to 30 degrees. During the months of December, January and February the temperature may decrease 3 or 5 degrees centigrade due to a north breeze.
The next items are recommended for your trip :
Sweater or jacket for cool weather, depending on the places to visit
Tennis shoes or hiking boots
At least a pair of slacks or pants
Camera and enough film ( film is more expensive in Costa Rica )
The electric flow is of 110 volts nation wide – the same as Canada and the US – although plugs are two-prunged, without the round grounding prong. Most of hotel and lodges have electricity.
WATER AND FOOD
Costa Rica is a montainous country, and it is full of forests. Water is one of the most abundant resources in the country. Drinking water is found almost everywhere, including the Central Valley cities as San Jose and others. Water supplies in most places are clean and bacteria-freeOn the other hand, you can buy bottled mineral water in every supermarket or grocery store in the country. Travelling in Costa Rica is generally very safe, health-wise. Food tends to be well and higienically prepared, so bugs and upsets are normally limited to the ususl “travellers´tummy”.
This country is clearly agricultural and has very variated cuisine that includes meats, seafood, fish, vegetables and many tropical fruits. We have typical food and international cuisine. It is easy to be satisfied with the quality and quantity in the different categories of restaurants in the country. Your palate will apease.
TELEPHONE AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES
Costa Rica has direct dial service to almost every country in the world. The population’s access to the phone service is of 93%. In most hotels you have the opportunity to make international calls and also send a fax. Though calls within Costa Rica are relatively cheap, calling long-distance can work out very expensive. You can call collect to virtually any foreign country from any phone or payphone in Costa Rica; simply dial 09 or 116 to get an English-speaking operator.
The postal system is reasonable efficient and you will find post offices everywhere, in any city and town around the country. You may have problems sending and receiving letters from remote areas. Even the smallest Costa Rican town has a post office, but the most reliable place to mail overseas is from San José. Letters generally take about 10 days to get to North America, or two weeks or more for Europe.
This country is very joyful and specially during weekends. Many places organize dances and events for everybody. Many hotels have bars and live music, or casinos. San Jose city has many discotheques, bars, restaurants, night clubs, theaters and museums of different types.
Beaches and hotels have events to have fun or just meet with friends. The predominant music is the latin one, the merengue, salsa, reggae, soca, calypso etc. But you can hear any kind of music you want.
Costa Rica is the perfect place to buy leather and wood craft, as well as a big quantity of different souvenirs. The best places are : the Moravia location in San Jose, and Sarchi to purchase typical Costa Rican oxcarts. In every touristic place there are small stores for the visitors needs.Due to the high taxes, imported clothing, electronic appliances, etc., are not a good purchase.
HOSPITAL SERVICES AND MEDICAL CARE
Costa Rica has the most efficient and developed medical services in the Central American area, the Costa Rican Social Security is in charge. It is country wide, with ambulance service and drugstores in most towns.
The country has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in Latin America and a life expectancy of 76 years for both, men and women. It has a very low risk of malaria diseases or any other type of diseases. Vaccination is unnecesary.
For any departure from the country you need to confirm your flight with the airline at least 72 hours in advance. We remind you that any confirmation or changes have to be done by the passenger. Our staff will gladly help providing you with the telephone numbers of the airlines.
AIRPORTS AND FLIGHTS
The Juan Santamaria International Airport in the Province of Alajuela, is located at 17 kilometers ( 10 miles ) from the capital city. The taxis have an established fare of US $ 25.00 to take you downtown San Jose.
There are convenient flight connections to different places, specially to the United States of America. There is another International Airport Daniel Oduber Quiros in the city of Liberia, Guanacaste province. At the time, it is only used for charters and few international flights. For local flights, the airports used are the Juan Santamaria and the domestic airport Tobias Bolaños, also located in San Jose. The two local airlines are called SANSA and NATURE AIR.
In San Jose and in the different cities you will find good taxi service. The prices are controlled so they have to operate using a taximeter called Maria. All of the cabs are red and have an official number painted inside a yellow triangle on the front doors. They use a basic fare to start the run.