Traveling in Costa Rica

Traveling to Costa Rica is simple and easy. Its two international airports located in San Jose and Liberia allows easy accessibility via a great many airlines from North and South America, as well as Europe. As a civilized destination, Costa Rica offers as a safe and friendly place to travel , with educated people (many Costa Ricans speak English), an intricate system of roads, and social and health development that makes it perfect for traveling as a family.

¿When to visit Costa Rica? Because of its geographic characteristics (located 10 degrees north of the equator) and tropical climate, Costa Rica is an all-year-round destination. It has two seasons—dry (December-April) and wet (May to November)—and is known for eternal springtime temperatures that tend to be slightly warmer during the dry season and along coastal areas. The dry season, which is also the tourism high season, has more sunny days with clear blue skies and temperatures that vary between 25°C y 30°C, depending on the area. It is important to point out that the chance of rain is always a possibility, even in the dry season. It is the most appealing vacation season for international travelers and for Costa Ricans. On the other hand, the wet season, also known as the green season, offers a different panorama marked by rainy cooler days and even greater scenic beauty as the shades of deep green envelope the mountains. Despite the rain, which tends to fall in the afternoons, this is the best time to appreciate the country’s natural landscapes, with fewer people at top tourism sites and more attractive prices available for tourism services.

Traveling requirements: In order to travel to Costa Rica your passport must be valid for at least six months from the time of your arrival. U.S., Canadian and citizens of most European Union countries are not required entry visas. We recommend bringing some other identification document such as a driver’s license which provides proof of your nationality.

Money, Credit cards and ATM’s: The colon is Costa Rica’s official currency; however, the use of U.S. dollars is quite common among many people and businesses. Dollars are usually more stable than the local currency, which tends to have mini devaluations throughout the year. The Euro on the other hand is not accepted in the country and it is important that you bring most of your cash in U.S. dollars. The use of credit cards is quite common and most businesses accept credit card payment. This is quite practical and advantageous. It is important to note that ATM access is available in most cities and tourist destinations allowing you to withdraw cash with your international credit or debit cards. Cash is useful if you visit remote places where you might have difficulty paying with credit cards.

Health and Insurance: For the past 50 years, Costa Rica has invested a lot in its health system. The country has high standards of health services and a great access to medical services. It also boasts life expectancy rates comparable to most developed countries. A system of aqueducts runs through the entire country and the quality of drinking water is quite good, which guarantees the health and cleanliness of the country’s inhabitants. Costa Rica also has an extensive network of medical services (clinics, hospitals, Red Cross posts, private doctors) which are available even in the most remote areas of the country. Many medical specialists speak other languages especially in some of the most important private and public hospitals. We strongly recommend all travelers buy an insurance policy that will cover hospitalization due to an accident while visiting the country.

Tipping & Gratuities: There are no specific rules about tipping in Costa Rica, although nowadays gratuities are considered an important part of the income for anyone who works for the tourism industry. At restaurants a 10% gratuity will be automatically added to your bill in addition to a 13% sales tax. Costa Ricans generally do not bother to add any extra to the 10% gratuity but if you want to give your server a little more, they will likely be very grateful for your generosity. At hotels we recommend to offer a tip of $ 1 to the bellboy while at tours and excursions we recommend to offer your guide a tip of $ 5 - $ 10. When it comes to private transportation and long drives, we normally suggest offering drivers a tip of $ 5 to $ 10. For short cab rides, drivers normally do not expect any tip but we suggest rounding the fare up and letting the taxi driver keep the change.

Packing List: Here is our suggested packing list:

  • Comfortable hiking shoes
  • Rain Gear
  • Sweater or jacket
  • Light and fast-drying shirts and pants
  • Hiking shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Water bottle
  • Flashlight
  • Binoculars
  • Ziplock bags