Rica Facts for Visitors
A stable democracy for more than 100 years, Costa Rica is a peaceful
nation in the midst of a region that has been troubled by turmoil for
centuries. Costa Rica also has the highest standard of living of any
Central American country, including literacy rates, medical standards
and facilities are all quite high. Costa Ricans are extremely proud that
they do not have an army.
Costa Rica lies on the southern part of Central America, bordered on
the south by Panama and on the North by Nicaragua. It's land mass is
referred to as an isthmus, which is bordered by the sparkling waters
of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean and contains the mountains
of the continental divide.
Approximately 51,100 square miles-- about half the size of the state
of Kentucky. Only 120 km wide in some points, Costa Rica would be easy
to traverse were it not for the extreme variation in ecosystems and the
continental divide. Over 27% of the country's 12 distinct ecological
zones are in protected areas.
The population of Costa Rica is approximately 5 million, mostly of Spanish
descent. Costa Rican people call themselves "ticos" (male)
or "ticas" (female.) They are extremely friendly, polite, well
educated, and enthusiastic about their country. Costa Rica is home to
a large international community as well.
Spanish is the official language and is spoken, thankfully, at a speed
that is much easier to understand than many other countries. English
is widely understood, especially in tourist areas, hotels, lodges and
Requirements: A passport and return ticket is required to
enter Costa Rica. No visas are required for citizens of the US, UK, Canada,
Japan and many others.
US residents are permitted a $400 per person (or $1,100 per family) duty-free
tax exemption upon returning to the US
Tax - Approximately US $17.50
Local currency is the Colon. One US dollar is worth approximately 375
Colon. US dollars are accepted in many places in Costa Rica. Credit Cards/TravelersŐ
Checks: Nearly all hotels, restaurants and shops in the major towns and
tourist areas take all major credit cards. Street vendors and smaller
establishments in remote areas may accept only cash or travelersŐ checks.
ItŐs important to keep travelersŐ checks in a waterproof pouch, as they
are considered void if they get wet.
All telecommunications services (direct dial phones, fax, telex, cable)
are available; but calls from Costa Rica are much higher than an equivalent
call to Costa Rica. The country code for Costa Rica is (506) Remote jungle
lodges usually have short wave radio communications linked to cellular
Zone: Costa Rica is in the Central Standard Time zone, and
does not utilize daylight saving time. There is very little seasonal
variation between dawn and dusk due to the proximity to the equator,
dawn is usually 6:00 am and dusk 6:00 pm.
Taxes: Costa Rica has high taxes, roughly 15% sales tax and
there may be 15% service charge in many hotels and restaurants.
Tipping is voluntary; tips of 15% are acceptable; more if the service
is exceptionally good. Some hotels and restaurants add a 15 percent service.
Costa Rica boasts 12 climatic zones, surprising travelers with
a wide variety of temperature and rainfall conditions year-round.
In general, temperatures in the lowlands range from the low
70's to the high 80's, cooler at elevation. The temperature
on top of the continental divide can vary from the mid 50's
to low 80's in Monteverde to the 30's on Chirripo, with enveloping
clouds drifting over the mountains and bringing mist and occasional
rain. December through May is the dry season in most places
except the Caribbean coast, which is dryer January through March,
but has no real dry season. The "green season" begins
very slowly in June and tapers off in July for about 3 weeks
which native Costa Ricans call "Little Summer". So
don't let rain scare you away from the rainforest! Even in the
green season there is plenty of sunshine and great weather for
While the water is said to be safe in most of Costa Rica, we recommend
bottled water in most places. Do not eat fruit you have not pealed yourself,
stay away from leafy vegetables like lettuce, and avoid ice cubes. These
are common causes of amebic dysentery and giardia, both of which are
unpleasant enough to be worth avoiding at all costs.
Costa Rica Main Page for more details.
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