Frecuently Asked Questions about Costa Rica
1. Are there any visa and/or passport requirements to travel to Costa Rica?
Every visitor must present a valid passport to enter Costa Rica and visas are needed by individuals of certain nationalities so check with your local Costa Rican consulate before traveling.
No visa is necessary for citizens of the USA , Canada , or Western Europe. When traveling with a passport, US, Canadian and most Latin American and European citizens may remain in Costa Rica for a total period of 90 continuous days.
2. When is the best time to travel to Costa Rica?
Any time except the week of Good Friday (Easter weekend) or Christmas week. These are major holidays for Ticos, so everything is crowded, transportation is hectic, and many shops and restaurants are closed.
3. When is rainy season?
Rainy season, euphemistically called "Green Season by the travel industry, usually starts in May and lasts through November. October and November witness the real downfalls, but May and June are sometimes quite pleasant, and air fare and beach resorts are cheaper. June often sees veranito, a "little summer" of several weeks with little or no rain.
Even when it does rain, you can usually manage to schedule your day the typical afternoon showers. Rain forest, cloud forest and white water rafting tours live up to their names in rainy season.
Dry Season: December - April
- San Jose: 60-80, dry (average 72)
- Caribbean Coast: 70-86, tends to be wetter, humid & warm, (average 82)
- Pacific: 70-90, wetter in the South & warm (average 89)
- Arenal/Monteverde: dry, similar to the highlands of San Jose
- Corcovado: off of Carate, hiking is drier, rain
Wet Season: May - October/November
- San Jose: rainy (8-12 inches of rain per month)
- Caribbean Coast: can be rainy, warm & humid (less rainfall in Sept/Oct for Caribbean)
- Pacific: heavier rain in the South, warm
- Arenal/Monteverde: off and on showers
- Corcovado: trails can be muddy, hot/humid/bugs, more rain
4. How safe is Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has a democratic tradition and extensive tourist facilities. Like any destination, however, Costa Rica has its share of crime, especially in the larger cities.
Pickpocketing is a particular concern for travelers, especially in crowded airports and visitor sites. Be aware of your valuables and avoid carrying large amounts of cash, jewelry or other expensive items. Check out the US State Department travel advisories for the latest information at: Costa Rica Country Specific Information
5. What time zone is Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is six hours behind GMT (same as CST). They do not observe daylight-savings time so during these months (April-October), Costa Rica is on MST.
6. What is the local currency, exchange rate, etc.?
The local currency is the colon. Most restaurants, markets, and other service providers readily accept US dollars as long as they don't have any rips. They will generally give you change in local currency.
7. Should I bring cash or Traveler's checks? Are ATMs available? Can I use credit cards?
Most travelers bring a small amount of US cash with them and withdraw from ATMs as they need it along they way. ATMs are readily available in the larger towns and cities. Travelers can withdraw US dollars or local currency at fair exchange rates. Traveler's checks are fine, but they can be more difficult to exchange and you will usually receive a poorer rate or be charged an additional fee.
Visa and Master Card are the most common credit cards in Costa Rica, accepted at most hotels, gas stations, souvenir shops, and restaurants. Asides from the convenience and safety, you will get a better exchange rate with the use of your credit card. We do recommend bringing cash in small denomination bills for tips and other light expenses. You can exchange dollars to colones at any hotel, bank, or at the airport. Traveler checks are also widely accepted.
8. What type of food is typical of Costa Rica?
Rice, beans, tortillas, chicken, beef, fish, tropical fruit, and fresh vegetables are some of the standard foods that travelers can expect in Costa Rica. International specialties are also widely available.
9. Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water is generally safe to drink in San Jose and other major towns. To be sure, ask your tour leader or the hotel/ restaurant staff. Bottled water is readily available as well and should be used in remote rural areas.
10. What should I bring? What clothes should I pack?
Pack light! Baggage carts are scarce at airports, and luggage restrictions are tight. Bring comfortable, hand-washable clothing. T-shirts and shorts are acceptable during the day. At least one pair of slacks and dress shoes for dinnertime is highly recommended since some restaurants won't admit you in shorts or sandals. Loose-fitting long-sleeve shirts and pants are recommended if you take any day trips out to smaller towns, where immodest attire may be frowned upon. Bring a large hat to block the sun from your face and neck. Pack a light sweater or jacket for San José's cool nights and early mornings and for trips to volcanoes. Sturdy sneakers or hiking boots are essential if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing and hiking. Waterproof hiking sandals or other footwear that lets your feet breathe are good for strolling about town, beach walking, fording streams, and navigating the myriad mud spots you'll find on rain and cloud forest trails.
Baggage Weight Limits: There is a limit of 27-30 pounds per person for in-country local flights. This maximum weight allowance includes photographic/video equipment and carry-on bags so please pack lightly. You must also keep in mind that the luggage compartments are not pressurized. We highly recommend using duffel bags rather than hard suit cases. You must arrive no later than 45 minutes before the scheduled departure.
11. Do I need to speak Spanish?
No, as long as you stick to the main hotels and resorts. However, a little Spanish goes a long way.
12. Safety tips for the streets
Do not wander around alone at night in San Jose. Even brightly lit streets can be dangerous. Keep your wallet in a front pocket. Don't take more cash with you than you plan to spend (use your hotel safe).
Leave your Rolex or Movado at home. Bring a cheap watch, or buy one on the street. Make a photocopy of your passport and carry it with you
In outdoor cafes, do not leave bags or purses draped over a railing near the street, nor on the floor near a door. Don't leave anything of value unguarded on a beach.
Never leave your car unguarded when it contains anything of value, especially to take a few quick pictures or run into a store for a bottle of water. Break-in thefts abound in tourists areas, even outside the nicest hotels
13. Do I need an international drivers license to drive a car in Costa Rica?
No. An International license is not required. You are allowed to drive with your normal drivers license for whatever is the term of your visa.
14. What is the difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest?
Mainly the altitude and the temperature. The rain forests are very hot and humid while the cloud forest are humid and moist. The species of flora and fauna are significantly different.
15. What kind of inoculations do I have to take to Costa Rica?
No vaccines are required to enter Costa Rica. No matter where you travel though, a tetanus shot (or booster) is always a good idea.
16. Is there and exit or departure tax in Costa Rica? If so, how much is it?
Departure tax is $26, can be paid in US Dollars, colones or with a Visa card. You are able to pay this departure tax upon your arrival into Costa Rica by CASH or VISA only. They will provide you with a form and receipt that is good for your length of stay. By paying your departure tax upon arrival you could potentially save a lot of time and hassle waiting in long lines the day of your departure.
17. What number should I dial in case of emergency?
Dial 911. Do not expect the operator to speak English.
Dial 133. This is a Telephone Directory. Do not expect the operator to speak English.