Information about Costa Rica

HOW TO GET TO COSTA RICA? The usual way is arriving by plane. Airports: - Juan Santa Maria International airport. Airport code * SJO Location: 20 minutes from San Jose Costa Rica. - Daniel Oduver International airport, Airport code * LIR, Location: 15 minutes from Liberia, Costa Rica. Most common airlines flying in to Costa Rica are: American Airlines, Taca, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, Spirit, Delta, LTU and Air Canada. Arriving by sea: Many cruise lines arrive frequently to the different ports of the coasts of Costa Rica. Some Examples are: Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise lines, Princess Cruises.

Basic Facts:
Population: 4,016,173
Capital City: San José (337,000) metro (1.5 mil)
People: Costa Rican
Official Language: Spanish
Languages Spoken: Spanish, English, and French
Government: Democratic Republic
Geopolitical Structure: 7 provinces; Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, San Jose
Independence: 15 September 1821 (from Spain)
National Holiday: Independence Day, 15 September (1821)
Official Currency: Costa Rican Colon
Religion: Catholic (76%)
Land Area: 51,060 sq km (19,714 sq miles)
Highest Point: Chirripo, 12,533 ft. (3,820 m)
Bordering Body of Water - lies between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea
Major Industries: Tourism, agriculture (coffee, bananas, sugar, corn, rice, beans, potatoes; beef; timber), and electronic exports.


Costa Rica is located in Central America that has unlimited tourist potential and is ranked as one of the most visited international destinations. One of Costa Rica’s main sources of income is tourism. Costa Rica’s richness also lies on the cultural diversity of our people. Throughout our history, the indigenous population of pre-Hispanic origins have been added movements of immigrants which settled in these lands, making it their home. Populations of European origin, mainly Spaniards, persons of African and Asian ascendance, as well as people from different places of the American continent have interacted among them, enriching the cultural backgrounds in the process.


Costa Rica is blessed with great weather conditions. The dry season runs from December to April with tem-peratures between 20ºC and 38ºC and the green season runs from May to November. Temperatures vary little throughout the year. The average temperature for San José is around 22°C to 24 °C (sometimes it can get as low as 16 °C at night in the Central Valley). At the coast temperatures are higher and are more humid in the Atlantic than the Pacific coast.

Flora and Fauna
Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.25% of the world's landmass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity. Around 25% of the country's land area is in protected national parks and protected areas, the largest percentage of protected areas in the world. Costa Rica is a center of biological diversity for reptiles and amphibians, including the world's fastest running lizard, the spiny-tailed iguana.


Airport Exit Tax
All visitors must pay an exit tax of USD $26 at the airport before they leave the country. This can be paid in dollars or colones directly at the airport, but you can pay it at any branch of the Banco de Costa Rica or Banco Crédito Agrícola a few days before departure. To pay this tax, you must bring your passport.

Business Hours in Costa Rica
Banks are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Public offices are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Stores are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores in modern malls generally stay open from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and don’t close for lunch. Most bars are open until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.

Collect Call
You may call collect from any public phone by dialing 110. You may also try to borrow a cell phone from the tour agents who wait at the exit of the International wing.

Credit Cards
Credit Cards are invaluable when traveling, and they are becoming widely accepted in Costa Rica (primarily Visa and Master Card). They are a safe way to carry money and provide a convenient record of all your ex-penses. Since credit-card purchases depend upon phone verifications, some hotels and restaurants in very remote destinations do not accept them. Always check in advance if you are heading to more remote corners of Costa Rica.

Domestic Air Travel
Flying is one of the best ways to get around Costa Rica. Because the country is quite small, flights are short and not too expensive. The domestic airlines of Costa Rica are Sansa (, which offers a free shuttle bus from its downtown office to the airport, and NatureAir ( Sansa operates from San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport, while Nature Air operates from Tobías Bolaños Air-port in Pavas, 4 miles (6.4km) from San José.


Costa Rican Dress Code
Costa Ricans are very aware of world trends in fashion but the easy going weather they are blessed with has definitely left a mark on their clothing style. No matter what time of the year you visit, always bring lightweight clothing. Have a windbreaker and an umbrella handy but also be ready to take your light sweater off. Jeans and cotton short sleeve shirts are common among men and jeans or skirts and small tops for women. At night a light jacket or sweater it is a good idea, too. For special occasions such as parties or weddings men can wear a tie and women a formal dress.

Driver`s License Use
Costa Rican transit law allows you to drive for 3 months with a valid driver’s license issued in your own coun-try. Always carry a photocopy of the main pages of your passport. Leave the original safely at home.

In case of emergency, dial 911 (which should have an English-speaking operator); for an ambulance call 1128; to report fire call 1118. You can also call the police at 22 22 1365 or 22 21 5337. You may also call the school at 22 29 0013 during the week or 22 83 97 73 during the weekend.

Gifts for the Host Family?
It is not necessary to bring presents to the host family. However if you prefer to do so, a little souvenir, bottle of wine or chocolates would be fine.

Local Buses, Traveling by Bus / Coach in Costa Rica
There is a wide network of buses that run all over the country. The service is not first class, but fares are very low and dependable. Taxis are also everywhere and can be found near the main bus stops. Taxi fares are around US $1.50 per mile.
Public transportation is by far the most economical way to get around Costa Rica. Buses are inexpensive and relatively well maintained, and they go nearly everywhere. Local buses are the cheapest and slowest; they stop frequently and are generally a bit dilapidated. Express buses run between San José and most beach towns and major cities. Luxury buses and minibuses drive to destinations frequented by foreign trav-elers.

Suggested Items to Bring
We recommend bringing along some warm clothing like blue jeans, a jacket, windbreaker and sweater (after 6 p.m., temperatures may fall to 16 C° in the Great Metropolitan Area), sunglasses, hiking shoes, swimming suit, towel, at least one formal shirt for men or blouse for women for an occasional formal activity, note-books, a pen, a pencil, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, Spanish/your language dictionary.

A 10% service charge is included in the bill in most restaurants in Costa Rica, so no additional tipping is necessary. Taxi drivers are usually not tipped.


Entry requirements
U.S. citizens are permitted to stay up to ninety days in Costa Rica without a visa; to stay longer, travelers must submit an application for an extension to the Office of Temporary Permits in the Costa Rican Department of Immigration. You must possess a valid passport that will not expire for at least thirty days after arrival, and a roundtrip/outbound ticket.

EU citizens do not need a visa for stays of 90 days or less. Only a passport is necessary, which must be valid for at least six months following the date of return.

In Costa Rica’s cities you will find high quality medical service. Tap water is potable, but has a distinct taste of chlorine. To be extra safe, some may choose to buy bottled water.

Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Latin America. Of course, one must always take precaution as no place is ever completely safe; it all depends on the time of day and the circumstances.

Money and Prices
The official currency used is the Costa Rican colon. Costa Rica is one of the most expensive destinations in Latin America. However, prices are still much lower than in Western Europe.
Typical meal: 4-7.5 Euros / 6-9 USD
Tips: 10-15%
Forms of Payment:
Costa Rican colon
Debit cards (ATM cards)
Credit cards
US dollars in small bills are always recommended in case of emergency

Costa Rica has a very good bus system. Those who wish to travel by bus should familiarize themselves with the huge bus terminal in San Jose, "Terminal Coca-Cola". All trips within the country are relatively short and therefore domestic travel is quite inexpensive. Those who prefer to get around in car can reserve taxis by the hour, half-day, or full-day. It’s also easy to rent a car in San Jose.

Phone & Internet
In many internet cafes, you will be able to find Skype and MSN Messenger programs to make phone calls. Calling cards to make local calls on public phones can be found in stores and kiosks. European cell phones do not work in Costa Rica. However, it is possible to buy compatible cell phones in the country.
Costa Rica Calling Code: 00506.

Time Difference
All of Costa Rica is in the GMT -6 zone, which corresponds to U.S. Central Time during winter months, and U.S. Mountain Time when the U.S. is in daylight savings time. CET (Central European Time) minus 7 hours (8 in European summer).

120 V (same as the United States)
American plug with two flat connectors and one round connector in the center
Japanese plug with two flat connectors

COSTA RICAN PRICES in USD (United States Dollar). To get an idea about prices:
Public bus from San Rafael de Coronado to Downtown San José, $0.60
Taxi service from Coronado to San José 10 km, $15.00
Public bus from San José to Quepos / Manuel Antonio (Pacific), $6.00
Public bus from San José to Atlantic coast, $6.00
Public bus from San José to Arenal volcano, $6.00
Flight from San José to Quepos / Manuel Antonio one-way, $50.00
Flight from San José to Costa Atlántica one-way, $110.00
Flight from San José to Tortuguero one-way, $95.00
Flight from San José to Tamarindo one-way, $65.00
Flight from San José to Arenal Volcano one-way, $80.00
Taxi from San José to International Airport, $38.00
Entrance at a national park, $10.00
Lunch in a typical Costa Rican restaurant (soda), $4.00
Dinner in a first class restaurant, $40.00
Glass or can of beer in a bar, $2.50
Cup of coffee in a cafeteria, $1.00
Movie, $4.50

Information about Heredia city
Information about Jaco beach
Information about Nosara beach
Information about Samara beach
Information about San Jose
Information about Tamarindo beach