Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. Check with the Costa Rican Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. Securing required documents is the responsibility of the traveler. A departure tax of $28 is required if you exit the country by air, and is payable by cash or credit card at the airport. If you are traveling with an underage child without his/her second parent, you will need extensive paperwork to be allowed out of the country. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
Vaccinations are not currently required before travel to Costa Rica. You might want to check with your healthcare provider about six weeks prior to your departure for the most current recommendations. Travelers are advised to drink and brush their teeth with bottled water. Avoid eating uncooked vegetables, and be wary of ice and fruits or vegetables that may have been washed in local, untreated water. Ask your local guide about purchasing food from street vendors, as much is safe and quite tasty. In Panama, the tap water is considered safe as it is chlorinated, however bottled water is available. A good sun block and insect repellent should be worn at all times.
In Costa Rica, the currency is the colón (CRC), which is made up of 100 céntimos. Note denominations are 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000. Coins are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 25, 50 and 100. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaus of change and some hotels. Credit cards are generally accepted in larger towns, and ATMs usually take foreign cards. Traveler's Checks are also often accepted. You can change US dollars at banks and currency exchange agencies for the best rates, hotels and some shops can also change them for you, but the rate will likely be much higher. ATMs are also an efficient way to get money in the local currency.
Costa Rica has 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you will not need a converter or an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is widely available in main cities throughout Costa Rica. Many of the hotels we use offer this service free or at a small charge. There are also Internet cafés in major cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
In Costa Rica, banking hours are generally Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., with evening banking often available from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops in large cities and tourist areas, however street vendors and small shops may only accept cash. Some typical items to bring home include chocolate, banana paper, a boutique-brand coffee, tropical wood carvings such as oxcarts, candle holders and masks, a hammock, and local crafts.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Housekeepers about US$1 per day (or the equivalent in the local currency), Snorkel or dive guides - the amount will vary according to their services, Taxis - not really necessary, but you can round up the fare on the meter, Restaurants and bars 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.
For travel between cities in Costa Rica, local buses are a good option, however you may want to pre-book your seat as they can be crowded. In San Jose, Costa Rica has one of the best public transportation systems in Latin America. Local city buses will take you almost anywhere within city limits, and they are inexpensive, comfortable and widely available. A taxi is also an easy way to travel. Just be sure to have your hotel's concierge advise you of the correct fare and negotiate this with the taxi driver before agreeing to the ride. Use extreme care when crossing streets, as traffic can be hazardous.
Domestic Flights: There are two domestic airlines serving Costa Rica, Nature Air and Sansa. Nature Air is based at the Tobias Bolanos Airport in Pavas, four miles west of San Jose, about 20 minutes from Alajuela. Sansa flights depart from a terminal adjacent to the Juan Santamaria International Airport. Visitors can also charter planes for private groups. A network of regional airports serve popular tourist areas including: Arenal, Tamarindo, Tortuguero, Limon, Quepos, Golfito, Tambor, and many other destinations.
International Bus Service: Tica Bus, Trans Nica, Sirca and Tracopa offer round-trip service to Panama, Nicaragua and other Central American countries from San Jose.
Casual, lightweight clothing, comfortable walking shoes and a hat are fine for most days. A jacket is recommended for cooler evenings. If you plan to do much bird and wildlife viewing, browns and greens that blend in with your surroundings are best. Don't forget to pack good outdoor shoes, a raincoat and an umbrella.