Costa Rica is a country packed with adventures, rich biodiversity, and a sense of happiness that resonates through its people and way of life. More than 25% of Costa Rica’s territory is composed of protected areas, making it a true natural paradise. Furthermore, Costa Rica consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, backed by its high life expectancy, which hovers around 80 years, according to the World Bank.
If you intend to visit this beautiful Central American country and experience the authentic “Pura Vida,” it is crucial to know some key aspects for traveling to Costa Rica with peace of mind. Below, we provide essential information to help you plan your trip.
Currency and Payment Methods
In Costa Rica, the official currency is the colón; however, most businesses accept US dollars. It’s important to note that low-denomination bills are generally accepted, but $100 bills are sometimes not recognized for commercial transactions. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and other services, with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express being the most common options.
ATMs in Costa Rica typically operate from 5 AM to 10 PM. While both dollars and colones are accepted in most places, it’s recommended to have colones on hand, especially for bus fares or shopping at bakeries, supermarkets, and some stores. ATMs can be found in shopping centers and in urban and rural areas.
Transportation and Roads
Costa Rica has been working on improving its road infrastructure by connecting national roads with regional ones and ensuring effective communication with borders, ports, and the capital, San José. Most roads are paved, but it’s worth mentioning that dirt roads can still be found in remote areas. Since Costa Rica is a small country, it’s possible to cross it from border to border in about 16 hours.
Protecting water sources is a priority in Costa Rica, so drinking tap water does not pose any risks. Moreover, over 90% of the population has access to clean drinking water.
Connectivity and WiFi
Most hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers in Costa Rica provide internet access. The country has made significant efforts to improve connectivity, making it a leader in the Central American region in this regard.
You can obtain data plans and buy SIM cards at major border posts and international airports in Costa Rica. Mobile data connection is 4G, and SIM cards are available in supermarkets, shopping centers, pharmacies, and stores. Make sure your phone is not locked before using a SIM card.
Climate and Seasons
Costa Rica has a wide variety of climates due to its geographical location and tropical environment. The wet season typically spans from May to November, while the dry season lasts from December to April. Climate conditions vary depending on the geography of the regions, so it’s important to consider the weather when planning your trip.
Visa and Vaccination Requirements
Most visitors from Europe, the United States, and Canada do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica. By presenting your passport, you will receive a 90-day visitor permit. If you plan to stay longer, you must complete the necessary procedures in your home country. Additionally, it’s important to check your passport’s expiration date before traveling. For detailed visa requirements, you can refer to the official migration website of Costa Rica.
As for vaccinations, it’s not mandatory to be vaccinated before traveling to Costa Rica. However, travelers from some regions in South America and Africa may be required to present a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Costa Rica has hospitals and clinics, both public and private, across the country. In case of emergency, you can also turn to the Red Cross for timely first-aid assistance.
Electricity and Outlets
Costa Rica uses 110V electricity and type A and B outlets, so if you come from Europe, Asia, or Africa, you will need an adapter to plug in your devices.
You can rent a car at airports and major tourist areas in Costa Rica. Renting a car provides flexibility in your travel itinerary, but keep in mind that roads can be winding and steep, especially in mountainous regions. Additionally, the weather can bring rain or fog, so it’s advisable to drive with caution.
To facilitate your mobility in Costa Rica, you can use apps like Google Maps and Waze, which provide accurate and up-to-date routes. These apps also offer information on traffic and nearby points of interest.
Safety in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in Latin America, with no army since 1949. The police force ensures security throughout the country, and it’s common to see police officers patrolling public areas to maintain order and safety. Despite the overall safety of the country, it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings and avoid leaving valuable items within reach of others.
Traveling with Pets
If you plan to travel with pets to Costa Rica, it’s essential to be familiar with the requirements and procedures for transporting animals. The Costa Rican government, through SENASA, provides detailed information on this topic.
Costa Rica offers a variety of traditional dishes. “Gallo pinto” is a combination of rice and beans seasoned with natural spices, typically consumed for breakfast, often accompanied by eggs, sour cream, bread, cheese, and more. “Casado” is a dish that includes white rice, beans, meat (beef, pork, chicken, or fish), fried plantains, salads, and picadillos, and it is served for lunch or dinner. “Olla de carne” is another typical Costa Rican dish, a soup made with beef and a variety of local vegetables.
Recommended Clothing and Footwear
For visiting rural areas in Costa Rica, it’s recommended to wear comfortable clothing made of lightweight fabric. It’s best to wear clothes that dry quickly and always carry a jacket and a raincoat. Don’t forget to wear shoes that cover the entire foot, providing protection against insects, venomous reptiles, and moisture, as they are necessary for most outdoor activities. Be sure to have insect repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
Common Ailments and Diseases
Climate variations in Costa Rica can lead to colds, as the country features several microclimates. Stomach discomfort can also occur due to exposure to local tropical bacteria or from consuming improperly handled food. Therefore, it’s important to choose food sources carefully and follow basic hygiene practices when eating. Other common diseases include mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue, Zika, and chikungunya. These can be prevented by using insect repellent and wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
Costa Rica is a fascinating destination that offers a wide range of experiences. With this essential guide, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy your trip with peace of mind. However, it’s important to conduct further research and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and memorable experience in this beautiful country. Enjoy your journey to Costa Rica!