Travel Documents: Citizens holding valid passports from the following countries are permitted to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a visa: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France and dependencies Germany, Greece, Holland and dependencies, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Uruguay.
Sansa, AeroBelle, Costa Rica Green AirWays and Skyways are the airlines that offer daily domestic service to the principle tourists’ destinations throughout the country. Passengers are permitted 25 lbs of luggage; cancellation and date change fees apply. Charter flights are also available.
Credit Cards/Automated Tellers: The most widely accepted credit cards are VISA, MASTER CARD, and AMERICAN EXPRESS. A network of automated tellers is in place throughout the country serving almost all types of international credit and debit cards. CIRRUS and PLUS networks are supported.
Health and Water Quality: The tap water in the San José metro area is excellent quality and safe to drink. In some remote areas of the country it is recommended to purchase bottled water. The health care system in Costa Rica is very good and most cities and towns have clinics and hospitals equipped to treat anyone in case of an emergency.
Climate: Costa Rica has two seasons: green and dry. The green season starts about the end of April and lasts until about the first week in December. The rest of December through April is mostly dry, although the occasional shower can occur almost any day. The temperature in the Central Valley (higher elevation) averages between 70º to 80º most of the year but evenings can be cool in the wet season (sweater is advisable). In the lower Atlantic and Pacific regions the temperature is similar but the humidity much higher.
Taxes and tips: By law, restaurants add to the bill a 10% service charge (built in tip) and a 13% tax on food and drink. Most local residents do not add any tip above the mandatory 10%. However, due to the prevalent custom of “tipping” that exists in most cultures, it is sometimes expected in the case of a foreign traveler in finer dining establishments (not in the little “sodas” or restaurants you will find in rural areas). In a finer restaurant or hotel setting, it would not be uncommon to leave an additional 10% if you think the service was above average. Hotel bills include a 13% service tax and a 3.3% state tax.
Telephones: Cellular telephony is present throughout the country, with 4G technology. There are three companies offering the service: Kölbi, Claro and Tigo. Check with your phone company before traveling if they have agreements for ROAMING in Costa Rica with any of these phone companies, and the price per minute and per megabyte.
Another connectivity option for smartphones are the WiFi networks available in hotels, restaurants, offices and some public parks. In the Dental Clinic “Mario Garita MP Dental Experience” we have WiFi available for our patients.
There are also “Multipay Public Telephones” (exclusive to Kölbi) all over Costa Rica, which allow you to send free SMS text messages to a cell phone or email. This service is identified in the phone booths with a drawing of a letter envelope. The screen gives instructions on how to send messages. You can use the Multipay Public Telephones by paying with the Kölbi prepaid card (purchased at Kölbi kiosks and authorized stores) or with coins.
From the Multipay Public Telephones you can make national, local, interurban, service (free), international calls using the MIDA service, to be charged to the destination country by operator with the 1116 service and by means of the Direct Country service from the Public Telephones Purses.
Curious fact: in the year 2000 there were more than 22 thousand Public Telephones installed and working in the whole country. By 2019 there are almost five thousand installed, of which only 2,819 are on public roads. The owner company, ICE Kölbi, has among its plans to transform them into “Intelligent Kiosks” that offer telephone calls and Internet.
Currency and Exchange Rates: The official monetary unit of Costa Rica is the Colón (pronounced co-loan). Official exchange rate could be verified directly at the Banco Central de Costa Rica.
Clothing: Costa Rica is a land of over 1,000 micro-climates. You can experience everything from dry desert conditions in the far north (shorts and a short-sleeve shirt), extremely heavy rain in the cloud forests or tropics (rain gear, all-weather hiking boots) and even chilly weather (sweater or light jacket) at the higher elevations (such as at the top of the volcanos Irazú or Poás). Take into account your itinerary and be sure to pack according to the specific needs of your route.
Cosmetics/Skin-care: Ultraviolet rays from the sun are much more intense as you move closer to the Equator. Sun screen is essential! 15 minutes in the Costa Rican sun is like 45 minutes in Florida. You will burn fast. If you have a favorite skin care product – be sure to bring it. Many brands are available here also. Industrial strength insect repellent is a must if you plan to visit rural areas outside the Central Valley! To enjoy the beauty of the tropics you must also endure a few bugs (mostly mosquitos). “OFF” and other major brands of repellent are available from local grocery stores and pharmacies. If you plan on hitting the jungle trail right off the plane – bring some with you as you may not be able to find any repellents or sun-block products in more remote locations.
Photos/Bird watching: Obviously, if you are visiting one of the most beautiful countries in the world, you will want to bring your camera and lots of film. Camera experts will want telephoto and wide angle lenses to capture the intimate details of the flora and fauna. Film developing is more expensive in Costa Rica and only a few places offer the CD option for digital. Small binoculars come in handy when you hear the howler monkeys or if you are in any forest location (even along the coast). It is not uncommon to see white faced monkeys, toucans, parrots, howlers and iguanas in many of the locations you will be visiting.