Tour Costa Rica

FAQs

Costa Rica

FAQs

Costa Rica Frequently Asked Questions.

What is the weather like in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has two seasons: the dry season and the rainy (green) season - also known as summer and winter or high and low season. For most of the country, the dry season runs from December through April, and the green season from May through November.

Because of its proximity to the Equator, Costa Rica receives an average 12-hours of daylight per day, year-round. And virtually everyone who’s ever visited, or who calls the country home, will argue that Costa Rica has the best climate in the world. Even the rainy season is pleasant, with clear and sunny mornings easing into cool afternoon showers and often clear nights. September and October tend to be the rainiest months.

The Caribbean Coast is an exception when it comes to weather. The region has only two “official’ dry season months, September and October. The remaining ten months receive different degrees of daily rainfall. January through March, for example, are less rainy and considered good months to visit because the mornings and early afternoons are usually bright and sunny, and big swells off of the Atlantic that favor excellent surfing conditions.

Despite its tiny size, Costa Rica has a dramatically diverse topography. There’s are considerable variations in elevation ranging from sea level to mountains as high as 9,800 feet (3,000 m). The result is a surprisingly rich variety of microclimates and life zones that include lowland rainforests, highland cloud forests, dry tropical forests, coastal habitats, grasslands, wetlands, and numerous others. Combine these with seasonal weather patterns sweeping in from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and you might say that the country is as climatically diverse as it is geographically.

Temperatures in San José and the Central Valley average 72°F, with highs around 84°F degrees and lows around 64°F.

As a rule of thumb, Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast tends to be drier the farther north you travel and wetter as you move south. On the Central and Northern Pacific Coast temperatures average 82°F, with highs in the upper 80s° to low 100s°F during the dry season.

In the lush jungles and rainforests of the Southwestern Pacific and Atlantic coasts, daily averages fluctuate between 77°F and 90°F with high humidity, especially during the rainy season.

The northern lowland areas such as La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano experience a higher rainfall year-round than in the Central Valley or Pacific Coast, and have an average daily temperature of 74°F with highs in the mid-80s°F.

And lastly, temperatures in the mountain highlands such as Monteverde and San Gerardo de Dota average 55°F year-round. In fact, many mountain homes and lodges have wood-burning fireplaces for the cooler nights.

What are Costa Rica’s Entry Requirements - do I need a Passport / Visa?

Not all visitors who travel to Costa Rica require a visa. It depends on the individual’s nationality, purpose of their visit, current country of residence, and anticipated length of stay. To access the entry requirements for your nationality, consult the Costa Rica Embassy website.

For U.S. and Canadian visitors, the requirements are:

• A current valid passport. The passport must be valid for a minimum of six months from the day you enter Costa Rica.
• A return ticket to exit Costa Rica (either to return to your country or to go to another country) You may enter Costa Rica without visa for a maximum stay of up to 90 days. 

It is recommended to carry a photocopy of your passport and other important documents on your person while traveling in Costa Rica.

What vaccinations are required?

In order to enter Costa Rica, you must have proof of a yellow fever vaccination if you arrive from or have recently traveled to the following South American or Sub-Saharan African countries. Currently no other immunizations, shots or vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica. For updated health information about travel to Costa Rica, please visit the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) website.

The countries considered at risk in South America are Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, and Venezuela.

From Sub-Saharan Africa the countries are Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Is the water safe to drink?

The water in Costa Rica is considered safe to drink. However, many visitors find they are sensitive to the change and prefer to buy bottled water or bring their own bottle with a built-in water filter. We suggest visitors support Costa Rica’s conservation efforts and avoid buying plastic bottles whenever possible. Several inexpensive portable water filters can be found online and are well worth the investment.

What Language is spoken in Costa Rica?

The official and predominant language in Costa Rica is Spanish. An English-Limonense Creole is also widely spoken among the Afro-Caribbean populations on the Atlantic Coast. Costa Rica is also home to five local indigenous groups with distinct languages, including Buglere, Bribri, Cabécar, Guaymí, and Maléku.

Visitors will be most comfortable having a basic understanding of Spanish, although it is not 100% necessary. A high percentage of Costa Rican’s speak some English, especially within the tourism sector and areas frequented by tourists.

Is an international drivers license required to drive a rental Car in Costa Rica?

In is not necessary to have an international driver’s license in Costa Rica unless your home country license is written in a different alphabet such as Mandarin or Arabic.

In order to be accepted to rent a car all driver’s licenses should be current, valid, and issued by an authorized state or national entity. Remember that the legal age to drive a car is 21. In order to rent a car, drivers must also be at least 21 years old and have a valid internationally recognized credit card.

What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The official currency in Costa Rica is the Colón. It is commonly referred to in its plural form, colones, and identified by the currency symbol ₡ or CRC.

Dollars are widely accepted across the country and are often the preferred method of payment at many tourist establishments. This is due to the periodic inflation of the dollar’s value. As a rule of thumb, It’s always best to carry a small amount of both currencies in denominations no larger than $20 if possible. Make sure that the bills are in good condition, Costa Rican banks and businesses won’t accept damaged or torn paper money.  

European Euro and Canadian Dollars are not accepted as payment in Costa Rica. Virtually all banks will exchange them for the local currency, however. It’s best to exchange your money to Costa Rica colones at a bank.

• Are Credit Cards accepted?
Yes, credit cards are widely accepted. Many credit card companies offer international incentives such as no additional fees for overseas transactions. This is a great option when you’re paying for more costly items like hotel rooms, rental cars, and in-country flights. Make sure to let your bank or credit card company know you’ll traveling abroad so they don’t assume the card is stolen.

It’s a good idea to come prepared and travel with a small amount of colones, dollars, and a major credit card or debit card.

• Are ATMS available?
Just about every town, no matter how small, will have at least one ATM machine. Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee that it will be working - or that it will accept your home bank’s debit card. It’s best to carry a major credit card or debit card from a well-known bank. And expect a service charge when you use an ATM in Costa Rica. Anywhere from $1 to $5 dollars is normal.

Make sure to withdraw enough money to make it through to your next ATM stop if this is your sole source of funding, especially during the high season. Small town ATMs often run out of cash in peak tourist areas during holidays or weekends. And remember you can always visit a bank to make a withdraw.

• Should I exchange money?
It’s unnecessary to have your home bank sell you colones before coming to Costa Rica. In fact, most U.S. or European banks don’t carry the currency. If you are traveling with U.S. dollars you should exchange a small amount to colones at a local bank once you’ve settled in.

Money exchange houses, hotels, and restaurants are likely to give a devalued exchange rate. Banks, on the other hand, are required by law to give the official rate established by the Central Bank of Costa Rica. Most larger grocery stores and gas stations will also honor the official rate.

What is the Electricity in Costa Rica and do I need an adapter?
Costa Rica uses 110V, 60Hz electricity similar to the U.S and Canada. Plugs are the standard two-pronged flat versions. Adaptors are widely available in most grocery stores and malls if needed.

Will my cellphone work in Costa Rica? / Can I use my cellphone while in Costa Rica?

Most cellphones will work in Costa Rica using international roaming unless you’ve purchased an international service plan from your home provider. Be aware that international roaming charges can be alarmingly high if you don’t have a special plan.

If your cell is unlocked, you can purchase a prepaid local/international phone card from most grocery stores or at the airport. If you need around the clock access or you’re staying for an extended period check with a local provider to receive better rates. The two largest national providers are Kolbi and Claro.

Don’t forget that virtually every hotel and restaurant have Wi-Fi so you can keep in contact using apps like WhatsApp, Skype, or FB Messenger.

Most of the larger rental car agencies rent vehicle internet hotspots that provide service for up to four devices at a time. This is especially useful if you plan on driving from destination to destination as you can connect to helpful GPS navigational apps like WAZE or Google Maps. Some agencies even rent local cell phones at a low daily rate.

How much should I tip?

Although tipping isn’t obligatory in Costa Rica, it’s a customary way to recognize excellent service and express gratitude. The majority of hotel employees, professional guides, and tour providers earn relatively low wages and tips are an important and necessary part of their livelihoods.

Keep in mind that a 10% service charge is already added to most food and beverage bills (restaurants and bars); however, leaving a little extra is always welcome. So, remember, if you feel that your driver, tour guide, housekeeper or bell boy has done a great job you should tip him/her.

Costa Rica tipping Guide:

Hotel bellboy: US $1 to $2 (500 to 1,000 CRC) per bag depending on the size and distance carried.
Hotel maids: US $2 to $4 (1,000 to 2,000 CRC) per day depending on the size of your party.

Tour guides: US $5 (2,500 CRC) per person for a regular group tour; $10 (5,000 CRC) per person for a small group tour; and US $15 to $20 (7,500 to 10,000 CRC) per person for a private tour.

Professional Drivers and Taxis: US $1 to $5 (500 to 2,500 CRC) per person depending on the distance traveled. Full day service is $20 (10,000 CRC) per person.

Is Costa Rica Safe?

Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in Central America. However, it is still extremely important to use common sense and take regular safety precautions while traveling. Women traveling alone should be especially diligent and never assume that “helpful” strangers really have their best interests in mind. Let your hotel reception know where you will be going and when you anticipate being back if you’re heading into the rainforest, beach, or mountains alone.

Petty theft is the most common crime against tourists. Visitors should always store their valuables in the hotel safe or with the concierge. Locking your hotel and car doors at all times is also a must do. Look for a guard or private parking lot when leaving your car unattended. And don’t leave belongings in plain sight when you go exploring. Don’t forget to carry a copy of your passport and other important documents on your person just in case.

Strong currents, riptides, and submerged rocks or tree trunks are all common when swimming in the ocean or in waterfall pools. Ask a local if it is safe before diving in.

What is the Number to Dial in Case of Emergency?

If you’re in trouble, or in the event of an emergency, dial 911 as soon as possible. If you need assistance from your home government visit the following link for an updated list of international embassies and consulates in Costa Rica.

What Time Zone is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time (clock changes) because of its proximity to the Equator. The official time zone is UTC-6 (Universal Time Coordinated). That said, in the United States, Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time (CST) during the daylight savings months from November to March, then coincides with Mountain Standard Time (MST) between April and October.

Do I have to pay a Departure Tax before Leaving Costa Rica?

Most international airline carriers include Costa Rica’s US $29 departure (exit) tax in the final ticket price. When in doubt check the individual fare breakdown on your ticket receipt to make sure you’ve paid in advance or speak with the airline directly. If the tax is not included, you will need to pay directly at the airport before check in. Colones, dollars, and credit cards are accepted.