To make your stay in Costa Rica the most enjoyable experience, take into account these personal traveling tips.
1. Always carry with you a photocopy of your passport. Make sure your photograph is clear, your personal information and the date you entered the country have to be in it too.
2. Keep your valuable belongings (money, passport, plane tickets and traveler’s checks) in your hotel’s safety box.
3. Keep a list of all the numbers and serial numbers of your personal documents.
4. If you stay in cabins find out about the security of keeping your valuables within your room.
5. It’s better not to carry jewelry with you.
6. Avoid changing money on the street. Use banks or well-known money exchange offices. Check in your hotel for recommendations on the subject. Try to take only the amount of money you are going to use during the day.
7. Don’t leave unattended objects such as cameras and video cameras. Keep your wallet in an inconspicuous place.
8. Make sure you know the address where you are going. Tell the people at your hotel about your destination.
9. Use cabs whose identifications are exhibited on the door. The license plates must have red numbers and the cars must be red too.
10. When driving, do not give rides to people you don’t know. Try not to park in dark or deserted spots. Use parking lots. These places are legally responsible for your car and anything left in it. Tell the administrator about anything you want to leave in your car.
11. The emergency number is 911. They speak English.
Passport. It must be valid. You need to have a good return airplane ticket. To exit the country an airport tax needs to be paid. Your passport should have validity of a minimum of 1 to 3 months.
Electricity. There is 110 or 220 volts power all over the country. Check with the people in your place of stay before connecting any electrical devices.
Currency. The colon is the official currency. The exchange rate varies from day to day.
Paying with cards. Major international credit or debit cards are widely accepted.
Tips and taxes. Always find out whether the 13% sales tax is included in the goods’ price you’re purchasing. In restaurants and bars an additional 10% tax is charged. Tipping is optional here.
Renting a car. A current driver’s license is necessary, along with a credit card. The driver must be over 21 years old and a deposit should be paid. You drive on the right side lane and the international traffic signs are used on streets and roads.
Cabs. Every city has a taxi fleet; they’re usually red. You can get one at any hour. Phone the cab company for one or just stop one on the street. There are also cab stops in different places.
Legal cabs have a meter that shows the service price. When boarding a cab, check that the meter shows only zeros, or negotiate with the cabby the price of your trip prior to starting the trip. The cabs that have a license to wait at hotels’ doors charge twice as much for long distance services.
At the Juan Santamaría Airport, the orange Taxis Unidos Company is the official transportation for the airport. They charge a fixed rate and changes if a car or a small bus is used.
Time. Costa Rica is within the Central Standard Time, but the time does not change during the year.
What to wear. Light clothes are recommended, but it may be wise to carry a sweater or jacket since nights tend to be cool. At sea level, shorts are good enough. If you plan to walk in the forests, long sleeve shirts, jeans, boots and a hat are more appropriate. Be sure your clothes are made of cotton. Don’t forget a mosquito repellent, sunglasses and suntan lotion or cream. During the rainy season (May through November) a jacket and an umbrella are a must.
Health. No vaccinations are required to enter the country. It’s wise to keep in mind that some dengue cases on the coastal area have been reported. There is drinking water throughout the country from the tap. There may be a few exceptions to this. Be sure to ask about it.
Holidays. On holidays all government and most public offices are closed. These are the official holidays. New Year Day, Good Thursday and Good Friday, April 11th (National Hero, Juan Santamaría’s Day), May 1st (Labor Day), July 25th (Day of the Nicoya annex to Costa Rica), August 2nd (Los Ángeles Virgin Day), August 15th (Mother’s Day), September 15th (Independence Day) and December 25th (Christmas Day).
Office and business schedules. Most establishments work from Monday to Saturday and are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some private businesses close at noon. Bars and other recreation businesses are open until late at night. Government offices open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Banks open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some banks have offices that remain open until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
One of the best ways to travel through Costa Rica and experience what it has to offer is by car. However, you must consider some details so that your stay and vacation are exceptional:
If you live abroad you must carry a valid license from your country. You also need your passport with the last entry date into Costa Rica.
Before driving make sure the vehicle is in optimal conditions.
Never leave your belongings inside the car, not even for an instant.
Do not park your car on the street. Use monitored public parking lots.
ALWAYS use your seatbelt. It is REQUIRED BY LAW. Don’t allow children below the age of 4 to travel in the front seat.
It is against the law to make U turns in areas that are properly signaled not to.
The maximum speed allowed in the areas that do not have visible regulations is 60 kph.
In urban areas you must drive at a maximum speed of 40 kph. When passing in front of a school, hospital or clinic you should not drive above 25 kph.
The minimum speed on highways is 40 kph and the maximum is 100 kph. The speed limit on secondary roads is 60 kph. The maximum speed may vary in some areas and it should be indicated with street signs.
It is completely illegal to drive motorized vehicles on all Costa Rican beaches, unless there is not an existing road between two locations.
You are responsible for the damages caused by reckless driving or when driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If an officer stops you and asks you to do an alcohol test, you must do so. Whenever a policeman pulls you over ask him for his identification. In case of getting any fines, you must pay them in government banks.
If you get a fine, you must report it to your car rental supplier.
If you are involved in an accident, please do not move the vehicle, report the accident immediately and wait for the authorities (transit police and the National Insurance Company) to come.
Personal documents and car documents are private property. This means an officer cannot seize them for any reason.
While driving do not show any signs of being lost. Be aware if anyone is watching you. Do not stop if asked to and do not give rides to strangers.
It is important to take these recommendations into account. This way you will be sure you’ll have a safe trip and will enjoy your stay in Costa Rica.