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About Costa Rica

Located in Central America, is an isthmus where life seems to have created its roots. Covering only 0.03% of the surface of our planet, Costa Rica has approximately 6% of the world’s biodiversity.

Costa Rica is characterized by an impressive scenic beauty, consolidated system of protected areas, social and political stability, high educational levels, and efficient infrastructure and services. All these characteristics you can find in a territory of only 51 thousand square kilometers, surrounded by the Pacific ocean and Caribbean Sea, only four hours away from each other by land or 45 minutes by air.

Geography

Rugged highlands are found throughout most of the country, ranging from approximately 1,000 to 2,000 meters (3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level). The Guanacaste Mountain Range, Central Mountain Range, and Talamanca Mountain Range are the main mountain ranges extending the entire length of the country. There are several active volcanoes (Arenal Volcano, Irazu Volcano, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano and Turrialba Volcano) and the country’s highest mountain (Chirripo Hill) with a height of 3,819 m/12,530 ft. The country has a relatively long coastline in both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans, as well as a number of rivers and streams that attract specialist kayakers and rafters from all over the world.

Climate

Costa Rica is a tropical country. There are two seasons: rainy (called winter or invierno) and dry (summer, or verano). Winter runs from April through November, with September and October generally being the rainiest months. Summer at the end of November and stretches into April. Costa Rica’s year round climate is pleasant with naturally occurring breezes, cooling down most of the coastal areas. Temperatures in the highlands and mountains are not so cold, especially during day, producing an ‘eternal spring’ feeling.

The average annual temperatures range from 31.7°C (89°F) on the coast to 16.7°C (62°F) inland.

Departure tax

$28.00 U.S. by air. Land and Sea exits are not charged.

Currency, banking, credit cards, traveler’s checks

The Costa Rican monetary unit is the Colon. Note: don’t be tempted to exchange money in your home country before departing; the rate you will receive is well below what you’ll receive here.

The exchange rate is currently hovering around ¢500.00 colones to $1.00 U.S. and can fluctuate without notice. It is best to bring money in the form of U.S. dollar denominated traveler’s checks, don’t expect to cash personal checks. In the city most businesses will accept major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, Amex), however in the outlying areas cash is preferred.

There are numerous ATM’s around that work on (Cirrus, Star, and Plus) systems, don’t forget your PIN. Office hours are generally from 8:00 am to 4:30-5:00 pm with an hour for lunch between 12 noon and 1 pm. Most banks are open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on weekdays.

Electricity

Standard current is 110 volts, 60 Hertz.

Clothing

The tone here is casual wear – it is not necessary to dress up to go to the theater or to dinner. Comfortable lightweight is best. In the higher elevations, San Jose, the volcanoes, or Monteverde, temperatures are cool and sweaters or light jackets are suggested.

Pack list!! Suggested ítems:

  • One or two bathing suits.
  • Lightweight hiking boots with a good tread suggested for hikes.
  • Walking or athletic shoe with a good tread suggested for walks.
  • Plastic or waterproof sandals or river shoes.
  • Personal toiletries.
  • Insect repellant – at least 75% DEET.
  • Sunscreen-with high sun protection factor, such as SPF 29-40.
  • Hat or cap.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Binoculars.
  • Camera.
  • Check batteries in camera.
  • Light natural, blends of cotton and a synthetic such as nylon.
  • Poncho or rain gear.
  • Light jacket or sweater for higher elevations and chilly nights in San Jose.
  • Day pack.
  • Plastic bags – for keeping books, binoculars and other items dry, and for wet clothing.
  • Tipping.
  • A 10% “service charge” is generally added to all restaurants bills so act accordingly. Taxi drivers generally do not receive a tip.

Entry requirements

U.S. and Canadian Citizens need only a valid passport or proof of citizenship such as an original birth certificate and a valid Id. A tourist card must be purchased by all Non-passport holders prior to departure from the U.S or Canada. Citizens of all other countries require a valid passport for at least six months from the entry date.

Travel Documents

Citizens of the U.S., Canada may enter Costa Rica without VISA but they now require a valid passport. Tourist cards are no longer accepted as a travel document and have been discontinued. Citizens of all other countries require also a valid passport to enter Costa Rica. You are required to carry your passport with you at all times. If by any chance I.D. is required by officials during your stay, usually a photocopy of your passport showing your photo, passport number and entry stamp will usually suffice.

How much should you calculate to spend on food a day eating in a decent restaurant?

For each food you can bring between $6 and $12 per person.

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