Costa Rica (officially called Republic of Costa Rica), is a country in Central America. It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. The official currency is the colón. It has enjoyed a long period of peace since the 1863 civil war. Because of its natural beauty and political stability, it is nicknamed the “Switzerland of Latin America”. Costa Rica has had army since December 1, 1863. Instead of spending money on the military, the government spends money on education and head people live in Costa Rica. The capital city is San José. The current President is Carlos Alvarado Quesada. He was elected in 2014.


Don’t cross that line. As long as you stay on the patio you’re fine but if you step off into the public sand you could be facing a fine of almost $400.

There are plenty of little bars and food stands on most Costa Rican beaches so pull up a chair, tilt the umbrella to keep the sun out of your eyes, and let someone wait on you while you enjoy a cold beer or exotic cocktail within the legal confines of a licensed establishment.

Visitors from the U.S. are used to “open container” laws and probably a certain style of flexible enforcement.  If you’re minding your own business and not otherwise causing a disturbance it’s highly unlikely the police will notice you’re enjoying a beer with your brats at the BBQ in the park.  If they do point out it’s not allowed they’ll most likely just ask that you dump it and put the cooler in the car.


…at hotels. It is common for hotels to offer free Wi-Fi and many of them have it available throughout the whole property. Some hotels may only have it in reception but it is free.

However, it’s hard to find open Wi-Fi in public places. It’s not like NYC where you can find a Starbucks and use the free Wi-Fi. If you see a restaurant with a secure Wi-Fi connection, you can ask them for the password. I’ve found most places are OK with giving it out as long as you are a customer.

If you always want Internet during your time in Costa Rica, we highly recommend getting a prepaid SIM card for your phone. Find out how to get a prepaid SIM card in Costa Rica. Car rentals also have Wi-Fi hot spots for rent so you can always stay connected.

Travel tip: The way SIM cards work is you will take out the existing SIM card in your smartphone you use at home and put in the Costa Rican one. Now your phone will be on the Costa Rican network so you can make local calls and texts in Costa Rica and be able to go on the Internet. Your phone number from home will NOT work anymore. A prepaid sim card will subtract the credit used (from calls/texts/internet) from your balance accordingly. When your balance is low, you can add more credit to it.

Where do I fly into?

Costa Rica has two international airports: San Jose (Juan Santamaria International Airport – SJO) and Liberia (Daniel Oduber International Airport- LIR).

When to Choose Liberia International Airport?

I recommend using the Liberia International Airport if your trip is going to take you to any of Guanacaste’s beautiful areas like Tamarindo beach or the Nicoya Peninsula, as this airport offers easier access to these areas. You can use either airport if your final destination destination is Monteverde, though I hear travelers say that they prefer to fly into Liberia



Costa Rica itself has an average temperature of 70 F to 81 F. Due to its proximity to the equator, it has no real summer or winter. It does however have a rainy season from May to November.

In some ways, Costa Rica is unlike almost all other countries in the world. The country is made up of many different climate zones, which also creates a lot of microclimates within the country.

There is not a true winter season, and it is classified as a tropical country because of how close it is to the equator.

It is more or less divided into two seasons, a dry season, often referred to as high season, and a rainy season, often referred to as green season.

There is consistently about twelve hours of sunlight per day for the entire year.

Guanacaste is approximately 180 miles (290 km), but is near the Pacific Ocean. This makes the weather there dry and filled with tropical dry forests.

Passport and Visa Information

If you are traveling on a U.S., Canadian or European Union Passport you do not have to apply for a visa in advance (see list of other easy entry countries).

When you arrive in Costa Rica the minimum requirements are

  • a QR encoding of an “electronic health pass” that includes proof of travel insurance for Covid medical care and quarantine
  • a valid* passport
  • an onward ticket (to leave Costa Rica at the end of your vacation)
  • $300 U.S. (you don’t have to pay $300 just show that you have at least that much). A little known requirement is that you be able to show “proof of economic sufficiency”.  It’s not clear how you’re going to survive on $3.30 a day ($300 divided by 90 day visa) but that’s the number.  We’ve only heard of this coming up once and it seemed probable that the immigration official just didn’t like the attitude of the potential visitor.  Be polite.
  • The Costa Rica Embassy in the U.S. maintains a list of requirements for individual countries in English.  The Ministerio de Gobernación y Policía Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería has the official version in Spanish – visa requirements for all countries
  • Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores -Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be able to help if you’re not on the list of “easy entry” citizens.
    O. Box: 10027-1000 San José, Costa Rica
    Phone : (506) 2223-7555 / 2223-0522
    Fax : (506) 2223-60-94


Health and Safety

In general Costa Rica is a very safe place, but as a traveler it’s important to remember that you’re out of your element in unfamiliar territory.

Some of the most important safety issues aren’t readily apparent to the uninitiated.  Highways are some of the most dangerous places, the nature that tourist want to experience comes with intense heat and UV exposure, tropical bugs and all sorts of water hazards lurking in idyllic scenes.

Until a few years ago we mainly warned about petty theft, but violent crime, corruption and especially fraud are a growing problem in Costa Rica.

Each of the sections below includes information on some of the dangers of international travel in general and in Costa Rica in particular, but more importantly what you need to be aware of and do to stay safe!

The dramatic things that many people worry about the most before they visit Costa Rica are fortunately the ones that cause the least real problems. Some of the more mundane but common safety risks and precautions are described below.

Accidents in Costa Rica

Accidents happen and there have been fatalities on canopy zip-lines, waterfall rappels, scuba diving, parachuting, ATV trail riding, and on horseback in Costa Rica.

Dropping travelers off cliff faces to rappel a waterfall and sailing them down a zipline five hundred feet above a ravine are inherently dangerous but the Costa Rican government is not particularly involved in the safety of tourists.  There are few regulations, insurance requirements, safety agencies, or tour design standards.  However, that doesn’t mean the tours are reckless and dangerous.  The tourism industry in Costa Rica has a huge financial concern in self regulating to ensuring that travelers are safe while having fun.

The best companies have strict in house safety policies and seek assistance from international sources.  For example many canopy tours are designed and/or certified by the U.S. based ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology). Our favorite rafting and canyoneering company uses standards based on California regulations and trains their guides using U.S. army techniques.

Do your part by choosing legitimate operators with the appropriate certifications, liability insurance, good records, and professional guides.  Don’t exceed your physical limitations, pay attention during the precautionary lectures, and use common sense.

ATVs and Personal Watercraft are some of the most dangerous big kid toys in the world.  As an adult you can make your own decisions whether the entertainment value is worth a potential broken neck. If you look you’ll probably also find someone willing to let your twelve year old ride but you may want to read this tragic story about a young woman who died before you put your kid on an ATV.


Currency Exchange:

Currency Exchanges in Airports Don’t Always Offer the Greatest Rates

Costa Rica’s local currency is the Colon. It was named after Christopher Columbus, who is known as Cristobal Colon in Spanish. The value of the Colon has been slowly inching upward as their economy continues to grow largely from tourism, agriculture, and electronics.

Both USD and Colones are interchangeable across the country, but if you are going to use USD, keep the bills small (under $20). If you are buying souvenirs or bargaining with someone, paying in Colones will often land you a better price since most places exchange at a lower rate.

When it comes to money, one of the most important things to know about Costa Rica is that currency exchange rates at the airports can be hit or miss.  More often than not we have found these rates to be daylight robbery, so here are our travel tips for Costa Rica to save you some money:

Both USD and Colones are interchangeable across the country, but if you are going to use USD, keep the bills small (under $20). If you are buying souvenirs or bargaining with someone, paying in Colones will often land you a better price since most places exchange at a lower rate.

When it comes to money, one of the most important things to know about Costa Rica is that currency exchange rates at the airports can be hit or miss.  More often than not we have found these rates to be daylight robbery, so here are our travel tips for Costa Rica to save you some money:

Bring US cash and exchange into local currency (Colones) as you go.

Any local business big or small will offer you a minimum rate of 550 Colones to USD $1 (At the time of writing the exchange was 578 Colones to USD $1).

Pay with US dollars at large grocery stores and get Colones back

They have computerized rates that are very favourable and some of the best in Costa Rica.

Withdraw cash from an ATM

We recommend Scotia Bank or BNCR. Withdraw the maximum amount ($500, if you can) to avoid paying the $5 foreign transaction fee on every $100 you withdraw. If you can manage to take out over $500 in one go, then you are likely only paying around 1%  per transaction and getting a great exchange rate in the process.

Banks Aren’t Always Easy to Find

If you run out of cash, you can always withdraw more using your Debit/Credit Card from any ATM. Some machines will even give you the option to withdraw both USD and Colones. But, keep in mind that there are NO ATMs in smaller towns, so make sure you withdraw cash in big cities.



As our first trip to Central America, we were unsure of what to expect in terms of safety. San José is where we felt the most on edge, mostly because we had read so many things about safety and were nervous before we arrived. We did see pickpockets operating, picking out tourists with open bags or those with backpacks that weren’t really paying attention.

Matt and I kept our cameras wrapped tightly around our wrists, didn’t carry anything of great value and kept our bags to the front of our bodies at all times and we didn’t have any issues! Pickpockets are opportunists so do not give them the opportunity to target you! If you’re catching public transport in Costa Rica you need to keep a close eye on your belongings at all times. Outside of San José, we didn’t have any issues at all but we still applied the same level of care, just to be sure.


Make sure you’re prepared for tropical rain! This means packing a reusable poncho or rain jacket, waterproof shoes or hiking boots and sufficient waterproof gear that you can protect your cameras and valuables from a sudden deluge if needed. We found the conditions to be similar to mountain weather, meaning it can change on a dime so you need to be prepared to experience four seasons in one day. Quick-dry clothing is a great option.

When it comes to packing I recommend skipping the fancy outfits and going for activewear and outdoor/adventure gear instead. I wore a few maxi dresses here and there but found I was comfortably, mostly, in my activewear with sneakers and a jacket or two I could pull over the top when it got cold and rainy. Matt mostly wore boardshorts, sweat-wicking t-shirts and his hiking boots.

 Nudity:  It is not allowed.


In Costa Rica the power plugs and sockets are of type A and B. The standard voltage is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.


Costa Rica has a tipping culture, especially for tour operators and hospitality workers so make sure you have some spare colones or US dollars on you to tip at bars and restaurants


One of the important things to know about Costa Rica is that tap water in most parts of the country is perfectly safe to drink. So, save the environment and don’t buy bottled water.

Language & Time

The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish and locals are all too happy to help you learn a little Spanish as you go. Be sure to learn a few key phrases in Spanish before you depart for your trip. Knowing how to say hello, goodbye and thank you goes a long way.

Costa Rica observes Central Standard Time all year. There are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes.

Transit system

Uber is an easy, affordable way to get around in Costa Rica, especially for travelers. Be sure to download and set-up the app before you leave home as you’ll need to verify your mobile number and won’t be able to do that if you don’t have international roaming on your phone. Be sure to set the payment type to be through the app, not cash. We forgot and had a driver over-charge us in San José.

Public Transportation

Rental cars, shared shuttles, regional flights, private drivers, taxis, public buses, boats—there are many ways to get around Costa Rica. For most visitors, a bit of this and a dash of that will do the trick—but which this and which that? Our guide introduces you to the options, outlining the advantages (and disadvantages) of each method. So you can save time or money or miles—it’s your choice.


Taxis are an affordable and one of the most convenient ways to get around in Costa Rica. Whether you’re heading from one side of San Jose to the other or embarking on a longer journey to a destination further afield, cabs are the perfect way to get from A to B. However, before you jump in a taxi and get your Costa Rican vacation started, there are a few things you should know:

Only hire authorized cabs

One of the most important things to remember when taking a taxi in Costa Rica is to only hire licensed, authorized cabs. Affectionately known as “rojos” due to their cherry-red color, these taxis are easily identifiable and can be flagged down as you would anywhere else. However, in some parts of the country, illegal taxis, popularly known as “piratas”, can often be mistaken for an authorized cab, as their drivers make every attempt to appear legitimate. The easiest way to differentiate between a genuine and illegal taxi is to look for the yellow triangle on the vehicle’s doors. Even though they might be a little cheaper, don’t be tempted to take an illegal cab—stick to the authorized taxis.

Call the right type of cab

Regulations for Costa Rican taxis can seem a little strange to some visitors. For example, the “rojos” are not licensed to pick passengers up at the country’s airports, but they can drop them off.

If you need a ride to your hotel after landing in Costa Rica, you’ll need an orange cab, which operate under cooperatives between private companies and the Costa Rican government. These cabs are only licensed to transport passengers to and from the airport so when you arrive, don’t waste time calling or trying to flag down a red taxi—they won’t be able to pick you up.

Another type of private transfer you might encounter during your trip to Costa Rica is “porteadores.” These are licensed, legal taxis that are privately owned; as such they can be any color and will not bear the yellow triangle that the “rojos” have. These cabs are perfectly safe, but they can only pick up passengers from either hotels or private residences—you cannot flag them down on the street. The driver’s permit will usually be displayed in plain sight where passengers can see it and their prices are similar to those of authorized red taxis.

List of Taxi Services in San Jose’s wider area:

Taxis Alfaro: 2221-8466
La Guaria: 2226-7125
Coopetico: 2224-7979
Coopetaxi: 2235-9966
Taxi San Jorge: 2221-3434
Taxis Unidos del Aeropuerto: 2221-6865

What to Pack for Costa Rica

  1. Plug and Power Adapter (if you’re coming from outside the Americas)
  2. Sunscreen (lots of sunscreens!)
  3. A Good Pair of Shades
  4. Bug Spray
  5. Travel Toilet Tissues
  6. Traveler’s Stomach Remedy

 Things to carry on with you:

  • A copy of your passport and driver’s license.
  • Money If you are going to make a purchase or go out to dinner, take more and take a credit card as well.  Use the card only if you don’t have enough cash.
  • Your emergency telephone list of phone numbers from back home.
  • A business card showing the phone and address of your hotel.
  • Credit cards only if you plan to go to the bank.









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