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QTIPS: About Travel Costa Rica

Bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island, Costa Rica is home to around 4.9 million people; over 300,000 live in the capital and largest city, San Jose (9°56′N 84°5′W / 9.933°N 84.083°W); some 2 million live in the Central Valley, in the heart of the country.

Costa Rica is best known for its beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, teeming with wildlife including spider monkeys and quetzal birds.

The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, and English is spoken in major cities and tourist areas.

Currency

The official currency is the Colon. The US dollar is also widely accepted across the country. To change money is recommended to do in banks. Most hotels do offer the exchange with a commission, that means you will get less than at the bank. Always ask first the exchange rate. If the rate is poor (way less than you think is acceptable) exchange only is necessary and then a small amount, the rest at the bank. Any bank.

ATMs (cash machines) are everywhere. Most, but not all, offer currency in dollars. Withdrawing cash in colones is subject to YOUR bank’s exchange rate, and most transactions incur fees, both by the local ATM and your home bank.

Visa and MasterCard are credit cards accepted throughout the country. American Express, although is accepted by most, not all retailers.

Weather

Costa Rica has a diverse climate: the average annual temperature ranges between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius in the Cental Valley, depending on your location.

At higher altitudes it is cold, from a few to 10 degrees colder than in the Central Valley. For example, atop the Irazu volcano, the temperature can drop to 11 Celsius. At the beach, hot and muggy and with temperatures from 30 to 35 Celsius.

Although there is no winter season, the coldest times of the year are  mid-December to mid- January. From March to May the highest temperatures are registered and when the sun is more intense. The rainy season starts in May and runs through November.

Visas

Not all people who travel to Costa Rica need a tourist visa; this will depend on your nationality, purpose of visit, country of residence and duration of stay. Visa requirements are based on international agreements.

  • Canadians and U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. However, they must have a current valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica. (Either to return to your country or to go to another country). Canadian and US passport must be valid for a minimum of one day from the day you enter Costa Rica.
  • Citizens of other nationalities do not need a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica if they have a tourist visa, a visa for crew or a business visa (multiple entry) from United States of America or Canada. Note: Such visa must be stamped in the passport and be valid for at least 1 day (The length of stay may not be greater than the validity of the visa and may not exceed 30 days).
  • If the foreigner has permanent residence, a student visa, a work visa in the United States or Canada, he/she does not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. In addition, he/she must have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry into the country and a round trip ticket.

Visa requirements or exceptions are based on international agreements.

For more information, contact the Embassy of Costa Rica in your country or visit the following link: http://www.costarica-embassy.org/index.php?q=node/23#A

In addition to the visa, in order to enter Costa Rica, persons must meet the following requirements:

  • A return ticket to the country of origin or to go to another country.
  • Economic solvency, which corresponds to US$100.00 for each month of tourism.
  • Passport in good condition. The minimum validity of the passports will correspond to the group in which the foreign person is located.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

If you will be traveling to Costa Rica from South America and/or sub-Saharan Africa, you will need the YELLOW FEVER VACCINE.

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

You can travel to Costa Rica ten days after the shot. For further information, please visit the following link: http://www.costarica-embassy.org/index.php?q=node/93#5

For example, if you are in Colombia, you can get the Yellow Fever Vaccine at the Bogota airport or at any Red Cross in the country. Remember, there is a 10 day incubation period, so important you get the vaccine as soon as possible.

If your time in South America is less than 10 days, you should consider getting the Yellow Fever Vaccine in your home country. Important to note, you may not be asked to confirm your vaccine shot, but if you are and you do not have the certificate, you will be denied entry into Costa Rica.

Departure Tax

Costa Rica has an airport (San Jose and Liberia) departure tax. The current depature tax is US$29 dollars, per person. Although most airlines now incude the departure tax in the ticket, if it is not, it must be paid before leaving the country, both in cash and with the credit/debit card. If using a credit card, the charge is made as a cash advance.

If you are leaving by land, the “exit” tax is US$7 dollars and must be paid in advance, though there are ATM machines and local office at the Peñas Blancas (Nicaragua) and Paseo Canoas (Panama) borders. The exit tax can also be paid at any Servimas (Masxmenos and Walmart stores) and others, with a commission. Again, this tax only applies when you leave Costa Rica by land!