Before You Go To Costa Rica
Since Costa Rica is in the tropics, you may want ensure you are up-to-date on all of your immunizations, as well as check your local health clinic to see if any additional shots or medicines are recommended. You can also check on your country’s recommendations for foreign travel. American citizens can check the State Travel Department for the latest travel information, and the Traveler’s Health section on the CDC website for health-specific recommendations.
Travelers must have passports to enter Costa Rica; however, visas are not required for travelers from Europe, North America, and select Latin American countries.
What To Bring To Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a tropical area, so it is best to bring your hot-weather clothes. However, keep in mind, during the rainy season it can get chilly at night and in the mountains. That said, it is a good idea to bring a rain jacket and shoes that can get wet. While temperatures can be comparable to North America and Northern Europe in the summertime, the sun is much stronger in Costa Rica, so remember to bring hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc. Things like shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, and bug repellent are quite costly in Costa Rica, so it’s best to stock up before you leave home, if you can. Some other handy things to bring: small pocket knife like a Leatherman or Swiss Army (be sure to put them in checked luggage before flying), travel sleeping bag, pillow, quick-dry towel, extra camera batteries, memory cards, camera cords to attach to computer (all electronics are expensive and can be impossible to find replacements parts in Central America), surf gear such as good and comfortable bathing suit, ear plugs, waterproof sunscreen or zinc cream, and rash guards.
San Jose Airport
The main airport in Costa Rica is located on the outskirts of the country’s capital, San Jose (airport code SJO). This new and modern airport is very tourist friendly. Upon arrival, tourists are given a tourist card for 90 days that should be kept with their passport. Upon departure, you must pay the departure tax, which is around $26.00 USD.
Where To Get Money
There are many banks in the country capital, as well as in the larger and more touristy areas, where visitors can withdraw money for a relatively small fee.
Getting Around Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a fairly easy country to get around. First, within cities, the first option is to use the widely available and reasonably priced taxi system. Another reasonable option is to use buses, which are also easily accessible. You can also rent a car; there are many car rental companies operating within Costa Rica including Budget, Avis, and Eurocar. There are rental agencies within the airport itself, as well as around San Jose and in some of the larger cities.
Costa Rica’s Roads
If you decide to drive, there are some things that you should keep in mind. First, exercise caution when driving in Costa Rica during the rainy season (between May and November) as the country’s mountainous terrain can present road hazards. Information on driving conditions is usually available in advance: talk to the car rental agency, listen to the radio (Costa Rica has many English stations), plan your route ahead of time and be sure to inquire.
The coastal highway (“La Costanera”) down the Pacific Coast has been completed, making the drive from San Jose to the Costa Ballena region (including Dominical, Bahia Ballena, and Uvita) and further South a breeze.
Costa Rica Hospitals & Health Care System
The hospital system of Costa Rica is quite good by Central American standards. It is advisable to travel with some sort of insurance; however, if you find yourself without insurance in Costa Rica, standard procedures are generally quite affordable. It is also a good idea to stock up on any medications that you need before you go, including over-the-counter medications such as pain-killers, allergy medicine, sleep aids, and any natural health supplements or vitamins.
Costa Rica’s Food
There is a wide variation of cuisine available in Costa Rica. The typical dish, called “casado,” consists of a type of protein (usually fried), rice, beans, salad, and a fried plantain. Costa Ricans themselves also eat numerous dishes that will be familiar to Westerners including pastas, pizzas, hamburgers, sandwiches, etc. There is also the fine dining option available, as Costa Rica caters to so many tourists; there are many gourmet chefs throughout the country and especially in touristy areas. Also, if you get sick of eating one genre of food, Costa Rica has many international options available, especially in the capital city.