Located between 8° and 11° north of the equator, Costa Rica enjoys a temperate climate marked by two seasons: the rainy and the dry season. The rainy season, also known as the green season, runs from May until early December with April and November being months of transition. During the rainy season, mornings are usually sunny, with afternoon storms moving in later in the day. There is an average of four or more hours of sun per day during the rainy season. The dry season runs from mid-December through April.
Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Saving Time. From March through October, during U.S. Daylight Saving Time, Costa Rica's time zone is equivalent to Mountain Standard Time. November through March, Costa Rica's time zone is equivalent to Central Standard Time.
Costa Rica's official language is Spanish, though a large number of its citizens are at least moderately bilingual. English, due to its status as the international language of tourists, is the most common second language in Costa Rica. In most areas frequented by tourists – hotels, restaurants and national parks – visitors will find signs in English and employees who speak it fluently. In addition, many residents along the Caribbean coast speak Patois, a Jamaican creole with English roots.
However, when you stop for a snack at a roadside stand or enjoy a typical meal at a family-run restaurant, you may want to give your high school Spanish a try. You'll find Costa Ricans to be very accommodating and patient with your Spanish, no matter how rudimentary, and you'll have a blast communicating with a combination of dictionary words and lively charades.
More than 75% of Costa Ricans are practicing Catholics and approximately 14% are evangelical Christians. Other religions include: Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, and none 3.2%.
The national currency is the colon (CRC) and both dollars and Euros are easily exchanged at banks. Major credit cards are widely accepted in tourist towns, but you can't use them in some of the more rural areas. Larger hotels and restaurants will generally accept credit cards and U.S. dollars. ATMs are scattered throughout the country, and usually offer good exchange rates.
Your North American appliances are compatible with Costa Rica's electrical system, which functions at 110 volts.
The majority of banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., although some now offer extended hours. Business offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (many close for one hour at lunch), and most stores are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The country code for Costa Rica is 506, and there is no area code inside the country. All calls within Costa Rica are considered local.
Costa Rica is a technologically advanced country, and you’ll find Internet cafes on almost every city corner. Most cafes charge around $1 per hour. Keep in mind that your hotel or hostel might offer free Internet access.
Send and receive your letters and packages with confidence in Costa Rica. Postal branches are located in nearly every city and town. The Central Post Office in San Jose is located on Second Street between Avenues 1 and 3, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
International Flights: Most air traffic to and from Costa Rica is handled through the Juan Santamaria International Airport, located 30 minutes from San Jose, in the city of Alajuela. Visitors can also opt to fly into Liberia's Daniel Oduber International Airport, located in the heart of northern Guanacaste Province.
Domestic Flights: There are two domestic airlines serving Costa Rica, Nature Air and Sansa. Nature Air is based at the Tobias Bolanos Airport in Pavas, four miles west of San Jose, about 20 minutes from Alajuela. Sansa flights depart from a terminal adjacent to the Juan Santamaria International Airport. Visitors can also charter planes for private groups. A network of regional airports serve popular tourist areas including: Arenal, Tamarindo, Tortuguero, Limon, Quepos, Golfito, Tambor, and many other destinations.
Domestic Bus Service: Costa Rica has one of the best public transportation systems in Latin America. Local city buses will take you almost anywhere within city limits, and intercity buses are inexpensive, comfortable and widely available. Expect to pay less than $15 to ride anywhere in the country, even to the Panamanian border.
International Bus Service: Tica Bus, Trans Nica, Sirca and Tracopa offer round-trip service to Panama, Nicaragua and other Central American countries from San Jose.
Automobiles: Costa Rica has good highway network, the majority of which is paved. In most places there are adequate traffic signs. Toll booths are common on some of the country's major highways; toll amounts are clearly posted and may be payed in CRC or U.S. dollars (bills up to $20).
Driver Requirements: As a tourist, you may drive with a valid license from your country of origin and your passport during your authorized length of stay in country. Warning triangles should be carried at all times in case of an accident, and seat belts are also required for drivers and front seat passengers. Motorcyclists are required to use helmets.
With a valid passport and onward airline or bus ticket, U.S., Canadian and most European citizens may visit Costa Rica for up to 90 days as tourists. A departure tax of $28 is required if you exit the country by air, and is payable by cash or credit card at the airport. If you're traveling with an underage child without his/her second parent, you will need extensive paperwork to be allowed out of the country.
There are no mandatory vaccines to enter Costa Rica, but the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers be up-to-date on routine vaccines (MMR, DPT, etc.), as well as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid. Note that travelers coming from some African countries as well as Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Guyana must have a recent yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Any foreigner who is temporarily in the country has the right to receive medical attention at hospitals and clinics in case of an emergency, sudden illness or chronic disease. Costa Rica has a modern public health care system under the administration of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). Additionally, travelers have access to several private hospitals that offer high-quality medical care at a tiny fraction of its U.S. equivalent cost.
Costa Rica has a 911 system for reporting emergencies. In the event of a traffic accident, vehicles must be left where they are, and not moved out of the way. Both the traffic police and the insurance investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles are moved.
Directory Assistance: 1113
ICE Services: 1115
International Operator: 1116
Transit Police: 1117
Juan Santamaria International Airport Tel. 2441-0744
Limon Airport Tel. 2758-1379
Tobias Bolanos International Airport Tel. 2232-2820
Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport Tel. 2666-0695