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FAQ's about Costa Rica

Many of the questions can also be found in more detail elsewhere on the Travel Costa Rica Now site. These ARE the quick answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions.

Here they are- the most Frequently Asked Questions (in no particular order)

So, where is the Island of Costa Rica located?

Not sure of this answer, then WATCH this.

Do I need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

A valid passport is mandatory to enter Costa Rica. All visitors need a passport and there must be at least six months remaining before the passport expires. Make sure your passport is in good physical condition- you really can be denied entry……..no, REALLY! Want more passport info- check out this VIDEO.

Do I need a visa to go to Costa Rica?

Depending on your home country, you may enter Costa Rica without a visa. This applies to the USA, Canada and most European countries. The stamp you receive in your passport as you pass through immigration IS your visa and expires based on what country you are from. For most of you reading this- it’s 90 days.

Can I enter Costa Rica with a one way ticket?

In general, the answer is no. But the airlines don’t always question your one-way ticket upon check in; but sometimes they do and will DEMAND the purchase of a ticket out of Costa Rica within the 90 days (this can be VERY costly when unexpected so, have a credit card handy) before letting you board the plane. You didn’t hear from me- Contact a bus company in Costa Rica over the internet, purchase a bus ticket to Nicaragua or Panama, (much cheaper) and copy the ticket showing you are indeed leaving the country (whether you do or not), this is adequate proof for the airlines.

Do I need an international drivers license to drive a car in Costa Rica?

No. An International license is not required. You are allowed to drive with your normal drivers license for whatever is the term of your visa. More driving info Here and Here.

Is the water safe to drink in Costa Rica?

I love this question. Every web site pertaining to Costa Rica will tell you the water is safe to drink “in most parts of the country.” I do live here, and I do drink the water with no problems. But the fact is, why guess where it’s safe and where it’s not. Buy bottled water; it’s not worth your vacation. Move here, that’s a different story. Here's the answer in VIDEO- But Can I Drink the water?

What is the currency in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica uses the colon. Where most people visit, US dollars are widely accepted, as are major credit cards (American Express not so much). I hate Travelers Checks and I don’t recommend them on any level, at least here. Outside the major tourist destinations, it’s a good idea to have colones available, where few small hotels, sodas, or art galleries are even equipped to accept credit cards, and they may feel intimidated accepting American dollars- unsure of the conversion. Don’t even think about $50 or $100 bills, here, those are considered forgeries.

Are credit cards accepted in Costa Rica?

Where you want to go- YES, don’t worry about it. Rural Costa Rica, maybe not so much, but rural is where you find the TRUE art, so bring some colones. Don’t forget- if everything is priced in dollars, you’re probably over paying anyways- this is known here as Gringo Pricing. Other money options

Do I need shots before coming to Costa Rica?

No vaccines are required to enter Costa Rica. That said, tetanus and hepatitis shots are always a good idea, regardless. Consult your physician.

Will my curling iron work in Costa Rica?

Outlets here are 110 V, with standard US two prong plugs (or three prongs if grounded). Your hair blower, curling iron and all other appliances will work fine. Those of you from Europe will need the adapters, but you won’t find them here, so bring yours.

What documents are required to bring my pet to Costa Rica?

Dogs and cats entering Costa Rica must have a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, endorsed by a veterinarian service (VS) veterinarian. The examination for the certificate must be conducted within the two weeks prior to traveling to Costa Rica. The required vaccinations are: hepatitis, distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis, and rabies (for animals 4 months or older). More pet info HERE.

I have to pay to leave Costa Rica?

Yup, departure tax is $26, but can be paid in dollars, colones or with a Visa or debit card. As soon as you enter the Juan Santamaria International Airport (San José), take a right, this is the first thing you must do before anything else. And you backpackers and others traveling on a budget- don’t forget to include this in your travel budget. More INFO HERE.

I heard you have to pay to get into Costa Rica now- is that true?

Interesting you should ask. As I write this (late Nov.’08) there’s a bill in the legislature that would add a $15.00 tax on anyone entering the country via airplane. It would NOT be as blatant as the departure tax, but added to the cost of your airline ticket. It’s sure to pass.

I’m gay, is that a problem in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t act,” country. Around San Jose and Manuel Antonio, gay is not a problem, and you may even get away with public displays of affection. Any other place, I’d say keep a low profile. Costa Ricans are catholic and steeped in tradition, as far as their attitudes towards gays- it’s like the States back in the ‘60’s. Video: GAY in Costa Rica.

How can I get a visa so I can work in Costa Rica?

Really you cannot. But as with most rules, there are exceptions. Much more info on Working in Costa Rica.

How do I apply for legal residency in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has a few ways. Much more info on Working in Costa Rica.

How can I get married in Costa Rica? What documents do I need?

Yes, you can get married in Costa Rica if you are a foreigner. The documents needed are: original birth certificate - notarized proof of single status - police record - legal/current passport - divorce decree (if applicable) - These documents need to follow the authentication procedure before being taken to Costa Rica. This means you must take or send these documents to a Costa Rica Embassy in your country BEFORE you come. They will attach tax stamps and return the documents to you. Check the Association of Residents of Costa Rica for updated information. Here's their site.

What is the difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest?

The difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest is mainly the altitude and the temperature. The rain forests are very hot and humid while the cloud forests are humid, moist, and colder. The species of flora and fauna are vastly different.

Is Costa Rica wheelchair friendly?

No, not really. Things are getting better- but remember, here it’s ‘tico-time’ and everything takes awhile. The Poas Volcano National Park is the one that offers access for wheel chairs. Good News! It’s now a law that hotels need to have wheelchair accessible rooms. If a person owns a 2 room hotel, one has to be wheelchair friendly. The larger hotels also need a percentage of their rooms to be wheelchair accessible. Hopefully, this is enforced. Check ahead. Quick Tips for Costa Rica Travel.

I don’t really know Costa Rica, where do people go?

Top tourist destinations here are (in no particular order): La Fortuna/Arenal, Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero, Puerto Viejo, Montezuma, Jacó, Dominical, Malpais/Santa Teresa, Drake Bay. Obviously, there’s more, but personally, I like traveling off the beaten path, and there’s plenty of places like that here. Where you visit in Costa Rica depends on your interests, you definitely need to do some homework to pick an itinerary that best suits you, because if you’re a nature lover, you wouldn’t want to spend all your time in Jacó. Actually, don’t get me started on Jacó.

Is there a tour operator offering special tours for handicapped people?

Yes, there is- Vaya Con Silla de Ruedas www.gowithwheelchairs.com. Organizations that offer a vast range of resources and assistance to travelers with disabilities include: MossRehab www.mossresourcenet.org. SATH (Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality)- www.sath.org and Access-Able Travel Source- www.access-able.com. Travel agencies that offer customized tours and itineraries for travelers with disabilities are: Flying Wheels Travel- www.flyingwheelstravel.com. and Accessible Journeys- www.disabilitytravel.com.

If I decide to stay longer, can I get a visa while I am there?

When you enter Costa Rica, your passport is stamped- that is your visa. Americans, Canadians, and most Europeans can renew their visa by leaving Costa Rica for 72 hours, upon return the visa will be renewed automatically for 90 more days. Many expats make the trek to Panama or Nicaragua every 3 months to keep their visa current and legal. These people are known as Perpetual Tourists. These people may be skating on thin ice; it’s a much better idea if you’re going to live here to apply for residency.

What do I need for hiking in the rainforest?

Really, only three things: insect repellent, a rain coat with a hood and hiking boots. Video: Basic First Aid Kit for Costa Rica

Umbrella or Raincoat (poncho)?

A raincoat with a hood is better for hikes and rainforest adventures, but an umbrella for casual walking around town. You rarely see a Tico without an umbrella close at hand. When vacation time is over, donate your umbrella to a wet tico.

Are there domestic airlines that travel within Costa Rica?

Yes. SANSA at www.flysansa.com, or Nature Air at www.natureair.net. Both have scheduled flights to all the major tourist destinations within Costa Rica and Nature Air charters planes in Costa Rica for private use.

What is the sales tax in Costa Rica?

Sales tax is 13% but some other travel related taxes are 17%

I have an emergency, what number do I dial?

Dial 911. It’s probably safe to say that the operator will not speak English. More Info on Emergency Numbers.

Are there English written newspapers?

The Tico Times. www.ticotimes.net is published weekly on Fridays.

Where can I do some white water rafting in Costa Rica?

On the rivers: Pacuare, Reventazon, Peñas Blancas, Toro, Corobici, Sarapiqui, Naranjo or Savagre. There are a ton of tour operators here offering rafting on rivers from class 2 to class 5. Things to do in Costa Rica.

Where are the turtles?

The main places are: Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side and on the Pacific you can view the turtles at Santa Rosa National Park, Las Baulas National Marine Park, and Ostional National Wildlife Refuge near Playa Samara (near Playa Samara). Check ahead for best dates and times for turtle viewing.

What are Costa Rica's natural boundaries?

North: Nicaragua - South: Panama - East: The Caribbean Sea - West: The Pacific Ocean.

How is Costa Rica divided? Are there states?

Costa Rica is comprised of seven provinces: San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Limon, Cartago, Guanacaste and Puntarenas.

Do I have to tip?

Technically, no you don’t. You never have to tip cab drivers. Check the restaurant bill- most tack on the 10% service charge, not to mention the 13% tax if it’s not included in the price of your meal. Service is never really that great here, so it’s easy not to tip. Check out the bill, then go from there, but about a quarter of what you would tip in the states. I would tip anyone lugging my bags up 3 flights of stairs- about a buck a bag. Maids, that’s your call, but not mandatory, merely appreciated. You can tip bartenders if you want, but it’s not mandatory unlike the states where it’s common to tip a buck a beer. Here, if you do, about 25 cents or 50 colonies per frosty beverage. Tipping in Costa Rica.

How much time should I spend in San José?

I’m not a fan of San José except to party- they have some nice clubs. That said, there are a couple of good day trips to a few of the nearby parks and attractions such as Poas Volcano National Park, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Also check out the Plaza de la Cultura or shopping at the Plaza de la Democracia. San José is ‘any’ city, anywhere, but dirtier. Spend the majority of your time outside of San José and see what Costa Rica is really about.

Are the roads really as bad as they say in Costa Rica and I also heard Costa Ricans are lousy drivers, is this true?

Yes, they can be in certain places at certain times, but this is getting a little better and yes, they're worse than what you heard.