Must Know Info

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Costa Rica Travel- Must Know Information

When making your travel plans to Costa Rica, it’s good to know the ‘details,’ the nitty gritty; you know, the stuff about a country that only someone that lives here REALLY knows. We love travel books and travel agents, but sometimes, they just don’t really know. Living here, we would like to think we’ve learned a thing or two about this beautiful country, and we’d love to share the information we’ve learned with you. Some of this travel information is common sensical or merely a reminder of things you may have forgotten. But some of this information could mean the difference between a vacation that is enjoyed and remembered by all; or one that could leave you scratching your head wondering where it all went wrong. And as always, enjoy and we hope it helps.

You need a valid passport to visit Costa Rica, a driver’s license and/or birth certificate won’t do it. The passport must not expire in less than six months.

We would love to tell you that you can drink the water here, and mostly you can, but the fact is, until it’s 100% then why try and remember or guess where it is safe to drink or not. We recommend bottled water. Video:Can you drink the water?

You do NOT need any shots when visiting Costa Rica. Zero, Zilch, Nada. That said, a tetanus shot or booster and specifically a Hepatitis vaccine is ALWAYS a good idea when visiting any country. Always consult a doctor; they know you better than we do.

Dengue Fever is another matter and should be taken seriously as it effects thousands every year. Wear your mosquito repellent (with DEET), because there’s no vaccine for Dengue…… or treatment for that matter. When Dengue strikes an area, it STRIKES an area and it’s possible to find out if an area you’re interested in visiting has a Dengue outbreak. In the recent past Puntarenas, Liberia, and especially Limon have been hardest hit with Dengue. Dengue is spread by a mosquito that ONLY bites in the daytime.

Unless you’re traveling ‘upscale,’ in most places, you’ll be throwing your toilet paper in the trashcan and NOT the toilet. Seems weird at first, but trust me, do it or you could find yourself in quite the mess. Video: More Tips

Costa Rica is located only ten degrees north of the equator. Hat and sunscreen. Hat and sunscreen. Hat and sunscreen. This can be a vacation breaker and is no joke.

Although it's not politically correct to say, we will anyway- Costa Ricans are probably some of the worse drivers on the planet. No, really. It’s not that they’re ‘aggressive’ per se, they just don’t seem to know or understand other people use the road as well. It should be stated,Ticos will often STOP, make u-turns and pass on curves just because they think they can. No, really. we have a video pertaining to this, but almost any website pertaining to Costa Rica will acknowledge the Tico's lack of driving skills. Inside perspective on Tico Driving

Want to drive or rent a car in Costa Rica just be aware of the possible driving conditions, this is the short list: few or no street signs, or addresses for that matter, potholes- big and dangerous and you just can’t speed up and skim over them, lanes often end without notice, heavy rain, fog, cloud coverage, people walking in the road (very dangerous, especially combined with the fore mentioned weather conditions), nighttime conditions, narrow bridges…… I’m sure you get the picture. That said, we wouldn’t explore Costa Rica any other way. Overview: Driving in Costa Rica

If you’re unfortunate enough to have an accident in Costa Rica, know this-DO NOT MOVE YOUR VEHICLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES until BOTH the police AND the insurance agent show up. If you move your vehicle before their arrival, you are guilty and your insurance is Null and Void. Renting a car in Costa Rica

If you are in a store or restaurant that doesn’t have the prices marked, or are marked only in dollars (and not in colones also), you are in a tourist trap and you will pay top dollar for your purchase. This is an example of Gringo Pricing. michael alan on Gringo Pricing

Travelers Checks are NOT the way to go when traveling Costa Rica. They are NOT widely accepted and you WILL wait in long lines to cash them at a bank. Your chances of being involved in a violent crime in Costa Rica are small so if you get your cash stolen, it’s probably because you left it in a backpack, or laying around somewhere. Travelers Checks may make you feel secure, but they’re a PAIN and inconvenient to use here.

ATM’s are convenient and numerous in Costa Rica. We recommend taking out ‘your’ limit, to avoid costly and/or numerous service charges. Some beach towns may only have one ATM machine, which may not always work, so we also recommend always getting money out ‘where you are,’ NOT ‘where you’re going.’

Credit Cards are widely excepted, (but not so much in rural parts of the country). Visa is the most recognized, then MasterCard and unless you’re traveling upscale, leave the American Express at home. Finally, and VERY important, TELL YOUR BANK you are going to CR. Tell your credit card companies too. Many will block your credit cards, especially for cash withdrawals. Video: Money Options

We mentioned that your chances of being involved in a violent crime in Costa Rica are indeed small, it’s the petty stuff you need to be wary of. Like any other tourist destination on the planet, you leave your stuff unsecured in Costa Rica- you’re at risk of losing it. The truth is; the people who get their stuff stolen while vacationing here usually let their guard down somehow. Two methods are used to steal (they love cameras- digital and video, ipods, laptops, jewelry, and sunglasses), opportunity is one, so be vigilant and use common sense, and crimes of distraction disguised as help. For example spilling something on you and someone quickly rushing up to help (pickpocket), or perhaps helping to change a flat tire, or carry your baggage etc. View Our Theft VIDEO HERE

Don’t carry a passport when possible, a copy will usually suffice unless you’re doing some banking transactions. Another option if you plan on staying here awhile, is to take you passport to a lawyer/notary (Abogado y Notario), there, they will photocopy your front page, and the page that contains your most recent entry visa stamp, and then certify the copy for you.

Costa Ricans (Ticos) are cordial and friendly folk and very non-confrontational. Be warned, if you have a grievance of some kind and yell and/or use hand gestures, or become obnoxious in any way to get a point across, rest assured that you will NOT get what you want. Always be respectful and use a good voice tone, as this is the only way of having a chance to work things out to your favor.

The best spots to eat in Costa Rica are the little roadside or neighborhood restaurants or ‘sodas’. It’s usually these mom and pop places that make the best and most authentic Tico cuisine. Want to be Gringo Priced, just visit the restaurants that cater to tourists or the ones with the tour buses in front of them (the driver gets a commission) and normally the meal is NOT all that. Sodas Video

Maps of Costa Rica can be quite deceiving- what looks like a relatively short distance- may in fact be as the crow flies, but we’re not crows, and you can’t get there from here in an hour. Trust us on this.

When driving Costa Rica, don’t be deceived by DISTANCE because you can’t get there from here in an hour. With mountains, weather, traffic, accidents, bad roads etc, if you can possibly be delayed, you will be. Rule of thumb- take the time you think it will take you, and at least double it.

When leaving Costa Rica you must pay a Departure Tax of $26.00 per person. Colones, dollars, Visa card, are all acceptable options when paying this tax. At the airport, you must pay this first, before doing anything else.

It IS legal to DRINK and DRIVE in Costa Rica. Being drunk and driving IS illegal. Its knowing the difference that seems to be the problem.

When renting a car here, HUGE deposits get pre authorized on your credit card. This freezes your available funds. If you do not have a large credit limit, you can find yourself unable to use your credit card- this can be a total buzz kill. Do your homework before renting a car.

There is really no need to exchange money (American) when you arrive here. Dollars are widely accepted, and you will ALWAYS get change back in colones, no matter what. What are NOT widely accepted are $50.00 and $100.00 bills, with the possible exceptions of paying hotel bills, large purchases and gas, but they do not like them. If you’re rural or outside the major tourist spots, then forget about it. Bring twenty’s and tens.... and colones just in case, depending on how rural you are. Video: Currency and Exchange in Costa Rica by michael alan and DAngelo.

You do NOT have to tip in restaurants or taxis in Costa Rica. Restaurants usually include a 10% service charge and unfortunately the service in Costa Rica is very hit or miss to say the least anyways. Tipping Video

Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica but acting as go between or pimping is not. When entering the world of prostitution in Costa Rica you do so assuming ALL potential risks. They can be numerous and life altering.

Taxi’s are the best way to do San Jose, especially the night life, as you can safely travel from club to club since taxi’s are normally sitting just outside the more popular nighttime hotspots. Taxi Video

Tico’s are up at the crack of dawn. Construction crews hammer away, weed whackers are turned on high, so don’t be surprised if there’s a knock at your door around 8 to see if they can clean your room.

This is just an FYI for anyone who might be thinking of engaging in illegal activities while visiting Costa Rica i.e., drugs, sex with minors etc.- In Costa Rica you are not "innocent until proven guilty" as in many other countries. Here, it's more akin to, "innocent for now, but you are still going to jail, without bail, for as long as it takes us to build a case against you."

Regardless of a conviction, if you're accused of a crime here, you'll be held in a "preventative detention" facility (I'll let you use your imagination on this one), for up to a year or longer, without bond, while the authorities build a case against you. This covers any criminal activity in Costa Rica, regardless of how trivial you may think the offense was. The US Embassy will not be able to get you out. Use your head when that girl or boy says, "Si, soy diez y ocho, no problema" ("Yes, I'm 18, no problem.")