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Practical information about Costa Rica

Practical information about Costa Rica

Practical information about Costa Rica

1. Climate

Costa Rica has coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The country is located in the subtropical/tropical climate zone, with temperatures remaining relatively steady around 20–30 °C all year round – although with some minor variations depending on the season and altitude. The Caribbean coast is generally a little warmer and more humid.
The amount of rainfall varies greatly from one region of Costa Rica to another. Towards the Pacific Ocean, the rainy season lasts from May to October, with the rain typically falling in the afternoon in short, heavy showers. On the Caribbean side, there are no set rainy periods although it tends to rain most in December and July here.

Weather statistics for San José:

Day temp. 24 24 26 27 27 27 26 26 27 26 25 24
Night temp. 14 14 15 16 16 16 16 16 16 15 15 15
Precipitation, mm 15 5 20 46 229 241 211 240 305 300 145 41
JAN 24 14 15
FEB 24 14 5
MAR 26 15 20
APR 27 16 46
MAY 27 16 229
JUN 27 16 241
JUL 26 16 211
AUG 26 16 240
SEP 27 16 305
OCT 26 15 300
NOV 25 15 145
DEC 24 15 41
2. Form of travel

Excursions and transfers are conducted in small, international groups.  Excursions are led by an English-speaking guide.

3. When is it best to travel to Costa Rica?

It is best to travel to Costa Rica during the North European winter months, i.e. from November to April, as the weather will normally be good during this period. However, you are always likely to experience showers, particularly if you travel to the mountainous region or spend time in the rainforest. The worst months from the perspective of the weather are August and September.

4. Terms and conditions of travel

Please read our booking terms and conditions carefully. These terms and conditions constitute the basis of your package purchased from llamatours.co.uk. Click here to read our terms and conditions.

All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to:www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate

5. Travel insurance

We are an ATOL protected agency giving you complete peace of mind. It is a condition of booking that the sole responsibility lies with the guest to ensure that they carry the correct comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover themselves, as well as any dependants/traveling companions for the duration of their trip.

In cooperation with our partner we can offer advantageous travel insurances. Learn more here.

6. Language

Spanish is the language spoken in Costa Rica, but the people are very helpful and love the chance to use the English words they know. In more rural regions, English speakers may be few and far between, which is why we use bilingual (English/Spanish) guides. It is a good idea to end questions and queries with the words ‘por favor’, which mean ‘please’. Another good word to know is ‘gracias’ – which means ‘thank you’ and is sure to prove useful in many situations. As a large number of North American tourists visit this Central American country, many people in the tourist destinations can speak English.

7. Vaccinations

We always advise that you contact a specialist, your GP or an authorized vaccination clinic. You can also read more about the rules for travel & vaccinations at the central NHS Fit for Travel website: here

Please be aware of the rules about yellow fever – especially if you are entering via another South or Central American country where yellow fever is present.

Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entry. So be sure to bring your vaccination certificate with you in these cases.

8. Passport/Visa/ESTA

Your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months after your return home.

UK citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days.

The rules on visas can be checked on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

If you are travelling via the US, the following applies to British citizens:

To travel via the United States, you must apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Without ESTA, you will not be allowed to travel through the United States. Apply for the travel authorization in good time at least 72 hours before your departure to the US. ESTA costs 14 USD per person and all travellers must apply, regardless of their age. You can apply via the following link: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. You should have your passport, itinerary, credit card and e-mail address to hand when making your application. The travel authorization is electronically connected to your passport and is valid for 2 years or until your passport expires (whichever is earliest). We recommend that you bring a physical copy of your ESTA with you if, for example, the system is down on your arrival, however this is not a requirement.

If you get a new passport, you must apply for a new ESTA.

If you have you travelled in Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on 1 March 2011 or later, you must apply for a visa at the American Embassy. You cannot apply for ESTA. The same applies if you have dual nationality in Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.

If you are travelling via Canada, the following applies to British citizens:

To travel via Canada, you must apply for an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization). Without eTA, you will not be allowed to travel through Canada. Apply for the travel authorization in good time. eTA costs 7 CAD per person and all travellers must apply, regardless of their age. You can apply via the following link: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp. You should have your passport, itinerary, credit card and e-mail address to hand when making your application. The travel authorization is electronically connected to your passport and is valid for 5 years or until your passport expires (whichever is earliest). We recommend that you bring a physical copy of your eTA with you if, for example, the system is down on your arrival, however this is not a requirement.

If you get a new passport, you must apply for a new eTA.

9. Currency

The unit of currency in Costa Rica is the colón (CRC). Go to www.xe.com/currencyconverter/ to view the currently applicable exchange rate. We recommend that you bring some US dollars with you in cash, and then exchange these for local currency at an official bureau de change. There are cashpoint machines (ATMs) almost everywhere. You can use most common credit cards (i.e. Visa and MasterCard) at hotels and in many shops and restaurants. Once again, however, the farther out into the country you travel, the harder it may be to use your credit card. You may be charged an extra fee for paying with your credit card in hotels, restaurants and shops.

10. Price level

Prices are generally lower in Costa Rica than in the UK. It is usually cheaper to eat out, although you can naturally find drinks and meals in all price classes. Prices are generally also lower outside the large towns and cities.

11. Tipping

A 10% service charge is automatically added to the bill in restaurants. If you would like to leave an additional tip, it is customary to add a further 3–5%. If you have a guide for a whole day, it is usual to tip him or her CRC 400–500. If your guide is ‘only’ a transfer guide, it is sufficient to tip CRC 100–200.

12. Time difference

The difference between Central European Time (CET) and the time in Costa Rica varies depending on whether Europe is on summer or winter time.
Summer time: – 8 hours. This means that when it is noon Central European Time (CET), it is 4 a.m. in Costa Rica.
Winter time: – 7 hours.

13. Electricity

Mains electricity in Costa Rica is 110 V. The plugs are like those used in North America, i.e. with ‘flat’ pins, so you will probably need to bring a travel adapter with you.

14. Telephone and Internet

The international dialling code for Costa Rica is +506. It can be expensive to call home to Europe from Costa Rica. Ask your own mobile service provider about coverage and call charges. There are Internet cafés in most large towns and cities.

15. Safety

Whenever you travel to a poor country anywhere in the world, it is important to be discreet. It is not a good idea to flaunt your valuables or to leave them unattended. We work exclusively with properly trained, experienced and certified guides, who can always provide you with good advice about safety, and know precisely where it is safe for you to walk/visit. If you follow your guide’s instructions you should always be able to stay out of trouble. In Costa Rica, it is only in San José where you will have to take care. If you are going out after dark at night, make sure to take a taxi to and from the hotel.

16. Food and drink

The cuisine of Costa Rica is not the most exciting in the world. Rice and beans feature prominently in almost all Costa Rican dishes. However, most restaurants also serve international cuisine. ‘Gallo pinto’ is a national dish consisting of fried rice and black beans. Another favourite combination is chicken and rice (‘arroz con pollo’). Unlike in other countries, the national drink of Costa Rica is not a special type of alcohol. Instead, it is their fantastic coffee, and we particularly recommend you try the ‘gran d’oro’.

17. Public holidays

It is always special to experience the traditions and celebrations of other countries. Below is a list of public holidays, important festivals and other special occasions.

Please note that some museums and attractions may be closed on these days.

18. Flight reservations and airline tickets

We will send you your flight reservation as soon as you book your trip. You can see times and routes on the itinerary. It is important to check your name for spelling mistakes. The name on the reservation must be exactly as in your passport. If you find any mistakes in the names, please contact us immediately.

Today, there are only electronic airline tickets (e-tickets), so you do not receive a physical ticket for use at the airport check-in. When you check in at the airport, you use your passport and a booking reference. The booking reference is on your itinerary.

19. Service letter

Once you have purchased a tour through us, you will receive our service letter before your departure. The service letter contains important information about online check-in, what to do in the event of a delay, our agreed guidelines for tips, etc. In addition, you will find important telephone numbers for our local agents as well as our emergency telephone number.

So it is important that you print out the service letter and bring it with you.

20. Seat reservation, upgrades and extra legroom

The airline will assign you a seat on board the aircraft upon check-in. If you have specific wishes, you can make a seat reservation via the airline’s website. Most airlines have an area on their website named “manage my booking” or similar. Please note that most airlines require payment for a seat reservation, so it’s a good idea to have your payment card ready when starting a seat reservation. Airline seat reservations vary from company to company, but as a general rule, you can book seats from around 48 hours before departure.

Many airlines also offer upgrades with extra legroom or comfort seating, such as Economy Comfort with KLM and Premium Voyageur with Air France. You can check these details through the airline’s own website, along with payment information.

Please kindly note that airlines have full access to all seats on the aircraft and therefore always reserve the right to alter a reservation.

If you do not make a seat reservation before departure, the airline will issues your seating upon check-in at the airport.

21. Your luggage

We work with many different airlines to Costa Rica, so there may be variations in the amount of luggage you are allowed to bring with you as both checked luggage and hand luggage. Check the information about this on your airline ticket, and contact us if you have any questions.

You should also make sure you carry all your important and indispensable things in your hand luggage. This applies to items such as passports, visas, airline tickets, insurance documents, credit cards, money and cameras, as well as information about your health and vital medicines.

You may find yourself sitting in a draught from the air conditioning in the plane, so make sure to pack a warm jumper or jacket in your hand luggage.

22. Transport in Costa Rica

Our tours in Costa Rica make use of private transport, mini-buses and car rental for our self-drive tours.

Transfers from/to the airport in San Jose:

Transfer from and to the airport in San Jose takes place using private transport and is shared with other Lamatours guests. An English-speaking chauffeur will pick you up on arrival and will drive you back to the airport on the departure day.

Mini-buses (shuttle service from hotel to hotel):

In Costa Rica, there is a vast network of mini-buses (with space for about 15 people) that drive between popular tourist destinations in the country. This is a cheap, efficient way to get around. You are picked up at your hotel and driven right up to the door of your next hotel. All you need to do is lean back in your seat and enjoy the beautiful nature on your tour in Costa Rica.

Your tour may have sections that aren’t covered by the mini-buses, and there will be private transport here, shared with other Lamatours guests if necessary.

NB: In high season from December–March + over Easter or during other major events, the minibuses may be replaced by larger buses to make room for everyone.

Self-drive in Costa Rica:

Several of our tours are also offered as self-drive tours. Costa Rica is a relatively easy self -drive country, and it gives you tremendous freedom to have your own car and to be able to decide exactly where and when you want to make a stop.

Car rental includes free mileage, statutory insurance and GPS. You will also receive a map of Costa Rica.
When picking up your rental car, you are required to present your passport.

A security deposit of about 100 USD will be required at the beginning of the rental period. This amount must be paid by credit card and will be refunded to your credit card, about 7 days after the car has been returned.
Remember to bring your credit card for this security deposit.

Most roads in Costa Rica are in good condition, but pay extra care when you drive around the winding mountain roads. You must also be particularly careful around the national parks, where the animal life is richer.
We recommend that you never drive after dark.

The minimum age for renting a car is 21.

23. Recommended packing list for Costa Rica
  • Passport
  • Tickets
  • Credit cards and little cash in either the local currency (CRC) or EUR/USD, which can be exchanged into the local currency
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Copy of passports and travel documents
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Camera, charger and spare batteries (a waterproof case is also a good idea)
  • Binoculars if you’ll be animal watching
  • Travel adapter so you can charge your electronic equipment
  • Head torch or a torch and batteries
  • Day backpack (can be used as hand luggage) and possibly a waterproof bag (dry bag)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit containing plasters, blister plasters, painkillers and stomach pills
  • Mosquito repellent or spray
  • Sunscreen with high SPF
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Earplugs
  • Shorts and loose-fitting long trousers (ideally quick-drying)
  • Short and long-sleeved tops
  • Sweater or windcheater for chilly evenings and visits to high altitudes
  • Light rain jacket or poncho
  • Comfortable footwear, both closed shoes (ideally water resistant) and sandals
  • Cap or hat with sun visor and sunglasses
  • Swimwear and towel
24. Travellers with reduced mobillity

Please note, our tours are generally not suitable for persons with reduced mobility. Please contact us for information about the possibilities according any specific needs.

Contact travel consultant Neil Smith

Write to:

01279 704 136

Hours of opening:
Mon, Wed & Fri: 8 - 16
Tue & Thu: 8-21
Sat: 9-17

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