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Practical information about Costa Rica

Practical information about Costa Rica

Practical information about Costa Rica

1. Climate

Costa Rica is located in the tropical zone, sandwiched between two oceans. The west coast of the country faces the Pacific, while the eastern coast faces the Caribbean Sea.

The country’s location between the two oceans means that Costa Rica has a highly varied climate. So there is a big difference in the weather, depending on whether you are in northern Costa Rica, in the mountainous areas, close to the coast or inland. However, you can expect hot temperatures with a chance of rain all year round, but with minor variations depending on the altitude and the season.

Costa Rica has two seasons: a dry season and a rainy season.

Costa Rica’s dry season:
The dry season is from December to April and is considered summer by the locals as well.
The season is typically hot with little or no rain. The hottest months of the dry season are often March and April, while the wind can make January and February cooler.
The Caribbean coast is, however, an exception. Although there is generally little or no rain in Costa Rica during the dry season, it rains along the east coast for much of the year.

Costa Rica’s rainy season:
The rainy season is from May to November, with September and October the wettest months. The rainy season is also considered winter by the locals, even though it’s not cold.
There are big differences in how much rain falls over the course of a year. However, despite the fact that a lot of rain falls in some areas, it falls at almost the same time every day.

Although Costa Rica basically has two seasons, there are still very large geographical differences in the weather in the different provinces.

San José & the central highlands:
San José and the area around it are located at 600 to 2,450 metres above sea level and are one of Costa Rica’s cooler provinces. The temperature is lower here as there are many mountains in the area, and the higher you are, the colder it gets.

Weather statistics for San José: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 26 27 28 28 28 27 27 27 27 27 26 26
Average minimum temperature 18 18 18 19 19 19 19 19 18 18 19 18
Rainfall mm 6 10 14 80 268 280 182 277 355 331 136 34

The Caribbean coast (Limón):
In the Limón Province on the Caribbean coast, where Tortuguero National Park is situated, the weather is typically humid, with rain most of the year and high temperatures.

Weather statistics for Tortuguero: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 29 30 31 32 31 30 30 29 29 29 29 29
Average minimum temperature 23 23 24 24 24 23 24 23 23 23 22 22
Rainfall mm 412 257 177 251 338 431 624 463 303 400 600 619
Weather statistics for Puerto Viejo de Talamanca: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 27 27 28 28 28 28 28 28 29 28 27 27
Average minimum temperature 22 22 22 23 24 24 23 23 24 24 23 22
Rainfall mm 319 201 193 287 281 276 408 289 163 198 367 402

The northern region (Alajuela):
In the northern Alajuela Province, where the Arenal volcano is located, the temperatures are generally high with a fair bit of rain. However, there is still a difference in the amount of rainfall during the dry season and the rainy season.

Weather statistics for Arenal: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 29 30 32 32 30 29 29 29 29 29 28 29
Average minimum temperature 21 22 23 24 23 22 22 22 22 21 21 21
Rainfall mm 193 124 81 106 260 406 462 426 413 446 320 271

The central and southern Pacific coast (Puntarenas):
Puntarenas Province extends along most of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, including the Osa Peninsula and the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula.
In the northern part of the province, which is the central highland, you will find Monteverde cloud forest, among other places. The weather is typically humid with fog almost every day all year round. However, the fog tends to lift sometimes during the day.
Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks are located in the southern part of the province. The weather in the national parks is hot and very humid all year round. During the rainy season, there are heavy rains.

Weather statistics for Monteverde: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 26 27 28 29 27 26 26 26 26 26 26 26
Average minimum temperature 18 18 18 19 19 19 19 19 19 18 18 18
Rainfall mm 130 67 46 53 255 342 302 340 383 423 262 184
Weather statistics for Manuel Antonio: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 29 30 31 32 31 30 30 29 29 29 29 29
Average minimum temperature 22 22 23 24 24 23 23 23 22 22 22 22
Rainfall mm 57 28 54 158 398 418 411 481 579 601 353 128
Weather statistics for Corcovado: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 32 33 33 32 31 30 30 30 30 29 29 30
Average minimum temperature 23 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 23
Rainfall mm 0 10 40 170 560 460 360 370 480 350 190 70

The north-west Pacific coast (Guanacaste):
Guanacaste Province is located on the north-west Pacific coast and also covers the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. The weather is typically hot and mostly dry. The dry season is longer here than in the rest of the country, and the rainy season has sunny days and wet afternoons and evenings.

Weather statistics for Sámara: JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
Average maximum temperature 32 33 33 33 32 31 31 31 30 30 31 31
Average minimum temperature 23 24 24 24 24 23 23 23 23 23 23 22
Rainfall mm 0 3 9 50 265 305 243 288 391 398 129 9
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?

Costa Rica is a year-round destination that can be visited at any time of the year.

However, a lot of people think the best time to visit Costa Rica is in the dry season (December–April), which is why the dry season is also peak season for visitors to the country. During the dry season, the weather is nice with little or no rain at all. It can also be easier to spot animals during the dry season, as there are fewer places with water where they can gather.

The rainy season (May–November) is low season for visitors, although the number of visitors rises slightly in June and July, coinciding with the European summer holidays. In the rainy season, which is also known as the green season, the landscape is more lush, and this is also this season when you will be able to see mother turtles arriving at the beaches in their droves in Tortuguero National Park, for example. As the rain falls almost at the same time every day even in the more humid areas, it is easy to plan activities according to the weather. And it’s usually a good idea to have a rain jacket with you.

Check under our climate section what the weather is like in the areas you plan to visit on your tour of Costa Rica.

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

The cost of living in Costa Rica is slightly higher than in many other Latin American countries, but still a little lower than in most of Northern Europe. Food and drink are cheaper at small local restaurants, which are also known as “sodas”, than at restaurants aimed at tourists. What’s more, the further away you get from a tourist destination, the cheaper it will be.

Here are a few examples of prices:

  • A 1-litre bottle of water at a supermarket: Approx. 800 – 1,000 CRC
  • A local beer in the supermarket: Approx. 700 – 1,000 CRC
  • A local beer at a bar: Approx. 1,200 – 2,500 CRC
  • A meal at a “soda”: Approx. 2,500 – 5,000 CRC
  • A meal at a tourist restaurant: Approx. 5,000 – 15,000 CRC
11. Tipping

In Costa Rica, tipping is customary for service staff such as guides, drivers, maids and bellboys. Tipping is, of course, voluntary, and it’s completely up to you how much you want to give. Have some small notes or coins ready in case you would like to tip someone, and give it to them in person.

As a rule of thumb, you can reckon on the following:

  • Guides: 3-6 USD PP per excursion
  • Drivers: 2-3 USD per PP per excursion
  • Maids: 1-2 USD PRPN
  • Hotel porters: 1-2 USD per suitcase

At restaurants, tipping is usually included in the bill, where a service charge of 10% and 13% VAT is automatically added to the price. Tipping is therefore not customary at restaurants, but if you have had exceptional service, you could certainly tip 5-10% of the bill.

Tipping in Tortuguero:
If your tour includes a stay in Tortuguero, we recommend that each guest gives about 20 USD per person to the guide for the entire stay on the final day. We also recommend that each guests tips the boat driver approx. 2 USD per excursion.

Our tipping guideline is in USD, but tips should be calculated in the local currency at the destination.

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

Costa Rican cuisine is known for its tasty but relatively mild food, with fresh fruit and vegetables. Rice and beans are a staple of most traditional Costa Rican dishes, preferably combined with both meat and vegetables. When it comes to meat, the Costa Ricans are especially fond of using beef and pork, but you will also find chicken and fish in many dishes, especially on the Caribbean coast. The most popular drinks are beer and coffee, which Costa Rica produces.

Below, are some of the traditional Costa Rican dishes and drinks that you should try while in Costa Rica:

  • Gallo pinto (rice and beans, which are served for breakfast with eggs, crème fraîche and some vegetables such as onions, pepper and tomatoes)
  • Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken, which can also be made with prawns (con camarón), other kinds of meat or vegetables. Try the dish with the slightly sweet and sour Costa Rican Salsa Lizano dressing)
  • Casado (rice, beans and meat, often combined with lettuce, pasta salad or potato salad and other vegetables, and served for lunch)
  • Tamal (a small “parcel” made from cornmeal, meat and various vegetables steamed in a banana leaf. The dish is actually served for Christmas, but is also found in many places throughout the year.)
  • Agua dulce (hot drink made from water and sugar from sugar cane)
  • Agua de pipa (coconut water drunk straight out of a green coconut with a straw)
  • Chiliguaro (spicy shot consisting of guaro, tomato juice, chilli sauce and lime juice)
  • Costa Rican coffee, either black or with milk (café con leche)
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
  • Vaccination card
  • 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.

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