Practical information about Costa Rica
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:
- International departure tax of USD 29. This can only be paid locally.
- Meals except those specifically mentioned
- Cancellation and travel insurance
Excursions and transfers are conducted in small, international groups. Excursions are led by an English-speaking guide.
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.
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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
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.
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.
We recommend that you contact a medical specialist, your GP or an authorised vaccination clinic.
Visit the CDC website at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list for more information about vaccinations in Costa Rica.
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.
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.
The unit of currency in Costa Rica is the colon (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. Also bring a credit card and make sure to memorise your PIN code. NEVER write your PIN code down! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 travel 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 travel 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.
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’.
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 have any comments on the itinerary or find 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.
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.
We recommend that you make a seat reservation on the plane. Many airlines also offer to upgrade reserved tickets for seats with extra space and comfort, e.g. Economy Comfort at KLM and Premium Voyageur at Air France. You can do this through the airline’s website. Most airlines have a point in the menu called “manage my booking”. Please note that many airlines require payment for seat reservation, so you should have your credit/debit card to hand when you get started.
Unfortunately, rules differ as to when seat reservation is opened. We recommend that you try to make a seat reservation as early as possible and you will then know when you can make a seat reservation if it cannot be done right away. It is very common for seat reservation to be opened between 72 and 24 hours before departure.
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 and your travel guide should pack your luggage so that you can both make so without one item of luggage if the other is lost or delayed. While it is unlikely to happen, the problem may arise. If it does, it may take a few days before your luggage is delivered to the hotel where you are staying.
So make sure to carry all your important, indispensable items in your hand luggage: passport, visa, plane tickets, insurance papers, credit card(s), cash, prescriptions, information about any special medical conditions you may have along with essential medicine, allergy medicine, treatments for sudden stomach problems (such as Imodium) and pain killers (Panodil and/or Ipren, for example). You should also carry your camera, binoculars and other valuables in your hand luggage.
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.
On arrival at the different airports in Costa Rica, you will be met by our local representative who will be waiting for you in the arrival hall with a sign bearing your name. You will be driven to the airport again on departure. You will be informed of your pick-up time when you arrive in Costa Rica.
- Passport: To enter Costa Rica visitors should have a passport that extends until 6 months after their arrival date into the country
- Jeans, if you plan to ride horseback, as they are the most comfortable item to wear
- Shorts (This is personal preference. Some people even choose shorts for rainforest hikes (particularly the local guides!) – Although long pants are the recommended norm in the forest and in areas where mosquito-borne diseases are present.
- River shorts – quick drying lycra is best (for river rafting trips only)
- Short sleeved t-shirts, shirts or blouses
- Long sleeved shirt(s) or blouse(s)
- Bathing suit
- Wide brim sun hat
- Sweater, sweatshirt and/or light jacket or windbreaker
- Comfortable footwear for hiking forest trails.
- River Sandals – rubber sandals, which fasten at the ankle, originally designed for river rafting. These are highly recommended even for itineraries that don’t include rafting because they are great for getting in and out of boats.
- Waterproof boots/wellingtons – Most lodges are located near forests where mud can be an issue. There will be a supply of boots/wellingtons to loan or rent. Please note, small sizes are hard to come by.
- Small, soft-sided bag (one that won’t take up much room in your suitcase). This bag also will be useful for packing all the souvenirs you buy!
- Plastic bags to protect your equipment if you have any boat travel on your itinerary. These also come in handy when you have to transport wet and/or dirty clothes.
- Binoculars (highly recommended)
- Camera and extra film and batteries – film is very expensive in Costa Rica and not always available in outlying areas. Batteries can discharge in the heat so spares are recommended
- Personal snacks for day pack
- Flashlight for evenings at remote lodges (extra batteries)
- Small pocket knife
Toiletries and items for comfort
- General bathroom items
- Personal medication (bring a list of the names and dosages so they can be replaced, if lost)
- Spare spectacles or contact lenses
- Personal first aid kit (there is a complete first aid kit on the tour bus, on the trail with the guide and at most hotels, but it’s nice to have your own small supply of essentials, in case you need something in the middle of the night)
- Insect repellent (insects are generally not a problem but it would be worthwhile taking repellent just in case)
- Sun block (at least 15 SPF)
- Lip balm (with sunscreen is best)
- Earplugs (for light sleepers – malleable wax are the best kind. There can be some local noise during the evenings from roosters, dogs, nearby discos and every other light noise in the area)