1. What do I need to remember before I travel to Costa Rica?
Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after you return from your trip. If necessary, reconfirm your flight reservations 3 days prior to your departure. Inform Costa Rica Sun Tours of any airline schedule changes. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family and/or friends, including phone numbers of our office and hotels they will visit. You should have medical insurance that covers you during your trip. Also consider purchasing trip insurance to cover your expenses if your travel is unexpectedly interrupted (see Insurance Considerations below).
2. How do I pay for purchases and expenses in Costa Rica?
The national currency of Costa Rica is the colón, and its value floats in relation to the US dollar and Euro. Although you can use dollars virtually everywhere frequented by foreign visitors in Costa Rica, local residents generally only use colones in remote rural areas. We recommend you exchange dollars to colones at your hotel where you will usually receive an excellent rate of exchange. You can also exchange dollars at banks and exchange houses (casas de cambio), but never exchange dollars on the street. You can also obtain dollars or colones through Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) which are common in San José and in all major towns but not in rural areas. VISA cards (on the Plus or Star network) are most widely accepted by the ATMs. Mastercard (on the Cirrus network) is also sometimes accepted. Most tourist businesses will accept these credit cards if the user identifies himself with a valid passport. Travelers checks are difficult to cash and we don’t reccomend using them.
3. What should I pack for my trip to Costa Rica?
Pack light! Often you will have to carry your own bags …. or at least lift them off the carousel! Domestic flights within Costa Rica have a baggage limit of 30 lbs checked in + 10 lbs for carry per person. If you exceed this limitation the pilot may require you to remove items from your suitcase to reduce the excess weight (you can store extra luggage at your hotel or with your land operator, however a fee may charged for transporting the bags) Most of Costa Rica has “shirt sleeves & shorts” weather. However, in the highlands, especially in Dec/Jan, temperatures can be cold (near freezing) at night, so plan on dressing in layers. Casual and informal loose-fitting clothing is appropriate throughout Costa Rica. Bring comfortable clothes that wash and dry easily. Most hotels offer laundry services for a fee to their guests.
Most importantly if you plan to hike in Costa Rica’s magnificent outdoors– bring comfortable lightweight walking shoes or hiking boots. Be sure your shoes are well broken in. Sore feet can ruin your trip. Rain gear may be necessary at any time of the year! If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. Bring them and any medicines you need and a copy of your prescriptions in your carry-on luggage.
4. What documents will I need to take for my trip?
Citizens of the United States and Canada are required to provide the following documentation for entry into Costa Rica: (please note that citizens of other countries should consult the Costa Rican Consulate for entry requirements)
- A valid United States or Canadian passport for each passenger including children. Expiration date on the passport must be at least six (6) months after the date of entry into Costa Rica.
- An airline ticket to leave Costa Rica
- If traveling with minors, under age 18, please note the following:
- If accompanied by both parents with the same name, no further documentation is required.
- If accompanied by only one parent, a notarized letter of permission for the minor to travel outside the USA from the absent parent is require
- If the minor is not accompanied by either parent, a notarized letter of permission for the minor to travel outside the USA from each of the parents is required.
5. What do I need to do before I leave Costa Rica?
Tourists are required to pay an airport departure tax of $29.00 USD when leaving Costa Rica. Most airlines now include the $29.00 departure tax. Though some, still do not…in this case, you need to pay at the airport. You can pay in dollars or the equivalent in colones or by a VISA credit card. You will also need to answer a few questions on a simple form which you need to present at the airline counter.
6. How can I be a responsible traveler?
Everyone can be a responsible traveler, no matter what travel style you choose:
- To start, use socially and environmentally responsible tour operators, hotels and outfitters.
- Do not litter, pick wild flowers or plants.
- Use refillable water bottles and recycle when you can.
- If your hotel has a policy to reduce using water and soap by minimizing laundering of towels and sheets, try to support it.
- Remember to turn off lights and air conditioning when you leave your room. Better still, we have a wonderful climate-open your windows and enjoy fresh air without using an air conditioner whenever possible.
- Try not to waste water when you are not using it.
- Try to use biodegradable soaps and organic insect repellent and sun block.
- Respect the local culture and traditions.
- Ask permission or ask your guide before taking someone else’s picture.
- Help ensure your money stays in the local community.
- Try local brands for food and drink.
- Buy hand crafted goods produced by local artisans.
- Never buy authentic archeological artifacts or souvenirs made from endangered trees or animals.
- Hire a local naturalist guide.
- Avoid feeding, touching or harassing wild animals.
- Stay on the trail at all times-this helps lessen your impact on the forest and will prevent you from getting lost.
7. How much should I tip my guides and drivers?
Guides and Drivers: Gratuities are not included in the price paid for these services. Drivers and guides do not work for tips, however if you are happy with the services you have received, a good way to say thanks would be to tip these individuals. Guides are often tipped anywhere from US $8.00 – $15.00 per day per person depending on the group size. Drivers, transfer guides, local guides, river guides – US $3.00 – $5.00 per day per person.
8. Can I safely eat or drink the food and beverages I am served?
Water is both safe and refreshing throughout Costa Rica. However, we do recommend that you drink bottled water in remote areas and port cities. Bottled water is available at hotels, grocery stores and restaurants.
Do not use ice anywhere you would not drink the water!
Food is normally safe in all the better hotels that cater to international travelers.
In smaller “street restaurants” there is less certainty about the food quality. Avoid eating uncooked portions such as salads in such places. If you buy fresh fruits at a roadside stand or from a street vender, wash the fruits carefully before eating them.
9. Do I need electrical adapters in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica’s electrical system is compatible with that of North America, 110 volts. Three pronged grounded plugs are more common today but you will still find two pronged. If you have equipment that needs a three pronged plug, be sure to bring a three to two plug adapter or buy one at a hardware store.
10. How does the phone system, cell phone service and Wi-Fi etc. Work in Costa Rica?
International calls can be made easily at your hotel. Signals for cell phones are now much improved over those of a few years ago, but still limited in rural areas or in mountainous or densly forested topography. Check with your service provider if your system will work in Costa Rica if you are uncertain. Wi-Fi service is now available in many of the better hotels. You can check their websites or email them to find out more about the services they offer. Internet cafes are common in the large urban centers and are also found in many smaller communities They offer internet service at very economical rates . Most hotels also offer internet service.
11. Medical emergencies: What care services are available in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has excellent health care services available. The major urban areas have hospitals, and large towns in rural areas have clinics. A well-organized Red Cross assists in emergency rescues , first-aid treatment and ambulance service throughout most of the country. Well-trained medical personnel can be found in both the public medical system and in the growing private medical service industry here. Testimony to the quality of health care is the long life expectancy enjoyed by the Costa Rica population which compares favorably to or exceeds that of most other nations worldwide.
12. Insurance considerations: What should I have for this trip?
You should have medical insurance that covers you during your travels outside your home country. Review your policy if you are unsure. In addition, consider purchasing Trip Insurance. Unfortunately unforseen events, such as illness of yourself or a family member or friend , accidents, flight(s) cancelation(s) due to severe weather, etc. can delay or cause your vacation to be completely cancelled at the last minute. As a consequence you could lose your payments for hotels, tours and subsequent flights. Trip insurance can cover most of the expenses. We can assist you in purchasing this insurance if you need it.