What you need to know for 
travel to Costa Rica

Medical and Travel Insurance
Many seasoned travelers are not aware that their health insurance may not cover them outside of the country. Before you leave make sure that your medical insurance has coverage overseas.  If that is not the case you will need additional insurance since the Spanish Social Security system can only offer treatment in the event of an emergency.  
If you need to cancel your trip due to an unforeseen emergency or serious illness, most of your trip may be non-refundable if you are not insured.  In the event you become ill during your travels, finding and receiving medical care may be very frustrating without insurance.  Travel insurance also covers lost baggage and worldwide emergency assistance.  For a minimal amount of money, travel insurance is a must. 

Entry Requirements
Citizens from Canada, the U.S. and Panama can enter with just a tourist card and one other piece of identification, such as passport, driver's license or birth certificate. No passport is required. Citizens of all other countries require a valid passport to enter Visas are needed by certain nationalities so check ahead before traveling.

Spanish is the official language. English is spoken in tourist areas throughout the country.

110-volt AC is found nationwide. A few outlying areas use their own power source so check ahead before traveling.

The water is safe to drink in all areas of the country.

Currency Exchange
The official currency is the Colon and is easier to use than dollars. The currency rate fluctuates every day without notice. US dollars are accepted throughout the country, except in small villages, where local currency is required. You can exchange money at the International Airport, banks and hotels receptions.

Credit Cards and Travelers Checks
Most major credit cards are accepted throughout the country, but some smaller businesses will only accept local currency.

Time Zone
Costa Rica is the same as US Central Standard Time (GMT -6), but does not observe daylight savings time.

Business Hours
Government offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Commercial offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores and other businesses from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Banks are open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and do not close for lunch.

Costa Rica is a tropical country and experiences only two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season is generally between late December and April, and the wet season lasts the rest of the year. The Caribbean coast tends to be wet all year. Temperatures vary little between seasons, the average is 24 degrees Celsius, and the main influence on temperature is altitude. The coasts are very hot and humid, with the Caribbean averaging 21 degrees Celsius at night and over 30 degrees Celsius during the day, the Pacific is a few degrees warmer still.

Clothing and Packing
Pack light for your travels. The highland areas can be very cold, so pack a sweater if you are going there. For the lowland area light, loose-fitting shirts and pants are essential. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are recommended for the beach.
Be sure to keep important items such as documents, money, medications, keys, etc. on your person or in your carry-on luggage. Never pack these items in your checked luggage. Do not make yourself a target by wearing expensive jewelry.  A good way to conceal your money and valuables is by purchasing an inexpensive, lightweight pouch that attaches around your waist and is worn under your clothes. Do not over-pack. Leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs.
If you are traveling with a companion, cross-pack is a good idea. Put half of your items in your companion’s luggage and vice-versa. This will ease the frustration of lost luggage.
Take along a small backpack. While touring, fill it with bottled water, tissues, paper and notebook.  It will also come in handy for carrying souvenirs.
Don’t forget these travel sized necessities: sewing kit, first-aid kit, tissues, travel clock, toiletries, notebook and pen, pre-printed address labels (for sending postcards), plastic “zip-locking” bags (for storing open bottles and containers). Purchase your film and batteries in the US.  Remember to bring extra for your video camera.  

Direct-dial service is efficient and there are more telephones per capita than in any other Latin American country. Facsimiles, telex, radio Internet access and cable television is all-available throughout the country. Bilingual operator assistance for international calls is -116, Local information -113, Long distance information -124.

Health care in Costa Rica is very good and sanitary standards are high. First class hospitals are found throughout San Jose and some of the other largely populated areas.

Arrivals are allowed 500 cigarettes plus three liters of wine or spirits duty free in addition to personal goods and sporting equipment.

Departure Tax
The average rate is US $ 17 to depart by air. Land and sea exits are not charged.

There is a 13% sales tax at hotels, restaurants and most service industries, and an additional 3% tourist tax at hotels.

A 10% tip is appropriate. Most restaurants will add the tip to your bill so read your bill before paying a tip. Other services does not include tip, as is voluntary according to services received. Taxi drivers generally do not receive a tip.

Leave your travel information with a family member or friend, including a copy of your passport, your flight itinerary, travel itinerary, hotel names and phone numbers.  In the event of an emergency, family members may contact Pilgrim Travel at 800-322-0788.

Dress comfortably for the flight, wearing clothes that allow freedom of movement and shoes that slip on and off easily.
When at the airport, never leave your luggage unattended for any length of time…no matter how short.  Do not accept packages from strangers to carry on to the plane for them.
Check-in time for international flights is normally three hours prior to departure. When checking in at the airport, a valid passport is needed as proof of identification for international travelers.
Bring along a moisturizer, as the air in the plane cabin is extremely dry. In order to avoid jet lag, avoid caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages. Rather, opt for natural fruit juices and water.