Know Before you Go
You are all ready to pack and go enjoy the Pacific beaches and amazing wildlife in Costa Rica, but take some steps to prepare first. Some thing to know before you go.
1. Water is safe to drink throughout Costa Rica, so we felt safe in the less rural areas to fill our water bottles from the tap. If you are in a very rural area and there are large water dispensers, be safe, use them.
Be aware in some more rural areas the waste may be on a septic system. If there is a trash can by the toilet dispose of sanitary products in the trash can. Watch for signs, as in some other Central and South American locations, sometimes it is requested that you put used toilet paper in the trash can. In South America this is because the sewer pipes are too small to accommodate toilet paper.
2. There are two international airports, San Jose and Liberia. Both are small by US standards. If you are traveling by air within the country (like landing in San Jose and flying to Libera) keep in mind the regional planes are smaller so check the luggage requirements for the smaller plane. It beats paying an overweight charge.
The hotels close to the airport in San Jose have shuttles. If you are landing in Libera and going to a resort, it is good to pre-arrange the transfer.
3. US Dollars are accepted in many parts of the country, especially the tourist areas. Be aware however that you will not be getting the best exchange rate when paying in dollars. Most stores or restaurants that accept US dollars use an exchange rate of 500 Colones to the dollar. The actual exchange rate varies but lately has been about 570. This obviously fluctuates but you get the picture. US credit cards are also accepted in most parts of the country and we usually ask to be billed in the local currency, Colones, because our credit card company has no foreign transaction fee and gives us the current exchange rate.
You are best using cash in Colones. We refill cash from ATMs and just charge larger purchases to the credit card.
Tell your credit card company and bank you will be out of the country, so they do not freeze your account thinking your transaction is a fraudulent one.
4. No visa is required for US Citizens to visit Costa Rica, but as for all international travel, your passport must be valid for 6 months after your arrival date.
5. As a general rule Costa Rica is very safe and crime tends to be petty thefts from cars in parking lots so use common sense. The Ticos (their name for themselves) are proud of their country. Be aware that there are workers coming from other Central American countries that may not feel the same way. Take the same precautions you would at home.
6. Tour guide is a profession in Costa Rica. A properly licensed tour guide probably has a college degree in tourism, or as a naturalist. Use licensed companies, they are insured and will hire English speaking guides.
7. Don’t just sit in the resort. Most of what Costa Rica has to offer is outside the resort. Take a guided day trip or better yet, spend a few days in each area. Buy your insect repellant and sun- screen before you leave, it is expensive in country.
8. Get to know the people. Everyone knows that Costa Rica has stunning landscapes, great flora and incredible wildlife but the fourth treasure is the Tico’s themselves.