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Manual for the traveler in Costa Rica.

General information of Costa Rica


Area: 51,100 km2

Borders: North border with Nicaragua at the San Juan River, South border with Panamá at Paso Canoas, East with Caribbean Sea and West with the Pacific Ocean.

Language: Officially and mainly Catholicism.

Idiomas: Spanish. Dialects: Creol, Boruca, Bribri, Maleku among other.

Highest mountain: Cerro Chirripó with 3820 meters.

Largest Crater: Poás Volcano. 1 km. of diameter (one of the widest in the world)

Population: 4 600 000 habitants.

Administrative division: 7 provinces, 81 counties and 463 districts.

Time and Date: UTC-06:00  Universal Time Coordinate, antes Greenwich Mean Time.

Date format : day, month and year.

Holidays:

  • January 1st (New year)
  • April 11th (Day of the National Hero, Juan Santamaría),
  • Thursday and Friday of the Holly Week or Easter Week (Third week of April),
  • May 1st (International day of the Work),
  • July 25th (Annexation of the Nicoya Party),
  • August 2nd (Day of the Virgin of Los Angles, Patron of Costa Rica),
  • August 15th (Mothers´ Day and ascension of the Virgin Mary)
  • September 15th (Independence Day)
  • October 12th (Day of Culture Encounter)
  • December 25th, (Christmas Day)
  • These are obligatory holidays, never the less there are places that work normally during these days.

Working hours:

  • Public Area: 8:00 a.m.until 5:00 p.m.
    Private Area:  9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
  • Banks: There are some with day hours from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The branches tend to be open from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and some in San José downtown until 7:00 p.m.
  • Shopping Malls, stores, supermarkets, movie theatres, lunch and dinner places: open from 9:00, 10:00 or 11:00 a.m.

Currency:

The official currency is the Colón. Current denominations: ¢10, ¢20, ¢25, ¢50, ¢100, ¢500, ¢1000, ¢2000, ¢5000, ¢10000 & ¢20 000.

Dollars are well accepted, actually, some prices are presented in dollars. $100 bills are hard to be accepted even in hotels, restaurants and stores. It’s better if you go to the bank and change them before going out for shopping or eating. Don’t change money in the street, usually the exchange rate is not correct and you risk yourself to get false bills.

Credit and debit cards are well accepted, but you can be charged occasionally a 5% or 7% more. Travelers’ checks are well accepted, especially in hotels.

In San José downtown, you can find lots of cash machines, in the rural areas there are less, and sometimes there aren’t at all.

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Basic Services

Voltage and American power point: 110V.

Electricity service fulfillment in the country: Electricity service fulfillment in the country: Costa Rica electricity service needs are fulfilled in most part of the country. In the rural areas of very hard access there are solar panels or electricity generators that work with gas or diesel or with the movement of the water in the rivers.

Measure System: In Costa Rica is used the Metric System.

Tips: In restaurants and bars there is a 10% charge for service tip.

Taxes: There is a 13% charge for service sales tax and a 13% for hotels services sales tax.

Water: The current water in Costa Rica is mainly pure. There could be some places where it is not. Ask before drinking from the faucet. When you are told that is potable don’t loose the opportunity to taste it, especially in the mountain areas it is normally cold and fresh.
If you are hiking in the mountains and need to drink water from streams or rivers, it should be very deep in the mountains and to be totally safe it is recommended to use a filter or purifying pills.

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Communications


In most towns there are public telephones. There are several ways of payment, by coins, or by Chip, Colibrí or Viajera prepaid cards. The most convenient is the Traveler or Colibrí prepaid card because they can be used in any phone even if it is private or to be used with coins or chip card.

Local calls and international calls:
The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) is the communications company in Costa Rica. You have to pay for all the calls you make, even the local ones. Do not use the area code (506) once you are in Costa Rica.
To make calls from public and private phones with prepay cards use the Colibrí and Viajera prepay cards.

Mobile phones:
Some mobile phones from other countries can be used in Costa Rica if programmed previously in your country of residence. Also there are international companies like Claro and Movistar.

Nevertheless the signal is not good everywhere in Costa Rica. It is better to always carry a prepaid card, they are cheap and easy to find in downtown and can be used from any private or public phone.

Internet:
Internet: Internet access has become very popular. In most of the touristy places you can find an internet café where you can check your mail.

Post Office: Correos de Costa Rica (the Post Company) has offices in all the main cities of every province. The service is cheap and efficient. Among the services that you can find there are: stamps sale, postal cards sale, packages and mail service, fax service and telegraph service.

Useful Telephone numbers:

Assisted international call system MIDA: 1124

MIDA without operator: 00 + country code + area code + phone number

Operator International call system: 1116

Emergency phone: 911

Information phone: 1113

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Airports

International: Juan Santamaría in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber in Liberia.

Small airports with regular flights: Tobías Bolaños in Pavas and runway parallel to the Juan Santamaría in Alajuela, Barra del Colorado, Carrillo (Sámara), Drake Bay, Liberia, Puerto Jiménez, Golfito, Palmar Sur, Punta Islita, Quepos, Nosara, Tortuguero, Tamarindo, Tambor and Coto 47.

Local flights are very efficient and safe. Instead of traveling by land for hours, you can get in an hour approximately to almost any place in Costa Rica. Their prices are moderate and it’s worth the time in money. There is a tax for leaving the country of US $29 per person.

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Visas, Embassies and Consulates:


The following countries DO NOT require a visa to enter Costa Rica:

Countries that don’t need Visa, staying for 90 days:

Alemania
Andorra
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Bahamas
Barbados
Bélgica
Brasil
Bulgaria
Canadá
Croacia
Chile
Chipre
Dinamarca
Eslovaquia
Eslovenia
España
Estonia
EE. UU.
Finlandia
Francia
Hungría
Irlanda
Islandia
Israel
Italia
Japón
Letonia
Liechtenstein
Lituania
Luxemburgo
Malta
México
Montenegro
Noruega
N. Zelanda
Holanda
Panamá
Paraguay
Polonia
Portugal
Mónaco
San Marino
Puerto Rico
Reino Unido G. Bretaña
Rep. Checa
Corea del Sur
Grecia
Rumanía
Serbia-Mont.
Singapur
Sudáfrica
Suecia
Suiza
Trinidad Tobago
Uruguay
Vaticano
 


Countries without consular visa, staying for 30 days:

Antigua y Barbuda
Belice
Bolivia
Dominica
El Salvador
Filipinas
Fiyi
Granada
Guatemala
Guyana
Honduras
Islas del Norte
Islas Marshall
I. Salomón
Kiribati
Maldivas
Mauricio
Micronesia
Nauru
Palaos
Taiwán
Reino Tonga
Samoa
San Cristóbal
San Vicente
Santa Lucía
Santo Tomé
Seychelles
Surinam
Tuvalú
Turquía
Vanuatu
Venezuela


The citizens of countries that do not appear in the list of countries above mentioned should verify in the local Costa Rican consulate to ask for a visa. To localize the embassies and consulates of Costa Rica in the world or to know if your country has an embassy in Costa Rica, visit http://www.rree.go.cr

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Health

Required vaccines: There are no required vaccines to enter Costa Rica, nevertheless the following are recommended.

Vaccine:

Recommended for:

Doses:

Hepatitis A

Every traveler

1 dose before the trip, one reinforcement dose between 6 and 12 months after.

Hepatitis B

Long term traveler, in contact with local populations.

3 doses in a period of more than 6 moths.

Typhoid

Every traveler

4 capsules taken every other day.

Tetanus and diphtheria

Every traveler that hasn’t had a reinforcement dose in the last 10 years.

1 dose every 10 years.

Chicken pox

Travelers that hasn’t ever being ill of chicken pox.

2 doses, with one month between every dose.

Medical Services:
Medical services in Costa Rica are very good quality ones. The private clinics are famous in the world because of its good quality and low cost. Nevertheless the public ones are not that bad either. If it is about simple situations or accidents is better to visit a private clinic if you can. But if what is close is a public clinic or hospital do not hesitate in visiting it. The costs are lower and the quality is as good as in a private one, which is the reason that most of the people go there. This great abundance of people is the one that makes the service a little slower and will make you spend more time there.
In most of private doctor offices, you are expected to pay in cash, but in the main private clinics there is no problem if paying with a credit card.

List of private clinics:

  • Hospital Clínica Bíblica.

  • Hospital Clínica Católica

  • Hospital CIMA.
  • Clínica Matropolitana

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Areas of Costa Rica:

Costa Rica is a very privileged country. it is full of beautiful beaches, it is in the middle of 2 oceans, awesome mountains, has great abundance of climates, microclimates, landscapes, different kinds of forests, wildlife and vegetation unique in the world, it is in the middle of 2 continents and just 10° from the Equator. This is a great opportunity to experience an exotic adventure full of wild emotions and with a cultural touch, very different from the rest of Central America and overall the world. Costa Rica is divided into 7 provinces: Alajuela (Airport), Heredia (craters drive by places), San José (capital), Guanacaste (Pacific beaches), Puntarenas (Beaches and Islands), Cartago (mountains) y Limón (culture Caribbean beaches).

In the following part, you will be able to get a quick view of the most important spots in each province. We will be very glad to help you organize your trip around Costa Rica and offer you with the most updated information about every destination, for you to enjoy it in the best way possible.

Each province has its own thing and some of other. We are a mixture of cultures that can be observed on a personal visit, but to really experience it, only with an excellent travel advice.

Alajuela: First meeting place between the tourist and Tico Land (Costa Rican Land) The airport is the most important spot in the area, but Alajuela´s richness goes far beyond: volcanoes, agriculture and a city that grows fast.

Attractions: Zoo Ave (Bird Zoo and rescue center) and the amazing Poás Volcano.

Heredia: Is a very interesting place, well known for its old colonial houses and is the base for the National University and the Institute of Biodiversity which has being awarded several times for its educational and conservation projects.

Attractions: Volcán Barva, InBio Park (Institute of Biodiversity), Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí and its lots of Environmental studies centers, La Paz Waterfalls and Vara Blanca.

San José: Our capital city is a great mixture of lots of colors and an organized disorder, mix made up of architectural tendencies that die while other reborn with shapes of the past.

Attractions: Central Market, National Museum, Gold Museum, Jade Museum and the National Theater.

Cartago: Full of legends, mountains, mist and high land sun that burns the cheeks of the inhabitants, a land full of natural richness. It was the first capital city of Costa Rica and is actually very important for the Ticos and Ticas (Ticos=Costa Ricans males and Ticas=Costa Rican females) because is the home of the Virgin of Los Ángeles, which is the patroness of Costa Rica. 

You pass by Cartago on your way to the south of the country on the South Inter American Road or National Route #2. Crossing the Cerro de la Muerte reaches its highest altitude, and beats any other road in the country. It crosses the cold mountains of Cartago and San Isidro of Perez Zeledón.

Attractions: Cerro de la Muerte, Zona de los Santos, Irazú Volcano, Orosí Valley, Ujarrás, Turrialba Volcano and Rafting at several Rivers.

Puntarenas: Land of contrasts: former and actual docks, traditional food kiosks, like the “Churchill” which is a frozen non alcoholic cocktail that contains ice cream, condensed milk, red sugar syrup, powdered milk and with a long spoon and a straw. Or if you prefer visit the surf and party coast very close from downtown San José, Jacó Beach. 

Attractions: A whole line of beaches side by side.
At the south: All the Peninsula de Osa with its uncountable forests and beaches, the National Park of Corcovado, Puerto Jiménez.
In the Center: the artisan docks of Downtown Puntarenas, Tortuga Island, Aquarium and Marine Park of Puntarenas, Carara National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos, San Lucas Island, Chira Island, Pájaros Island, Jacó Beach, Ballena Bay, Esterillos, Playa Bandera, Playa Ventanas.
Up North: Montezuma, Santa Teresa, Murciélago Beach, and many other.

Guanacaste: Guanacaste protects the last Central American Dry Tropical Forests spots. Land of Incredible beaches, perfect waves, white sand, volcanoes, hot flatlands and cold mountains, eternal summer and tropical sun, livestock lands full of legends and musical folklore.

Attractions: Central Market of Liberia, Rincón de la Vieja National Park and the National Park of Santa Rosa which is historical patrimony with its Naranjo Beach and the famous Roca Bruja or Witches Rock surf spot. Hundreds of beaches and communities such as Santa Cruz, Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Pavones, Avellanas, Samara, Flamingo and many other including awesome 365 days a year summer golf fields and marinas.

Limón: The mountains of the Braulio Carrillo National Park are the continental division of waters that divides the rivers to move towards the pacific or the Atlantic. After crossing these mountains, you move towards a world that as you get closer, smells like coast, like coconut oil, coconut milk, rice and beans (plate made off rice and beans and coconut milk and oil), pan bon (special bread of the area) and you can hear louder the “buffalo soldier” in the humid heat. (Important song of Bob Marley, reggae music) Coral reefs, sand, hot dances and meals that taste like Panamanian Chili and Coconut.

Attractions: Puerto Viejo, Cahuita Town (National park managed by the community of Cahuita in Cahuita Station and Puerto Vargas Station by MINAE, the government of Costa Rica.), Down town Limón , Punta Uva, Uvita and Gandoca-Manzanillo National park among many other.

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Costa Rica Maps:

Free Costa Rica printed map, useful full color map.

  • 1 Costa Rica route map.
  • 1 San Jose city map.
  • 1 Puerto Viejo map

    Package total rate US$ 19
    Maps are FREE, we only charge deliver service
    Sending by regular mail FREE. 10 to 15 days.
    Please send us your address or P.O. Box address.

    Buy Costa Rica Maps here.


Digital maps: Costa Rica map and San José city map.

Step 1. Download Costa Rica map.
These maps are in the PDF format and can be downloaded, viewed and printed if you have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed on your computer.

Download Costa Rica map now. (PDF format, approximately 511K)
Road map, airports and distances between the main cities of Costa Rica.

Download San José City map now (PDF format, approximately 852K)
San Jose Downtown map and the main tourist sites.

Download Drake Bay map now.(PDF format, approximately 343K)
Hotels and other tourist attractions in Drake Bay.

Step 2. Download Adobe Acrobat free reader software
If you already have Adobe Acrobat free reader software installed on your computer, go to step 3.

Bookmark the Costa Rica map page and go to the Adobe Acrobat free reader page and follow the instructions. You will be asked to choose the Reader version, computer platform version, and language version you need. Follow the instructions included with the Acrobat Reader software to install Acrobat Reader on your computer. When properly installed you will be able to open the PDF file to view it and print it.

Step 3. Printing the map from Acrobat Reader
The maps are designed to be printed rather than viewed on the screen. Follow the printing instructions provided with Acrobat Reader.

Other Costa Rica maps. Free.

Osa Peninsula map – Corcovado National Park map.

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Normal climate tendencies have changed in the last years, but are more or less as follows.

Dry season:
Most representative months: January, February and March.
Nevertheless is not weird to get one or another storm, especially in the forest or mountain areas or in the central valley. Sunny mornings are expected and clear sky afternoons except for a cold tropical wave or special situations.

Rainy Season:
Strongest rain months: September, October and November.
In the Northern part of Costa Rica like in Guanacaste and San Carlos, afternoon or night rains are usual.

In the Central Pacific like Puntarenas or Manuel Antonio are usually hot and dry with rains in the afternoon or night.

In the South such as Puerto Jiménez, Golfito, Península de Osa or Drake Bay its mostly humid but very hot as well.

In the Central Valley: like in San José, Cartago, mountain areas and on the main mountain range the climate is mostly cool, cold and rainy. The rain is expected at noon or later.

In the Caribbean Area like Guápiles, Tortuguero or Puerto Viejo it’s very humid and hot all year round. Rain is expected at dawn or in the mornings.

Because of being surrounded by both the Atlantic and the Pacific, when it is hurricane season in the Atlantic, is the Pacific the one that suffers the most. But if the problem is in the pacific, is the Caribbean the one that suffers, like with cold waves or winds from North or South.

Rain is not as cold as in the non tropical places. Rain is mostly refreshing in a hot day during a hike. In most of the cases, it should not be an obstacle for the visitor’s enjoyment of the place. The rainy season is the best time to go rafting and for practicing all river sports. The animals keep on with their lives, that is how it should be for us too when visiting natural environments. Let’s just be prepared with the right gear to have the best time as it can be. The tropical rain is a unique experience that can only be lived in the tropics. No better place than the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica to enjoy it.

Know the actual weather conditions here:

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Gear and Clothing

If you are thinking of taking long hikes or getting immerse in the natural wonders of our tropical rainforests, then pay attention to the following gear and clothing list we provide you. This list is specialized and varies depending on the actual activities that you may want to do on your trip. Please don’t hesitate on asking us specifically what things in the list you would really need.

• Easy drying and light sandals or shoes.
• Hiking boots or comfortable closed shoes for walking.
• Easy to dry and wash light shirts. You can bring one long sleeve for walks in the sun and other for the cool nights.
• Fleece or sweater to protect from the cold. Yes, it can get very cold in the tropics too, especially in the mountains.
• Poncho, windbreaker or any kind of waterproof jacket.
• Easy to dry and wash light pants. Short and long, fresh and light. They protect from the cold as well as from the mosquitoes.
• Light socks and if you go to the cold mountains like Chirripó and Cerro de la Muerte, then very warm socks for the night.
• Hat, cap or something to protect your head from the sun during the hikes. The colored handkerchiefs or bandanas are very good to cover the ears and neck from the sun. In the forest is better to walk with your head covered, it usually fall things from the trees. In the Chirripó or other cold mountain tours, is better to take wool hats or similar as well as gloves.
• Be always prepared for the rain and remember to carry extra clothing in plastic bags when going hiking or on tours. This is to prevent coming back wet and cold in the minivan or in the boat. This way you can prevent an untimely cold.

Other necessary gear:

• Blistick for the lips (protection from the sun and wind)
• Sun glasses
• Zipper closure kind plastic bags
• Sun block lotion (at least 40 SPF)
• Head lamp, flashlight (There are places where there is no electricity during the whole night, and also to move around at night in the tours or jungle)
• Extra batteries
• Bottle to carry water
• Depending on your trip you can need kitchen supplies
• Sleeping bag and isolating system from the ground.
• Bug spray
• Duct Tape or gray tape for emergency repairs as well as to avoid blisters.
• Hydrating beverages, such as Gatorade or Powerade

This list was designed thinking in all the activities that we offer; remember to plan your packing depending specifically on your own trip. We will be glad to help you out with this.

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Safety Measures

In the city:
When walking around any city should be careful, try not to carry things hanging or loose. It is better to carry everything in one only bag or day pack, to avoid loosing the things or making easy for the burglars to rip them off on the streets.

Unfortunately the delinquency in Costa Rica is very present, especially but not only in San José Downtown. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid walking around, go take a walk but be alert and look what is going on around you and be careful with the people that get close to you or your things

Taxis:
There are two kinds of official taxis. The red ones have a license plate with the first 3 letters TSJ for San José, depending on the area they will have different letters, and after the letters numbers. For example: TSJ3281. Also, they use yellow triangles on the side doors with the same numbers as in the license plate. The other kind of taxis is the yellow or orange airport cabs which are marked as airport cabs.

The informal taxis in some cases can charge you less than the expected, as well as it could be more. The main problem is safety. There is no insurance to cover any accident if you ride an unofficial taxi. Furthermore they are not inspected as service providers, so they don’t pass all the requirements the government have for the real taxis. In case you get a bad service from an official taxi, you can claim, but that’s not the case if it happens with an unofficial taxi, there is nothing to do.

In the rivers or the beach:
Before swimming on any beach, make sure it is safe. There are beaches where the currents are very common and easily take the people far inside the sea. The locals are the ones that know better the beaches and its safety; trust them, listen to them and don’t hesitate on asking them or in the hotel you are staying.

Same happens with the rivers, ask the locals about the characteristics of the place you want to visit. During the rainy season, you have to be even more careful. If it is raining never get into a river and make sure that you have a higher place to move fast in case the water level starts getting higher or the color of the water changes from clear to cocoa milk or muddy. That means that a flood is coming down the stream. In that case move fast to a higher place far from the water.

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Extra Tips

• Never forget to protect from the sun even on a short walk. Even if it is cloudy the sun can cause serious burns in the skin.
• Drink a lot of water, at least 3 litters per day, to avoid dehydration.
• In some areas it gets really hard to get clothes dry because of the humidity of the environment. Take light and easy to dry clothes.
• It is important to take sandals or some kind of closed shoe in the forest to avoid bites and accidents.
• Bring hats, caps, bandanas or saran, waterproof rain jacket or a poncho. The climate is very warm even if it rains. But during the transports by boat or bus gets cold if you are wet.
• If you are planning to go to the beach and then take a long hike with a backpack, please don’t forget to protect very well from the sun in the shoulders to avoid burns that could not let you carry your backpack.
• Use duct tape or something to protect from the blisters before they even start. As soon as you feel some sort of very light pain because of the shoe, then cover the area with duct tape or moleskin to avoid the blisters. Don’t wait to get a blister to take care of your skin.
• If you are on a tour or hike and you start feeling bad. Head ache, stomach ache, nauseas, dizziness or any thing, don’t hesitate, tell your guide right away. They know first aids and you can avoid lots of problems if telling on time any of these symptoms. Most of the times are dehydration problems; avoid serious consequences drinking at least 3 litters of water a day during your trips.




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Green Stone Adventures.
Web site: www.GreenStone.co.cr
Phones:
Toll free U.S. 1-877-769-8747
Costa Rica: (506) 2223-4060 / (506) 2223-3355
Fax: (506) 2223-3355
Email:info@greenstone.co.cr
Skype: greenstone.co.cr