Travel guide to Costa Rica

Passports
Your passport must be valid for one month after your return date and have a blank page for an entry stamp. Soiled, damaged or defaced passports will not be accepted
Visas
UK, American and most European passport holders do not require a visa for holidays < 90 days
Health
There are no compulsory health requirements, but you should be up to date with your primary courses and boosters. Malaria tablets are not usually advised, but check with your doctor. As dengue fever is present, a good insect repellent and anti-histamine are recommended. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. A yellow fever certificate is necessary, if you are arriving from a counrty that has it. Always check with your doctor at least 8 weeks before travel for any other inoculations recommended (eg Hepatitis A+B, Cholera, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Polio, Meningococcal Meningitis, Rabies and TB).
Currency
Costa Rica Colon (CRC) - remember to ask for small denominations, which are useful for tipping. Tourists often use US dollars (USD)
Language
Spanish, although English is widely understood in tourist areas.
Time Zone
GMT - 6 hours
Travel Tips
To ensure that you have the best possible holiday experience, we ask you to read the following information carefully. If you have any questions, please discuss them with us before you depart. 
 
Hand Luggage – pack essential items for a day or two in your hand luggage, in case your bags go astray and take a few days to catch up with you, especially if you have any tight connecting flights. 
 
Documents – take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you, and leave a copy of your passport with a reliable contact at home, in case the originals are lost or stolen. 
 
Electronic Devices – ensure these are all fully charge before travel, as you may be required to switch them on at airport security. Any device that does not switch on cannot be checked in and must be surrendered. 
 
Mobile Phones – make sure they are set up for international calls and turn off data roaming to avoid nasty bills. There is good cell phone coverage in most of Costa Rica and many hotels offer free Wi-Fi. 
 
Credit Cards – remember to inform your bank when travelling abroad. Credit cards are widely accepted, but always ensure you have cash when travelling in the countryside as some places may not accept them. 
 
Clothing – pack lightweight clothing that will dry quickly, with long sleeved shirts and long trousers ideal to protect against mosquitos in the rainforests (safari clothing is perfect for this – at least 2 sets). Take good walking shoes, a day pack, sunglasses, sunhat and sunscreen. A rain jacket & umbrella are needed all year round in the rainforests, plus lightweight waterproof trousers in the wet season. Also pack a light jacket, as it can get cold at high altitude and T-shirts, shorts, swimming costume & flip flops for the beach. Eye drops can be handy, especially if you wear contact lenses, and sanitising hand cleaner/wet wipes. Take a generous supply of insect repellent to spray on your neck, wrists and ankles and avoid using perfume in the rainforests, as this attracts mosquitos. 
 
Accessories – pack your phone (with charger and a spare battery pack), camera (with spare memory cards and batteries – a 200 mm zoom lens is good for wildlife photography) and binoculars (large 8x40 is best). If you are a keen birder we suggest one pair per person, as it can be frustrating to share. 
 
Plugs – type A and B (2 flat blades, as used in the USA). 
 
Books – pack a good travel guide and a Spanish phrase book. Knowing a few simple greetings will go down well. Also pack a generous supply of English reading material for quiet evenings and when waiting for flights, as these will be hard to come by. 
 
Water – tap water is generally safe to drink in the cities, but always drink bottled water in rural areas. 
 
Food – Costa Rican cuisine is fairly mild, with a high reliance on fresh fruits and vegetables. The traditional 'casada' dish of rice, black beans, beef or pork is common, combined with salad, vegetables and banana. The seafood is also very good. Ticos (fruit shakes, made with water or milk) are the preferred drinks. Vegetarians and food allergies are well catered for. 
 
Recycling – Costa Ricans are very eco-conscious and will expect you to recycle plastic bottles, paper etc. Many of the hotel rooms provide mini recycling bins. 
 
Taxis – in cities use only regulated taxis, with an on-board meter and yellow triangles on their doors. These are best booked through your hotel. 
 
Self-Drive – driving is on the right. Although most roads in the cities are good, some roads in the mountains may be windy and have potholes, so a 4x4 is recommended. Remember all road signs will be in Spanish and very little English will be understood in rural areas. Purchase a good road map in advance (in English) and download the Google Maps (offline) app or hire a sat-nav, as signage can be sparse in rural areas. On gravel roads be careful to avoid stones thrown up by passing vehicles. Any valid UK, European or American driving license is accepted as long as it has a photograph and signature. Pack some CDs as the local radio stations can be a little limited, and always allow some extra time to stop for photographs along the way. A credit card is essential if you are hiring a car. 
 
Safety – take all normal precautions in the centre of San Jose, where they may be pickpocketing. Avoid taking out large wads of cash in public view and keep your spare cash in your hotel safe. Elsewhere this is a relatively safe country. 
 
Tipping – this is voluntary and should depend on the level of service received. We suggest the local currency equivalent of the following USD per couple, but this can be reduced for longer stays: 
- city guide & driver: $8/$2 per day ($4/$1 for half day) 
- overland guide & driver: $10/$5 per day 
- tipping box for hotel staff $2 per day 
- waiters: no need to tip as a 10% sercice charge is automatically added to your bill 
- porters $1 per bag. 
 
Airport Departure Tax - for many international flights, there is a departure tax of currently $29 per person payable on leaving the country.
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