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Costa Rica Frequently Asked Questions

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Updated on August 5, 2022
 
by Herb DeMars
 
 
 

COSTA RICA FAQ

Entering Costa Rica

Are Passports Required to Enter Costa Rica?
 
Yes, passports are required. A 90 day tourist visa is automatically granted upon arrival. Also, there is a $29 exit fee which must be paid prior to departing Costa Rica
 
What type of vaccination is needed to enter Costa Rica?
 
Be aware that even if your were only transiting through any one of the following countries, Costa Rican authorities will require a yellow-fever vaccine certification: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leon, Sudan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Guyana.
 
Can I enter Costa Rica with a one-way air ticket?
 
In order to be granted entry into Costa Rica, all visitors are required to hold a valid departure ticket, whether it is by air, sea or land
 
Do I need a VISA to visit Costa Rica?
 
Some countries such as the USA, Canada and most European countries allow entrance without a VISA, providing you have a valid Passport.nn Depending on the country, it is determined the number of days available to visit as a touristn In some cases, an immigration official could ask you to demonstrate your economic solvency for your stay in the countryn Although you may have 90 days available on your tourist visa, the immigration official will assess the allowed visiting period on your passportn Visitors to Costa Rica must have a valid passport, as well as proof that they will be departing the country before their visa or entrance stamp expires, generally within the 90 days.
 
Is a passport needed to enter Costa Rica?
 
Yes, passports are required. A 90 day tourist visa is automatically granted upon arrival. Also, there is a $29 exit fee which must be paid prior to departing Costa Rica.
 
What are the necessary documents to bring pets into Costa Rica?
 
All cats and dogs entering Costa Rica must have a health certificate from a veterinarian and endorsed by a veterinarian service.  A physical exam must be conducted two weeks prior to the date of the trip.  The required vaccines are: distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus.  Rabies will also be required for all animals over 4 months old.
 
What are the country´s international airports?
 
Costa Rica has two (2) international airports: Juan Santamaría Airport in Alajuela, Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia.  If I decided to extend my stay, can i get a visa for this while in Costa Rica?
 
Visitors from countries that enter with a 30-day visa can go to the Immigration and Foreign Department for an extension of their visa for up to 90 days. The following criteria will need to be met:nn you have a valid passportn demonstrate economic solvency, andn have a departure ticket or fare.nnThe amount of time allowed to stay in the country will depend on the immigration official.nFor more information (available only in Spanish) you can download the following: Department of Migration – Costa Rica
 

Exploring Nature

Where can I watch turtles during nesting season?
 
You can visit the Tortuguero National Park in the Caribbean and the Ostional Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific. 
 
What is the difference between a Rainforest and a Cloud Forest?
 
The main difference is that in a rainforest the precipitation is higher. The flora and fauna differ from one type of forest to another as well.
 
What should I bring to the rainforest?
 
You will need insect repellent, rain poncho, and comfortable shoes.
 
Are the national parks accessible to persons who are physically disabled?
 
The following parks provide accessibility: Poas Volcano National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park, and Carara National Park
 
Tell me about the Resplendent Quetzal.
 
To see something like this captured on film begs the question “How are such beautiful colorings even possible?”
 
 
In fact, the magnificent colors of the Resplendent Quetzal do have an origin…  The elusive song-bird has a history steeped in pre-Columbian mythology.  Legend has it that on the day the conquistador Pedro de Alvarado fought against Tecún Umán, there was a quetzal flying overhead. On the first strike Tecún Umán, on foot, managed to disable Pedro de Alvarado’s horse. Alvarado was then given another horse and on the second strike ran through Tecún Umán’s chest with a spear. The quetzal flew down and landed on Tecún Umán, dipping its chest in the warrior prince’s blood. It is there that the bird acquired its distinctive red chest feathers.
 

Food and Water

 
Is the water safe to drink?
 
The water is purified throughout the country, so you will have no concerns wherever you go to eat with regard to water, ice or produce.  The tap water and ice is safe to use in all the houses or condos.  However, if you are concerned for any reason, bottled water is readily available.
 
Are groceries readily available?
 
Yes, there are a number of small corner stores in the immediate area that carry a wide selection of food, meat, fresh produce, wine, liquor and beer.  There is also a very large big-box type grocery store called “Super Mercado” that is approximately a ten minute drive.
 
What is in the traditional Costa Rican dish called “Casado”?
 
A Casado (Spanish for “married man”) is a Costa Rican meal using rice, black beans, plantains, salad, a tortilla. An optional protein may also be added – such as chicken or beef.
 

General Info

How do we purchase gasoline in Costa Rica?
 
Gasoline is sold by the liter and can be purchased with Costa Rican Colones, American Dollars, or credit cards.  Nearly all the gas stations are full-service.  It is a good idea to make sure the pump is zero’d prior to filling.
 
What is the sales tax in Costa Rica?
 
There is a 13% sales tax on the price of goods. Restaurants also have an additional 10% service tax.
 
Can I use my mobile phone in Costa Rica?
 
If you want to use a mobile phone in Costa Rica, you must have an UNLOCKED cellular phone and purchase a prepaid SIM card. You can also visit the different telephone companies throughout the country which offer different options for prepaid cards, including internet access.
 
What kind of electricity does Costa Rica have?
 
The electricity system is exactly the same as it is in the USA and Canada.  Outlets are typical to North America and provide a current of 110 – 115 volts.
 
Is Costa Rica safe?
 
Costa Rica has a very low level of violent crime.  However like all tourists areas, care should always be taken with your valuables.  Use commons sense, such as not leaving valuables visible in a vehicle even if it is locked.  Also, if you have car trouble or a flat, it is best not accept help from strangers.  To be extra safe, it is recommended that if you do get out of your vehicle for any reason, even if you are repairing a flat, lock your doors
 
What is the Exchange Rate in Costa Rica?
 
The national currency is the Costa Rican colón.  It is traded against the US Dollar and the rates vary from day to day but usually hover around 550 colónes for each USD.  So for a rough ‘in your head’ estimate, converting colónes to USD  is a simple matter of dividing by a thousand and doubling the result.  For example, a 5,000 colónes bill = roughly $10 USD.
 
For those who want to be more accurate, just take the value of the bill, in this case $5,000 C, and divide it by the daily exchange rate, which is in this example is 550.  Therefore the result will be 5000 / 550 = $9.09 USD.
 
Do I need a plug adapter for my blow dryer?
 
Costa Rica´s outlets are 110 volts, with a standard duplex outlet, just like the USA and Canada!
 
I heard about an Exit Tax, what is it?
 
The exit tax, via air is US $29.00 and US $7.00 by land payable in US dollars, colones or credit card at the Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago, Banco Lafise, or the Banco de Costa Rica. Some airlines already include this fee in the airline ticket; therefore, we recommend you consult your airline.
 
What is the area code for Costa Rica?
 
To call into Costa Rica from outside the country, dial “011-506” then the local 8 digit number. To call the USA or Canada from Costa Rica, dial “001”, then the area code + the local 7 digit number. For assistance on other international calling see this handy link: how-to-call-abroad
 
Is smoking allowed in Costa Rica?
 
All rental properties are smoke-free. However, smoking is allowed outside. No smoking in bars or restaurants including outdoor facilities. 
 
What are the natural boundaries of Costa Rica?
 
North: Nicaragua South: Panaman East: Caribbean Sea West: Pacific OceannnCosta Rica is divided into seven (7) provinces: Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, San José, Puntarenas, Limón and Guanacaste.
 
What is the number I should call in case of an emergency?
 
Call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance. For tourist assistance, you can dial: 800-turismo..
 
What is the local currency of Costa Rica?
 
The Colon is the currency of Costa Rica, although American Dollars and credit cards are certainly welcome.  It is advisable to purchase goods in the local currency, as some shop owners may not provide the best exchange rates.
 
Visa card is generally more accepted than Mastercard.  There are two ATMs available in Flamingo at Banco de Costa Rica and at the Banco Nacional.
 
What is the official bird of Costa Rica?
 
The Clay Colored Robin
 
 
Do I need to rent a car?
 
We recommend renting a 4×4. Some of the roads can be rather challenging, especially if you want to explore. There are private guides available for hire in the area if you prefer not to rent a car. Taxi’s are also available from the airport to Flamingo/Potrero area.  Renting a car requires a little forethought here in Costa Rica. There are customs here that you are probably not used to so to better prepare you we have created the information page renting-a-car-in-costa-rica.
 
Is an International Driver’s License needed?
 
Anyone over the age of 18 holding a valid driver’s license from their country is permitted to drive for a period of three (3) months.  However, you must be at least 21 years of age to rent an automobile.
 
Are there domestic airlines?
 
You can contact SANSA at www.flysansa.com (506)2290-4100, or Nature Air at www.natureair.net (506)2299-6000.  Both offer frequent service to the different tourist destinations within the country.
 
If I rent a car, can I drive it to Nicaragua or Panama?
 
Rental cars are not allowed to leave the country.
 
Is there train service in Costa Rica?
 
There is no train service to destinations outside the Central Valley, the only existing service, is between Cartago-San José and San José-Heredia during the peak hours from 6:00 am to 8:00 am, and 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  Service itineraries can be found at: https://www.incofer.go.cr/
 

Getting Married in Costa Rica 

 
Can I get married in Costa Rica? What are the necessary documents?
 
It is possible to marry in Costa Rica!  The required documents are: a valid passport or valid travel documents and a sworn statement (affidavit) signed in the presence of a Costa Rican lawyer.  If divorced, you will need the official documents of such divorce from your country or wherever the divorce was granted.
 

Language

 
What if I don’t speak Spanish?
 
Although Spanish is the native tongue here in Costa Rica, English is widely spoken throughout Guanacaste. The people here are very friendly and will gladly teach you a little Spanish while you are here
 
Are their English language newspapers?
 
The main English-language newspaper is The Tico Times: www.ticotimes.net
 

Moving to Costa Rica

 
How do I apply for legal residency?
 
There are several ways to legalize your residency within Costa Rica temporary resident retired governmental international missionn and others…For more information contact the Costa Rican Consulate, the Residents Association at www.arcr.net or you can visit the Department of Migration at www.migracion.go.cr
 

 

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