If you are planning a trip to visit Costa Rica for the first time, now is the time to make sure your trip is as amazing as you’ve hoped for. It is a good idea to have some basic knowledge of the place you’re visiting before going there. And that’s what we’re going to talk about here. Nothing too meticulously detailed or overcomplicated – just some simple and helpful background info on one of the best vacation destinations in the world!
1. Costa Rica is not as cheap as its neighbors.
Please budget accordingly, because Costa Rica can be as expensive as Toronto or Florida in some tourist areas, while non-tourist areas can be much cheaper.
2. San José is not as bad as people make it out to be.
San José is typical of a major city in Latin America, with some wonderful upscale areas and some run-down areas as well. You just need to ask at your hotel or taxi driver what you need to know about San Jose.
3. Locals LOVE to talk to foreigners.
And I mean, they’ll stop you on the street to talk to you. They’re very gregarious people with a curious nature and since tourism in Costa Rica is on the rise, they enjoy meeting people from all walks of life. Single ladies please take extra precautions when walking around town.
4. Dengue is the main disease from mosquitoes.
The good news is, dengue has been dramatically reduced by 50% over the last few years! Be sure to use repellent and mosquito nets when possible, especially in rural and beach areas.
5. Ticos have a laid-back attitude but, they don’t drive like they do.
People are always surprised by the driving in Costa Rica and it’s something I warn people about when they come down here. Drive defensively and watch out for potholes, motorcycles weaving through lanes, and pedestrians on the street while in Costa Rica.
6. It’s a small country but it takes longer than it seems to get around.
Costa Rica is a smaller than Florida so it’s easy to think you can road trip the whole country in a week. Technically you can, but trust me, that wouldn’t be very fun! This is because the roads in Costa Rica are never as the crows fly. They do have highways and the main roads are paved but they usually have only one lane.
7. Police can stop and ask for your papers at any time.
In Costa Rica, police have been known to stop any car and ask for papers. Always have a color copy of your FULL passport including your tourist stamp with you. Remember that to legally drive in Costa Rica as a tourist, you need to have your foreign drivers license and passport with a valid tourist stamp with you at all times.
8. It gets cold, but it doesn’t snow.
Costa Rica has over 40 microclimates. Check the weather online where you will be staying or visiting before you come down.
9. English is widely spoken but not all Costa Ricans speak English.
Most Ticos speak English but not all of them. Learning a few basic phrases in Spanish would help before you arrive.
10. Costa Rica is safe, and theft is the most common crime.
Costa Rica has mostly petty crime issues so lock your car and doors and watch your valuables. Like most major cities and tourist areas, there are always a few bad guys hanging around to take advantage of foreigners.
11. Rainy season doesn’t mean it’s bad to travel.
Costa Rica is famous for itss rain forests after all. Here are some other things to know about why it’s actually awesome to visit Costa Rica in rainy season:
– Rainy season is also Costa Rica’s low season. This means less tourists!
– Prices for hotels and tours go down quite a bit. It’s the best time to travel cheap in Costa Rica.
– A typical rainy season day is sunny and hot in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon and rainy in the evening/night.
– Rainy season is the best time to see whales and turtles.
Costa Rica’s rainy season extends from the beginning of May to the end of November. The rainiest months for most of Costa Rica is September and October, with December and January being rainy months in the Caribbean.
12. Don’t Let Your Snake Guard Down.
We certainly don’t want to scare you away from Costa Rica, but you should be aware that there are 22 venomous species of snake slithering around the country. This includes the fer-de-lance, eye-lash viper and coral snake. Rest assured, they’re usually shy and try to avoid people, but bites do happen. The medical system is very good here, with antivenin widely distributed, but it’s not something you want to experience on your holiday. Be vigilant, stay on marked trails and obey your guide.
13. Don’t Touch the Cute Tiny Frogs.
Another type of critter to beware of when you’re wandering the rainforest is the thumbnail sized cute and colorful frogs with the elaborate designs – aptly named poison dart frogs. They’re super cute and look like rubber toys you’d find in a gumball machine, but some of them have a deadly poison that packs a punch. Resist the urge to touch these creatures. The deadliest little guys have enough venom to kill ten grown men if it gets in your bloodstream.
14. Mobile Internet and Wi-Fi are readily available.
You’ll find Mobile Internet (3G/4G) in most towns in Costa Rica, even in rural areas — and most hotels and restaurants provide Wi-Fi to their customers. When in doubt, ask!
15. Nearly every town has an ATM.
In the old days we didn’t but now we do! Check with your bank about daily limits.
16. Tap water is generally safe to drink.
Costa Rica’s water supply is fine to drink in most places — be sure to ask in more out-of-the-way rural areas, especially on the coast. Many buy bottled water to be safe.
17. US dollars are readily accepted and are the standard currency in tourism.
Hotels and tour companies quote their prices in US dollars since a good amount of the tourists are from the US. Additionally, Costa Ricans can have bank accounts in USD as mortgages and car payments in USD. US dollars have become the standard currency in tourism. Make sure you check what the exchange rate is when spending dollars.