Why Costa Rica?
Even though Costa Rica is a small country, it has a great biological and habitat diversity due to the convergence of two hemispheres, two oceans, and its varying geography. This creates wonderful changing views for travelers. There is a chain of mountains that forms a back- bone down the length of Costa Rica. They start in the north with the Guanacaste "Cordillera" (mountain range), continues with the Tilaran Cordillera (location of Monteverde and Arenal), the Central Cordillera (Irazu, Poás, Braulio Carrillo), and finishes with the southern Talamanca Cordillera (which is the highest in the country).
While the Pacific coastline is almost 780 miles (1,254 km), the Caribbean is only 132 miles (212 km). Hilly peninsulas are settled in the Pacific coast. There are two large gulfs, and many small coves and bays. Two major commercial ports are located in the Pacific: Puntarenas and Puerto Caldera. On the Caribbean, there is a natural harbor in the Moin - Limon area. It is the largest area of lowland plains (about one-fifth of Costa Rica), which stretches back from the northern coastline almost to Limon.
Costa Rica lies in the tropics between 8 and 11 degrees north of the equator. You might expect moderate temperatures, but the rugged mountain chain's effect on factors such as wind, and rain, creating many microclimates. Most people are surprised to learn that frost and ice can occur on some of the loftier peaks, such as Chirripo. Temperatures are somewhat higher on the Pacific side than on the Caribbean at the same elevation because there are more clouds on the Caribbean watershed year-round than on the Pacific. At sea level on either side, the annual average is always above 75°F (24°C). Some of the highest peaks average 54°F (12°C), though temperatures there can fall below freezing.
There is not spring, or fall times in Costa Rica. The seasons are called verano (summer) and invierno (winter).They are just a dry season (since December until April) and a rainy season (since May until November). Temperature has more variation from night to day than from verano to invierno. Difference in daily temperatures averages 14°F to 18°F (8°C to 10°C). From November to January, cold breezes from the north funnel through the mountains of North America causing a little down in temperature. This is one of the few countries in the world in which polar air gets this close to the equator. The warmest months are March, April, and May, and the wettest months are September and October. Rainfall amounts vary from less than 59 inches (1500mm) to more than 190 inches (4800mm) during these months. The country's average rainfall pattern is in the range of 79 to 158 inches (2,000 to 4,000 mm). Precipitation can come in the form of a tropical downpour with impressive lightning and thunder (aguacero), steady rain, or the less common, a continuous light rain for several days (temporal).
Even in the rainy season, rain will not fall during the all day, every day. It usually begins in early afternoon in the Central Valley and other highland areas, but later in the afternoon in the Pacific lowlands. Each season has its own beauty and unique characteristics. In wetter times the flora is profuse, with a vibrant life that gets into the soul. In the dry season the background is perfect for orchids, bougainvilleas, reina de la noche (queen of the night), as well as for colorful trees that flower only then.
Costa Rica can boast that it is the country with the highest percentage (25%) of its territory designated as protected areas: Forest Reserves, Biological Reserves, Nature Shelters, and of course, National Parks. These is another of the good reasons why many Europeans and North Americans, further than coming to travel, have made this land their home being nowadays around 1% of the Costa Rican population.
Area: 19,929 square miles
Capital: San Jose
Government type: Democratic republic
Language: Spanish (official), English
Literacy rate: 94.8%
Location: At 19,929 square miles, Costa Rica is slightly smaller in area than West Virginia, U.S. It borders Nicaragua on its north, Panama on the southeast, the Pacific Ocean on the west and southwest, and the Caribbean Sea on the northeast.
Major Religions: Roman Catholic (76.3%), Evangelical (13.7%)
Population (2002 est.): 3,834,934
About the weather in Costa Rica:
Be prepared for sunshine, rain, cool mountain breezes, and muggy jungle mists depending on where and when you visit our country. Due to our topography, we have a variety of microclimates. As you ascend or descend in altitude, or move from one province
to another, our weather changes.
Our rainy season, which typically brings sunny mornings and afternoon showers, lasts from May to November, but it's best to be prepared for rain at any time of the year. In rain forests and cloud forests, it rains almost every day, sometimes several times per day. Costa Rica's beaches are hot and humid, except for the northwestern province of Guanacaste, which tends to be dry and breezy. To get more specific, refer to the information provided in your itinerary.
More info in www.imn.ac.cr
Government offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Commercial offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores and other businesses are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Costa Rica offers superb craft items at affordable prices. Wooden and leather goods are excellent buys, and they are typically very well made. Wooden jewelry and jewelry boxes, utensils, serving bowls and other small ornaments can be easily transported home in your luggage. Leather purses, wallets, and briefcases are similar to those found in the other places, but at much better prices. Fresh roasted coffee beans are a popular buy, and can be purchased in elegant gift packaging. For the best deals, however, purchase coffee in a grocery store rather than a souvenir shop. You will get the same quality merchandise without inflated pricing. Silver, gold, and ceramic replicas of pre-Columbian artifacts also make great souvenirs, but think carefully before purchasing anything advertised as an antiquity. Customs will also seize most items involving furs, coral, tortoise shell, reptile skins, feathers, and plants.
Bargaining is not a common practice in Costa Rica, even at the stands of street vendors However, you can ask for "la feria" which is an extra object as a gift for the many you have purchased.
Remember to leave some extra space in your luggage when you are packing for your trip, so you can fit in your vacation purchases.
Like all Latin American countries, Costa Rica is predominantly Catholic, but churches of other denominations are found throughout the country.
Direct-dial telephone service, facsimile, telex, radio and cable television are all available. Bilingual operator assistance for international calls is - 116, local information - 113, long distance information - 124.
On the day of departure, travelers must be at the airport about two hours before the time their flight is scheduled to leave. There is a departure tax of US$26.00. There is a 13% sales tax at hotels, restaurants, and most service industries, and an additional 3% tourist tax at hotels.
Health care in Costa Rica is very good and sanitary standards are high. First aid assistance and access to hospitals are available throughout the country. However, you should bring sufficient supply of your prescribed medication if you are taking any. Travel insurance is advisable for refunds in your country of origin.
Spanish is officially spoken. English is the second language spoken in many areas throughout the country.
Costa Rica is in the same time zone as U.S. Central Standard Time.
January 1st: New Year’s Day
March/April: Easter Week
April 11th: Juan Santamaría Day
May 1st: Worker Day
July 25th: Annexation of Guanacaste Day
August 15th: Mother’s Day
September 15th: Independence Day
November 2nd: All Soul’s Day
December 25th: Christmas Day
... Costa Rica General Information ...
by Frida Travel Staff
Within Costa Rica’s 51,200
square kilometers there is a wider variety of species of birds than in all of Europe or North America. With a relatively small population of roughly three and a half million inhabitants, Costa Rica also boasts of one of the oldest and more consolidated democracies
in Latin America. In 1869, primary education for both sexes was declared obligatory and free of cost, defrayed by the State. In 1882 the death sentence was abolished. In the 1949 the armed forces were abolished and in 1983 Perpetual Neutrality was proclaimed.
Prestigious international human rights organizations have their headquarters in Costa Rica. Because of this, and of its lush 1500 kilometers of tropical sun-bathed beaches and the wild diversity of flora and fauna to be found in its wide array of microclimates
(most present in one or more of its National Parks), Costa Rica has justifiably earned its reputation of paradise regained.
Costa Rica's microclimates vary from the barren cold volcanic tundra to the exotic cloud forest, from the deep dense jungle of Talamanca to the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste, from quiet gold-hued beaches where the Baulas Tortoises build their nests to the winding Tortuguero Canals where the crocodile is king. Even so, Costa Rica's overall climate can be best described as mild. Being located within the tropics, seasonal changes in Costa Rica are not as dramatic as they are in countries on other latitudes. There is a 'dry" season (equivalent to summer and spring) during which temperatures hover pleasantly in the high 60’s to low 70’s (20 –23 degrees C), which goes from December to May, and a "wet" season from June to November during which mornings are usually sunny and showers might be expected in the afternoon. On areas near the coasts, temperatures may be as much as ten degrees higher, where as at Chirripó Peak, the highest mountain in Costa Rica (3800 meters), temperatures may drop down to the freezing point. Tourists should bring light clothes: a jacket and a raincoat is all the protection you'll need unless you plan to go hiking in the higher mountains.
Costa Rica is six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is equivalent to Central Time in North America. There is no daylight saving time.
Costa Rica's official language is Spanish. On the Caribbean Coast a small minority of Jamaican descendants speak a local version of English, and most Costa Ricans can understand and speak a bit of English. Quite recently all public schools made mandatory the learning of a second language.
As in the rest of Latin America, Roman Catholicism is Costa Rica’s main religion, but there is a very wide margin of tolerance and the constitutional freedom of creed is always respected. Costa Rica’s religions by percentage of practicing members: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%.
Costa Rica is a civil law country which means that the organization of the legal system is derived from the French Napoleonic Code as opposed to English common law. The Government of Costa Rica has 4 branches: The Judicial, Executive - President and cabinet ministers, Legislative - Elected members and Electoral Tribunal - takes over police and all government functions dealing with elections before each election. Members are usually unpaid volunteers who are judges. This is to ensure all elections are completely democratic and free.
The national currency is the colon and dollars are easily exchanged at all banks, other foreign currency can be exchanged through private agencies. All mayor credit cards as well as travelers checks are widely accepted. The colon exchanges at 460 per dollar (as of March 2005) and can be expected to increment by 0,17 on average per day.
The standard in Costa Rica is the same as in the United States: 110 volts AC (60 cycles). However, three-pronged outlets can be scarce, so it's helpful to bring along an adapter.
Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 3:30pm, although many have begun to offer extended hours. Offices are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm (many close for 1 hr. at lunch). Stores are generally open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm (many close for 1 hr. at lunch).
There are postal and telegraph offices in cities and villages throughout the country. The Central Post Office is located in San José on Second Street between Avenues 1 and 3, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 12 noon. Radiográfica Costarricense is located on Fifth Avenue between Streets 1 and 3. This company provides telex, fax, international data transmission, and many other services (including Internet access). The country code for Costa Rica is 506, and there is no area code inside the country.
International Air Transportation: Most air traffic to and from Costa Rica is handled through the Juan Santamaría Airport, located 29 minutes from San José, in the city of Alajuela.
Domestic Air Transportation: All flights leave from the International Juan Santamaría Airport or the Tobías Bolaños Airport. There is a network of internal airports which not only serve important cities, but special interest tourist areas. Among the most important are: Liberia, Palmar Sur, Tamarindo, Barra del Colorado, Limón, Quepos, Golfito, Coto 47, etc. From the Tobías Bolaños Airport, located to the west of the capital city, private airlines offer flights to most areas of the country.
Domestic Bus Service: The country, in general, offers adequate bus service. The majority are private companies which link San José with the principal provincial towns and cities, seaports and tourist areas. With good-quality vehicles and frequent itineraries, the user can easily travel by bus throughout the country. In the main cities and villages nationwide, there are taxicab companies that service the user to the more remote places in the country. Four-wheel drive vehicles are typical for the rural areas.
International Bus Service: Leaving from San José, there is bus service to Central America and Panama. The companies: TICA BUS, SIRC
A and TRACOPA have scheduled trips to Panama, Nicaragua and other countries.
Automobile Circulation: Costa Rica has a good highway network, the majority of which, for tourist use, is paved. In most places there are adequate traffic signs. In the major highways there are toll booths (San José-San Ramón, San José-Guápiles, San José-Cartago, San José-Ciudad Colón). Throughout the country there are many gas stations, some of which offer round-the-clock service. Costa Rica does not have self-service gas stations.
Driver Requirements: A foreigner may drive with a current license from his country of origin and his passport, during the three months that his tourist visa is valid. Warning triangles should be carried at all times by all drivers, and seat belts are also required for drivers and front-seat passengers. The use of helmets for motorcycle conductors is required.
Click here for a complete list of foreign embassies and consulates.
With a valid passport and round trip or continuing ticket, citizens of the United States of America, Canada, Germany, Spain and Italy can travel to Costa Rica for a 90-day stay without a consular visa. To stay legally beyond the period granted, travelers will need to submit an application for an extension to the Office of Temporary Permits in the Costa Rican Department of Immigration. Tourist visas are usually not extended except under special circumstances, such as academic, employment, or medical grounds, and extension requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There is a departure tax for short-term visitors. Tourists who stay over ninety days without receiving a formal extension can expect to pay a higher departure tax at the airport or land border, and may experience some delay at the airport. Persons who have overstayed previously may be denied entry to Costa Rica.
As of this time, Costa Rica does not require visitors to have any particular vaccinations, although you should make sure that all your normal vaccinations are up to date.
Medical Facilities & Services
Any foreigner who is temporarily in the country has the right to receive health attention at hospitals and clinics in case of an emergency, sudden illness or a chronic disease. Costa Rica boasts a modern and renown medical health system, under the administration of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS)…more information
Costa Rica has a 911 system for reporting emergencies. Crimes that are no longer in progress should be reported in person at the nearest police station. In the event of a traffic accident, vehicles must be left where they are, and not moved out of the way. Both the Tránsito (Traffic Police) and the Insurance Investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles are moved. Although sometimes slow to respond after notification, these officials will come to the accident scene.
Emergency telephone numbers:
Emergencies . . . . . . .911 (Metropolitan area)
Fire Department and
Rescue Units. . . . . . .118
Traffic Police. . . . . .222-9330/ 222-9245
Police Department . . . .117
Rural Police Department .127
Red Cross . . . . . . . .128
Juan Santamaría International Airport Phone:
Limón International Airport . Phone: 758-1379
Tobías Bolaños International Airport. Phone: 232-2820
Daniel Oduber Quiros International
Airport (Liberia, Guanacaste) . Phone: 666-0695