The main language spoken is Spanish. Most business professionals, plus key staff at tourist hotels and most guides speak very good English. Travelers with little or no Spanish generally have no problems working with a hotel front desk or activities concierge making Costa Rica an ideal Latin American country to visit no matter your language skills.
The local currency is the Costa Rica Colon. Dollars are often accepted at many major restaurants, hotels, and shops but for best value, it’s best to convert Dollars to Colones. This is very easy since ATM machines are prevalent throughout the major tourist areas like most major beach towns, the larger cities, and smaller adventure hubs. Credit cards are generally accepted in bigger towns and at hotels.
To call internationally from Costa Rica, dial: 00 + country code + area code + telephone number. Hotel receptionists will help you make calls.
Only global cell phones will work and only in the bigger towns. You may want to consider renting one or getting a satellite phone.
Costa Rica is profoundly friendly country. Most travelers return from their experience with rave reviews of the people they’ve encountered – the kindness and enthusiasm for life (“pura vida”) of native “Ticos” is something everyone should experience. Few travelers are untouched by the culture here. That said, please take the usual precautions when traveling in Costa Rica like you would anywhere. If you have questions or concerns, it’s best to contact us and we can help with suggestions for a safe and enjoyable trip. While violent crime is almost unheard of in Costa Rica, property crime like petty theft and stolen cars is a significant issue so we recommend two things:
1) Leave your valuables at home (precious jewelry, fancy watches, any precious electronics, family mementos, and the like – basically, anything that is irreplaceable to you) and
2) We strongly recommend against renting a car in Costa Rica. With professional, punctual, affordable, and comfortable a/c shuttles available to 80% – 90% of the best destinations, there’s little reason to rent a car. Activity operators typically arrange local transport from hotels to the activities and back. There are also affordable flights and even more affordable buses of course, plus taxis in major tourist areas and cities. Renting a car opens you up to scams, high insurance costs, petty theft like a car break in (especially when parked at beaches, parks, etc.) and car theft. Basically, car rentals in Costa Rica can be more headache than it’s worth.
The tap water throughout 95% of Costa Rica is safe to drink (as are the ice cubes). In ultra rural or backwater places however, proceed carefully and it’s probably wise to resort to bottled water in any situation you are uncertain off. Bottled water is available throughout the country. There are hospitals in major cities, with the best facilities in San Jose, so quality medical care is often only a 30 minute plane ride away in most situations. Health care clinics are prevalent throughout the country and are stocked with critical care items, like anti-venom. While no shots or pills are necessarily needed for the usual US or European tourist to Costa Rica, being up to date on Hep A and B, plus Tetanus, is a great idea. Please see a travel doctor before your trip or contact us if you have any specific questions or concerns.
Food in Costa Rica is generally fairly simple – lots of beans and rice, plus friend plantains while lunches & dinner entrees generally come with a side of meat (often chicken, beef, or fish, whatever you prefer). Salads are refreshingly delightful and usually safe to eat especially in popular restaurants and hotels in tourist areas. Beach towns will offer lots of fresh seafood and cracked coconuts to drink. Fresh fruits are found everywhere, with fresh juices and “batidos” (fresh fruit drinks) being especially delicious. The national beer, Imperial, is a light and refreshing beverage. Cocktails are especially popular at beach hotels and bars but found nearly everywhere there is a bar.
Travel Alerts & Warnings
U.S. Department of State:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):