Practical Info

about-costa-ricaAbout Costa Rica
the land of Pura Vida

Costa Rica Tripping offers trip ideas (like Hotspots in 10 days) and in-depth background information on Costa Rica, an astoundingly beautiful place bursting at the seams with wildlife and adventure. (see more)

about-the-authorAbout the Author

Since she was a girl, Erin Van Rheenen has been fascinated with Latin America. Family vacations were often spent driving and camping in Mexico, and later, when she could travel under her own steam, she began exploring as much of Mexico, Central America, and South America as possible. (see more)

alternative-medicineAlternative Medicine
From Acupuncture to Yoga

Alternative medicine--such as acupuncture and homeopathy--is popular in Costa Rica, especially in the Central Valley and in touristed beach towns, where arrivals from other countries have brought with them their interest in all things holistic. (see more)

bring-moneyBring Money
Paper or plastic?

As in most of the world, credit and debit cards rule in Costa Rica. Credit cards are widely accepted, especially in tourist areas, though it's always a good idea to have cash on you as well. (see more)

busing-itBusing It
Cheap & reliable

Costa Rica has a great bus system--cheap, extensive, and often on time. You can get just about any place in the country for under US$15. It's also a great way to see Costa Rica without the expense or hassle of a car, and to make contact with locals, who use buses as their daily transport. (see more)

costa-rica-traveler-magazineCosta Rica Traveler Magazine
Invaluable online and print resource

Costa Rica Traveler magazine puts out a glossy full-color magazine with wonderful photos and advice about where to go in Costa Rica. (see more)

daniel-oduber-airportDaniel Oduber Airport
Easy beach access

Costa Rica's second international airport is (see more)

drink-the-waterDrink the Water
Yes you can

Often people don't believe it until they arrive, but it's true: You can drink the water in Costa Rica! (see more)

drivingDriving
Rough fun

The roads are riddled with pot holes (if they’re paved at all), signage is woefully inadequate, torrential rains can make some routes impassable, and all the aggression Costa Ricans repress in their daily lives comes out when they get behind the wheel. (see more)

emergency-numbersEmergency Numbers
Fire, traffic accidents and reporting crimes

Emergency Numbers (see more)

explore-medical-tourismExplore Medical Tourism
Cut-rate facelifts and bargain bypasses

Why would you want to get on a plane to get your health care? To save money, of course. (see more)

hospital-cima-san-joseHospital CIMA San José
Modern hospital near the capital

One of the better hospitals in the country, CIMA► is a very modern facility that opened in 2000, near the upscale suburb of Escazú, about half an hour from downtown San José. (see more)

hospital-clinica-biblicaHospital Clínica Bíblica
Arguably the best hospital in Costa Rica

Founded in 1929 by Christian missionaries from Scotland and Ireland, the Bíblica (as this well-regarded hospital is known) takes up more than a city block in downtown San José. (see more)

hospital-la-cato-licaHospital La Católica
San José-area hospital

La Católica is one of three best San José-area hospitals vying for your medical tourist dollar. (see more)

hospitals-and-doctorsHospitals & Doctors
High-quality public and private care

Costa Rica is served by an extensive network of public hospitals and clinics, with a parallel world of private clinics serving those who can afford them. To access public services you're supposed to be a resident, but they won't turn you away in an emergency. Anyone can access private clinics. (see more)

juan-santamaria-airport-sjoJuan Santamaría Airport (SJO)
Just north of San José

Costa Rica's main airport is in Alajuela, 16 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of downtown San José. The airport occupies an attractive glass-and-steel terminal with fast food options, wireless Internet access, TVs, gift shops, and a money-change counter. (see more)

living-abroad-in-costa-ricaLiving Abroad in Costa Rica
How to move to the jewel of Central America

Do you dream of moving abroad? Have you always meant to take a closer look at Costa Rica, famous for coffee, rainforests, and political stability? (see more)

pharmacies-and-prescriptionsPharmacies & Prescriptions
Bring your Rx, and go generic

Pharmacies in Costa Rica (called farmacias) are on easy to come by, and most are well-stocked. If you bring a prescription from outside the country, make sure it is for generic rather than brand-name medication--generic names are common to all countries, while brand names are not. (see more)

safetySafety
Be alert

Crime is on the rise, especially in the capital city of San José. Costa Rica still has less violent crime than the United States and is safer than most of its Central American neighbors, but visitors need to be alert. Petty theft is common, and tourists are easy targets. Keep your bags close, your money in deep pockets or tucked into a money belt, and your wits about you. (see more)

shuttle-busesShuttle Buses
Zip from town to town

Grayline Tours (tel. 506-2220-2126, from the U.S. or Canada 1-800-719-3905) and (see more)

snakesSnakes
100 varieties, but fear not

Costa Rica has more than 100 kinds of snakes, including venomous ones such as the much-feared fer-de-lance (also known as the terciopelo), which accounts for 80 percent of all snakebites in the country, and the yellow-bellied, black-backed sea snake, which paddles along in the Pacific Ocean with its oar-like tail. (see more)

taxisTaxis
Red cabs with yellow medallions

Official taxis are red, with the taxi's ID number in a yellow triangle on the door. Taxis should have meters (called marías), and drivers should use them--otherwise you'll have to haggle, which is hard to do when you don't know how much the fare should be. (see more)

tipping-and-taxesTipping & Taxes
Tourists tip, locals don't

Since a 10 percent service charge is included on all restaurant bills, most Ticos (Costa Ricans) leave no tip. If service has been exceptional, you might want to leave another 5 percent, but it's not required or expected. (see more)

travel-by-light-planeTravel by light plane
Puddle-jumpers save you time

Domestic airlines use small planes to make their short hops (20 to 40 minutes) to many towns in the country, from Tortuguero to Puerto Jimenez to Tamarindo. (see more)

vaccinationsVaccinations
You don't need them

Epidemic diseases have mostly been wiped out in Costa Rica, and the country requires no proof of vaccination upon entry. (see more)

visas-and-immigrationVisas & Immigration
Getting in and out painlessly

Citizens of the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most European countries don't need visas to travel to Costa Rica. Check with the Costa Rican embassy for details on specific countries. Here's more detailed visa information. (see more)

wayfinding-addressesWayfinding/Addresses
No street names, numbers, or signs

Whether you're driving on a dirt road deep in the jungle or walking along a crowded city street, finding your way in Costa Rica can be a real challenge. Roads--even major highways--are often not signed at all, and even main streets may have no indication of what they're called. (see more)

when-to-goWhen to Go
High season is Dec - April

Costa Rica's tourist high season runs from early December through the end of April. This is the country's dry season--or summer, if you like--though temperatures remain fairly constant year-round, with variations more a function of altitude than season. (see more)