Costa Rica can be deceptively similar to wherever it is you call home, but several basics are a little bit different. Read this list, print it out and pack it in your bags, because our tips will help make your trip to paradise a little smoother.
Need some guidance on getting To Jaco? We’ve prepared some information for you about how to get your passport, shopping for flights, clearning Customs & Immigration, and ground transport from the Airport. Check out our Getting to Jungle Jam Guide.
Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Saving Time. From March through October, during U.S. Daylight Saving Time, Costa Rica’s time zone is equivalent to Mountain Standard Time. November through March, Costa Rica’s time zone is equivalent to Central Standard Time.
Unless specifically labeled “no potable,” you can drink Costa Rica’s water. This means that you don’t have to worry about fruit or vegetable salads, fruit drinks, or any other food item made with water that has not been boiled.
Shots & Inoculation
You do not need any shots or inoculations to come to Costa Rica, despite what people may tell you. However, it’s always wise to make sure you’re up-to-date on your tetanus shot.
Mosquitoes & Dengue Fever
Dengue fever, a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes, is found throughout Latin America. Though not a major problem in Costa Rica, it affects hundreds of people in isolated pockets of the country every year. The virus is most prevalent in urban communities. Also known as break-bone fever, it causes severe flu-like symptoms, lethargy, nausea, joint pains and a rash. There is no treatment for Dengue other than rest and rehydration. Symptoms can last anywhere from one to three weeks. As there is no inoculation for the virus, prevention is key. Be sure to bring plenty of bug repellent (or buy some here), and wear long-sleeved shirts on buggy evenings.
Driving Costa Rica’s roads can be an adventure sport, with few street signs, aggressive drivers, and distances that seem deceptively short on a map. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times, budget plenty of driving time, and practice both offensive and defensive driving. Be extra cautious, there are many twists and turns and drivers pass when they aren’t supposed to as passing laws are not followed so be extra defensive and ready to dodge oncoming drivers. It sounds scary, it’s not too outrageous but it is probably the biggest cause of accidents in the country.
Costa Ricans do not use North American-style directions. An address or directions will be given by referencing a landmark, and can be a little tricky to understand at first.
Credit Cards & Cash
Credit cards are widely accepted in heavily touristed spots, but you can’t use them in some of the more rural areas. Hotels and restaurants will generally accept credit cards across the country. Dollars are accepted in Costa Rica and ATMs usually dispense both dollars and colones, the local currency. You can also exchange your dollars at a bank here and get a good exchange rate, bring your passport to do so.
You can find camera memory cards for sale, though heavy import taxes make them expensive. Try to bring backups from home.
Restaurant bills will almost always include tax and service charge. Sales tax is 13% and service charge is 10%. See on the menu or ask you server, sometimes the taxes are included into the prices listed on the menu or they are added to your bill after. So if prices seem high at a restaurant it may be because they have added the taxes into the prices listed. The service charge is divided amongst everyone in the restaurant including the kitchen staff. Tip over if you like to take care of your server.
At hotels and the airport, $0.50-$1/bag is an appropriate tip for the concierge or baggage handlers. On the street, you’ll often find area guards willing to watch your car until you return. For their services, a $1 tip is appropriate. Tip tour guides $5-$20 per person, depending on the guide’s knowledge and the cost of the tour. Don’t tip the taxi driver, unless you want to round the fare up a bit.
Coin laundries are virtually non-existent in Costa Rica. Instead, you’ll find lavanderias throughout the country, where employees will wash, dry, and fold your laundry for less than $5 per load. Depending where you are it doesn’t hurt to ask where the best lavanderia is because some are definitely better than others. All Jungle Jam condo packages have a laundry room in each unit.
Leaving Costa Rica
On the way out of Costa Rica, you’ll have to pay a $29 exit tax, payable with cash at the international airport. There is an ATM there if you need to use it. If you’re traveling with an underage child without his/her second parent, you will need extensive paperwork to be allowed out of the country. Don’t come without it.