Costa Rica General Information

Costa Rica is a small Central American country with a myriad of fantastic destinations to explore! Over 25% of Costa Rica’s territory is protected by the government’s extensive national parks system. This creates a haven for countless species of flora and fauna, and offers visitors a wide array of activities and opportunities to partake of paradise… As you experience Costa Rica, you can go from surfing along the dry tropical forest of the Central Pacific, to dancing calypso music beside the exuberant Caribbean coast. You can hike misty cloud forests, discover majestic volcanoes, fly above the rainforest canopy, bathe under a waterfall, spot a family of monkeys, or simply relax as this wildlife wonderland unfolds right in front of your eyes.


In addition to the numerous tourist attractions offered by the country, there is also a large selection in terms of lodging accommodations. From five star resorts to small eco-lodges, Costa Rica has something to suit everybody's preferences and budget. Getting to the country is also easy. Most major airlines fly to Costa Rica from key cities in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Add Costa Rica’s peaceful and friendly lifestyle into the mix and you get one of the most visited vacation spots in the world!


Country Facts

Official Language. Spanish (English is spoken as a second language in most tourist areas).


Electricity. The nationwide voltage is 110-v AC. However, a few remote areas use their own power source.


Water. The water is safe to drink in all areas of the country.


Time Zone. Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time (GMT -6), but does not observe daylight saving time.


Currency Exchange. The Colón is Costa Rica’s official currency. Exchange rates fluctuate everyday and you may exchange your money at banks and hotel front desks throughout the country. US dollars are accepted at most tourist destinations, excluding some small villages.


Credit Cards. Most major credit cards are accepted all through the country, but some smaller businesses will only accept local currency.


Climate. As a tropical country, Costa Rica only experiences two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season goes from December until April and the rainy season goes from May to November. During the rainy season rain can be expected in the afternoons; yet, the mornings are usually sunny. Costa Rica’s year round average temperature is 22° C (72° F). On the coastal areas, it can get as high as 27°C (81°F) and in high altitude it can decrease down to 15°C (57°F).


Clothing. If you are visiting the beach, pack light clothes, sandals, sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat. Bring a light sweater or jacket for your visits to some volcanoes and forests. Finally, make sure you have comfortable shoes and at least one pair of long pants ­also, bring your raincoat if you have one!


Communications. You will find reliable telephone service all over Costa Rica; however, many cell phone service providers do not offer coverage in the country. Internet access is widely spread and cable TV services offer plenty of international channels. For international calls, dial (00) followed by your country code, area code, and telephone number.


Hospitals. Health care services in Costa Rica uphold high sanitary standards and first class hospitals are found throughout San José and other largely populated areas.


International Airports. Costa Rica has two main international airports, the Juan Santamaría International Airport, located 20 minutes from San José in the Central Valley and the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, located in Liberia, Guanacaste. At Gray Line, we offer you airport shuttle services from both of these airports to your hotel.


Entry Requirements. Foreign visitors require a valid passport to enter the country. US, Canadian, and most European citizens do not require a visa; however, check visa requirements with a Costa Rican embassy near you before traveling.


Customs. You can bring up to 500 cigarettes and three liters of wine or spirits duty free.


Taxes. Sales tax in Costa Rica is 13%.


Tipping. In Costa Rica, a 10% service tax is included in your restaurant bills, so you are not expected to tip. Taxi drivers are not tipped either. For most tourist services, tip is not included but there is no standard in terms of how much you should give.


Business Hours. Government offices are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Commercial offices, stores, and other businesses are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores are also open Saturday and Sunday until noon. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Some private banks offer their services until 7:00 p.m. and others, located inside shopping centers, are open on Saturdays.


Government. The Republic of Costa Rica is one of the oldest democracies in the Americas, and the only country in the world without an army. Presidential elections are held every four years.


Population. Costa Rica has a population of 4 million people and over 50% of them live in the Central Valley. Per capita annual carbon dioxide emission is 1.2 metric tons (USA: 19.9). Costa Rica has a large middle class, relatively high standard of living, high literacy rate (96%) and life expectancy at birth similar to most industrialized nations (78 years).


Religion. Costa Rica’s official religion is Catholicism, but freedom of worship is respected.


Size. Costa Rica is 51,100 square kilometers ­roughly the size of West Virginia.


Topography. Located between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. A series of volcanic mountain chains run from the Nicaraguan border in the northwest to the Panamanian border in the southeast, splitting the country in half. The Central Valley is located in the middle of these mountain ranges and there are coastal lowlands on both sides of them.


National Holidays.

- January 1st ­ New Years Day
- April 11th ­ Juan Santamaría’s Day (National Hero)
- Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter
- May 1st ­ International Labor Day
- July 25th ­ Annexation of Guanacaste Day
- August 2nd ­ Angels’ Virgin Day (Country’s Patron)
- August 15th ­ Mother’s Day
- September 15th ­ Independence Day
- October 12th ­ Columbus Day
- December 25th ­ Christmas Day