The Caribbean Lowlands Travel Information
Local time is GMT -6.
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Flat two-pin plugs and three-pin (two flat blades with round grounding pin) plugs are in use.
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely spoken.
There are no vaccination requirements for Costa Rica. As a precaution, vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and tetanus-diphtheria (every 10 years) are recommended for travel to Costa Rica. There is a risk of malaria in some areas of Costa Rica year-round and advice should be taken on which areas are currently risky and what precautions and medication you should take to protect against the disease. Water in cities is generally safe but it is advisable to buy bottled water, especially outside the main towns where there is a risk of contamination. Dengue fever is one of a number of diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region, especially during the rainy season; protection against insect bites is the best prevention. Medical services are reliable in cities and the standard of hygiene and treatment is very high.
Hotels add a 10 percent service charge plus a 3 percent tourist tax to their bills by law. In tourist and upmarket restaurants a tip of 10 percent is usual, however some establishments already include a 17 percent sales and service tax in the bill. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, but tour guides are. In general if service has been particularly good staff appreciate a 5 to 10 percent tip.
There is no history of terrorism in Costa Rica, however there are incidents of violent crime, occasionally targeting tourists. There has been an increase in attacks on tourists leaving the airport in hired cars in San Jose. Belongings should be watched carefully at all times and in all places, particularly in bus stations and on public transport. Theft of, and from, cars is common. Do not wear jewellery or carry large amounts of cash and avoid moneychangers on the street. Strikes, protests and blockades have recently taken place without warning and further demonstrations could disrupt travel on main roads, particularly those connecting San Jose with the coast.
Costa Ricans are conservative when it comes to family values, and roles between male and female are expected to be traditional. 'Machismo' is a key characteristic of Costa Rica culture, although women are quickly becoming more empowered in Tico society. The population is largely middle-class, Catholic and ethnically homegenous.
Costa Rica has a formal business environment, where men and women wear conservative suits, appointments are made and meetings begin on time. Business projects can be slow, however, as Costa Ricans are conservative in their approach to new ideas and keen to avoid risk. Spanish is the main language, but most business people speak English; however, it is polite to have business cards as well as other promotional material printed in both English and Spanish. A lot of women have high profile jobs, although the business world, like the society in general, is still male dominated. Visiting businesswomen will be treated with respect once their ability and authority is clearly established. Hours of business are generally 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday with a two-hour lunch break from 12pm.
The international access code for Costa Rica is +506. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City codes are not required. Costa Rica has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in Latin America. The cheapest way to phone internationally is a direct call using a phone card. Mobile phone operators use GSM 1800 networks. Internet cafes are available in the main towns.
Travellers to Costa Rica over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 3 litres of alcohol; 500g of tobacco or 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars. Perfume for personal use is allowed provided it is a reasonable quantity.
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