Costa Rica Travel Information

The Basics


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.

Travel Health

There are no vaccination requirements for Costa Rica. As a precaution, vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid are recommended for travel to Costa Rica. There is a year-round risk of malaria in some regions of Costa Rica and advice should be taken on which areas are currently risky places to visit. You should also check out what precautions and medication you must 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 three 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 you can use discretion if it's been a long trip or there was intense traffic. People will often round off the fare to the nearest Costa Rican colón or US Dollar. Tour guides, on the other hand, are normally tipped. In general, if service has been particularly good, staff appreciate a five to 10 percent tip.

Safety Information

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.

Local Customs

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 homogenous.


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. Costa Rica has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in Latin America. Internet cafes are available in the main towns while wifi is available in most hotels, restaurants, and cafes.

Duty Free

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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