Costa Rica

Useful info


Time
Costa Rica Standard Time is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-6). 

Electricity
Costa Rica electricity supply: 120 volts AC 60 Hz.

Money
The Costa Rican currency is the colón (plural colones, ₡), named after Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus). Bills come in 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 notes, while coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 25, 50 and 100. Note that older coins are larger and silver, while newer ones are smaller and gold-colored – this is often a source of confusion for travelers fresh off the plane.

The majority of banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., although some now offer extended hours.
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 and dollars, but once you fan out from San Jose, small businesses, restaurants, and hotels will ask for cash payment in colones, the local currency. Don't worry, ATMs are scattered throughout the country, and usually offer good exchange rates.

Tipping
It is customary to tip the bellhop/porter (1 - 3 USD per service) and the housekeeper (1 - 2 USD per day) in top-end hotels, less in budget places. On guided tours, tip the guide 1 -10 USD per person per day. Tip the tour driver about half of what you tip the guide. Naturally, tips depend upon quality of service. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, unless some special service is provided. Top-end restaurants may add a 10% service charge onto the bill. If not, you might leave a small tip to show your appreciation, but it is not required.

Weather
Located between 8° and 11° north of the equator, Costa Rica enjoys a temperate tropical climate marked by two seasons: the rainy (summer, or verano) and the dry (winter, or invierno) season.

The rainy season generally runs from May until early December with April and November being months of transition. During the rainy season, mornings are usually sunny, with afternoon storms moving in later in the day. There is an average of four or more hours of sun per day during the rainy season. The dry season runs from mid-December through April.

Health
Any foreigner who is temporarily in the country has the right to receive health attention at hospitals and clinics in case of an emergency, sudden illness or a chronic disease. Costa Rica has a modern medical system, under the administration of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).
As of this time, Costa Rica does not require visitors to have any particular vaccinations, although you should make sure that all of your normal vaccinations are up to date.

Water
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.

Security & Safety
Currently there are no travel warnings for Costa Rica. It is one of the safest countries in the world to visit.

What to pack
A great pair of waterproof hiking shoes.
A pair of lightweight multi-sport shoes are ideal for varying terrains.
Whether you’re whitewater rafting or waterfall rappelling, you’ll love having a great pair of convertible, quick-dry pants.
Quick-dry shirt is a great option for packing light and staying clean.
A couple pairs of quick-dry socks will serve you well on rainforest expeditions, aquatic excursions, and any other Costa Rican adventure.
A full-coverage oncho keeps you warm and dry during a rainforest shower.
Rain jacket or wind slicker.
Heavy-duty reef sandals are a great pick for water-based adventure activities or a light hike.
A sun hat, pair of sunglasses and skin care products with the sun block to protect you from the uv-radiation.

Food & Drink
To generalize a Costa Rican meal, one would certainly have to talk about black beans and rice (gallo pinto). This simple, standard dish, often referred to as comida tipica, is the backbone of Costa Rican cuisine. While many of the dishes are still prepared with oils high in saturated fats, Costa Rican food is generally quite healthy when coupled with an active lifestyle. Cheese and other dairy products are rarely utilized. Often served with a good portion of fruits or vegetables or both, the meals are very well rounded and generally high in fiber.

Olla de carne is a delicious stew made with beef, potatoes, carrots, chayote (vegetable pear), plantains and yucca.
Sopa negra is a simple soup made with black beans. The hearty Sopa de mondongo is made with tripe and vegetables. Guiso de maíz is a corn stew.

Roast pork is the chief meat staple. Pork and chicken are often roasted over coffee wood for a savory, smokey flavor.
Ultra-fresh seafood is more readily available near the coasts, though shrimp and lobster are offered throughout most of the country. San José's fish of choice is sea bass, or corvina; however, dorado, swordfish, and myriad others are available at the coastal resorts. As a common appetizer, Ceviche is a dish of raw fish marinated in lemon juice with cilantro and onions.

Common Dishes and Condiments
Tortilla - name for either a small, thin corn tortilla or an omellete
Tortilla de queso - a thick tortilla with cheese in the dough
Arreglados - greasy puff pastries made with meat
Tortas - sandwiches on buns
Arroz con polo - rice with chicken and vegetables
Gallos - meat, beans, or cheese between two tortillas
Masamorra - corn pudding
Natilla - sour cream of a relatively thin consistency
Palomitas de maíz - popcorn
Picadillo - sautéed vegetables sometimes with meat, served as a side dish
Tacos - meat and cabbage salad tucked into a tortilla
Tamal de elote - sweet corn tamales wrapped in corn husks
Tamales - cornmeal, often stuffed with pork or chicken, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.

Drinks
Refrescos, made of blended fruit and ice, are very popular refreshments.
A sweet and spicy drink, horchata is made of roasted ground rice and cinnamon.
Beer is also a common drink among Ticos. Two local breweries, Bavaria and Imperial, make light and crisp lager-style beers, perfect thirst-quencher for the balmy, tropical climate. Wine is not very popular and is usually imported and expensive. The working man's drink is guaro, a clear white spirit.

National Holidays
*  1 Jan - New Year's Day.
*  2 Apr - 5 Apr Easter.
*  10 Apr - Juan Santamaría's Day. A national holiday honoring a young
    fighter  who defended his country to the death against William Walkers
    forces at the battle of Rivas in 1856.
*  1 May - Labour Day.
*  25 Jul - Guanacaste Day celebrates the annexation of Guancaste from
    Nicaragua in 1824.
*  2 Aug - Virgin of Los Angeles. A national holiday celebrating the patron
    saint of Costa Rica, La Negrita.
*  15 Aug - Mothers' Day and Assumption.
*  15 Sep - Independence Day. A nationwide celebration of independence
     from Spain in 1821
*  11 Oct - Dia de la Raza. Columbus Day celebrates Columbus'
    discovery of the Americas.
*  25 Dec - Christmas Day.