Costa Rica Tourist Facts:
Language. Spanish is the official language. English is spoken in tourist areas throughout the country.
Electricity. 110-volt AC is found nationwide. A few outlying areas use their own power source so check ahead before traveling.
Water. The water is safe to drink in all areas of the country.
Currency Exchange.The official currency is the Colon and is easier to use than dollars. The currency rate fluctuates every day without notice. US dollars are accepted throughout the country, except in small villages, where local currency is required. You can exchange money at the International Airport, banks and hotels receptions.
Credit Cards and Travelers Checks. Most major credit cards are accepted throughout the country, but some smaller businesses will only accept local currency.
Time Zone. Costa Rica is the same as US Central Standard Time (GMT -6), but does not observe daylight savings time.
Climate. Costa Rica is a tropical country and experiences only two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season is generally between late December and April, and the wet season lasts the rest of the year. The Caribbean coast tends to be wet all year. Temperatures vary little between seasons, the average is 24 degrees Celsius, and the main influence on temperature is altitude. The coasts are very hot and humid, with the Caribbean averaging 21 degrees Celsius at night and over 30 degrees Celsius during the day, the Pacific is a few degrees warmer still.
Clothing. Pack light for your travels. The highland areas can be very cold, so pack a sweater if you are going there. For the lowland area light, loose-fitting shirts and pants are essential. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are recommended for the beach.
Communications. Direct-dial service is efficient and there are more telephones per capita than in any other Latin American country. Facsimiles, telex, radio Internet access and cable television is all-available throughout the country. Bilingual operator assistance for international calls is -116, Local information -113, Long distance information -124.
Hospitals. Health care in Costa Rica is very good and sanitary standards are high. First class hospitals are found throughout San Jose and some of the other largely populated areas.
Departure Tax. The average rate is US $27 to depart by air. Land and sea exits are not charged.
Taxes. There is a 13% sales tax at hotels, restaurants and most service industries, and an additional 3% tourist tax at hotels.
Tipping. A 10% tip is appropriate. Most restaurants will add the tip to your bill so read your bill before paying a tip. Other services do not include tip, as is voluntary according to services received.
Government. Costa Rica is a democratically elected republic. One of the oldest democracies en America, and the only country in the world without an army. Elections are held every four years.
Topography. Panama borders Costa Rica to the south and by Nicaragua to the north. It has both a Caribbean and a Pacific coast. A series of volcanic mountain chains runs from the Nicaraguan border in the northwest to the Panama border in the south east, splitting the country in two, In the center of these ranges is a high-altitude plain, with coastal lowlands on either side. Over half the population lives on this plain, which has fertile volcanic soils. The Caribbean coast is 132 miles long and Pacific coast is 635 miles long.