1. Documents to enter the country
If you have a passport of the European Union or Switzerland, or from Canada or the USA, you get a 90-day tourist visa stamped in your passport when you enter the country. So except a passport that is valid 6 months after your return flight, you don’t need anything else. If you are under 18 years old and traveling alone, you need specific permissions signed by both parents, which you get in the embassies of each country. If you have a connection flight in another country like the USA, you might need a transit visa.
If you need prescription medicine, you need a medical certificate in English or Spanish. I recommend you to take all the medicine that you use on a regular base with you, so you don’t have to worry about finding the same one that might have another name here or higher prices. Better save time and stress and enjoy the beautiful nature!
You don’t need special vaccinations to enter the country, except if you come from a country where yellow fever is common. Costa Rica is not affected by yellow fever.
2. Paying in Costa Rica
The official currency in Costa Rica is the Colón (CRC). You can usually also pay in US-Dollars, but some places charge you more when you pay in Dollars.
Credit cards are almost everywhere accepted, but with some cards, you can only withdraw money, but not pay. With my maestro card, for example, I have that case, and I can also only use the ATMs of Banco Nacional. To be sure, let your bank know that you are traveling to Costa Rica. Some banks call you when they see money being withdrawn in another country, and when you are not at home to answer that phone call, they might block your cards. Another important aspect you should know is that, when you pay with a credit card, you must show your ID.
If you want to exchange money, I recommend you to do it in a hotel instead of the airport, because the exchange rates are better there.
I recommend you to have some cash with you, but not too much since it is cheaper to pay with a card instead of withdrawing money, where you have to pay a higher commission.
Costa Rica is a safe country; it counts as the safest country in Central America. Anyways you should not underestimate the danger. The main crime against tourists is theft, so you should, like in every country of the world, always watch your belongings, don’t wear expensive jewelry or too much cash with you, and leave important documents in a safe at the hotel. If you want to visit a bar or a restaurant at night, I recommended you to take an official taxi (they are red with a yellow triangle on each side) or Uber.
Theft can also happen in a relaxing area at the beach. Beware the monkeys and raccoons. I already had to learn that they also find my sandwich delicious. But don’t feed wild animals (on purpose)!
The beaches are perfect for relaxing or surfing. If you want to go swimming ask a local for rip currents and you should always be able to touch the ground with your feet. If you do get caught in a rip current, let it take you inside the ocean and don’t swim against it. When it stops, you can swim to the right or the left along the coastline and then back to the beach.
If you get sick, you can find first help in pharmacies. You can usually find one in the entrance area of bigger supermarkets or any city. If you need to go to the hospital you need to cover the costs first and take the ticket, which you have to hand in at your travel insurance company, so they can pay you that money back.
The main public hospitals are in the capital San José, for example, the Hospital Nacional de Niños (Hospital for Children), the Hospital México, Hospital Calderón Guardia and Emergencias Hospital San Juan de Dios. The main private hospitals are Hospital Cima and La Católica, which are located in San José as well.
As I have mentioned before, there is no obligatory vaccination to enter the country, but I do recommend you to get hepatitis A and hepatitis B, typhus and rabies shots.
In Costa Rica, some mosquitoes are infected by Zika, Dengue or Chikungunya. It is not necessary to get vaccinations for that, as long as you use a good repellent. Most hotels have also mosquito screens in the windows.
As Costa Rica is a tropical country there is hot and humid weather in most regions all year long. Always have enough water with you. Tap water is, except in rural areas, drinkable. Also, use sunblock with high protection and a hat.
5. Long distances
Even though Costa Rica is such a small country, the driving distances are longer that they appear to be, because you have to cross a mountain or even after tropical storm roads are blocked because of a landslide or a fallen tree. Calculate enough time to get to your next destination and think about whether you want to drive by yourself or use the services of a shuttle service, or, if you don’t want to spend too much time on the street, you can consider a local flight. SANSA connects all main tourist destinations.
An international license to rent a car in Costa Rica is not required.
Spend the last night in San José to be closer to the airport. Even if you are one of the adventurous travelers, a race against the time to catch your flight is not that fun.
Rent a car
Book a local flight
Book a shuttle service
Other important facts
- The Ticos are very open minded people and are always happy to help. The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish, but especially in tourist areas the most of them understand English.
- The country protects their nature and wildlife more than anything. 25% of the country is protected by National Park and sustainability is an important topic. Please don’t leave or take anything from the nature. In this blog you can read more about travelling sustainable in Costa Rica.
- In Costa Rica are two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. Both have it’s beautiful sides. In this blog you can read more about the best time to travel to Costa Rica
- There is a great hotel offer in Costa Rica. We wrote a list of hotels we recommend in different zones. Here you can read about recommended hotels in La Fortuna and the Caribbean coast and in this blog you can read about recommended hotels on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.