Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime because Costa Rica truly has it all! From lush jungles full of exotic wildlife to gorgeous white sand beaches, the small country is packed to the brim with must-visit locations and exciting experiences.
But before you head out, here are some tips that we recommend you know before visiting Costa Rica. Whether you’re looking for advice on where to stay, how to get around, or just some interesting facts, you’ll find all the information you need here. So pack your bags, take a deep breath, and get ready to explore this magical destination!
Costa Rica is an increasingly popular destination for both leisure and adventure travelers. From the lush rainforests of its Caribbean and Pacific coastlines to its vibrant cities, the country is a paradise for any traveler looking for an unforgettable experience.
From zip-lining through the jungle canopy to lounging on the beach, there are countless opportunities to make lasting memories when you travel to Costa Rica. With its rich culture, warm people, and incredible biodiversity, Costa Rica is an ideal spot to explore what nature has to offer.
Whether you’re looking to get an adrenaline rush or relax in paradise, Costa Rica has something for everyone as there are lots of things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica.
What Should You Know Before You Travel to Costa Rica?
Before you head to Costa Rica, it is important to know the currency and payment systems in the country. The official currency in Costa Rica is the Colón (CRC), and it is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 565 CRC to US$1.
Debit and credit cards, including Visa and Mastercard, are widely accepted in the cities but are not always an option for smaller purchases and transactions in more rural areas. ATMs are available in all major cities, though some may have a daily limit. Cash is your best option for smaller transactions.
It’s also recommended to carry a small amount of US dollars as a backup, particularly when traveling close to the Nicaragua border.
- English Is Widely Spoken in Costa Rica
Though the national language of Costa Rica is English, it is helpful to know at least some of the Spanish spoken there. Even though most people in Costa Rica are fluent in English, some natives may only learn the basics. As a result, it is highly recommended that you use a translation program such as Google Translate.
The program may be used without an internet connection if you download Spanish before you go. With that in mind, having Google translate on hand will be invaluable if you ever find yourself in a situation where a language barrier is a problem.
- Getting Around Costa Rica
Before you travel to Costa Rica from the USA, you must know the best routes for driving, especially if you rent a car. Most Costa Ricans say that you should download Waze if you need a GPS. That’s because certain areas have speed traps you want to avoid being caught in.
Open Google Maps and locate the bubble with your profile photo in the upper right corner. Use the mouse to choose “Offline maps,” then click it. Click “SELECT YOUR MAP” and specify the regions you want Google to crawl.
- WhatsApp Downloading
If you want to stay in touch with friends and family while in Costa Rica, it’s a good idea to have WhatsApp installed and active on your phone ahead of time. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in Costa Rica, so download it before going.
WhatsApp allows users to make free phone calls, send text messages and even video chat with other users, anywhere in the world. It’s this easy access to communication that makes WhatsApp the most popular messaging app in Costa Rica – so make sure you download it before your trip to stay connected with family and friends.
- Take Along Some Baby Wipes
It doesn’t matter whether you don’t have a kid or not. Baby wipes will always wow you as a smart innovation. They are helpful in a wide variety of situations and, thanks to their compact size, are easy to carry in a purse or bag.
Baby wipes can help you clean up a spilled lunch or sunscreen even if you haven’t washed in days. In our experience, people inevitably wind up bringing them along on every vacation, no matter how long or short.
- Drive Cautiously if You Rent a Vehicle
While it’s strongly suggested that you take a road trip, there are a few things to remember when renting a car. The signs are Spanish, and most roads outside main highways and bigger cities are undeveloped, muddy trails.
Driving in the city is like being in a constant state of anarchy because of the wide road. You will need patience and defensive driving skills. It’s normal for horns to keep going off and for motorcycles to zip between cars. Stop signs and red lights don’t mean you have to stop, especially when it’s dark.
Stay alert, take your time, and do your best to steer clear of the holes. In addition, as you leave the urban areas, you are more likely to see cows than other vehicles on the road.
- Cellular Phone Plans and Sim Cards
Getting a sim card in Costa Rica is another option worth considering while you are there with your mobile phone. It may be a decent alternative if international data use is too expensive on your phone plan.
Your phone must be unlocked before inserting a local SIM card in Costa Rica. Check with your service provider to see whether your phone is unlocked. They can ask to see your passport when you buy a SIM card. What you are experiencing is typical. Sim cards may be purchased at most major markets and airports.
Fortunately, Costa Rica is well-prepared for tourists, with a range of local providers offering excellent coverage throughout the country. With prepaid sim cards and a local phone plan, it is easy to stay in touch with friends and family back home.
Be sure to review the different options available, as well as any special usage fees or policies for international visitors, before you arrive in Costa Rica.
- Place a Reservation for Hotels
Booking a hotel room is a good option if you plan Costa Rica all inclusive vacations but have yet to decide on your activities.
Rooms at hotels and Airbnb fill up fast, so if there’s a specific area you want to stay in, you should reserve it right away.
After finding a place to stay, you may explore the neighborhood and discover hidden riches. Many hotels schedule outings and provide transport to and from your accommodation.
In many tourist hotspots, you may have trouble finding an ATM. Moreover, credit cards are not accepted at all tourist destinations. The fact that entrance fees to national parks must be paid in cash is a common indicator of this.
There is no ATM at Drake Bay, and cash is the only acceptable payment option in the area surrounding Corcovado National Park. Before you go to this region of Costa Rica, withdraw several colones from an ATM.
- A Culture of Tipping
In most cases, tipping is expected and appreciated in Costa Rica, especially in the tourism industry. Many locals rely on tips as part of their wages, so it is important to always leave a tip for good service.
Generally, the recommended rate for tipping is 10-15%, depending on the quality of the service. When eating out at a restaurant, leaving a coin is a nice gesture to the staff. Taxi drivers usually round up the fare, or add an extra 5-10%.
Tipping your tour guides and porters at hotels is also appropriate. Despite all of this, it is not always necessary or expected. It’s best to tip when you are truly happy with the service.
- At 6, the Sun Rises and Sets
Since Costa Rica is so close to the equator, the sun sets at roughly 6 p.m. and rises at around 6 a.m. year-round. Therefore, if you want to make the most of the day, you should plan to arrive early.
- Get Advice From Folks Who Live in the Areas About Places
Introduce yourself to everyone you see. The finest suggestions come from others, whether a coworker or a fellow tourist.
Local hotspots, new attractions, and actual experiences are best found by word of mouth. That’s how we make sure no one sees them. The most significant way to learn about anything is from someone with direct experience.
It is an excellent suggestion for a trip to Costa Rica, particularly if you want to avoid the typical tourist traps. It’s also helpful information for future trips!
- Keep Your Valuables and Personal Belongings Locked Up
Even though Costa Rica has a good safety rating, petty theft can happen. However, it’s a problem that can be fixed by just being smart and alert. Don’t worry about carrying your passport and emergency cash when a safe is provided in your room.
When out and about throughout the day, keep all your valuables close to hand. If you must leave valuables in your car while it is unattended, consider hiding them. Put them in the back of the vehicle and padlock the doors.
- Many Eateries Add a “Service Fee” to the Bottom of the Bill
Tipping is optional at most restaurants in Costa Rica. At the bottom of your restaurant bill, you may see a service charge or fee that has already been included.
You can always create another server if you can’t find one or if you truly like the one you’re currently using. Although larger venues like “Sodas” expect gratuities, smaller ones like “Sodas” sometimes get them.
- Carry Plenty of Bug Spray!
Remember to bring along some high-quality insect spray. You won’t have to worry if you forget your bug spray at home since you can get it at almost every convenience shop in Costa Rica.
- Eat Where the Natives Eat
Take note of the restaurants packed with locals if you are a gourmet; they will provide the most genuine cuisine. Meals in Costa Rica travel packages tend to be large and hearty.
Trying the local cuisine is one of the best ways to learn about the history and traditions of the region you visit. Be bold about asking for recommendations on where to dine from taxi drivers, hotel front desk staff, or other locals.
- Tap Water Is Safe to Drink
It’s important to know that tap water is safe to drink when visiting Costa Rica. The country has excellent water quality and there is no need to purchase bottled water if you are planning to travel there.
The majority of Costa Ricans drink tap water and use it to cook as well. The water is not only safe to drink but also tastes great, so there is no need to spend money on costly bottled water.
In some rural areas, however, the water may be more brackish, so taste it before use. But in general, you can rest assured that Costa Rica’s tap water is safe and refreshing.
- The Frequency of Power Outages Is High
It is important to be aware that power outages are common in Costa Rica. The country struggles with an aging and overstretched electrical grid, and electricity cuts can last for several hours.
This can cause some travelers to be unprepared if they are staying in a place without any backup power, such as hotels and Airbnb. In some rural areas, these outages can occur on an almost daily basis.
To ensure you have a safe and smooth vacation, be sure to plan ahead and always have a flashlight and extra batteries handy. Ensure your accommodations provide backup power, should outages occur.
With its enticing array of spectacular wildlife, stunning beaches, and lush rainforests, Costa Rica is an adventure paradise waiting to be explored. This small Central American nation is full of surprises, from cozy beachfront towns to vibrant cities and towering volcanoes.
Before your next trip to Costa Rica, don’t forget to arm yourself with these essential travel tips to make sure it’s the experience of a lifetime! Whether you want to wander through jungles, relax on pristine beaches or explore local culture, Costa Rica promises something for everyone.