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WHERE IS COSTA RICA?

When we started this great adventure it was just a dream, just ideas of how to create a different company, a tour operator that would show the beauty of Costa Rica and its people… After several conversations, analyzing the pros and cons, finally in November 2008 we decided to start this company, which we started with zero money but tons of passion.

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WHY COSTA RICA?

Costa Rica has it all, from virgin primary rainforests to sandy white beaches and crystal clear waters; it offers something for everyone! Costa Rica will please nature, culture, wellness, and adventure lovers. Whale watching, volcano exploring, tubbing and rafting down pristine rivers, hiking through cloud forests, or visiting coffee plantations… you name it, Costa Rica has it!

 

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WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?

The best time to visit Costa Rica does not exist. It is a year-round destination. It is a tropical country where you will find many different climates and microclimates despite the rather small size of the country. It is usually said that there are two seasons in Costa Rica, the dry season from November/December to the end of April and the green season that starts in May and usually ends in November/December. But the weather depends on the regions of the country you are looking to visit. Some places are really humid and receive high amounts of rainfall (for example cloud forests and rainforests because yes, it rains a lot in rainforests!).

 

Costa Rica can be enjoyed all year long. It really depends on what you are looking to do and to see during your stay. While travelling during the green season is cheaper and the probability to see dolphins, whales and tortoises higher, you also have to be prepared to get more wet. But do not worry, rain here is actually quite warm and sometimes very enjoyable (temperatures can get very high in Costa Rica!).

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WHY IS COSTA RICA CONSIDERED AS A GREEN COUNTRY AND AS A PIONEER IN ECOTOURISM?

25% of the country’s surface is protected. The numerous private reserves and national parks of Costa Rica help to conserve its incredibly rich biodiversity. No wonder Costa Rica is famous worldwide for its nature conservation efforts!

 

Tourism contributes greatly to the conservation of these natural areas. The entrance fees of the national parks and private reserves and the government grants help paying the protection costs of this green paradise. Remember that when you pay an entrance fee to visit a private reserve or a national park, your money helps paying park rangers, reforestation programs, community and tourist facilities, scientific research and many more small things that are needed to save the very diverse biodiversity of the country.

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WHY COSTA RICA DOES NOT HAVE AN ARMY?

Costa Rica is one of the very few countries in the world that does not have an army. Former President Figueres Ferrer abolish the Costa Rican army in 1948. The country has been living in peace and democracy ever since that date despite the wars that were ravaging its neighbors.

 

Former president Oscar Arias Sánchez has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for its efforts to bring peace in all Central American countries. Its efforts eventually led to the signature of a peace agreement in Guatemala. Various Central American countries ratified this peace plan (Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua). That aimed at guaranteeing free elections, protecting human rights and ending foreign interference in these countries’ private affairs.

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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF “PURA VIDA”?

“Pura Vida”, you will hear this expression so often that you might even start to use it at the end of your stay in Costa Rica. It pretty much means everything and nothing: “thank you”“you are welcome”“don’t worry”“keep calm”“hello”“goodbye “Pura Vida” literally translates as “Pure Life” and you will soon find out that this expression describes very well Costa Rica and its tranquil inhabitants, the “Ticos”.

 

CULTURAL INFORMATION

Costa Rican call themselves “Ticos” because of the suffix “tico” “tica” that they add to a lot a words when they talk. Instead of saying “chiquito”, ticos might say “chiquitico”. Men are called “ticos” and women are called “ticas”. In Costa Rican Spanish, this suffix is mostly used to refer to small or cute things, persons or animals.

 

Ticos are friendly, welcoming and patient people and will always be happy to help you find your way or to order food in a restaurant. You will fall in love with the “Pura Vida” lifestyle and way of being.

“TICOS” AND CULTURAL TIPS

For most Costa Ricans, religion is very important. It is not an appropriate topic to bring up with people you have just met. Please be careful with what you say and respect the people’s faith even if you are not religious.

 

Greetings: Ticos are friendly people; often even greet strangers. An air kiss to the person’s right cheek is the common greeting in Costa Rica.

 

Roads: In Costa Rica it is important to look out for cars before crossing the street as most drivers will not stop to let pedestrian pass.

 

Pura Vida: Be patient and relax. You are in a latin country and attitudes to time differ in comparison with western countries for example. Latin countries tend to have slower paced lifestyles. The famous saying Pura Vida describes this very well.

 

Do not be too direct! Ticos are non-confrontational people. Confrontation is not appreciated and will always be avoided. You should try not to shout, to raise your voice or to show signs of irritation in case of misunderstandings.

 

Don’t judge and embrace the difference. Being lost in translation and in a different culture is such an amazing feeling. Enjoy Costa Rica!

 

WHICH LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN IN COSTA RICA?

Spanish is the official language in Costa Rica but the country is linguistically very diverse. There are numerous indigenous languages still spoken in some communities (Cabécar, Maléku, Buglere etc) and there are various languages derived from Caribbean English such as the Mekatelyu or the Patua languages. English is widely spoken in the tourism industry and in touristy places. It is recommended to learn a few basic Spanish words to make you feel more at ease while travelling and locals always appreciate the effort.

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HELPFUL TRAVEL INFORMATION
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MONEY, EXCHANGE AND TIPPING CULTURE

As a first time traveling to Costa Rica, you probably have a few questions regarding the local money, in the following paragraph, we will try to briefly answer all of them.

 

The Colon (Colones in plural) is Costa Rica’s currency, it was named after Christopher Columbus. Currently, one Dollar is around 560 Colones. Check out this page for a more up to date rate conversion: www.xe.com/currencyconverter.

 

Depending on your country of origin, you will probably not be able to exchange money for colones in a bank as banks do not always offer all the currencies. You can take US dollars with you as it is widely used in the tourism industry in Costa Rica and it is available in banks all over the world. You can pay most hotels, national parks, private reserves and restaurants in US dollars. But you will not be able to pay in dollars everywhere.

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WHAT ARE THE FORMALITIES TO ENTER AND TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY?

Entry requirements depend on your country of origin. Please click on the link below for more information or visit the website of the Costa Rican embassy of your home country for more detailed information:
www.visitcostarica.com/ict/paginas/Requerimientos_de_Entrada_Extranjeros_eng.pdf

 

As most tourists who visit our country come from the either the USA, Canada or the European Union, we have written here their entry requirements. Visitors coming from these countries do not need a visa if they intend to stay less than 90 days within the country. If that is your case, please make sure you have a copy of your return ticket to present at the immigration desk upon entry to Costa Rica.

 

We recommend arriving at the international airport at least 3 hours prior to departure as the check in takes quite a long time. Bear in mind that you will have to pay a departure tax of US $ 29,00 (some airlines include the departure tax in the price of your ticket) before leaving the country.

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WHAT SHOULD I PACK FOR COSTA RICA?
  • Flight tickets
  • Vaccination record (yellow fever if required)
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Backpack and money belt
  • Personal medications
  • Sandals and flip flops
  • Rain jacket/Rain poncho
  • Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, windbreaker jacket
  • Passport (at least 6 months valid after arrival)
  • Credit card and cash
  • Copies of important documents
  • Sunscreen
  • Adapter (120 Volts)
  • Small Spanish dictionary
  • Hygiene products
  • Swimwear and beach towel
  • Light summer clothes
  • Hiking shoes and sport shoes
  • Hat or cap
  • Reusable water bottle
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HEALTH

As we are not medical professionals, we cannot advise you on this matter and you will see that medical recommendations vary greatly from one country to another as do mandatory vaccinations. You should get an appointment with your doctor before coming to Costa Rica to check which vaccinations are recommended in your country.

 

When coming to Costa Rica through South America or another yellow fever infected area, you may be asked to show a document stating that you received this injection.

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HOW SAFE IS COSTA RICA?

Costa Rica is one of the safest and most developed countries in Central America. As always, you should take simple safety precautions as you would in your home country.

 

Please follow these basics safety guidelines when traveling:

 

  • Do not walk alone at night, take a taxi.
  • Leave your values in the hotel or have them hidden under your clothes (invisible money belt for example)
  • Do not show your money or wallet in the street
  • Before going to swim, ask locals about currents. Currents can be very strong. It is highly recommended not to go too far into the water
  • Do not leave important values inside your rented car or the bus
  • Try to keep up with national news
  • Be careful while crossing the street and watch out for cars as most of them will not stop when to let pedestrian pass.
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GETTING AROUND IN COSTA RICA

You will find getting around in Costa Rica quite difficult at first. This is due to the fact that Ticos do not use proper addresses. Landmarks are used to indicate an address. For foreigners it can therefore be difficult to find an address.

 

When indicating an address, locals will usually speak of “blocks” or “cuadras” in Spanish or of meters. “100 meters” means “one block”, “200 meters” means “two blocks”. Here is an example of a typical Costa Rican way to indicate an address: “200 meters south of the pharmacy Los Angeles and 300 meters east of the Plaza Central”.

 

Once you understand our logic, it actually gets very easy to get around any Costa Rican city. Locals are always more than happy to help you find your way.

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TRAVELLING TO COSTA RICA

By plane: In Costa Rica, we have two international airports: Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría (SJO) near San Jose and Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quirós (LIR) in Liberia.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the countries and the airlines that have a direct flight to Costa Rica:
Bear in mind that even if there is no direct flight from your country or our city, most airlines nowadays serve this destination via their partner airlines so it is relatively easy to catch a flight with a stopover or two in different cities.

Canada: AirCanada, SunWing Airlines, Westjet
Colombia: Avianca
El Salvador: Avianca, VECA Airlines
France: Airfrance
Germany: Condor, Lufthansa
Guatemala: Air Costa Rica, Avianca, Copa

Holanda: KLM
Honduras: Avianca, Copa
Mexico: Aeromexico, Interjet, Volaris
Nicaragua: Copa, Lacsa, NatureAir
Panama: Air Panama, Avianca, Copa, NatureAir

Peru: Avianca
Spain: Iberia
United Kingdom: British Airways, Thomson Airways
USA: Alaska Airline, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, South West Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airline

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By bus or taxi: It is also relatively easy to enter Costa Rica by land from Panama or Nicaragua.
There are various buses that can take you to the various frontiers Nicaragua or Panama have with Costa Rica. Some buses also directly connect cities from these two Central American countries to cities in Costa Rica. You might also consider the option of taking a taxi or a private shuttle from your hotel in Nicaragua or Panama.

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FOOD AND DRINKS IN COSTA RICA

Costa Rican cuisine is very fresh and diversified. The country’s fertile volcanic lands produce all the fruits, vegetables and root vegetables you could ever dream of. The Pacific ocean and the Caribbean sea provides the whole country with very fresh fish and seafood. Feast on these fresh tropical products and treat your taste buds! Bon appétit!

 

Costa Rican food is not very spicy as it is in other Latin American countries, but we use a lot of fresh herbs to season our cuisine. The Caribbean cuisine, which is influenced by Caribbean islands such as Jamaica for example, is a bit spicier and very tasty.

 

Rice and beans are usually the base of every meal in Costa Rica. You will find them in the traditional breakfast “gallo pinto” and in the traditional lunch “casado”. Most locals eat rice and beans with every meal (we do!).

 

Locals usually have their meal with a natural fruit drink “fresco”. Fruit lovers will be in paradise because you can find smoothies and fresh coconuts nearly everywhere and they are usually very affordable.

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HOW SHOULD I BEHAVE WITH WILDLIFE?

Costa Rica is very often associated with wild and colorful animals such as toucans, pumas, monkeys, crocodiles and iguanas. Well, you will not be disappointed because there is actually a high chance that you will come across most of them during your stay in exotic Costa Rica. But please be considerate of them. You are so lucky and privileged to be able to observe them in their natural habitat and not in a zoo.

 

  • Do not touch them
  • Do not disturb them
  • Do not feed them (see our blog post about the dangers of wild animal feeding)
  • Do not take selfies with them
  • Do observe them and enjoy! Nature is beautiful!