· Cash- Costa Rica will accept U.S. Dollars, just be sure that the bills are not torn, and most smaller establishments prefer lower denominations. However, you will get a better exchange rate for goods and services if you pay in Costa Rican Colones. We recommend that you go into any bank and exchange your U.S. Dollars for Colones as there isn’t any fee for the exchange. The exchange kiosks in the airport don’t give you an even exchange, their rate is high.
· Credit Card/Atm- Be sure to contact you bank or creditor BEFORE traveling to Costa Rica and let them know what dates you will be in Costa Rica and that you will be making purchases. If not, your cards will more than likely be blocked due to suspicious activity (fraud). Most banks charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases as well. There are many banks that you can open an account with online that waive foreign transaction fees. Here is a link to a list of banks that don’t charge fees on foreign purchases.
· Travel Documents- As a foreigner you need to travel with your passport at all times. We recommend making a copy of your passport page with your photo and information AND the page with your entry date stamp and keeping that on you at all times. This will allow you to keep your passport secure in your lodge or hotel. If driving a vehicle, you must also carry you driver’s license. If you purchased traveler’s insurance, keep a copy of the policy on you at all times as well in the event of an emergency.
· Language-When communicating with the great people in Costa Rica, try your best to talk to them in Spanish as this is the National language and they will be happy that you’re speaking in their National language, even if your Spanish isn’t great. Also, a big smile goes a long way!
· Driving-When driving in Costa Rica, we suggest using Waze for directions as it routes you the quickest way, is more accurate than other mapping apps, and lets you know of any road conditions along your route. Plan EXTRA time while traveling. If GPS is estimating your route to be a 2 hour drive, it will most likely be longer in every case as the road is shared by motorists as well as farm equipment which may delay your travel. Also, it is customary for cars and motorcycles to beep their horn once or twice while passing you to let you know that they’re passing as a safety precaution. The speed limit in Costa Rica varies and is measured in kilometers. Lastly, don’t leave any valuables in your car in populated areas as opportunists just as in any large city around the world tend to look for tourists leaving valuables in their car.
· Car Rentals- When renting a car to explore Costa Rica, be sure that you understand clearly the terms of the insurance. It’s ultimately your decision on which insurance policy you want to choose however, something as small as a pebble that can crack your windshield, a pothole in the road that can damage a fender or a small accident can result in a large deductible. We recommend full coverage to cover any of these occurrences that could arise. In addition, check with both your credit card company/Autoclub AND the car rental agency as sometimes credit card companies offer policies to cover rental cars in foreign countries. This might save you a little money and headache.
· Domestic Flights- This is a great way to reach just about any destination in Costa Rica within an hour or less. Here is a link to destinations that Sansa services. If you’re using Sansa to fly from either Liberia or San Jose international airports, be sure to arrive at their terminal at least one hour in advance or they might cancel your flight. Also, plan for them to weigh your luggage as well as yourself. Be sure to have your camera ready to take some amazing photos!
· Food- This is where you’ll get the best meals on a budget and a great Costa Rican dining experience. Very small restaurants are called “Sodas” that are owned and operated by a local family serving up the typical Costa Rican dish, the Casado. It consists of rice, beans, salad, plantain and protein of your choice. If you’re vegetarian, just ask them for vegetables in place of the protein. These meals are usually around $7 per plate and will fill you up. When ordering coffee, they make a single cup at a time fresh. So if you like to drink a lot of coffee, let them know that you’d like another cup when you’ve ready. Most also have a great variety of fruit juices and smoothies. We recommend “Sandia” which is watermelon as it’s refreshing and full of flavor. Tips are included with the meal as a service charge, however a 10% additional tip is appreciated but not necessary.
· Tips- People who help you with luggage such as porters that have the large carts will want a tip of some sorts. A good tip in this case is $5 and they will take your luggage to your driver, Uber, or taxi. When exiting the airport, there are people that will offer to call your friend that is picking you up, or your ride. They will also want a tip. In this case, we recommend $2 if you choose to have them call on your behalf.