New regulations for entry into the US.
Important Facts. Visiting the United States is not easy for everybody and one almost needs a manual to keep up with all the changes. ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) adds a new paragraph to the regulations for nationals of Visa Waiver countries. As of January 12th 2009, citizens and nationals from all Visa Waiver eligible countries must have approval through the ESTA system before traveling to the United States on a Visa Waiver.
The electronic system will determine whether visa-free applicants pose any security or law enforcement risks and provide an electronic travel authorization to those approved for entry. Once approved, the authorization will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever is sooner.
Get registered in time
Important Facts. The duration of permission can take until 72 hours; accordingly, this should be done quickly.
The registration can be accomplished via the following Website of the Department for Homeland Security: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
Important Facts. International flights arrive at San José’s Juan Santamaria international airport, and Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, 217km (135mi) northwest of San José, and near the beaches in Guanacaste, now operates as a second-string international airport. There are good connections to US, Canadian cities and several European and South American countries. There is a departure tax of US$ 26,00 on international flights
Important Facts. The most convenient way to reach Costa Rica is by air.
Commercial international flights to Costa Rica currently land either at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, located ten miles from downtown San José, or at the Daniel Oduber International airport in Liberia, Guanacaste. Costa Rica is serviced by numerous major carriers, with service originating from various points in Europe, the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and South America. Airlines with direct flights to Costa Rica include Continental, American, Delta, United, Iberia, KLM, Martinair, British Airways, Grupo Taca, Copa, Cubana, Avianca, and Mexicana.
Entry Requirements | Important Facts
Citizens holding valid passports from the following countries are permitted to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a visa:
Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany dependencies, Greece, Holland and dependencies, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Czech Republic and Uruguay.
Citizens holding valid passports from the following countries are exempt from all visa requirements for stays of 30 days in Costa Rica, though once inside the country, they can apply for extension from the Immigration office, for an authorized period of stay of 90 days:
Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Saint Kitts/Nevis, San Marino, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Suriname, Taiwan, Turkey, The Vatican, Venezuela, Estonia and Monaco.
Citizens of all countries not listed above are required a visa from a Costa Rican embassy or consulate before traveling.
Important Facts. No customs duties are charged on personal luggage, which includes a series of items for personal, professional, non-commercial use. Costa Rican laws require checked luggage to be screened and travelers to fill out customs declarations declaring the value of any item in their possession, including fruits, vegetables, meat and by- products, biological products such as vaccinations, serums, etc. The head of a family may make a joint declaration for all members residing in the same household and traveling together to Costa Rica.
Money Matters | Important Facts
Costa Rica’s currency is the colon. Dollars are widely accepted; there is no urgent need to convert. Banks are normally open 9.00 am – 4 pm, but hours vary. Do not expect fast service, Costa Rican banks can be very slow. Most hotels will exchange dollars for colones for guests, but often only small amounts.
It is possible to withdraw money from some cash machines at the banks in San Jose and other towns in Costa Rica. You can use Credit cards with the Cirrus, Visa and MasterCard Logo. Bring, if possible, two different credit cards. Some businesses will accept one credit card while rejecting another. Carry only the one you are using, and leave the other in the hotel safe. MAJOR CREDIT CARDS: Visa and MasterCard (American Express is not widely accepted)
Traveler’s cheques are widely accepted in hotels but not by other businesses. Carry traveler checks in American Dollars, (Well known international brands such as American Express) and make sure you have their numbers written down, in case of theft they could be easily reported. Do not exchange money on the street.
Use the currency calculator below to calculate how many colones you should receive when you change money. In Jan. 2008, the exchange rate was 500 colones for $1 US. Banco Central de Costa Rica
Important Facts. Costa Rica is one of the safest destinations in the developing world, from a general health point of view. This is largely due to high health standards in our country.
There are no required immunizations for entering Costa Rica. However, it is always wise to keep up your basic shots such as tetanus and diphtheria. Risk of contracting malaria is minimal, but for itineraries that include the Caribbean lowlands, travelers might wish to take the extra precaution of a prophylactic medicine such as chloroquine.
Decisions about immunizations and anti-malarial medications should be made on a personal basis after consultation with your personal physician.
If you take prescription medication, have your doctor give you a spare prescription with a note suggesting an alternative medication if your first choice isn’t available.
Private and public hospitals in Costa Rica treat foreigners. Many Costa Rican doctors speak English. You are required to pay all doctor and hospital bills when you are treated. Private hospitals take credit cards but public (Caja) hospitals do not. If you do become ill in Costa Rica, we recommend the Clínica Bíblica in San José.www.clinicabiblica.com
Public safety and personal security concerns | Important Facts
San José is a big city, and North American and European visitors bring expensive cameras and other things that tempt. Here are a few tips for avoiding petty theft:
- Make a photocopy of your passport and leave the original, your airline ticket and the bulk of your money in your hotel safe.
- Change money in your hotel and ask for part of it in small bills.
- Gentlemen, carry your cash, credit card and passport copy in your front pocket. Ladies, grip your purse tightly against your side. Never let a purse dangle from your shoulder.
- Carry backpacks on your front.
- Never change money in the street or flash big wads of bills.
- Avoid seedy areas of town—ask your hotel. If you find yourself in one—leave!
- Don’t wear anything other than costume jewelry. Men, get a cheap watch for the trip.
- If you are going out at night, take a taxi.
- Don’t leave money or valuables lying around your hotel room.
- Use the safe or check them in at the reception desk.
Pedestrian safety | Important Facts
- Cars do not give pedestrians the right of way.
- Walk defensively and be very careful when crossing streets.
What should you bring for a trip to Costa Rica?
Important Facts. Remember as you’re packing, there are shops in Costa Rica! It is possible to purchase items you’ve forgotten, or to replace items as they burn out or wear out or get left behind at the beach. on almost any trip to Costa Rica, you will visit mountains, the beach, and the temperate Central Valley. You need to be prepared for temperatures from the low 50s to the low 90s, and everything in between.
Here’s a checklist of items you might find useful during your stay:
- Sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Casual clothing for traveling in cities.
- Cotton shirts, long and short sleeved sweater or jacket.
- Trousers-cotton, hiking pants or lightweight hiking boots, thongs or sandals, river sandals or any kind of shoes that can get wet and strap onto your feet.
- Shorts for hiking and relaxing.
- Hat (s) – with visor for rain and sun protection.
- Batteries -especially unusual batteries for cameras, hearing aids, and the like.
- Film -cheaper at home than in Costa Rica; bring a bunch
- Binoculars -look for these at the duty-free shops at the airport.
- Alarm Clock.
- Contact lens supplies.
- Combination lock.
- Shower gel.
- Electrical adapter.
- Compass and Maps (if planning to go hiking to remote areas).
- Towel and pocket knife.
Important Facts. While most toiletries can be purchased in the pharmacies here in Costa Rica, imported items are heavily taxed and will therefore be much more expensive. Any prescription drugs you may need should be brought with you.Travelers checks in the form of US dollars are widely accepted and safe to travel.
When arriving to San Jose Airport.
For your information, when exiting the SJO airport, after passing last door, you MUST go to the RIGHT, where our representatives will be waiting you.
Banking | Important Facts
Banks are open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and do not close for lunch.
Offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Commercial offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores and other businesses are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Communications | Important Facts
Direct-dial telephone service, facsimile, telex, radio and cable television are all available. Bilingual operator assistance for international calls is – 116, local information – 113, long distance information – 124
There is a 13% sales tax at hotels, restaurants, and most service industries, and an additional 3% tourist tax at hotels.
Important Facts. Costa Rica is in the same time zone as U.S. Central Standard Time, but does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
A 10% tip in a restaurant is appropriate but most restaurants will add it to your bill, so read your bill before paying a tip. Taxi drivers generally do not receive a tip.
The water is safe to drink in all areas of the country. Nevertheless, we suggest you buy bottled water for drinking.
Electricity | Important Facts
Costa Rica’s electrical system is compatible with that of North America, 110 volts. Three hole grounded plugs are very uncommon, so if you have equipment that needs this type of plug, be sure to bring an adapter or buy one at a hardware store.
Important Facts. Expect your postcards to arrive home after you do—especially in December. Never send cash or anything else of value by regular mail from Costa Rica. Federal Express, DHL and other courier services are available in major cities.
E-mail and the Internet
Sending and receiving e-mail via the World Wide Web is easy in Costa Rica. You can access your e-mail account through lots of companies and Internet café’s.
Ecotourism | Important Facts
Ecotourism is tourism that has a minimal impact on the environment. It provides income that helps preserve protected areas and also benefits local populations to reduce their dependence on Activities that could damage natural areas.
How can you be a good eco-tourist? Here are a few guidelines:
- Leave nothing behind, except your footprints
Stay on the trails
Don’t collect anything, including flowers, seeds and rocks.
Avoid disturbing wild animals, especially when they are courting, nesting and feeding. Don’t feed monkeys or other wild animals. Observe nesting sea turtles only with a qualified guide.
Be sensitive to the local culture and traditions, and willing to interact with local people, so that the tourism activity is a positive experience for everybody involved.
US$29 (twenty-nine US dollars). This tax applies to citizens and foreigners, minors and adults.