The REAL Costa Rica
 



Tourist and Resident Frequent Questions

First, please take a quick read of Things Your Travel Agent Didn't Tell You. 

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Do I need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Do I need a visa to go to Costa Rica?

Can I enter Costa Rica with a one way ticket?

Do I need an international drivers license to drive a car in Costa Rica?

How can I get married in Costa Rica? What documents do I need?

What is the difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest?

Is the water safe to drink in Costa Rica?

What is the currency in Costa Rica?

Are credit cards accepted in Costa Rica?

What kind of inoculations or shots do I have to take to Costa Rica?

Do I need an electric adapter for a hair drier?  What is the voltage in Costa Rica?

What documents are required to bring my pet to Costa Rica?

Is there and exit or departure tax in Costa Rica?  If so, how much is it?

How can I get a visa so I can work in Costa Rica?

How can I apply for legal residency in Costa Rica?

Are the national parks and other tourist areas wheel chair accessible?

Is there a tour operator offering special tours for handicapped people?

Is there an American Legion in Costa Rica?

If I decide to stay longer, can I get a visa while I am there?

What should I bring when going to the rain forest?

Are there domestic airlines that travel within Costa Rica?

What is the sales tax in Costa Rica?

What number should I dial in case of emergency?

Are there English language newspapers?

Where can I do some white water rafting in Costa Rica?

Where can the famous turtles be seen?

Which countries border Costa Rica's?

How is Costa Rica divided? Are there states?

What sort of Clubs, Groups, Social associations are there in Costa Rica?

What is the attitude towards Gays and Lesbians in Costa Rica?

 

 

 

 

Do I need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes! A valid passport is mandatory to enter Costa Rica.  All passengers need a passport and there must be at least six months remaining before the passport expires.   In addition, make sure your passport is in good physical condition.  It is not uncommon to be refused entry to Costa Rica if you arrive with a damaged passport.  Here is one woman's story.

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Do I need a visa to go to Costa Rica?

Depending on your country of origin you may enter Costa Rica without a visa. USA, Canada and many European countries have this privilege.  Actually, the stamp you receive in your passport as you pass through immigration IS your visa and expires based on what country you are from.  US and Canadian citizens have uo to 90 days.  Please check Entry to Costa Rica for more information.

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Can I enter Costa Rica with a one way ticket?

In general, the answer is no, and many airlines will not even sell them or screw you on the price.  Some require proof that you have residency before they sell a on one way ticket.  As this seems to vary by airline, you should contact them directly.  See Entry to Costa Rica. Proof of having an outbound BUS ticket will satisfy this requirement.

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Do I need an international drivers license to drive a car in Costa Rica?

No. An International license is not required. You are allowed to drive with your normal unexpired drivers license for whatever is the term of your visa.  See Driving in Costa Rica or Renting a Car in Costa Rica for more information.

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How can I get married in Costa Rica? What documents do I need?  (Also read this)

Foreigners can get married in Costa Rica. The documents needed are: - original birth certificate - affidavit of single status - police record - valid passport - divorce decree (if applicable) - These documents need to follow the authentication procedure before being taken to Costa Rica.  This means you must take or send these documents to a Costa Rica Embassy in your country BEFORE you come.  They will attach tax stamps (timbres) and return the documents to you.  The current price is about $40.00 per document.  I would urge you to check with the Association of Residents of Costa Rica to get up to date information.

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What is the difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest?

Mainly the altitude and the temperature.  The rain forests are very hot and humid while the cloud forest are humid and moist.  The species of flora and fauna are significantly different.

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Is the water safe to drink in Costa Rica?

The water is fine in nearly all locations.  When in very remote or rural areas, you may wish to drink bottled water.  Also, if you have a very sensitive stomach, bottled water may be better, but I have lived here for years and I never drink the bottled stuff.  A while ago... (Spring, 2005) a University of Costa Rica study indicated problems with the water in San Josť and parts of Heredia.  Of course the water department said nonsense.  Your call.  As of 2012, I have read nothing more on this topic.

Oh... and did you know that Evian spelled backwards is Naive?  Maybe the French are trying to tell us something!

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What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The Costa Rican currency is called Colon. US dollars may or may not be accepted.  Do NOT count on it.  Major tourist areas accept dollars, as do most hotels and travel related businesses, but a some small (and excellent) restaurants as well as almost all the non-commercial artisan shops (not in a tourist trap area) will accept neither dollars nor credit cards.  For more information, see Money and Banking.

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Are credit cards accepted in Costa Rica?

In the major tourist areas, yes. However, some locations do not accept credit cards, especially those great places where you actually see the artist creating something.  Also, if ANYTHING is priced in dollars, you are VERY likely over paying! Carry some colones and use any you have left over to pay your Departure Tax.

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What kind of inoculations do I have to take to Costa Rica?

No vaccines are required to enter Costa Rica but for detailed information, see Disease in Costa Rica. No matter where you travel though, a tetanus shot (or booster) is always a good idea.

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Do I need an electric adapter for a hair drier?

That depends on the voltage in your home country.  Outlets here are 110 V, with standard US two prong plugs (or three prong if grounded).  Your hair blower, curling iron and all other appliances will work fine. Those of you from Europe will need the adapters thingys, hard to find easily in Costa Rica. Bring yours!

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What documents are required to bring my pet to Costa Rica?

Dogs and cats entering Costa Rica must have a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, endorsed by a veterinarian service (VS) veterinarian. The examination for the certificate must be conducted within the two weeks prior to traveling to Costa Rica. The required vaccinations are: distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies (for animals 4 months or older). Generally, rabies must be given between 30 and 364 days prior to arrival date while all other must be given within 30 days or arrival.

As of mid 2012, there seems to be some confusion which may be airline based. Be safe... Check with ARCR for the latest info!

and  See this.

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Is there and exit or departure tax in Costa Rica?  If so, how much is it?

Departure tax is $28, can be paid in US Dollars, colones or with a Visa card.  This must be paid at the point of exit.  See Entry to Costa Rica.

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How can I get a visa or work permit so I can work in Costa Rica?

In general, you cannot.  Costa Rica protects its labor force.  There are exceptions.  See Working in Costa Rica for details.  Also see Residency.

CAUTION: A popular SCAM is to offer work permits to people to come and teach English or work in sports books. This is NOT gonna happen! Costa Rica does NOT give work permits to teach English nor work in sports books... so people find themselves stranded here. Be careful!

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How can I apply for legal residency in Costa Rica?

Sure! Costa Rica offers different ways to legalize your status.  See Residency in Costa Rica.

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Are the national parks and other tourist areas wheel chair accessible? Also read this page.

In general, Costa Rica is not wheelchair friendly. This IS getting better though.  The Poas Volcano National Park is the one that offers access for wheel chairs.  Some of the newer and more modern hotels now offer wheel chair access for the disabled.

Another notable location is INBioparque, a wonderful place located in Santo Domingo de Heredia. See map at right.  Click to enlarge.  It is an amazing theme park offering interactive experiences with Nature.  INBioparque offers  daily round-trip shuttle service from most hotels in the San Jose area but it is unclear whether these shuttles are wheelchair equipped.  Once you get to the park, you will find it is 100% wheelchair (and stroller) friendly!  There are tours, a farm, a lagoon, an aquarium and other attractions (like the ANTS!).  Price $15 adults, $8 kids.  Open Tuesday through Sunday 8AM to 6 PM, but admissions closes at 4 PM.

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Is there a tour operator offering special tours for handicapped people?

This one offers wheel chair tours.  Also, Gray Line has handicapped equipped bus tours.

In general, Costa Rica is moving slowly toward providing tourist services for the disabled, but they ARE making progress.  Recently the Sala IV constitutional court ordered all buses to be wheelchair equipped.  Many of the better hotels now offer ramps.  Check before you book your reservation to avoid surprises.

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Is there an American Legion in Costa Rica?

There is an American Legion for people who were in the army. American Legion Post 10 in Escazu  tel:2 228-1740.  You can also contact The Association of Residents at (506)2233-8068 or at Association of Costa Rica Residents (ARCR)

See also Clubs and organizations.

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If I decide to stay longer, can I get a visa extension while I am there?

Yes, but read this carefully!

When you enter Costa Rica, your passport will be stamped and that is your visa to be here.  It is NOT autmatically 90 days as before. The length of time depends on your country of origin.  US and Canada for example get 90 days. It can also be totally arbitrary depending on the immigration agent at your point of entry.:

A. If you will be returning to Costa Rica on the same day you leave (like maybe a day trip).

Leave ON or just after the 90th day. This way, you will get another 90 day visa upon re-entry. If you leave on for example the 80th day and return a couple or few of days later, then immigration has the right to NOT extend your visa and may well just stamp your passport with no extension at all. You would then need to leave again in just a couple of days!

Costa Rica is cracking down on perpetual tourists, those who leave evert 90 days to "renew" their passport. CAUTION: At any time you may be denied re-entry of given only a few days. As of mid-2012, this is becoming very common.

B. If you are planning a short trip of perhaps a few days:

Make SURE you arrive back in Costa Rica after the 90th day! If you return before, immigration has the option to NOT give you another 90 days. I am receiving more and more reports of this.

"Perpetual Tourists"

This in and out thing cannot be done forever, but 1 maybe times is probably not a problem.  Short trips to Panama, Nicaragua, or San Andres are cheap, fun, and available.  When you return, your visa should be "renewed" automatically (actually you get a new stamp) for 90 more days if you are from the USA or Canada, check here as the rules are different for other countries. However, as mentioned above, do not bank on gettin a re-entry of if permitted, another 90 days.

More and more, Costa Rica is refusing re-entry to those who would enter and leave over and over (perpetual tourists). Be careful if you try this and consider the consequences.

Finally, if your country is one that gets LESS than a 90 day visa, you MAY go directly to immigration for an extension. Note this is NOT available to anyone who received an original 90 day visa.

Odd but true! A common rumor is that you must leave CR for 72 hours to get a renewal. this is not true... urban legend! That 72 hour thing grew out of the fact that if you DO leave for 72 hours, you get another $500.00 tax exemption on imports. It never had anything to do the getting a new visa.

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What should I bring when going to the rain forest?

All you need is insect repellent, a rain coat with a hood and hiking boots.  I also suggest a good deodorant unless you are traveling alone! For what to bring in general, look here.

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Are there domestic airlines that travel within Costa Rica?

Yes.  SANSA at www.flysansa.com  (506)2221-9414 or Nature Air at www.natureair.net  (506) 2220-3054.  Both have scheduled flights within Costa Rica and Nature Air offers will charter a plane in Costa Rica for private use.  Also see this link.

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What is the sales tax in Costa Rica?

Sales tax is 13% but some other travel related taxes are 17%

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What number should I dial in case of emergency?

Dial 911.  Do not expect the operator to speak English.

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Are there English written newspapers?

The Tico Times. www.ticotimes.net  (506)2258-1558 is published weekly on Fridays. Also see here for all newspapers here and click here to see today's live new feeds. As of the Fall, 2012, the Tico Times print version maybe be discontinued.

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Where can I do some white water rafting in Costa Rica?

On the rivers:  Pacuare, Reventazon, Corobici, Sarapiqui, Naranjo or Savagre.  There are a ton of tour operators here offering rafting on rivers from class 2 to class 5.  Also see TOURS.

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Where can the famous turtles be seen?

You can go to Tortuguero National Park in the Caribbean or to Las Baulas National Park in the Pacific coast.

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What are Costa Rica's natural boundaries?

North: Nicaragua - South: Panama - East: The Caribbean Sea - West: The Pacific Ocean.  For more geography, click here.

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How is Costa Rica divided? Are there states?

Costa Rica is comprised of seven provinces: San Josť, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago, Limon, Puntarenas and Guanacaste.   For more information see The Provinces.  Click Maps of Costa Rica to see where they are.

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What sort of Clubs, Groups, Social associations are there in Costa Rica?

Here are the most popular, but their are many others.  Click Here

 

What is the attitude towards Gays and Lesbians in Costa Rica?

In general, Gays and Lesbians are well tolerated in Costa Rica so long as they tend to keep a low profile.  Few incidents of harassment are reported. One recent gay magazine described Costa Rica as being at about the stage of the US in the late 60's which I thought was a rather stupid comment.... . Read more about Gay and Lesbian travel here.

Further, my Blog cover this topic as well.

Now, be sure to click here to see Things Your Travel Agent Didn't Tell You.

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