General Information About Costa Rica.

Costa Rica, Central America

Geography

Costa Rica is country in Central America which lies between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. It has an area approximately the size of West Virginia with a population of approximately 4.1 million people. It is bathed by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Government

Costa Rica is a Democratic republic. President, Oscar Arias Sanchez

Full Name

Republic of Costa Rica

Population

4,133,884

Currency

Name: Costa Rican Colon
Code: CRC
Symbol: ¢

For information about current currency exchange rates, you can visit the TicosLand.com Costa Rica web directory.

Electrical Plugs

120V 60Hz

Languages Spoken

Official: Spanish, some English in the Caribbean.

Time Zones

GMT/UTC -6

Country Dialing Code

If you are dialing from the United States to Costa Rica, dial 011+506+the number.

If you are dialing from Costa Rica to the United States, dial 001+area code+the number.

Weights & Measures

Metric

Weather

Costa Rica is a tropical country and experiences only two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season is generally between late December and April; the wet season lasts the rest of the year. The highlands are cool: San José and the Central Valley get an ‘eternal spring’ with lows averaging 15°C (60°F) and highs averaging 26°C (79°F). Both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts are pretty much sweltering year-round – get ready for some bad-hair days. Temperatures vary little between seasons; the main influence on temperature is altitude. The humidity at low altitudes can be oppressive.

The early months of the rainy season (May to July) are a wonderful time to travel to Costa Rica with some towns experiencing a mini-high season. During this time, rivers start to swell and dirt roads get muddy, making travel more challenging. Remote roads may not be accessible to public transport, so always ask locally before setting out. Bring your umbrella and a little patience.

For surfers, the Pacific coast sees increased swells and bigger, faster waves during the rainy season, peaking in the worst rainy months of September and October. The Caribbean side has better waves from November through May.

Wildlife enthusiasts may wish to plan their trip around high visibility seasons. The best time to spot the resplendent quetzal is between November and April. The peak season for leatherback turtles from April to May; for green turtles it’s during August and September.

Fishing is good year-round, but you might choose your season if you have your heart set on a specific fish. Anglers head to the Caribbean coast between January and May in search of tarpon, while autumn is the season for snook. On the Pacific coast and in the Golfo Dulce, the best time to snag that sailfish is between November and May.

Getting There

International flights arrive at Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría, 17km (10.5mi) northwest of San José in the town of Alajuela. In recent years, Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia has started receiving international flights from the US. It’s expected that many international airlines will start to offer flights in/out of this airport, including some flights direct from Europe (eliminating the lay-over in Miami or Dallas). This airport is convenient for travelers visiting the Península de Nicoya.

Costa Rica is well connected by air to other Central and Latin American countries, as well as the US.

Costa Rica shares land borders with Nicaragua and Panama. Many travelers, particularly shoestringers, enter the country by bus. An extensive bus system links the Central American capitals and it’s vastly cheaper than flying.

· bus

If crossing borders by bus, note that international buses may cost slightly more than taking a local bus to or near the border, then another onwards from the border, but they’re worth it. These better-quality buses travel faster and can help you cross efficiently. The most popular crossing point between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is on the Interamericana at Peñas Blancas. While processing is slow, travelers report that, for the most part, it’s hassle-free. The crossing at Los Chiles, further east, is infrequently used but reportedly easy to navigate. For Panama, the main point is on the Interamericana at Paso Canoas. Expect long lines, generally free of complications. On the Caribbean side, the crossing at Sixaola is much more sedate.

· boat

There is a regular boat service connecting Los Chiles with San Carlos, on the southeast corner of Lake Nicaragua.

· air

The national airline, Lacsa (part of the Central American Airline consortium Grupo TACA), flies to numerous points in the US and Latin America, including Cuba. The US Federal Aviation Administration has assessed Costa Rica’s aviation authorities to be in compliance with international safety standards. Fares go up during the high season (from December through April).

Getting Around

There are two domestic airlines: Sansa (tel: 221 9414; http://www.flysansa.com) and NatureAir (tel: 220 3054; http://www.natureair.com). Schedules change constantly and delays are frequent because of inclement weather. Costa Rica has small planes and big storms; you don’t want to be in them at the same time.

Public transport is well-developed in Costa Rica, although transport to towns other than San José is limited. Local buses are the best (albeit rather slow) way of getting around. They will take you just about everywhere, and they’re frequent and cheap. San José is the transport center for the country, but there is no central bus terminal.

An alternative to the standard intercity bus is the tourist-van shuttle service.

Taxis are considered a viable form of public transport for long journeys, and can be hired by the day, half-day or hour. Cars and motorcycles can also be rented in San José.

· bus

In San José, bus offices are scattered around the city: some large bus companies have big terminals that sell tickets in advance, while others have little more than a stop, sometimes unmarked. Normally there’s room for everyone on the bus, and if there isn’t, squeeze in. The exceptions are days before and after a major holiday, especially Easter, when buses are jammed. (There are no buses on the Thursday to Saturday before Easter Sunday.) There are two types of bus: directo and colectivo . Directos charge more and presumably make few stops. However, it goes against the instinct of Costa Rican bus drivers not to pick up every single roadside passenger. Trips longer than four hours usually include a rest stop (buses don’t have bathrooms). Periodically check that your stored luggage isn’t ‘given away’ at intermediate stops. Keep your day pack, with important documents, on you at all times. Thefts from overhead racks are rampant. Bus schedules fluctuate, so confirm the time when purchasing your ticket. If you are catching a bus roadside, arrive early. Departure times are estimated and if the bus comes early, it will leave early. For departures from San José, the schedule can be found online at http://www.visitcostarica.com.

· boat

Ferries cross the Golfo de Nicoya connecting the central Pacific coast with the southern tip of Península de Nicoya. The Coonatramar ferry (tel: 661 1069) links Puntarenas with Playa Naranjo four times daily. The Ferry Peninsular (tel: 641 0515) travels between Puntarenas and Vaquero every two hours. On the Golfo Dulce, a daily passenger ferry links Golfito with Puerto Jiménez on the Península de Osa, and a weekday water taxi travels to/from Playa Zancudo. On the other side of the Península de Osa, water taxis connect Bahía Drake with Sierpe. On the Caribbean coast, a bus-and-boat service runs several times daily, linking Cariari and Tortuguero. Canal boats travel from Moín to Tortuguero, although no regular service exists. A daily water taxi connects Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí with Trinidad, Nicaragua, on the Río San Juan. Arrange boat transport in any of these towns for Barra del Colorado.

· car

The roads vary from quite good (the Interamericana) to barely passable (just about everywhere else). Even the good ones can suffer from landslides, sudden flooding and fog. Most roads have single lanes and are winding; others are dirt-and-mud affairs that climb mountains and traverse rivers. Speed limits are 100km (62mi) per hour or less on primary roads and 60km (37mi) per hour or less on others. Traffic police use radar and enforce speed limits. Wearing seat belts is compulsory. Most car-rental agencies are found in San José and in popular tourist destinations on the Pacific coast (Tamarindo, Jacó, Quepos and Puerto Jiménez). It’s not cheap, but it is worth investing in a 4WD. Required basic insurance is usually in addition to the price. Alternatively, your credit card may insure you for car rentals – check. Most insurance plans do not cover water damage, so be extra careful when cruising through those rivers. You also need to be 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license, a major credit card and a passport. A foreign driver’s license is acceptable for up to 90 days. Carefully inspect the car and make sure any previous damage is noted on the rental agreement. If you plan to drive from North America, you’ll need the usual insurance and ownership papers. In addition, you must buy Costa Rican insurance at the border and pay a road tax. You’re not allowed to sell the car in Costa Rica. If you need to leave the country without the car, you must leave it in a customs warehouse in San José.

· taxi

Taxis serve urban and remote areas. They are useful for remote destinations, such as national parks, where bus services are unavailable. In small villages without clearly marked taxis, ask at the local pulpería about service. If the taxi doesn’t have a meter, set the fare ahead of time.

· bicycle

The traffic may be hazardous and the roads narrow, steep and winding, but cyclists do pedal Costa Rica. Mountain bikes and beach cruisers can be rented in towns with a significant tourist presence.

· shuttle bus

Tourist-van shuttles are provided by Grayling’s Fantasy Bus (tel: 220 2126; http://www.graylinecostarica.com) and Interbus (tel: 283 5573; http://www.interbusonline.com). Both run overland transport from San José to the most popular destinations, and between other destinations (see website). Services from San José to Puntarenas and Monteverde provide hotel pick-up, air-con and are faster than public buses. Reserve online or through local travel agencies and hotels.

· air

NatureAir flies from Tobías Bolaños airport, 8km (4.9mi) west of the center of San José in the suburb of Pavas. Sansa operates out of Juan Santamaría airport. Both fly small passenger planes with a baggage allowance of 12kg (26lbs). Space is limited and demand great in high season, so reserve ahead.

· road

People who hitchhike will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go. Single women should use greater discretion. Hitchhiking is never entirely safe and TicosLand.com doesn’t recommend it. Hitching in Costa Rica is unusual on main roads as buses are frequent. On minor rural roads, it’s more common. To get picked up, most locals wave to cars in a friendly manner. Hitchhikers should offer to pay upon arrival. Many will wave the offer aside, but it is polite.

· motorcycle

Motorcycles (even Harleys) can be rented in San José.

· Disabled Travellers

Although Costa Rica has an equal-opportunity law for disabled people, it applies only to new or newly remodeled businesses and is loosely enforced. Many buses don’t have special provisions for wheelchairs, but there are some that are wheelchair accessible; and few hotels, restaurants or parks have features specifically suited to wheelchair use. One exception is Volcán Poás. Outfitter Vaya con Silla de Ruedas (tel: 2454 2810; http://www.gowithwheelchairs.com) offers specialty trips for travelers who use wheelchairs.

If you are looking for more information on businesses and companies in Costa Rica, then visit the TicosLand.com web directory where you will be sure to find what you are looking for.

3 Responses to “General Information About Costa Rica.”


  1. This topic is quite hot in the net right now. What do you pay the most attention to while choosing what to write ?

  2. Elijah Koutsourakis Says:

    I am planning on driving down from Canada and back again. I wanted to go south using the most eastern rout and back via the western rout, not taking the same road twice. I was wondering if there was a road I could take from San Carlos, Nicaragua, to Los Chiles, Costa Rica? Or if chartered boats were available that could accomidate a 4WD automobile. Please let me know.


  3. In my experience Valle Dorado Travel Agency is the best option for travel arrangements in Costa Rica. I had the best vacation ever!! vdorado@racsa.co.cr , www.valledoradotours.com


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