Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this blog overs a range of topics, including visa requirements, the official language spoken in Costa Rica, and important holidays celebrated throughout the year.
Whether you are planning a vacation, looking to relocate, or simply curious about the culture and lifestyle in Costa Rica, our blog provides the essential information you need.
Germans, Austrians and Swiss can enter Costa Rica visa-free for tourist purposes for up to 90 days with a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond the return date. According to information from the Costa Rican Embassy in Berlin, temporary passports are currently not accepted. German children’s passports are recognized for entry into Costa Rica; a photo is mandatory.
Important: Since many of the flights from Germany to Costa Rica go via the USA, the entry requirements for the USA must also be observed. Further information can be found on the website of the US Embassy in Berlin at http://www.usembassy.de
Note: Tierra Verde assumes no liability for the currency or completeness of the entry requirements listed above. Only the responsible embassies and consulates of the respective countries can provide final and binding information on entry regulations.
A valid vaccination against yellow fever for all travelers older than 9 months is required when entering from a yellow fever area (e.g. South America) and must be proven by an international vaccination certificate. Vaccine protection begins ten days after the yellow fever vaccination. Failure to comply may result in an entry ban.
Otherwise, no vaccinations are required for entry, including COVID-19 vaccinations; Tetanus and polio protection and, under certain conditions, malaria prophylaxis may be recommended. Costa Rica is classified as “Zone A” with low and seasonal malaria risk by the World Health Organization. Please ask the responsible tropical institute, your family doctor or visit the following websites:
http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de, http://www.fit-for-travel.de or http://www.reisemed.at
GMT -6 hours. The time difference to Central European Time [CET] is minus -7 hours; European summer time [CEST]: minus -8 hours, as Costa Rica has not introduced summer time regulations.
The national language is Spanish. However, English is also spoken in the tourist centers, many hotels and shops. Nevertheless, every local is happy if the guest even tries to communicate with them in Spanish – you will be surprised at how much more helpful and friendly you are with them!
In principle, Costa Rica can be visited all year round, with a few restrictions. There are two main seasons: the so-called rainy season (or “winter”) from May to November and the dry season (“summer”) from December to April. Even during the dry season, depending on the region you are visiting, it can rain for an hour or even for a whole day. During the rainy season you experience strong “tropical downpours” for around 2 – 3 hours in the afternoon; the rest of the day is usually sunny. Heavier rainfall can be expected in September and October. On the Atlantic side the situation is roughly the opposite: June to October and January to March are relatively dry; In principle, the annual average precipitation in the Atlantic area of influence is significantly higher than in the Pacific area of influence. However, there are numerous exceptions to this rule, which means that a binding forecast for certain regions and seasons is not possible. The mountainous topography and different vegetation characteristics have created numerous micro-climate zones. The cloud forest region of Monteverde, for example, lies on the climate divide between the Atlantic and Pacific, the Cordillera Tilaran, and is influenced by both climate zones and many other factors such as wind, etc. A binding forecast, depending on the travel time, cannot be given for any region visited.
Means of payment and price level
Costa Rica is a relatively expensive travel destination compared to other Latin American countries, but it also has a lot to offer. The high standard of living, social security, the education system, the standard of medical care, the good infrastructure and, last but not least, the exemplary environmental protection are reflected in the price level. The currency is the colon. Cash can be exchanged at all banks and in many hotels. Common credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners) as well as US$ traveler’s checks are also accepted. However, many hotels charge a service fee when paying with a credit card!
Long waiting times must be expected when exchanging cash and traveler’s checks in banks. ATMs are now widespread throughout the country. It is possible to withdraw cash in Colones at any time using standard international credit cards. Cash withdrawals with EC cards are possible at all ATMs marked with the “Cirrus” or “Maestro” logo. These can now be found almost everywhere in Costa Rica. In shops and hotels, EURO cash and EURO checks are usually NOT accepted. Exchanging EURO in banks also usually involves very high commissions, and long waiting times must also be expected here.
In larger shops and in hotels and lodges you can usually also pay with US$. Please note, however, that US$100 and US$50 banknotes are often not accepted. Change is almost exclusively given in colones.
When picking up a rental car, a security deposit must be paid using a blank credit card voucher. It is NOT possible to deposit the guaranteed amount in cash or traveler’s checks; only international CREDIT cards are accepted, no DEBIT cards!
Current exchange rate (August 2023): 1 EURO corresponds to approximately 590 colones.
The voltage is 110V; Plugs for European electrical devices only fit with an adapter (e.g. common adapters for the USA, which can be bought in many specialist shops and department stores). In remote areas, power fluctuations and outages may occur frequently.
Make a phone call
Area code for long distance calls to Costa Rica: +506 or 00506. Area code from Costa Rica to Germany: 00-49. The telephone network in Costa Rica is one of the most developed in Latin American countries; direct dialing to Germany is possible. Fax and email connections are often available in the more remote parts of the country, especially in hotels.
The Costa Rican telephone company ICE currently has roaming contracts with the following providers from German-speaking Europe: Germany: E-Plus, O2, Vodafone D2, T-Mobile; Austria: Mobilkom Austria.
Please check with your respective provider for details and rates.
Our rental car partners offer rental cell phones that can be reserved as an additional service when renting a car.
Prepaid SIM cards are now available at ICE sales points as “Kölbi” cards upon presentation of the (original) passport or can be pre-ordered via Tierra Verde – details on request.
Many supermarkets and other stores sell prepaid phone cards in various denominations that you can use to make calls from public phones, including abroad. These are either the so-called “Colibri” cards, where a numerical code must first be “scratched” free. You then call a free service number, enter this code using the telephone keypad and then dial the desired number. Chip cards and telephones are also available, but the network of public card telephones is not very dense.
Public holidays (official holidays, banks and authorities closed)
- New Year’s Day January 1st
- Maundy Thursday
- Good Friday
- (Easter Monday is a normal working day)
- Remembrance Day of the Battle of Rivas – National Hero Juan Santamaria: April 11th
- Labor Day May 1st
- Day of the annexation of Guanacaste July 25th
- Feast of the Virgin of Los Angeles, the patron saint of Costa Rica, August 2nd
- Independence Day September 15th
- Day of the Discovery of America (formerly Columbus Day, today: Día de las Culturas) October 12th
- Christmas Day December 25th
Banks – Mon to Fri approx. 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; State banks in exceptional cases also on Saturdays. Offices usually Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Shops Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., supermarkets Mon to Sun 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. However, there are numerous exceptions to this rule; numerous supermarkets and other shops also open on Sundays and on public holidays.
Easily washable, breathable summer clothing is sufficient all year round; Also light woolen clothes for the evenings. For the cooler months of December, January and February in the higher altitudes of the country, it is also advisable to take light transitional clothing with you.
Local cuisine – food and drink
In Costa Rica, lunch is the main meal of the day. Rice and beans are important and popular components and are served in many variations. For breakfast there is often the “Gallo Pinto” made from it, and for lunch served with meat, fish or chicken, the whole thing is called “Casado”. Fish and steak as main dishes are also an important part of Costa Rican cuisine in all parts of the country. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available all year round.
The dishes are surprisingly mildly seasoned – even for European tastes. In many simpler restaurants you can order whole (entero) or half portions (medio) of some dishes such as “Casado” or “Arroz con Pollo”. In the menus, the tax is often not included in the price but must be added to the price mentioned The price must be added to the price. At the moment, 13% sales tax and 10% service surcharge apply to restaurants, which is essentially a tip included in the price. If you are very satisfied with the service and food, you should leave a small extra tip, depending on the amount of the bill Add approx. 10%.
You can find numerous restaurants with international specialties in all tourist centers and the capital San Jose. From “Italian” to “Lebanese”, the entire spectrum of international cuisine is represented. Inevitably and unmistakably, fast food culture has also taken hold in recent years. In addition to the relevant international hamburger chains, organized pizza bakers and chicken roasters, there are also local variants such as Rosti-Pollos, Domino Pizza and much more. Small Chinese restaurants are common in all parts of the country, where you can often eat good and inexpensive rice and noodle dishes. Tasty fish dishes are often offered not only in the beach towns. In addition to many types of sea fish and seafood, there are also tasty freshwater fish such as tilapia (a type of bass).
Ice-cold (tap water) is usually served free of charge with meals. If you prefer to be careful, it is better to order bottled water “Agua embotellada”. Sparkling water is called “Soda con gas”. Fresh fruit juice drinks (Frescos Naturales) are particularly popular, but unfortunately they are usually too sweetened (for my taste). Some of the most popular flavors are: Pineapple, Mango, Watermelon, Cás, Papaya, Mora.
Costa Rica is a very open-minded country in many respects; the residents are very friendly and helpful. In Costa Rica the clocks run a little differently than we are used to in Europe. With patience and tolerance, desired goals can often be achieved more easily, and you will find that a little understanding of the country’s conditions helps to convey the right “feeling of well-being” for your stay here.
Crime in Costa Rica is no worse than anywhere else in the world; However, your own demeanor – especially in larger cities – should be a little more modest.
Valuables should only be carried to the extent absolutely necessary and jewelry should be avoided completely, as should belt bags that are visibly worn. In the tourist centers, on the tourist routes and in San José there are numerous pickpockets and also organized gangs who immediately take advantage of any carelessness. Luggage should never be left unattended and loaded vehicles should only be parked in well-fenced and guarded parking spaces.
Even in daylight and when they are only a short distance from the driver, thieves do not shy away from breaking into cars – especially rental cars – within seconds and stealing luggage. Bus travelers should take into account that transport companies are generally not entitled to compensation for lost/stolen luggage; If possible, transport your luggage on the bus and don’t let it out of your sight.
Orientation in the city
Costa Rican cities are structured in a checkerboard pattern, as is common in Latin America. Avenidas run from west to east, calles (streets) from north to south. Starting from the center, there are even-numbered calls to the west and odd-numbered ones to the east. Starting from Avenida Central, there are odd-numbered avenues in the north and even-numbered ones in the south. The Avenida Central is also called “Paseo Colón” in San José. Of course, there are numerous exceptions to the rule, diagonal streets and many one-way streets. Nevertheless, orientation in San José is relatively easy.