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USEFUL INFORMATION


AIRPORTS

International airports:
JUAN SANTAMARIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT in San Jose (Airport code: SJO)
DANIEL ODUBER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT in Liberia (Airport code: LIR)

Domestic airports:
TOBIAS BOLAÑOS AIRPORT in Pavas (Airport code: SYQ) for NATURE AIR
JUAN SANTAMARIA DOMESTIC AIRPORT in San Jose (Airport code: SJO) for SANSA AIRLINES

CLOTHING

City Attire: For daytime attire, it is suggested that men wear pants (jeans are ok), and women should wear skirts, pants or Bermuda length shorts. During the evening hours, men should wear nice slacks and shirt (sports jacket is optional), and women will feel comfortable in nicer casual evening attire. A light jacket or sweater may be necessary from November to April, when winds make it cool at night.

Beach, Jungle, & Mountain: Resort wear for the beaches is best - casual is the rule. When hiking through the jungle, it is recommended that long pants and long sleeve shirt be worn for protection. Cotton clothing is best suited for the tropics. Avoid blue jeans or denim apparel as much as possible, since it can be quite warm in the tropics, and if denim gets wet it takes a long time to dry. A jacket, sweater or sweatshirt is suggested for visits to the cloud forest, or the higher altitude volcano parks. Be prepared with two pairs of boots or shoes, since one pair can be worn while the other dries from the previous days use.

Sports Activities: For all activities, a hat, sun visor, or cap is strongly recommended. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are best when exploring by foot. For river rafting, a special sheet will be provided. Tennis shoes (that can get wet) or special river rafting sandals are required by the rafting companies. A towel, Sun screen (waterproof), a water proof disposable camera, sunglasses with a string or strap, a plastic bag for wet clothes, and a change of clothes should be brought with you when traveling to the river. Some people prefer light long sleeve shirts and long pants for their jungle explorations.

PACKING

If your plans call for an overnight visit to the national parks or beaches in and out of a central city location, it is highly recommended that you leave your bulky suitcases at your city hotel, and carry an overnight case for these excursions. Please remember that if flying to any area in small aircraft, a 40 lbs. per person weight limit exists for checked in luggage (and it can be lower depending on the rate you purchased for your flight) and 10 lbs for your carry on. Pack your suitcases with this in mind. Leave you large bag at you hotel in the city, and pack a smaller weekender bag for you trip to the beach or rainforest. If you are taking medication, always carry it with you rather than putting it in your suitcase.

SAFETY

For your safety and convenience we recommend that you exercise caution (as you would in any part of the world) with the handling of large amounts of cash or showing off expensive jewelry or equipment. It is a good idea to leave your jewelry at home. Violent crime is minimal in Costa Rica, however, be careful of pick pockets in downtown San Jose. Always make photocopies of your passport, and keep your passport in the hotel safe, while carrying the photocopy with you at all times. Exercise the same degree of caution in Costa Rica that you would at home.

WATER

Tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink; however, bottled water is available throughout the country. There are two major brands in Costa Rica Cristal and Alpina.

CURRENCY AND CREDIT CARDS

The currency in Costa Rica is the Colón (coloan). It is best to exchange money at your hotel, or at any bank. Most major credit cards and travelers checks are widely accepted. It is not necessary to exchange money in the U.S., as U.S. dollar bills are accepted in most places. Many people will not accept torn or marked paper currency, so try to have all your bills in good shape and tear free. The colón (colones plural) currently exchanges at an average of 500 per US dollar. If you think of a 5,000 note as ten, and 10,000 as twenty-dollar bills you'll be right on. Many restaurant menus also post prices in US dollars.

The standard credit cards (VISA, MasterCard and American Express) are commonly accepted by hotels, restaurants and shops; ATM's are widely spread over the country. However, some exceptions exist, mostly at remote areas.

VOLTAGE

The electrical current for Costa Rica is the same as in the U.S. (110 volts). In Costa Rica you will usually find flat blade plugs the same type as in USA. No adapter is needed

TIPPING

Costa Rican restaurants are required by law to add a 23% charge (a 10% service charge and an 13% sales tax) to all bills. If your restaurant server has provided excellent service, an addition tip of 5-10% is recommended. Bellboys, porters, guides and tour bus drivers generally receive a tip for their services. Suggested tipping: Bellboys $1.00 per person for parties of two or more, single travelers $1.00 per bag, Airport Porters $.50 per bag, Tour Guides $3.00 to $5.00 per person per day, River Rafting Guides - $5.00 to $8.00 per person per day, Tour Bus Drivers $1.50 to $2.00 per person per day.

TIME ZONE

Costa Rica is in the Central Standard Time Zone (GMT -6), and daylight savings time is NOT observed.

TAXIS

Your hotel will be able to call a cab for you. Taxis are usually red (except for the orange "Taxis Unidos" cabs which specialize in carrying people to and from the international airport), and have a distinctive license plate that differentiates them from illegal "pirate" taxis. When you take a taxi from the street make sure it has an official taxi sticker on the side and has no tinted windows. Please note that cabs in Costa Rica should have a taximeter. Most taxis ordered by the hotels are a bit more expensive but very safe.

HOLIDAYS & OFFICE HOURS

The national holidays are:

Jan 1
Mar 19 (San Jose Day)
Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Easter Sunday
April 11 (Juan Santamaria-a national hero-Day)
July 25 (Guanacaste Annexation Day)
Aug 2 (Day of the Patron Saint of Costa Rica)
Aug 15 (Mothers Day)
Sep 15 (Independence Day)
Dec 8 (Immaculate Conception Day)
Dec 25

There is a period of two weeks centered on the Christmas / New Year Holidays in which offices, banks, and government agencies announce their plans in the papers. These usually include a one or two week closing and depend on how the holidays fall on the calendar. Banks are usually open a number of days during this period. Family business, like restaurants, shops and services, are usually closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as New Years Eve and New Years Day. Most hotels and resorts will keep all services and restaurants open during this period.

MEDICAL TREATMENT

Costa Rica offer up-to-date medical facilities. Carry with you at all times your medical information: blood type, allergies, and medications. Bring with you a full supply of the medications you will need. Most medications are available in Costa Rica, although the particular brand or type may not be available. You will often have to pay for any medical treatment. However, we encourage you to check with your health insurance provider prior to departure, to see if they will cover you while on your vacation, and the extent of the coverage.

LANGUAGE

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, however, you do not need to know Spanish to comfortably travel in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans are required to take a second language in school, and many take English. Although knowing Spanish is always an advantage when traveling in Costa Rica, not speaking it will not be a hindrance. Most members of the tourism industry in Costa Rica speak English, and quite a few of the local people also speak English.

WEATHER

Costa Rica is a small tropical country just above the equator. This accounts for its 'perfect' weather or what tourists are bound to call, 'eternal spring.' The temperature ranges between 17 to 27 degree Celsius which means that the climate never gets too hot or too cold.
Costa Rica is characterized for having two main seasons: the "wet" season and the "dry" season.

The wet season (also known as the Green Season) between May and November is characterized by sunny mornings and reliable afternoon rainfalls. The dry season, between December and April are characterized by warmer temperatures and hardly any rainfall. The latter is considered high season for tourism, and this is reflected in the cost airline tickets which reach their highest point during this time.

Beyond rainfall, temperatures maintain a moderate level throughout the year, with variations towards the coast or mountains. Because of its topographic diversity, the country offers a wide variety of microclimates which enable an extended array of biodiversity.

Weather At-a-Glance:
Mid December - April: Hardly any rain .
May - August : Usually rains 1-2hrs in the afternoons. Mid August the rain tends to get heavier
September - October: Usually rains 2-3hrs daily.
November: Is usually a mix of the 2 seasons
May is the warmest month.
February is the coolest yet driest month.
October is the wettest month.

LEAVING THE COSTA RICA

For those visitors that have stayed in the country for less than 90 days, a charge of $29.00 (or the equivalent in Costa Rican Colones) is payable in departure taxes. This tax must be paid at a special departure tax window (Impuestos de Salida) inside the International terminal.

UNITED STATES EMBASSY IN COSTA RICA

Location: At the intersection of Avenida Central and Calle 120 in the Pavas Section of San José, Costa Rica.
Street Address: Calle 120 Avenida 0, Pavas, San José, Costa Rica

Telephone: 2519-2000
After Hours/Emergencies: 2519-2280

Embassy Fax: 2519-2305
Consular Fax: 2220-2455

http://costarica.usembassy.gov/

When you are flying to Latin America, please check your passport expiration dates and make sure you are in compliance with the visa requirements for your trip.

RENTAL CAR

If your reservations includes a rental car, please make sure to make yourself acquainted with their rental policies. Although we provide you with the confirmation codes you will need to sign the actual contract for the rental, as well as provide a CREDIT (not debit) card for your deposit hold which varies with amounts up to $1000. This is a hold they place in case of accident to cover the deductible and other expenses. Most of the rentals we include have Collision Damage Waiver included in the price which is the minimum insurance required to drive off the rental lot (usually have a deductible). You can always upgrade your insurance to full insurance with no deductibles on site.

COSTA RICA TRAVEL MARKET CONTACT INFORMATION IN COSTA RICA

You may contact our operational office at 2248-4951 or our 24-Hour Emergency contact 24/7 is 8373-1434. You need not dial any area code when in country, just the 8 digits. You can purchase a local calling card from $2 up and you can dial international if you need us: Our 24/7 emergency line is 1.888.831.1811 ext 506. Our offices are located in San Jose.

IF WE LOOK AT THE DESTINATION FROM A PURELY GEOGRAPHIC POINT OF VIEW Costa Rica is a country that offers a wide array of alternatives for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts and beach connoisseurs. Let's break down topic by topic and how to approach each.

BEACHES

Costa Rica enjoys the advantage of two very different coastlines. The Caribbean Coast and the Pacific shoreline which we divide into North Pacific, Central Pacific and South Pacific.

THE CARIBBEAN COAST:
located in the province of Limon we find the main area of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita with its Afro-Caribbean culture and relaxed atmosphere. The Caribbean coastline offers a great alternative during the months of April through November, what Costa Ricans consider the "wet season".

THE PACIFIC COAST:
North Pacific includes beautiful beaches such as Papagayo Bay (with plenty of large resort type accommodations); the area of Tamarindo, Pinilla, Flamingo, Conchal which stand out as very popular destinations including Playa Grande where tourists flock year after year to observe the turtles hatching; and finally Samara, Nosara and Islita on the Nicoya Peninsula with incredibly beautiful beaches.

Central Pacific has very popular luxury hotels such as Marriott Los Suenos and Villa Caletas, with regular beaches and few outstanding features. The area that does stand out in this region includes the Manuel Antonio National Park and Quepos which offer an active nighlife along with highly populated beaches.

South Pacific we find Dominical, Golfo Dulce and the Peninsula de Osa. Being that the distance from San Jose is approximately 5-7 hrs, this area is less convoluted and still offers pristine untouched areas. These locations are usually outside the mainstream offering, so if you want to make the most out of what the country really has to offer these are beaches you should look into it with attention.

NATURE

Costa Rica has plenty of National Parks all with different ecosystems, flora and fauna. The biodiversity this destination encompasses is unique. Bird watching offers over 800 species of birds and park wildlife includes: sloths, tapirs, a variety of monkeys and occasional big cats amongst others.

Caribbean: Tortuguero National Park is humid and hot! Jungle lodges abound. This area is known as the "Amazon of Costa Rica" because it resembles Peru and Brazil's Amazon area and its lodging alternatives. If you visit the Tortuguero lodges you probably would be better of taking one of their 3 Day / 2 Night packages which is the right amount of time to visit the Tortuguero canals and maybe do some adventure tour. The Cahuita National Park has the largest system of coral reefs in the country. Fishing is very popular activity in this area.

Northern Zone: this area hosts the very popular Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Nature lovers and birdwatchers paradise, this destination has developed into the perfect adventure/nature combination.

North Pacific: Rincon de la Vieja National Park (inland) usually combined with Guanacaste Beach experience due to the proximity, it offers a fantastic nature alternative for those seeking to visit as much as possible within a short period of time.

Marino Las Baulas (coast) is where we find Playa Grande and the turtle hatching coastline. Finally, the Ostional Wildlife Reserve (coast) great for turtle watching as well as for Dolphin and Whale watching tours.

Central Pacific: here we find the Carara National Park (inland) with many nature and adventure alternatives. The Manuel Antonio National Park (coast) has incredible views and fauna observation opportunities. Its main advantage is the possibility of combining nature and beach within this beautiful spot. In addition, the distance from San Jose is approximately 4.5 hours making it very accessible too.

South Pacific: a bit further away the Marino Ballena National Park (coast) offers incredible marine wildlife opportunities. Finally, the Corcovado National Park (coast) is considered a MUST for nature experts. If you are a nature lover, it does not get any better than this! However, as mentioned above with the South Pacific beaches, this park is usually not included in mainstream offerings.
The Turtle Observation activity deserves a paragraph of its own. When is it a good time to undertake this activity?

North Pacific: November to April: you can see the Leatherbacks at Playa Grande and Playa Langosta in the Marino Las Baulas National Park. July to December: Ostional National Park for the Leatherbacks and the Olive Ridley turtles.

South Pacific: June to October: observe the Hawsbill Sea Turtles a the Corcovado National Park.

Caribbean: July to September: you can see Green Sea Turtles, Loggerheads and Leatherbacks.
Marine Wildlife is another nature lovers' activity. The best area to do this is the South Pacific Coast followed by the Caribbean . Dolphin and Whale watching tours (including sightings of Killer Whales) provide optimum results between July and December.

Volcanoes: With about 122 volcanoes, Costa Rica has much to offer in this front but two especially deserve to be mentioned: the Poas Volcano which has a crater of 1.5 kms in width, making it the second widest in the world, and the Arenal Volcano which has become the most popular Volcano in the country. Tourists multiply to see the spectacle of this mountain of fire spitting lava in the dark. During the day, the destination offers all sorts for nature and adventure alternatives to choose from. Other volcanoes include the Barba, the Irazu, the Rincon de la Vieja, the Turrialba, etc.