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Travel Tips for Costa Rica

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In recent years, Costa Rica has established itself as one of the world's great destinations, offering the ultimate blend of stunning scenery, rich culture and legendary hospitality. Adventure and eco-tourists alike are enthralled by this small country's range of activities, sights and attractions, not to mention its excellent infrastructure and delicious cuisine. From the mighty Arenal volcano to the cloud forests of Monteverde and pristine beaches of Manuel Antonio, there is no shortage of action and adventure! That said, traveling to any developing country can bring its own challenges, and Costa Rica is no exception. As such, we’ve put together our very best Costa Rica travel tips to help you get to the very most out of your Central American adventures.

How to get to Costa Rica?

By air

  • Many international flights fly to the country's capital city, San Jose. A vast majority of visitors arrive in Costa Rica the same way. 
  • From North America, United, Southwest, American Airlines and Air Canada all offer direct connections to Costa Rica from across the region, while European carriers such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France offer direct services from London, Frankfurt and Paris respectively.
  • The city of Liberia is home to a small international airport served by a number of North American airlines and provides a convenient link to the north-west of the country and Pacific coastal area.

By land

  • A number of bus companies operate both national and international routes along the highway, with connections to all major tourist destinations, making this the favoured mode of transport for visitors to Costa Rica. It is worth noting, however, that the land border crossings can be very slow, with crossing frequently taking 3-6 hours to complete!
  • The Pan American Highway serves as the region's main artery, connecting the country with Nicaragua in the north and Panama to the south.
  • While the road is in generally good condition around large cities, the more rural sectors can be poorly maintained and prove challenging. 

Visa requirements for travelers

  • Citizens of UK and US are able to enter Costa Rica visa-free for a period of up to 90 days, provided they hold passports valid for the duration of their stay. Same applies for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and any European Union member states.
  • Immigration officials will often ask to see proof of onward travel, such as a confirmed aeroplane or bus ticket out of Costa Rica. These checks are particularly common at land borders, and you will be refused entry if you are unable to provide evidence.
  • It is best to keep up to date with Costa Rica travel info, as entry requirements can change at short notice.

Weather in Costa Rica

Travel tips for Costa Rica beach
December to April is the best time to visit Costa Rica.
  • Costa Rica enjoys a year-round tropical climate, although the diverse landscape means that innumerable micro-climates exist, defined largely by the region’s elevation, topography and proximity to the coast.
  • Temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year, with average highs of 27°C and lows of 17°C.
  • Costa Rica's dry season runs from December to April and is considered the country’s ‘summer’, while the wet season from May to November is considered ‘winter’. 
  • One of the most popular months to visit is in December, although prices tend to be higher and attractions can become crowded.
  • March is popular amongst travelers seeking to avoid the peak crowds while still enjoying plenty of fine days and relatively low rainfall.
  • Humidity is consistently high in Costa Rica, and significant rainfall is possible year-round, so be sure to pack suitable waterproof clothing.
  •  It is worth packing lots of thin layers which can easily be added or removed as you move around the country.
  • Those planning to explore higher elevations should carry warm clothing and take the advice of local guides as conditions can change quickly.

For more detailed information check out Best time to visit Costa Rica

Health and Vaccinations

  • If you have recently visited certain African or South American countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador or Peru, you will be required to show proof that you have been vaccinated against Yellow Fever.
  • If arriving from an affected region, you will be permitted to enter Costa Rica 10 days after receiving the vaccination.
  • Despite being a tropical destination, Costa Rica has a very low risk of Malaria. Most travelers opt not to take anti-malarial tablets during their stay, although the use of insect repellent containing a high concentration of DEET is highly recommended to prevent bites.
  • Hepatitis A and Tetanus vaccinations are also highly advisable for most visitors, although travelers should check with a healthcare professional at least 8 weeks before traveling for up to date advice.

Budgeting

  • Compared to other Central American destinations, Costa Rica is a comparatively expensive country to visit, and even budget travelers should alocate USD 30-50* per day.
  • Basic hostel beds can be found for around USD 10, while guest houses and mid-range hotels can be anything from USD 30 to 80* per night.
  • The more you immerse yourself in local life, the cheaper your trip will be! That means taking public transport rather than taxis or flights and eating in local restaurants wherever possible.
  • If you are looking for a touch of luxury, there is almost no limit to what you can spend in Costa Rica, with a range of luxury hotels, resorts and retreats available.
  • Filling and delicious meals of Beef, Pinto and Fried Plantain can be found for as little as USD 3*, although a basic understanding of Spanish will definitely be useful as most local restaurants will not have English menus.
Travel tips for Costa Rica budgeting
Eat at local restaurants called 'sodas' to save on your travel budget.
  • If you wish to keep your costs down, an easy way is to go on an independent tour, however, with organised tours to Costa Rica you can be sure that you don’t miss out on amazing experiences or sacrifice your personal safety – you're here to have fun!
  • Another great way to save money is to visit in the shoulder season between September and December when prices are at their lowest. While rainfall is higher than during other times of the year, one of the best Costa Rica travel tips is that the Caribbean coast can have some great conditions at this time of year and you’ll have the place almost to yourself!

How long should you stay in Costa Rica?

Travel tips Costa Rica boating in Tortuguero
Plan an itinerary of two weeks to experience the best of Costa Rica.
  • Many visitors are so enthralled by what Costa Rica has to offer that they end up staying far longer than initially planned. Of course, we’re not all lucky enough to be able to simply extend our visits at will, which is why it’s so important to load up on Costa Rica travel tips before you go!
  • Despite its relatively small size, Costa Rica is brimming with amazing experiences, stunning sights and incredible culture and it is possible to enjoy trips ranging from a few days to several weeks or even a month. 
  • Generally speaking, a week is enough to get a great oversight of the country and take in the key sights, such as the Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio National Park.
  • If you fancy hitting the beaches, plan in at least two or three days to explore the sine golden sands of Jaco or Tamarindo.
  • If you’re looking to join some longer hikes or explore off the beaten track, remember to allow enough time to get to and from your destination, as rural transport connections can often be slow and infrequent. 
  • To get the best experience of Costa Rica, plan on spending at least 2 weeks in the country. This will give you enough time to experience the best of Costa Rica from rainforests, beaches and volcanoes to wildlife and adventure activities.

Is Costa Rica safe to travel?

Travel tips in Costa Rica hiking
Make sure to allow enough time to get to and from your destination when hiking in remote areas.
  • Costa Rica is generally a safe travel destination, with the majority of visitors, including solo travelers not experiencing any serious problems during their stays.
  • Areas popular with tourists are generally amongst the safest in the country, and violent crimes involving tourists are comparatively uncommon.
  • The biggest risk to visitors is petty theft and pickpocketing which can occur almost any time and anywhere, so be sure to exercise the same caution you would in any large city. Tried and tested  travel tips for Costa Rica such as keeping valuables hidden and not displaying obvious signs of wealth go a long way to keeping your visit trouble-free.
  • Muggings and other violent crimes are not unheard of, so it's best to avoid poorly lit or remote areas, travel with a trusted friend where possible and only hire officially licenced taxis.
  • When traveling on buses, be aware of your surroundings and keep personal belongings within sight to avoid any problems.
  • Precautions should also be taken when engaging in adventure sports or outdoor activities in remote areas.
  • When visiting remote regions, always follow the advice of local guides and be sure to check the credentials of any tour operator you hire.
  • When visiting beaches for swimming, surfing or other water activities, riptides can cause problems for even the most advanced swimmers, so always check whether it's safe to swim.
  • For more safety tips, check out our article on Top Travel Safety Tips for 2019.

As much as it's great fun to simply follow your feet and make your trip up as you go along, you also risk missing out on some amazing experiences. Having a good understanding of your destination before you leave will not only help you to get the most out of your time away but will make it easier to save some money as you go. Our Costa Rica travel tips are tried and tested, so there's now nothing standing between you and your very own Costa Rican adventure!

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