Quick facts about Costa Rica


Costa Rica is situated in Central America with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. To the west lies the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean to the east. The tiny country (about the size of West Virginia), has the longest standing democracy, strongest tradition of peace, highest literacy rate (93%), and the best living conditions and infrastructure in Central America. It abolished its army in 1948. This history of peace, along with its diverse ecosystem and wonderful people, have made it a great destination.

Costa Ricans are known as Ticos for their tendency to express nouns in the diminutive form by adding tico to the end of the word. For example, one momentito becomes one momentico to indicate a short time. Thus, Ticos.

(By the way, don?t be fooled by a momentico or manana. Ticos move very slowly compared to North American standards. A friend here says that manana doesn?t mean tomorrow...it just means not today!)

Although we are only a few degrees above the equator, the climate is very mild due to its high altitude. The days in San Jose, the capital city, are usually warm (in the 70s) but be sure to bring a sweater with you. The nights can get a bit chilly.

The official language is Spanish. Currency is expressed in colones, although low-denomination dollars are widely accepted (just be sure you know the exchange rate, currently (Oct 07) at 516.5 colones to the dollar). The country is predominantly Catholic, although the Ticos enjoy religious freedom. The population of the entire country is around 4.2 million, although at least one-third lives in the Central Valley where San Jose is located.

Costa Rica is in the Central Time Zone, however, they do not observe Daylight Savings Time.

We have found that American Express is not widely accepted, although Visa is.

Water in the city is potable. However, the sewer system is not the best in the world. Most public toilets request that you do not flush the T.P.

Although Costa Rica is very safe and violent crime is not prevalent, be sure to follow the same safeguards that you would in any large city:

  • Always keep a firm grip on your wallet or handbag. Although violent crime is rare, pickpockets abound! One common ploy is for a woman pickpocket (usually around the Hotel Del Rey at night) to grab a man's crotch with one hand while reaching for his wallet or money clip with the other.
  • Steer clear of overly-friendly street walkers.
  • Never leave any belongings in a car or otherwise out of your sight.
  • Call the police (911) in case of emergency.
  • Leave excess money in the safe at your hotel; only carry what you need.
  • Avoid wearing lots of jewelry.
  • Only park a car in an attended lot.
  • Avoid dark, deserted streets and the red light district (around the Hotel del Rey, Ave.1 and Calle 9).
  • What to bring with you:

  • Business clothes for working (not business casual)
  • Casual clothes for playing
  • Binoculars to getting a better look at the beautiful birds and mountains
  • Pocket calculator for determining exchange rates
  • Sunscreen
  • Sweater or long-sleeved shirt for chilly evenings
  • Film and a camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Passport
  • Swim suit
  • Umbrella
  • Medication, if needed
  • Workout clothes for the hotel gym
  • Of course, if you are lucky enough to spend the weekend here, outdoor activities may dictate that you bring other specialty items, such as insect repellent (100% DEET) and a rain poncho for jungle hikes, a beach towel, or a disposable waterproof camera and Tevas for a whitewater adventure.

    Most of these items can be purchases here, but you?ll find that they are very expensive.

    Shorts are okay for tourist sites but aren?t as common in the city, especially for women.

    Climate

    In San Jose, you?ll find eternal spring. The days are warm and generally sunny, with chilly nights. The beaches, of course, are more humid and warmer.

    Due to our proximity to the equator, the seasons are reversed. Summer (Nov - April) is drier; May - Oct is considered winter (or the green season, as Ticos optimistically call it) and is usually sunny in the morning and rainy in the afternoons. Due to the afternoon rains, it?s best to get an early start on your activities; the clouds start forming around noon. Sunrise is between 5:15 a.m. and 6 a.m.; sundown is around 6 p.m.

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