Costa Rica intro


GEOGRAPHY & SIZE
The many varied areas of Costa Rica reveal the tremendous diversity and brilliance of the country's rich tropical setting. Home to three volcanic mountain ranges, Pacific and Caribbean coastlines and numerous rain forests. Costa Rica is approximately the size of West Virginia with 20,000 square miles.

CLIMATE
Temperatures remain nearly constant all year with variations related to elevation. Mountain temperatures in the evening can be in the 50's and below, lowland temperatures between 80-90 degrees, while the Central Valley averages 72 degrees Fahrenheit. There are two distinct seasons. The dry season is December through April and the green season May through November. Green season brings daily showers in the afternoon.

POPULATION
There are four million people in Costa Rica with close to one million in San Jose and the Central Valley. The people, "Ticos" (as Costa Ricans are affectionately called), are self-assured, characterized by genuine friendliness and tremendous pride. Foreign travelers are warmly welcomed. Spanish is the official language with English widely spoken.

GOVERNMENT
A democracy with over 400 years of unbroken peace, Costa Rica has been without an army for almost 60 years. The armed forces consist of:
Air Force: Scarlet Macaws
Army: Leaf Cutting Marching Ants
Navy: Dolphins
Ex-President, Oscar Arias, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 as world-wide recognition of Costa Rica's example of democracy.

UTILITIES
Electric current is the same as in the United States 110 volts AC. Power outages are not uncommon. It is wise to travel with a portable flashlight. Water is safe to drink in Costa Rica, however, if you are in remote areas of the country it is recommended that you drink bottled water.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Proof of Citizenship is required while a valid passport is mandatory for. Keep a photocopy of your passport separate from your original.

TRANSPORTATION
U.S. carriers include American, United and Continental Airlines. Costa Rican airlines are Lacsa and Aero Costa Rica. Domestic flights within Costa Rica are reasonably priced with daily service to coastal areas. The road system is somewhat primitive compared to U.S. standards. We recommend driving during daylight hours only.

CURRENCY
The national currency is the colon(es). The exchange rate fluctuates in relation to the U.S. dollar. Dollars can be exchanged in any bank in the National Banking System or at most hotels. Credit cards are widely accepted. Smaller, local establishments and many lodges only accept cash.

TAXES & TIPPING
By law, all hotels are required to include 13% sales tax and 3% tourism tax on all room charges. In restaurants a 10% gratuity is added to the check. As in most countries, it is the custom to leave an extra tip for good service. Tour guides, hotel bellboys and maids generally receive a tip for their services. There is an airport departure tax of approximately $26.00 per person.

TRAVEL TIPS

  • If you know Spanish, use it. A smile can work wonders where words fail.
  • Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but not all are safe for swimming. Ask a local if it is safe before swimming.
  • Before leaving home, photocopy your passport. Carry the copy with you leaving the original in a safe place.
  • Statistically San Jose is very safe, but travel wisely. Avoid flashy jewelry and take only the money you will need for the day. Keep track of your purse, wallet, backpack or fanny pack.
  • Cars do not yield to other cars or pedestrians.
  • Expect that Costa Rica will be different than your hometown.
  • Avoid driving isolated roads at night.

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