Costa Rica Travel Information
Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordered on the north by Nicaragua and Panama to the south. The west coast is bathed by the Pacific Ocean and the east by the Caribbean coast. Within its borders which has several mountain ranges and a large central valley most of the population call home.
It is a relatively small country in less than 51,000 square kilometers.
There are numerous mountain ranges, usually run N.W S. E. The most important are: the central, Talamanca, Tilarán and Guanacaste. It is this contrast between the mountains and the beach giving Costa Rica its numerous and varied
Seasons / Weather
Most of Costa Rica has two seasons: the dry season and the wet season. dry season is generally from December to April and the rainy season from May to November.
The wet season is also known as the green season (which sounds a little better) and the dry season is also called summer, as Costa Rica is north of Ecuador is simply wrong!
The dry season is exactly what it says it is, but the rainy season is not necessary to deter visitors too; The rains can be heavy, but they are usually only short-lived and usually arrive at the same time every day. In San Jose, for example, mornings are typically very beautiful with cloud arrive early in the afternoon. An hour or so of heavy rain, usually accompanied by thunderstorms, is followed by a brightening skies and dry nights.
Driving in Costa Rica
Driving in Costa Rica is not for the faint of heart. Has one of the highest rates in the world accidents, and watch the traffic whiz around San Jose for a few minutes will show you why.
Most drivers pay little or no attention to the rules of the road, and many seem to have adopted their own rules.
Stoplights hang over the center of the road, but many drivers seem to believe that they are simply left over Christmas decorations, and rarely to buses, taxis and motorcycles are applied. Drivers may change lanes without warning and usually without any signaling.
Unique in the world, it is quite common to join a roundabout in the left lane to turn right, especially if the left lane has a shorter tail, and of course, the opposite is also true.
There are many one-way streets in the capital, and while downtown San Jose are generally respected, these are only a few blocks subject to local interpretation. Indeed, there are roads where most traffic is actually going down the wrong path.
The only way to survive this is to drive defensively. If you leave a gap of more than a few inches of distance between you and the car in front, someone will fill, but it is safer to put up with this they are frustrated because the driver can before doing any of several different things: They stop, park, turn, or slower to respond to your cell phone, and this is almost certain to be without the use of signals.
And a final word of warning signs, traffic information and route signs are few and far between. And where they did exist are usually right at the junction (instead of giving any warning) so that traffic moves from left or right at the last moment.
Potholes are common, and some are really impressive. Drivers swerve to miss the worst of them, only adds to the unpredictability of the driver ahead.
The outskirts of San José, driving is a little more civilized, but the road quality may vary. Always allow enough time for any trip, such as very short routes shown on the map may take a long time, especially if you are stuck behind a long line of trucks moving very slow. Overtaking opportunities are few and far between, but please do not be tempted to follow the example of local drivers and overtake on blind corners.
…. Warnings about driving in Costa Rica can be fun, and there are many car rental companies. Do not try to get a good road map (difficult) and ask about the planned route. As mentioned above, the distances of a few inches on the map can last from a few minutes to a few hours.
Having a rental car allows you to set your own pace, give you access to many places that are off the beaten track, and allow you to enjoy some of the most beautiful views anywhere in the world. A final word of warning; use a car rental company reputed to reserve your car. If in doubt, consult.
No vaccines (vaccines) required by visitors from North America or Europe, but it is always better to be up to date with their vaccinations before traveling to a foreign country.
Tap water is safe in all areas, but if you have a delicate constitution, you may want to stick to bottled water when outside of the main areas of the city.
Health services in Costa Rica are generally of a very high standard, and there are many private hospitals in the Central Valley that offer world class services. In fact, Costa Rica is quickly gaining a reputation as a destination for dental surgery and aesthetics, as costs are significantly cheaper than elsewhere. Most of these services are of excellent quality and value, but always worth to be careful in the selection.
We have excellent contacts in the dental field, and are willing to investigate any plastic surgeon you are considering.
If you head to the jungle areas especially in the Caribbean side, it is a wise precaution to have an effective insect repellent. Mosquito bites are uncomfortable, and very rare cases of malaria and dengue.
The electrical system in use in Costa Rica is 110v and uses two end caps. In general, electrical supplies are good, but there are areas (Quepos Manuel Antonio, in particular), where demand far exceeds supply, leading to frequent power cuts.
Currency and credit cards
The local currency is the colon, although usually only be heard plural: colones. In September 2013, the exchange rate is around ¢ 545.00 colones per US dollar.
The notes come in 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 and 20,000 and 50,000 new denomination. The dollars are widely accepted, but not universally, and are the best in smaller denominations. Many places refuse $ 50 and $ 100 bills. It is easy to exchange some for the local currency at any bank, and exchange rates are usually very competitive. Avoid change at the airport in San Jose, where rates are not as good. You will need your passport to complete the transaction.
Many banks are announcing the exchange rates of euro, but may have little experience with them. Other currencies will be difficult to change and may require a visit to the bank branch manager.
Master Card and Visa are widely accepted, but note that banks in Costa Rica charge high processing fees. Some stores an additional fee of between 3% and 5% for using a credit card charge, so it is usually worth a visit to the machine local ATM before leaving the hotel. Moreover, the book by Samantha Tours where no fee credit card charged.
In smaller stores it is often easy to negotiate a discount for cash payments. This is not a problem of “black economy”, only high bank charges.
With 25% of the national territory is protected as national park land, combined with its multitude of different microclimates, Costa Rica has an incredible variety of mammals, birds, insects and plants that offer its visitors.
The term ecotourism is easily used, but very difficult to define. In its most general sense is used to describe the tourism that takes visitors to an area, to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, while having little or no impact on the environment. Easier said than done! Traditionally most hotels in Costa Rica are quite small with 10 to 30 rooms. For these destinations it is relatively easy to maintain a low impact on the environment, while providing guests with all the amenities expected in a modern hotel.
In recent years there has been rapid growth in the tourism sector, and at peak times there are nearly 100% occupancy. This has been addressed by building many large hotel complexes focused on the northern beaches of Guanacaste. These complexes are independent, mostly all-inclusive, so that the benefit to local communities is minimal.
There is also growing concern about the impact of these hotels have on local water resources, and waste disposal of these hotels may be less than perfect.
Local health boards have been active recently, action against hotels which have standards of waste disposal, and in fact they have taken the unprecedented step of closing a major hotel until the necessary improvements are completed.
For more ecotourism mind, we at Samantha Tours offer several vacation packages that community based, These are organized by small groups of people (often women’s groups) to give visitors a vacation where they will learn about the community and give something back to the community. We have recently launched tour packages where guests can stay with local Indian families in India Talamanca Reserve.
We at Samantha Tours hotels try to promote environmentally friendly.
Costa Rica is home to some 850 species of birds, more than the whole of North America. You will probably see a number of different species during their stay without making any serious effort, but for those interested in learning more, there are several tours available with experienced guides who will help you to see many more birds than they would alone. It would be impossible to list all types of birds that can be seen, but to whet your appetite is a selection of the most common or most important species.
Near the water, with a large selection of frigates, pelicans, cormorants, darters herons, egrets, spoonbills, ibis, storks, sandpipers, Jacanas and a variety of ducks and gulls. There are also six varieties of kingfishers and several momotos a close relative.
Parrots, macaws, toucans and parakeets all can be found. Birds of prey are represented by owls, osprey, kites, hawks, owls, hawks, eagles. There are many types of vultures often seen by the roadside.
And finally, the quetzal, although difficult to achieve, can be found in the higher elevations of the Cordillera de Talamanca and Monteverde and Braulio Carrillo National Pak.
Costa Rica occupies part of the narrow strip of land between North and South America, and is fortunate to have a fantastic variety of mammals, including: o opossums, anteaters, sloths, armadillos, four species of monkeys, raccoons, coatis , peccaries martillas (known as javelins in the US), deer, tapirs, agoutis and bales.
Rarely seen by visitors (or local for that matter) are a series of big cats such as jaguars, ocelots, ocelots, pumas, ocelots and jaguars.
There are over 100 species of bats in Costa Rica. They can be seen and heard across the country from the deserted gardens in the city center islands.
Crime and safety
Costa Rica is one of the safest counties in Central and South America, but the crime rate is alarmingly high and growing every year. Most of these are crimes of opportunity or pickpockets and violent crime remains a minority.
As a visitor, it stands out from the local population, and therefore is a target. There is a common belief that all tourists should be rich. Here are some safety tips:
Leave your passport and other valuables in the hotel safe. Many hotels photocopied passport for you, and you should take the photograph page, and the page that contains the entry stamp with you at all times. The only time you are likely to need your full passport is when the currency is changed in a bank or rent a car.
If you’re renting a car, always lock it and not leave valuables in the car (or if absolutely necessary, leave them out of sight).
Always park in a lot or an area with a “vigilante”. These guards will take care of your car for a couple of hundred colones per hour.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry when walking around San Jose.
In San Jose, in particular, there are some areas where you should not walk around at night. Use a taxi, which are plentiful and cheap. Please note that the licensed taxis are all yellow triangle and must have a working meter (maria in Spanish). If in doubt, ask the driver to “put the maria please”. If he says he’s not running for a quote before you start your trip.
Carry only the amount of cash as their expected use and distribute it in different pockets.
Try to stay aware of your surroundings.
If you follow basic precautions (as you would in any big city) you should have no problems, but if they are in difficulty the emergency number of the police is 911.