Costa Rica General Information

Pura Vida Costa Rica

Quick Facts

Region: South America & Central America



The majority of the population are Roman Catholic.


Spanish is the official language, but some English is also spoken.

Area (sq. km):
51,100 square meters


GMT -6

When To Travel

Costa Rica receives between 4500 and 5000 mm average annual rainfall in its heavily forested lowland areas along the Caribbean and in the southwest along the Pacific; average temperature is 25 C. San Jose on the Meseta Central receives 1900 mm of rainfall annually (less than 25 mm falls in February). The temperate climate of the Meseta Central supports Costa Rica's coffee production. At elevations above 2300m the average annual temperature is less than 15 C.

Costa Rica can be visited all year round. The dry season runs from December to April and is the busiest time of the year with tourists. The wet season, which runs from May to November, is less crowded.

Useful Travel Facts


Juan Santamaria Airport is located 17 kilometres northwest of San Jose city center. A taxi between the two should cost approximately US$15 - negotiate the cost before you get into the taxi and please note that this must be paid for in local currency (colons). You can also catch the Alajuela РSan Jos̩ bus, which passes by the airport very regularly throughout the day, the bus should cost approximately US 50 cents and will take about 40 minutes. The bus stop is just outside the terminal.


The international dialling code for Costa Rica is +506. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Latin America. Most countries in the region operate on the 1900 Mhz system. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option.


Electricity throughout Costa Rica is 120 V, 60 Hz using the same type two prong plugs as in the United States.


Costa Rican cuisine is simple but can be heavy on oil. Local dishes, rely heavily on rice and beans, the basis of many Costa Rican meals. Meals are generally wholesome and reasonably priced. Gallo pinto, the national dish of a lightly spiced mixture of rice and black beans is traditionally served for breakfast. Notable is the famed Rice n' Beans of the Caribbean, a gallo pinto made in coconut milk, worth trying. Many meals are derivatives, including arroz con pollo (a basic dish of rice and chicken) or arroz con atun (rice and tuna). At lunch gallo pinto becomes casado - rice and beans supplemented with cabbage and tomato salad, fried platains, and meat or fish and maybe and egg or an avocado. This local fare can be found at the hundreds of sodas (lunch counters) dotted around the city. Imperial, Bavaria and Pilsen are the most popular local beers. There are a variety of dishes that do not include meat; however, meat is often an important feature of food in Central America. You will not have a problem avoiding meat, but you must accept that vegetarian choices will often be limited to such meals as rice, soups, salads and dips. Please advise your tour guide at the pre-trip briefing if you are a vegetarian.


Bus travel is the most common means of transportation in Costa Rica. Roads total about 35,881 km of which 22 per cent is paved; a 680 km stretch forms part of the Inter-American Highway. San José is linked by road with the cities of the surrounding plateau region. Several domestic airlines operate within the country.


Don’t leave Costa Rica without purchasing some of their wonderful freshly roasted coffee beans. Other items you can pick up include wooden carving/chopping boards, jewellery boxes, salad bowls, plates, carvings and ornaments. Bargaining is accepted at markets, but not in shops. Leatherwork, ceramics and jewellery are also good purchases in Costa Rica.


Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Costa Rica. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent.

Please note that Costa Rican authorities require a Yellow Fever Certificate for visitors arriving from some countries in South America (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela).

Useful Words & Phrases


1: uno
10: diez
2: dos
3: tres
4: cuatro
5: cinco
6: seis
7: siete
8: ocho
9: nueve
Bicycle: bicicleta
Breakfast: desayuno
Can I take a photo?: Le puedo sacar una foto? Por Favor
Car: auto/carro
Cheaper: Mas barato
Closed: Cerrado
Dinner: cena
Do you speak English?: Habas ingles?
Entrance: Entrada
Exit: Salida
Fine, Thanks: Bien, gracias
Goodbye: Adios/Chau
Hello: Hola!
How are you?: Como estas?
How do I get to_____?: Como puedo llegar a_____?
I don't speak much Spanish: No hablo mucho espanol
I don't understand: No entiendo
I would like_____: Quisiera
I'm looking for_____: Estoy buscando
I'm vegetarian: Soy vegetariano
Information: Informacion
Lunch: almuerzo
Mr/Sir: Senor
Mrs/Madame: Senora
my hotel: mi hotl
My name is_____: Me llamo_____
My names is_____?: Me llamo_____
No smoking: No Fumar
Open: Abierto
Police: Policia
Taxi: taxi
the airport: el aeropuerto
the bank: el banco
the bill: la cuenta/la factura
the post office: el correo
the train station: ka estacuib de ferrocarril
Toilets: Banos
too expensive: muy caro
Turn left: A la izquierda
Turn right: A la derecha
What does_____mean?: Que quiere decir?
What is your name?: Como te Ilamas?
Where is_____?: Donde esta_____?

Further Reading

Exploring Costa Rica-The Tico Times Costa Rica The Ecotravellers-Les Beletsky Wildlife Guide