Information & Facts
Costa Rica has a formal business environment, where men and
women wear conservative suits, appointments are made and meetings
begin on time. Business projects can be slow, however, as Costa
Ricans are conservative in their approach to new ideas and keen to
avoid risk. Spanish is the main language, but most business people
speak English; however it is polite to have business cards as well
as other promotional material printed in both English and Spanish.
A lot of women have high profile jobs, although of machismo still
exists. Visiting businesswomen will be treated with respect once
their ability and authority is clearly established. Hours of
business are generally 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday with a two-hour
lunch break from 12pm.
Being tropical, there is little difference in temperature
throughout the year, but there is a lot of rainfall, particularly
from May to November. Temperatures along the coast are hotter,
averaging 89ºF (32ºC), although they are tempered down by sea
breezes. The highland areas are warm during the day and can be
quite cool at night.
The international access code for Costa Rica is +506. The
outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.
0044 for the United Kingdom). City codes are not required. Costa
Rica has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in
Latin America. The cheapest way to phone internationally is a
direct call using a phone card. Mobile phone operators use GSM 1800
networks. Internet cafes are available in the main towns.
Costa Ricans are conservative when it comes to family values,
and roles between male and female are expected to be traditional.
'Machismo' is a key characteristic of Costa Rica culture, although
women are quickly becoming more empowered in Tico society. The
population is largely middle-class, Catholic and ethnically
Travellers to Costa Rica over 18 years do not have to pay duty
on 3 litres of alcohol; 500g of tobacco or 400 cigarettes or 50
cigars. Perfume for personal use is allowed provided it is a
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Flat two-pin
plugs and three-pin (two flat blades with round grounding pin)
plugs are in use.
There are no vaccination requirements for Costa Rica. There is a
risk of malaria in some areas year-round and advice should be taken
on precautions and medication. Water in cities is generally safe
but it is advisable to buy bottled water, especially outside the
main towns where there is a risk of contamination. Dengue fever is
one of a number of diseases carried by insects that also occur in
this region, especially during the rainy season; protection against
insect bites is the best prevention. Medical services are reliable
in cities and the standard of hygiene and treatment is very
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely
The Costa Rican Colón (CRC) is divided into 100 céntimos and is
the official currency, although US Dollars are also widely
accepted. US Dollars and travellers cheques can be exchanged in
banks and many hotels. Banks charge a service fee for cashing
travellers cheques and currency other than US$ is difficult to
exchange. Using black market exchange options is risky as they have
been known to pass on counterfeit bills printed in Colombia. Banks
close anywhere from 3pm to 6pm. Major credit cards are widely
accepted, although American Express and Diners Club might be more
limited. ATMs are available in major towns throughout the country,
but it is advisable to always have some local cash handy.
All foreign passengers to Costa Rica must have return/onward
tickets and the necessary travel documentation for their next
destination, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in
the country. Note: an onward ticket may be a bus or a plane ticket.
Extensions of stay for those who are visa-exempt can be arranged on
arrival. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is
required, if arriving in Costa Rica within six days of leaving or
transiting through one of the following countries: Angola, Benin,
Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia,
Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone, Sudan or
Venezuela. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at
least six months validity remaining after your intended date of
departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often
apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official
There is no history of terrorism in Costa Rica, however there
are incidents of violent crime, occasionally targeting tourists.
There has been an increase in attacks on tourists leaving the
airport in hired cars in San Jose. Belongings should be watched
carefully at all times and in all places, particularly in bus
stations and on public transport. Theft of, and from, cars is
common. Do not wear jewellery or carry large amounts of cash and
avoid moneychangers on the street. Strikes, protests and blockades
have recently taken place without warning and further
demonstrations could disrupt travel on main roads, particularly
those connecting San Jose with the coast.
Local time is GMT -6.
Hotels add a 10% service charge plus a 3% tourist tax to their
bills by law. In tourist and upmarket restaurants a tip of 10% is
usual, however some establishments already include a 17% sales and
service tax in the bill. Taxi drivers are not normally tipped, but
tour guides are. In general if service has been particularly good
service staff appreciate a 5 to 10% tip.