What to Know Before You Go to Costa Rica
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English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.
Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.Collapse ▲
Begin Preparing Now!
- Begin saving now.
- Begin getting in shape for walking up and down hills so you will enjoy opportunities for moderate hikes.
- Be sure that your Passport will extend at least six months beyond the return date.
Resources to Prepare for the trip
What to Know Before You Go
- Visit your doctor four to six weeks before your trip to ensure you have all the vaccines or medicines you may need.
- Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Information for Travelers to Costa Rica
- Routine Vaccinations: Check with your Primary Care Physician to confirm you have received routine vaccinations:
- measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine,
- diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine,
- varicella (chickenpox) vaccine,
- polio vaccine, and
- yearly flu shot
Your Primary Care Physician will advise you on which additional vaccinations are required. Most travelers receive the following vaccinations prior to traveling in Costa Rica.
- Hepatitis A
These are recommended to prevent illness from unlikely exposure to contaminated food or water. We do not anticipate visiting any places with unclean drinking water or exposure to contaminants.
Reminders: Ask a guide about the water conditions in each area before drinking tap water or eating raw vegetables or food from roadside vendors. Bottled water will be made available to you daily.
What To Pack
- Comfortable Layers
- Long sleeve shirt or jacket
- Long Pants (lightweight, quick to dry)
- Rain Gear (Umbrella, Jacket)
- Sun Hat
- Shoes that can be worn in wet places
- Hiking Boots or other sturdy closed-toed shoes for walking
- 1 Credit Card (Master Card, or Visa- They do not take American Express)
- 1 Debit Card
- NO Travelers Checks
- Notify your bank that you will be traveling in Costa Rica so they do not put a stop on your card when charges show up that are outside your normal range.
- Save cash for the $40 Costa Rican export tax you will pay when you leave.
- Leave a copy with a friend or relative
- Bring your passport
- Camera with extra batteries and memory cards
- Small Flashlight
- “Unlocked” cell phone
- Mosquito Repellent
- Hand Sanitizer
- Anti-Diarrhea Medicine
- Day Pack / Fanny Pack
- Refillable water bottle
- Portable clothesline, pins, and laundry soap
Be sure to leave a list of what you packed at home, in case your suitcase is stolen.
Preparing to Go
U.S. Passports & International Travel, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
- Alerts & Warnings
- Quick Facts
- Assistance for US Citizens
- Embassies and Consulates
- County Description
- Entry, Exit, and Visa Requirements
- Safety and Security
- Local Laws, Special Circumstances
- Travel & Transportation
- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
- People and Society
- Transnational Issues
Things to Expect
- Some places charge you to use the restroom ($0.80 – $3.00)
- Sometimes the toilet paper is in the bathroom rather than in the individual stall.
- Many places request that you put toilet paper in the trashcan rather than in the toilet.
- Plan to tip the Guide and the Bus Driver at the end of the trip. Guideline for amount:
- Driver: $2.00 – $5.00/day/person
- Guide: $6.00 – $8.00/day/person
Many people speak English, but everyone appreciates it when you speak Spanish, here are a few useful phrases:
- Please – Por Favor
- Thank you – Gracias
- You are welcome – Con Gusto or de nada or mucho gusto
- Pleased to Meet you – Mucho Gusto
- Where is the restroom? Donde esta el bano?
There are lots of online translators like google translate
Consider brushing up ahead of time with a class or computer program like Rosetta Stone.
- Many of the places we stay will have WiFi.
- There is no need to add international calling to your cell plan. Whatsapp: https://www.whatsapp.com/, is an example of a popular app for free wifi talk and text. Everyone you plan to call or text will need to download the app. All that is required to use it is a wifi connection.
- If you bring an “unlocked” cell phone, for less than $15 you can purchase a sim card in Costa Rica and prepay minutes so you can make calls within Costa Rica (this does not allow you to make calls outside of Costa Rica).