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Our passion is to make sure our visitors personally experience this special land to its fullest, giving you an incredible adventure of fun and relaxation when you Escape to Costa Rica!
Luggage and Packing
Passport and Visa
Prices do not include air travel, country entry or departure fees, airport porters, visas, phone calls, valet, laundry, all items of a personal nature, regular meals if not included on excursions, and tips to the Costa Rica Escape Tours Host and/or Driver.
Costa Rica observes Central Standard Time all year round. Because Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Savings Time, in the U.S. winter it shares the same time as cities in the Central Time Zone such as Chicago, Houston and Winnipeg. In the U.S. summer, Costa Rica time is one hour earlier than the Central Time Zone areas which observe Daylight Savings Time.
No vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s socialized medicine and public education has served to effectively control those illnesses and diseases that typically affect tropical countries. The standard of health here is very high. Costa Rica Escape Tours does not have any doctors on staff and cannot give medical advice, so please consult your doctor as soon as possible before deciding whether or not to receive a vaccination. Costa Rica Escape Tours staff also avoid eating bananas toward dusk, because this smell attracts mosquitoes.
Electricity is 110 volts, same as the United States. Should you have any devices that have 3-prong male plugs, you will need a 3-prong to 2-prong adapter.
We suggest drinking bottled water, which is available at every restaurant, and grocery store. Please note that ice cubes used in all restaurants here come from a local ice service that uses purified water to make ice, so there is no need to worry about ice cubes in cocktails or soft drinks. Most people consider the hotel tap water safe for brushing your teeth. Costa Rica Escape Tours provides free bottled water during transportation and bottled water is available at all your hotels.
Very good, very fresh and very delicious! Restaurants use locally grown fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, cheese, and of course Fresh Fish. The food is very natural or organic: No artificial colorings, flavors, growth hormones, or additives. A typical Costa Rican diet consists of rice, black beans, cheese, chicken, beef, fish, salads, vegetables, and of course fresh tropical fruit. The typical lunch menu is called a “casado” made with the aforementioned items. You will also find that the kitchens in every restaurant are extremely clean and sanitary. Food is generally not spicy.
Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. English is taught as a second language in Costa Rican schools. Local guides and most hotel receptionists are bi-lingual, speaking both English and Spanish.
No. You can drive with your normal driver’s license in Costa Rica for 3 months after your entry into Costa Rica. There is no such thing as an international driver’s license, although there is an international driving permit which you can buy for $10 at an American Automobile Association office. These permits are valid for one year after date of issue, and are valid only when accompanied by a valid driver’s license. It is not necessary to buy an international driving permit for your visit of under 3 months to Costa Rica
Do I need an international driver’s license to drive in Costa Rica?
No, because you can drive with your normal driver’s license in Costa Rica for 3 months after your entry into Costa Rica. International driver’s licenses do not exist, although there is an international driving permit which you can buy for $10 at an American Automobile Association (AAA) office. These driving permits are valid for one year after date of issue, and are valid only when accompanied by a valid driver’s license. It is not necessary to buy an international driving permit to drive in Costa Rica.
Yes, you can rent a car from car rental agencies in San Jose and Jaco.
The roads in Costa Rica are very difficult to maneuver if you don’t know exactly where you are going. There are no signs on many of the roads, and you have no idea where to turn. Also, the roads are very narrow, and the car accident fatality rate is the worst in the entire world. The accident rate is especially high in the San Jose area. One of the biggest problems with driving in Costa Rica isn’t the roads, it’s the slow-moving vehicles (mostly trucks) that cause delays and the dangerous passes that frustrated drivers make in attempt to overtake them. You will probably have to make a few passes on double yellow lines if you rent a car and want to get anywhere fast, but use caution and drive VERY defensively. As there are few traffic cops in Costa Rica, drivers tend to be a little aggressive in their maneuvers.
You cannot safely leave your suitcases, or anything at all, unattended inside your locked car trunk, not even for one minute. In at least two recent occasions, Costa Rica police have discovered a ring of car thieves who open locked car trunks, and the thieves possessed keys to all makes and models of rental cars.
If you decide to drive, please be forewarned that the car rental companies in Costa Rica have different rules than the U.S. First, you must purchase mandatory liability insurance for $15 a day, which is not included in most car rental price quotes. Second, you will be charged for any scratch or dent to your car, even if the scratch is caused by normal road conditions. Third, you will be charged for any mechanical problem with the car, such as a problem with your engine or clutch, that arises during your car rental. Fourth, the car rental agency optional “comprehensive” insurance does not cover the first $2,500 of losses if the car is totaled or stolen.
It is very difficult to estimate accurate driving times as road conditions, traffic, time of day, and weather greatly affect how long it can take. These are very rough estimates. Typically one can average around 65-75 kilometers per hour on highways and 30-50 on side roads. Be careful to not allow yourself enough time between destinations. Driving in Costa Rica is much more fun if you are not in a hurry.
San Jose to Manuel Antonio: 3 hours
San Jose to Arenal: 3 hours
San Jose to Tamarindo: 5 hours
San Jose to Puerto Viejo: 3.75 hours
San Jose to Monteverde: 5 hours
San Jose to Jaco: 1 1/2 hours
San Jose to Golfito: 8 hours
The Emergency and General Healthcare services here are excellent! There are several ultra-modern hospitals with English speaking Doctors (some are North Americans) in the greater San Jose area. Below are some phone numbers. For emergency assistance in Costa Rica, dial 911. It’s sometimes faster to call the Costa Rican Red Cross (128) if you need emergency medical care or an ambulance.
Clinica Catolica (2225-5055) in Guadalupe
Clinica Americana (2222-1010) in downtown San Jose
Clinica Biblica (2257-5252, 2257-0466) also in downtown San Jose
KOP Medical Clinic (2228-4119) in San Rafael de Escazu
CIMA Hospital (2208-1000) in front of Multiplaza Escazu
There are emergency facilities in the Jaco & Los Suenos area as well as a large fleet of Ambulatory and Paramedic services. All local Pharmacies are staffed with a full time M.D. You may check the U.S. Center for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov/travel for the latest travel advisories and disease information on your travel destination. Costa Rica Escape Tours does not have any medical doctors on staff and cannot provide medical advice.
There are surprisingly few mosquitoes on the popular tourist beaches. There are more in the rainforest and along the rivers. If you intend to take a river rafting tour or hike the jungle, bring insect rappellent. More remote destinations like Tortuguero and the Osa Peninsula may have sand mites as well. It is also good to note that mosquitoes bite most at sunrise and sunset, so make sure you are prepared with bug spray.
Basically, some will work and some will not. This depends on your home cell phone service providers compatibility with Costa Ricas only cell phone service network, named ICE. (pronounced EE-SAY).
Please contact your service provider for information regarding cell phone reception areas, calling costs and surcharges.
Recently ICE is now selling Sim cards for about $10 and can be purchased in the airport or at an ICE office that are found in most towns. This is a pre-paid system they have implemented. The initial $10 will get you a limited amount of minutes, but you can buy more pre-paid phone cards at most banks and pharmacies for $5-$20. Follow the instructions on the card to load in more minutes for your cell phone. The minutes are good anywhere in Costa Rica.
If you bring a newer phone from the States that is unlocked, it should work if it will accept a sim card.
Yes. There are many internet cafés and international call centers located in Jaco and Hermosa. There is also a variety of WI-FI hotspots in town and at most accomodations. Internet is very inexpensive costing about $1.00 per hour. There is also internet for your unlocked smartphone through thier pre-paid system.
Overall, Costa Rica is a very safe place for visitors. The local Tico residents are warm and friendly towards tourists. Like anywhere in the World, there will be some bad elements. Whether a tourist or not, petty theft is the most common behavior to be aware of. Just use common sense like you would anywhere you travel. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or flaunt cash. If you have rented a car, do not leave any valuables in it. Keep an eye on your items and you will leave Costa Rica with only great memories.
The majority of tourists flock to Costa Rica during the dry season for the weather and because it serves as the perfect retreat from the cold winter weather in the north. The dry season usually begins in late November and continues through mid-April. The rains here begin in late April and during the average rainy season grow heavy in August, September and October.
While the months of August and September can be exceptionally wet (though there are always exceptions), the beginning and end of the green season are, in our opinion, some of the best months to travel to CR. Prices are down, the foliage is green and there are fewer tourists.
Most hotels will have price breaks from April 15 through Dec. 15. During these months you can count on rain in the afternoons, though it is usually still beautiful from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Green season mornings are breathtaking.
Luggage and Packing
In Costa Rica, the dress code is casual.
Costa Rica Escape Tours suggests clothing for warm and hot weather: 1 pair of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 changes of shirts, a rain poncho, a swimsuit, light dresses. Costa Rica Escape Tours recommends footwear that has a bit of a tread and will not slip on wet surfaces. Walking shoes, hiking boots and sneakers are all acceptable.
Flashlight, binoculars, camera, extra camera battery, sunscreen, insect repellent, photocopy of your passport’s photo and information page, photocopies of your credit cards, photocopies of necessary prescriptions for eyeglasses or medicines (carry photocopies separately from your passport, credit cards and prescriptions).
Each individual airline also has their own rules regarding luggage size. Most airlines limit suitcases to 60 linear inches (width plus depth plus length) and 50 pounds weight, depending on the airline. Please check with your airline regarding suitcase limits before traveling. Most airlines also allow a carry-on suitcase with a maximum length of 20 inches, and maximum 45 linear inches (width plus depth plus length). Certain foreign airlines, such as TACA, will only allow a maximum weight of 20 pounds for carry-ons. Please be sure to check with your airline regarding their luggage requirements.
Your medical supplies should always be carried in a carry-on that you have with you at all times. Please do not check your medical supplies in your suitcase with the airlines. However, remember that carry-on rules have changes in the United States! No liquids, gels, aerosols, or creams are allowed unless they are packed in containers of 3 ounces maximum and placed in one, quart-size, see through plastic zip-lock bag. This applies to all shampoos, deodorants,perfumes, oils, toothpaste,hair gel, shaving cream, mascara, and makeup creme. There are exceptions for medical prescriptions, nasal sprays, and cough syrups. Medical prescriptions must also be packed separately in a see throgh plastic zip-lock bag, but are not subject to the one quart limitation, so please check for the latest carry-on rules at the goverment website www.tsa.gov Any large elecrical items (such as c-pap machines) must be taken out of the carry-on and placed in a try to be scanned separately.
The exchange rate in 2013 is approximately 500 Costa Rican Colones to $1 U.S.
There is a Currency Exchange Costa Rica office as you exit the airport. The exchange rate offered at this office is not a good exchange rate, so only use this for small amounts of cash. You can exchange money in banks in Jaco or just use dollars in town then you will get colones for change.
You can find ATM machines in the town Jaco. Costa Rica ATM machines usually accept VISA cards, but do not always accept MasterCards. Please bring sufficient cash (in small denominations of $1, $5, $10 and $20) with you to cover your personal expenses. We also recommend bringing some cash, in a safe place.
Yes, U.S. dollars and credit card are accepted in most Costa Rica stores. However, it is advisable to exchange a small amount of dollars ($20 per person) into Costa Rican colones to spend locally. It is very difficult to exchange bills of $50 or more, so we recommend only brand-new $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills. Costa Rican stores and banks only accept U.S. bills in brand-new condition. Banks will not accept new U.S. bills that have even small rips, words, or any kind of marking on the bill; or old bills. Euros, Canadian dollars, and currency from other countries are generally not accepted in Costa Rica, and the banks give poor exchange rates for all currencies other than U.S. dollars.
We suggest that you bring a combination of travelers checks and cash to Costa Rica. Travelers checks can be exchanged at the banks in Jaco. Only American Express travelers checks are usually accepted, and other forms of travelers checks are usually rejected in Costa Rica.
When returning to the U.S., U.S. customs allows each person an exemption of customs taxes on up to $800.00 U.S. worth of Costa Rican goods that are in your possession and personally accompany you. Items to be sent later are not included in your $800 duty-free exemption. If two family members are traveling together, they may combine their customs exemption. For instance, a married couple will have a total $1,600.00 customs exemption. A flat duty rate of 3% is applied to the first $1,000 of goods per person beyond the $800 per person exemption. The duty-free exemption applies ONLY IF you have not used any exemption allowance whatsoever in the past 30 days. For instance, if you have made another international trip within the past 30 days, and used even a small exemption of $10, you would not get the $800 exemption. For this reason, sometimes it is best not to use the exemption if (1) the value of your goods is very low, and (2) you are planning to use the exemption on another trip within 30 days. Duty on items you mail home to yourself is waived if the value is $200 or less.
After exiting your plane, you will first arrive at the immigration desk, and present your passport and a Costa Rica immigration form. This form is provided to you by your airplane. On the form, you will write your name, passport number, nationality, occupation, and the motive for your visit – tourism or business. After you are approved in the immigration computer, you take the escalator or elevator downstairs to the baggage claim area.
Next, you arrive at the baggage claim area, and you will find free luggage carts and clean restrooms. You can pick up a free map here at the Tourist Information booth.
Next, after you pick up your suitcase at baggage claim, you must stop at the customs table and put your suitcase on a conveyor belt through the scanning machine. This takes about ten seconds. Then the customs agent will signal you to exit the airport. The airport exit is about 30 meters away from the customs table.
When you exit the San Jose international airport, you will see the Costa Rica Escape Tours airport greeter waiting for you with a large ESCAPE TOURS sign. Your greeter will escort you to your private airport shuttle Bus or Van. Your shuttle bus/van ride to your hotel/condo takes approximately 75 to 90 minutes
The airport greeter can only meet flights at the San Jose international airport terminal. He cannot meet local flights at domestic terminals or at charter hangers. He can only meet international flights on regularly scheduled airlines. If you are taking a local domestic flight with Sansa airlines, or are arriving by private charter plane to a private hanger, please walk approximately one block to the international terminal arrivals area (ground level) to take your airport shuttle. If you are taking a local domestic flight with NatureAir aircraft into Pavas domestic airport, Please take a taxi as described above.
If you would like to take a taxi to a local Hotel in the San Jose area, please pay for your taxi at the taxi booth inside the airport, just before the exit. This taxi booth sells taxi fares at a fixed rate for the official airport taxis. The official airport taxis are usually in better condition than the other taxis outside the airport, which are known as piratas, or “pirate taxis.” The official taxi rate is currently $20 for 1 or 2 passengers, or $25 for up to 5 passengers traveling from the international airport to San Jose hotels
This is payable when you depart Costa Rica by air but can be paid for in advance. As you exit the airport, you also notice a booth that sells an exit tax form. This form is required for travelers flying out of Costa Rica on an international flight. The cost is $26 for most foreign visitors, and $42 for Costa Ricans. However, you do not need to buy this exit tax form if you will be departing from Costa Rica in a bus or car.
If an airport porter assists you with your suitcases at the airport, please tip the airport porter $1 per person or more in Costa Rica, depending on the amount of suitcases you have, because the airport porter tips are not included. Thank you for your consideration to airport porters.
Los Suenos Resort and Jaco Beach is the closest beach town from San Jose’ airport. The ride is approximately 90km (70 miles), and takes about 1 1/4 – 1 ¾ hrs. to complete. There are plenty of places to stop and eat, as well as use the restroom along the way.
Passport and Visa
Yes. Costa Rica requires U.S. citizens to possess a passport which is valid for 3 months after the date of entry into Costa Rica. Please check the expiration date of your passport. If your need to renew your passport or apply for a new one, you can pick up a passport application at your local U.S. Post Office. Passport applications can take up to 6 weeks to process unless you pay extra for the faster expedited service. If you need additional information about applying for a passport, please call the U.S. Passport Office at 1-877-487-2778 or click here for more information: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. Non U.S. citizens should check Costa Rica passport requirements for their country.
Costa Rica requires foreigners to carry their passports on their person at all times in Costa Rica, but this requirement is waived for U.S. and Canadian citizens, who are permitted to simply carry a photocopy of their passport photo and information page, plus a copy of the Costa Rica entry stamp page in their passport. Please make two photocopies of your passport photo and information page, and two copies of your passport page which has the Costa Rica entry stamp: one copy for you and one copy for your tour director. Please carry these required photocopies with you, and you may leave your original passport in a safe place.
What happens if my Passport is lost or stolen?
It does happen sometimes so you wouldn’t be the first. You will need to go to the U.S. Embassy office in San Jose’. You must arrive by 8:30 am. You will be given the required forms to fill out and apply for an emergency passport. This is a very easy process and you will be issued a temporary passport on the spot that is valid for one year. The cost for this will be about $100 USD total.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa. Non U.S. citizens should check Costa Rica visa requirements for their country, and also check reentry requirements for the U.S. (if returning to the U.S.).
Yes. There are refrigerators in the rooms of most hotels.
Yes. All of the hotels, offer laundry services for a fee. If you prefer to do your own laundry, there are self-service laundromats in Jaco. Internet service is available for a fee at your hotels in Jaco. Internet is available at internet cafes in Jaco as well.
The hotels do not have laundromats. However, there are self-service laundromats near the hotels in the town of Jaco.