Costa Rica Country Information
In a world map you’ll find Costa Rica in the skinny part of Central America. The country has access to both oceans: the Pacific on the west coast and the Caribbean Sea on the eastern shore. The northern border meets Nicaragua, and Panama is our southern neighbor.
According to the 2000 census, Costa Rica has a population of about 4 million. The majority of Costa Ricans are descendants of Spanish Settlers and native indigenous tribes. However, large number of African, Asian and Latin American immigrants enriches the country’s diverse heritage.
Costa Rica is an environmental heaven. A total of 27% of its territory is protected by national parks and reserves, a higher percentage than any other country in the world. Proud of its ecological heritage, the government has bowed to protect through strict laws and policies. Taking any form of flora, fauna or even rocks from national parks is strictly prohibited.
Spanish is the official language; however, because of the development of the tourism industry, you’ll find someone that speaks English almost everywhere.
The official currency is the Colon. The exchange rate varies every day because of the devaluation theory applied in the country, but banks nationwide will provide colones at the official rate. Although you may use dollars in many businesses, some may not accept larger bills.
Costa Rica is a democratic republic and holds presidential elections every four years. The country abolished the military in 1948 and has remained proudly peaceful ever since. As a result, its economical, political and social stability are unique in Latin America.
TAXES AND TIPPING
There is a 13% sales tax at hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Restaurants also charge a 10% service tax that is later distributed to the employees as a tip. In general tipping is not necessary but gladly accepted in tourism related activities when justified. Also remember to save $26 for the exit fee at the airport.
Citizens of Canada, the United States and Panama now need a passport to enter the country. Certain nationalities must also present a visa so check with the nearest Costa Rican embassy for your country’s requirements.
Costa Rica’s time is the same as U.S. central standard but does not observe daylight savings (GMT-6:00).
Government offices open at 8:00 am and close at 4:00 pm, national banks close a 3:00 pm. Private banks, retail stores and other businesses may close at 6:00 pm or 8:00 pm depending on there location.
More than 20 airlines fly into Costa Rica and take you to the international airports in San Jose and Liberia. Once you’re in the country local airlines can fly you to remote areas and a large network of bus routes connects you to go for a small price. For schedules and rates contact the ICT. Taxi and car rental services are also available.
Internet, fax, cable television and international telephone services are available throughout the country. For local Information dial 113, for international operator assisted phone calls call 116 and for international information 124.
Costa Rica has one of the most developed public health care systems in Latin America. Private hospitals also provide quality services for affordable prices. For emergency assistance call 911.
Unless otherwise specified, the water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. Bottled water is sold throughout the country and is recommended for sensitive stomachs.
WHEN TO VISIT
Anytime is the perfect time to visit Costa Rica, however, depending on what you want to achieve, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Costa Rica is the land of eternal spring. Temperatures range between 70 F and 80 F with little variation except for the higher altitudes where it may get colder. There are two well defined seasons: Dry (December through April) and rainy (May through November). During dry season sunshine is guaranteed all day long attracting the highest number of tourists. However, rainy season (also known as green season) has perks of its own: it may be easier to find reservations and prices drop quiet a bit incentive to visitors.
Although the Costa Rican tourism industry never rests, holiday may interfere with some activities such as visits to museums, banks or government offices.
January 1 New Year’s Day.
March/April Holy Week
April 11 Juan Santamaria Day
May 1 Labor Day
July 25- Guanancaste day
August 2 Virgen de los Ángeles Day
August 15 Mother’s Day
September 15 Independence Day
December 25 Christmas Day