1. DO I NEED A PASSPORT TO GO TO COSTA RICA?
Yes; PLEASE READ CAREFULLY. Costa Rica requires that a passport be valid for at least six months beyond the completion date of the planned trip. Please check your passport to make certain you have that extra time left on your passport. Costa Rica is very strict about this!
Make a copy of your passport and keep it separate from your real passport during travel to Costa Rica. (Do NOT put either of these in your baggabe. Only in carry-on bags, but keep them separate).
As we travel around Costa Rica, you will use your paper copy and leave your passport in your safe at your hotel.
2. DO I NEED A VISA TO GO TO COSTA RICA?
Depending on your country of origin you may enter Costa Rica without a visa. USA, Canada and most European countries have this privilege.
Further details may be found at the U.S. State Department's travel site.
3. DO I NEED AN ELECTRICAL ADAPTER FOR A HAIR DRIER OR OTHER ELECTRICAL ITEMS?
Outlets are 110 V, with standard US-type plugs.
4. IS IT SAFE TO DRINK THE WATER?
Tap water is safe. We have lived here for 5 years now and have traveled all over the country with no problems.
5. WHAT IS THE CLIMATE LIKE? WHAT TYPE OF CLOTHING DO I BRING?
Costa Rica is just above the Equator, but in spite of the warm, humid climate, there are many microclimates here, especially when going up into the highlands. Bring a light jacket and a light rain jacket or travel umbrella. A pocket plastic rain jacket will do during dry season, (Late November through April), because some parts still have rain. During rainy season (May through August), it rains for a few hours in the afternoon. The last 2 month of rainy season, , it rains a lot...Also see our list of "Items to Bring"
Do not wear fancy clothes. Be casual and don't wear a lot of "showy" jewelry. There is a lot of poverty and people don't enjoy having wealth shoved int heir face. Casual wear is typical in Costa Rica. If you choose to do this and happen to travel into the city of San Jose before or after our tours, you make yourself a prime target for theft.
6. WHAT IS THE CURRENCY IN COSTA RICA?
The Costa Rican currency is called Colon. Visa and Mastercard and cash are widely accepted. (No American Express). Leave travelers checks and personal checks at home.
500 to approx. 600 colones is $1.00 USD. It changes frequently, so check before you go.Here is how we get an idea of what something is costing us;
1,000 colones is approx. $2. or less. 2,000 colones is approx. $4. etc. Double the number in the "thousands" column, so 15,000 is approx. $30 or less.
There are banks everywhere. You can use your ATM card to pull out money when needed.
This is not Mexico. Don't plan on getting a better deal by bargaining. It's rare.
7. ARE CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED IN COSTA RICA?
All major credit cards are widely accepted.
You will also find ATM machines distributed throughout the country, but we suggest, out of experience, that you use only ATM machines at banks; not on the street. They tend to "eat" your card, and it can take up to a week or longer to get it back... if at all!
You should alert your bank and credit card company that you'll be traveling and ask them to advise you of any fees for using your cards while traveling internationally.
8. WHAT KIND OF INOCULATIONS DO I HAVE TO TAKE TO COSTA RICA?
No vaccinations are necessary.
9. HOW MUCH IS THE DEPARTURE TAX?
Most airlines now pack that tax into your fare. It is now unusual to pay it at the airport, but make certain your airline has this service, which saves you time and hassle at the airport in Costa Rica. Departure tax is US $29.00
10. ARE THE NATIONAL PARKS WHEEL CHAIR ACCESSIBLE?
The Poas Volcano National Park is the only one that offers access for wheel chairs, the last we heard.
11. IS THERE A TOUR OPERATOR OFFERING SPECIAL TOURS FOR HANDICAPPED PEOPLE?
Costa Rica is not yet very "handicapped-friendly". We have never seen a handicapped bathroom in a restaurant or anywhere else. nor have we seen any hotels..although there may be a few. Don't plan on finding much.
12. WHAT SHOULD I BRING WHEN GOING TO THE RAIN FOREST?
All you need is insect repellent, a rain coat with a hood (a plastic "pocket" hooded rain coat will do) or an umbrella. Wear closed toed shoes.
Hiking boots are not necessary for our tour, unless you plan on doing off-road hiking on your own time. If it is in rainy season, (May through early November), it rains usually only in the afternoons for a few hours May - August. If you are planning to go off road, then bring hiking boots. September and October, we recommend that you not hike. It rains a lot and the forested, wet areas are very slippery.
13. WHAT IS THE SALES TAX IN COSTA RICA?
Sales tax is 13%.
14. WHAT NUMBER SHOULD I DIAL IN CASE OF EMERGENCY?
Dial 911 for immediate assistance.
15. IS THERE A CERTAIN TIP AMOUNT TO TIP WAITERS AND WAITRESSES?
Many of the receipts at restaurants say that they have included a 10% tax for service, but unfortunately, the servers don't usually see that money. They would certainly appreciate it if you could throw in a little extra. They are paid around $1.50 to $3.00 per hour.
Maids should be tipped approx. $2.00 per day, or 1,000 colones.
Porters (bell hops) ($1.00 or 500 colones per bag)
Taxi drivers and tour guides usually get a tip as well.
16. WHICH ARE COSTA RICA NATURAL BOUNDARIES?
Costa Rica is almost at the bottom of the chain of countries in Central America.
North Border: Nicaragua
East: Caribbean Sea
West: Pacific Ocean
17. CAN I USE MY CELL PHONE IN COSTA RICA?
Unless you are an international traveler, your cell phone will not work here in Costa Rica. Make arrangements with your cell phone company for international calls. But check to see if you can only use them in areas that without wifi.
If you are a regular international traveler and know that your phone is definitely set up for changing sim cards; yes you may, but the process to purchase it is more time than you would expect. If you come into Costa Rica much earlier than the tour start time, there is a Kolbi booth in baggage claim that may allow you to make this transaction. If not, you can take time to purchase one at our first stop.
18. HOW SHALL I PLAN MY AIR TRAVEL TO COORDINATE WITH MY TOUR?
Your airport for San Jose is Juan Santamaria International Airport. Airport code: SJO.
ARRIVAL INTO COSTA RICA:
We ask that you come in a day ahead of the tour start date, to avoid the all night flights that bring passengers into Costa Rica very early in the morning. After much experience and trial & error, we have found that coming into Costa Rica a day early is the easiest and most pleasant option. (Heavy morning fog occasionally delays all night flights of passengers who have chosen to come in early on the morning of our tour start date, causing 3 to 4 hr delays, or landing in Panama with an 11+ hour bus transport back to our airport. Guests are happier and the logistics work very well. The hotel we have chosen, Hotel La Rosa de America, is one with a wonderful Costa Rican feel, is in a quiet neighborhood, is inexpensive and very nice, with beautiful gardens surrounding your rooms and typical frescoes to enjoy. We have stayed there multiple times. Their restaurant includes an excellent buffet breakfast in the morning, and is also open for dinner. The hotel room (includes taxes and breakfast) is $90 for a single and $102 for double occupancy, (both with air conditioning). Very reasonable prices for high season! Airport transport is provided. There are other restaurant choices within walking distance for lunch or dinners.
We will pick our guests up at the designated hotel at the stated time for your specific tour. The tour starts at that time, leaving for our first destination, and ultimately, arrive at our hotel at around 3 p.m.
If for some reason you choose not to stay there, you will need to provide your own transportation to the designated hotel for your tour, arriving by one half hour before our designated pick up time.
Our last night of the tour you will be staying at the above mentioned hotel near the airport to help accomodate those with early flights. You will be flying out of San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport. Check out at our hotel is at noon if you plan to leave on later flights. If your flight leaves later, the hotel will store your luggage and you may enjoy your time on their beautiful, quiet grounds or take a nearby tour until your scheduled flight.
Transport is included from the airport to the hotel and back to the airport. Each set of people having flight times leaving fairly close together will ride together.
19. WHAT TIME ZONE IS COSTA RICA IN?
Costa Rica is in the Central Standard Time Zone year round. No time change here.
We hope that helps.
20. WHAT HOTELS ARE WE STAYING IN?
We use different hotels depending on the tour you have chosen. See the "LODGING" tab under the itinerary of the particular tour you are interested in taking. The information about the hotels we will use for that tour will be there.
21. IF WE COME A FEW DAYS BEFORE OR STAY A FEW DAYS AFTER THE TOUR, IS IT SAFE TO RENT A CAR? ANY TIPS?
If you come in rainy season you might say, "So what's a little rain"? If you rent a car, please, for your safety, make sure you're not out on the roads in the afternoons and especially at night. The roads here are narrow. The traffic is usually heavy with many large shipping trucks. People have no sidewalks to walk on along these roads, and are difficult to see during downpours or at night with on-coming truck lights in your eyes. Driving in the full-on downpour can be treacherous. Those of us who live here try to stay off the roads at night if we can.
Another problem here in Costa Rica; There are no addresses, and little to no signage on the roads. If you get lost, even if you speak Spanish, it is difficult to find your way back to where you were before you got lost. We have wasted MANY hours lost. So far, no matter what brand of GPS we use, it's a 50/50 chance we'll get lost if we are unfamiliar with the area we're traveling in, because satellite coverage cuts out often and at crucial times. If your GPS cuts off, there are many places that are a major crossroad to a popular area of the country that have no signs to tell you that this is where you turn. If you stay on the main highways, sometimes you are fine. If you get into any city, many of the roads and streets here used to be a tangle of cow paths that are now paved, with no rhyme nor reason for where it leads or exits. If you get lost, do not ask those who are walking on the roads or standing outside their homes with no car in the driveway. They don't drive, therefore they are unable to give you correct directions, even if you do speak Spanish! Ask people who have cars. Ask 3 or 4 people with cars! If you find several people with the same directions, then you probably have the correct directions. This is not the USA.
Directions provided on popular destinations' websites give directions like this: From San Jose, turn left at highway 34. (There is usually no sign that says that this turn is hwy 34!). It will continue to say that you must turn right at the soccer field (but they don't tell you that there's a large building on the corner now, that blocks your sight of the soccer field). This goes on and on.
May we suggest that you hire transport, like a taxi or a tour van to take you to certain destinations you want to visit. Your odds of arriving there without incident, and return to your hotel are excellent with a transport, because they know the roads and can anticipate problems in traffic ahead. If you speak Spanish fairly proficiently, take the public bus which is very inexpensive. Many of the buses travel to your area of interest. Let them know where you are going and that you are unfamiliar with the area. We're trying to keep you as safe and unfrustrated as possible.
Our most important information, if you're determined to drive here: Do not drive at night. Do not drive in the afternoons in rainy season. Before you leave, get the actual GPS coordinates (the latitude and Longitude) of the place you are going. Some of the tourist destinations provide them on their websites. Do not assume the drivers will obey the laws. Drive VERY defensively! Because you don't know the roads and therefore can't anticipate how people drive. And GET THE MOST INSURANCE YOU THAT'S AVAILABLE FOR YOURSELF, THE RENTAL CAR, AND THE OTHER CAR (IF IT WERE TO BE YOUR FAULT). For your information, if you cause an accident, you will not be leaving Costa Rica until all debts have been paid for injuries and loss.
As we said, and want to emphasize, this is not the USA.
22. RECOMMENDED GEAR. WHAT TO BRING:
First-time air travelers; Remember that when going through TSA security you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Anything that is in a container that is larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters needs to be put in checked baggage. That includes items such as peanut butter..even anything gooey can't be put in carry-on bags if it's more than the above allowance.
As you consider what to bring, please be aware that you are in a country that has poverty. We suggest that you not bring any jewelry that is expensive. The rural areas of Costa Rica where our club is, are generally safe, however when you go into touristed areas, be warned that you are vulnerable. Costa rica is very casual, so we suggest that you leave your dressy items behind.
WHAT TO BRING:
- Lightweight jacket,
- Pocket raincoat, regular light weight raincoat, or small umbrella
- One pair light weight pants
- Short sleeve and sleeveless tops or shirts, of cotton or quick-dry types.
- Under garments
- Toothbrush with cover, and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Brush or comb
- Hat for sun protection
- Sun Screen (bring it from the USA. It is extremely expensive here).
- Bug repellent (sometimes we run into "no see ums " so bring something that handles these buggers, as well as mosquitos)
- Water Bottle
- Small bottle of liquid laundry soap for quick hand washing, (Optional), and remember more than 3.4 oz need to be placed in luggage, not carry-on bag.
- Swim suit
- Your pickleball paddle if you play
- Sun Glasses
- Aloe Vera for sunburn
- Anti-histamine for itching (bug bites)
- Court Shoes for pickleball play
- Hiking boots or sneekers, depending on how rough of terrain you wish to use on free time.
- Which ever of these types of footwear you think you might want to use: amphibian hikers hiking/walking shoes river/reef sandals beach sandals/flip-flops sandals
- Spanish/English Dictionary
- Money belt and passport pendant for important documents
- Passport (also phototocopies), never give your passport to anyone. Again, consider the date of your return to your country. Make sure that your passport is valid for 6 months past your return date. Costa Rica is very strict about this.
- Drivers license (also photocopies)
- Money, credit/debit card Insurance card and contact information
- Personal prescriptions should be filled before you leave home.
- Contact lenses and cleaning solutions
- Emergency contact information (names, addresses and phone numbers - in case of unconsciousness – of your parents, and physicians in your country of origin)If you wear prescription glasses, pack a spare pair
- Cell phone or laptop wall charger. Leave photocopies of your passport, drivers license, credit cards, airline tickets, and any reservations that you've prepaid with your home emergency contact person.
23. CAN I BRING PRESCRIPTIONS INTO COSTA RICA? WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED IN? WHAT DO I DO IF I LOSE MY PRESCRIPTIONS?
Yes, but please make sure that you find out what is NOT allowed to be brought into Costa Rica. As far as we have heard, opiate-type painkillers are illegal, but check with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure. Below are some rules to follow.
- Carry just the necessary quantity, which is the quantity normally used by a person having your health problem.
- You should have a prescription or a written statement from your doctor, specifying that the medicine is being used under his/her control and that you need it for your physical health.
- Have the medicines labeled or properly identified.If they are not labeled, you could be targeted as a trafficker, going in to, out of a country in customs. So, keep it in the packaging and have all documentation. If they are not labeled, you could be targeted as a trafficker, going in to, out of a country in customs. So, keep it in the packaging and have all documentation.
- Narcotics and certain drugs with a high potential of abuse, like ibogaine, may not be brought into the United States. If you need them, you need to declare them in your customs declaration, carry them in their original containers, carry only a reasonable quantity for personal use, and carry a prescription that explicitly states that you need these medicines for your condition.
- If you need to bring in needles, syringes, oxygen tanks, and other similar devices, you should bring your prescription indicating that they are necessary. If you need special requirements, contact the airline and the Transportation Security Administration before your flight.
- Non-prescription drugs, vitamins, and supplements will usually not pose a problem as long as the amount carried is reasonable.
24. WHAT IS THE PAYMENT SCHEDULE?
Please click the red "REGISTER FOR TOUR" or go to TOURS &TOURNAMENTS at the top of any page. In the drop-down menu, click "OUR TOURS". You will see a drop-down menu that gives you a choice of registering. There will be instructions for payments deadlines.
25. WHAT IS THE CANCELLATION POLICY?
You may cancel at any time, however the $500 deposit is refundable for 14 days from when the deposit is made. Should we cancel the tour for any reason your deposit is fully refundable. Cancellation of the tour could happen should we not have the minimum participants by the deposit deadline date of 90 days prior to the start of the tour.
26. I WOULD LIKE A ROOM TO MYSELF. WHAT IS THE SINGLE SUPPLEMENT?
The Single Supplement price is listed under the price of the selected tour.
27. WHAT IS THE AMOUNT DUE AT THE TIME OF BOOKING?
$500 is due at the time of booking.
28. WHEN IS MY FINAL PAYMENT DUE?
60 days prior to the tour date. If you choose to come on the tour at some time 90 or less from the start date of the the tour, full payment is required.
Travel insurance, (including trip cancellation) is highly recommended. This is not the USA. Road and weather conditions, as well as earthquakes and volcanoes can close roads for hours if not days in some cases. If we are stopped or delayed, for any reason, from arriving at our destination, or you have a health problem or are involved in an accident and you have no cancellation or accident insurance, we will not be liable to pay for any expenses to change flights missed, change hotels to another location (as well as having paid for a hotel we cannot get to). By paying for, and committing to this tour, you are agreeing that this responsibility is yours and that we are in no way expected to provide payment for anything other than our originally scheduled plans and expenses. You are fully insured for bodily injury by our Costa Rican auto insurance coverage, but that is it.
See "Terms and Conditions" under "Tours" tab for additional information.
30. WEATHER/TEMPERATURES IN COSTA RICA:
Weather is basically the same year around in different areas of the country. It depends on where you are, elevation-wise.
The beaches, not matter where you are or what season we're in here in Costa Rica, will almost always be very warm, 90 to 96 degrees during the day, with high humidity. Like Florida or much of the east coast in the summer. Each of our tours will have you in this area for at least a few days.
If you go up into the Central Highlands, where our club is, it is much cooler, 70 to 85 degrees during the day and less humidity. Each of our tours, except the 7 Day UPSCALE, bring you to the Central Highlands to play Pickleball. Rainy Season versus Dry Season: There is an upside and downside to each season.
DRY SEASON: (Late November/early December through mid to late April). Many people are bent on only visiting Costa Rica during the dry season. There are parts of the country that have no rain at all during this time. But if you want to visit any of the lush, green primary-growth forest areas, it still rains occasionally in these areas...just not as much as during rainy season. That's why the area is beautifully green.
The downside of dry season is the amount of tourists that come, and sugar cane fields out in the country are burned almost daily, making the skys hazy with smoke, and then there is the wind which makes the green more dusty looking. Costa Rica has some deciduous trees, just like in the north. As leaves fall from those trees, they become bare. There is still a lot of green everywhere, but as locals, we love all of the landscape green. Those who come from the states or Canada see dry season as beautiful. We have found that even though it's more sparse green and a bit dusty, the tourists think it's gorgeous. It's all in the eyes of the beholder, but we live here and don't mind the rain in the afternoons, so we like rainy season better.
RAINY SEASON: (Around May 1 through mid to late November)
This is the time of year we always encourage our friends to come down for a visit. The rainy season is our favorite with it's beautiful blue skies and absolutely gorgeous lush green everywhere..because of the rain.
May through August: Downpours in the afternoons for a few hours, and sometimes no rain at all. The mornings and rest of the day are beautiful most of the time, including after the rains, in the evening, which usually brings beautiful sunsets from the leftover clouds.
September and especially through October bring a lot more rain. We don't do tours then. Rain transitions out around mid to late November.
It all depends on how much you hate a bit of rain. For our pickleball tours, there will still be days we can play in the afternoon, but afternoons are a part of the day that we don't schedule play.
31. WE ARE CONSIDERING MOVING TO COSTA RICA. ARE THERE ANY SHORT TOURS THAT WE CAN TAKE FOR A FEW DAYS BEFORE OR AFTER YOUR TOUR?
Give us a call if you have interest in this.
32. COULDN'T FIND YOUR ANSWER OR QUESTION?
Sometimes traveling can be a little overwhelming and you're not sure what to expect. If you have any questions not answered here or elsewhere on our website, please contact us.