"GOOD TO KNOW" TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO COSTA RICA
PARADISE TOURS, COSTA RICA
The Best Tours of Costa Rica since 1991
CURRENCY: The Colón ¢ is our official currency with the US $ also being widely accepted. Colón means Columbus, Spanish for
the Italian explorer who "discovered" or explored the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in 1502
for Spain on his fourth and final voyage to the new world.
of Christopher Columbus / Cristoforo Colombo (in Italian) / Cristóbal Colón
(in Spanish). See
Costa Rican bank notes.
CASH US$ Dollars: US $s are widely accepted in C.R. and you can easily exchange your US dollars here at a fair rate in most of the hotels in C.R. So I recommend that you do NOT exchange your US$ Dollars for the local currency of "Colones" before arriving at your hotel in Costa Rica unless you go to local bank. When you exchange your US$ for any foreign currency in the U.S. , or at any airport exchange window in your departure country or in C.R., you receive some 25-30% less for your US$. This is because any airport exchange house or bank in the U.S. charges a premium on the cost of keeping a useless foreign currency on hand as a convenience for those who are weary of coming to a foreign country without the local currency. In other words do not exchange your US$ in any airport currency exchange windows. Instead wait until you get to your hotel for small amounts and maybe until a local C.R. bank for larger amounts than say $300.
Currency exchange offices in U.S. and CR airports also offer some 25-30% less for your dollar than in Costa Rica. Hotels here generally will exchange your US$ to "Colones" at a fair rate but they will usually use a slightly lower exchange rate of about 1% less as a commission for handling the transaction etc. It doesn't mean much unless you are exchanging larger amounts of currency like $2,000 or more, for which it would be worth while to go to a bank and wait in line.
Debit cards can be used at ATMs and many offer either US$ or local currency and they give a favorable exchange rate, so bring you PIN.
US $s are widely accepted but try to bring only bills in decent condition and not excessively torn or heavily marked as some places may not accept them if in bad condition. This is because fake ones are not as durable and deteriorated bills could be suspected as being fake. It's funny because Costa Rica's bills can be in awful condition and that's no problem with them here. The problem with the condition of US$ bills is not as much as it was several years ago when the transport service who transported the deteriorated (but genuine) bills back to US would not accept them. Now they have to be pretty bad to be refused by some fussy or weary merchant here. They do not have to be in mint condition, so don't go out of your way to get new bills.
EXCHANGE RATE: The current "Buy" exchange rate for US dollars as of Dec, 22, 2015 is about ¢530.oo per US$, (¢ means Colón(es) o Columbus(es).
The dollar for the last 40 years was always increasing in value against the local Colon but has been losing value against the lowly Colón since October of 2009 when it was at its high of ¢590/$ and got down to about $494/$ in January 2014. A 16 % reduction in value! But in February 2014 it climbed to ¢525.oo/$ and got as high as ¢560/$ in early March.
For a list of all current exchange rates in local CR banks go to the Central Bank's webpage; http://indicadoreseconomicos.bccr.fi.cr/indicadoreseconomicos/Cuadros/frmConsultaTCVentanilla.aspx
The column titled "Compra" is the BUY rate that the bank will buy your dollars for. The column titled "Venta" is the Sell Rate that the bank will sell US$ to you for say the Colones you want to sell back to the bank which will require more Colones than the Colones you got when you exchanged your dollars for Colones. In other words the bank always wins with a ¢10-¢12 Colón per $ spread between to the 2 rates (= to about a 2% difference).
Therefore you should always try to spend your Colones before leaving.
For easy calculation in your head of a price in US$ for an item in Colones ¢ ; Every ¢1,000 is approximately = to $2. ¢500 is almost $1.00
So take the first digit(s) that expresses the multiple of ¢1,000 Colón price and double it to get the $ amount. i.e. ¢1,000 is almost $2, ¢2,000 is almost $4, ¢5,000 is $10, ¢10,000 is almost $20. ¢20,000 is almost $40.
Like wise for ¢1,500 (= 1.5 x C1,000, so double the 1.5 ) is almost $3, ¢2,500 is almost $5, ¢7,500 is almost $15 and so on.
But of course the Colón Price it actually a bit less in Dollars
because the $ is worth about 5% more than the ¢500/$ used to do the easy
We prefer payment in US$. But if you must pay us here in local currency we would use an average or "in between rate" of the Central Bank's 2 Buy and Sell rates current on the day of payment.
As I mentioned before, I recommend that you do NOT exchange your US$ Dollars for the local currency of "Colones" before arriving in Costa Rica, if at all.
As I mentioned already; ATM s give fairly good exchange rates.
To familiarize yourself with the local paper Currency see the Central Bank's webpage; http://www.bccr.fi.cr/billetes_monedas/billetes_circulacion/index.html
See coins at:
CREDIT CARDS: VISA and MASTER CARD Credit/debit cards are widely accepted in retail establishments, restaurants, hotels and gas stations etc., with VISA being the most widely accepted and AMEX and Discovery being the least accepted. The Discovery card is generally not accepted in Costa Rica with maybe a few exceptions. Debit cards can be used at ATMs and many offer either US$ or local currency and they give a favorable exchange rate so bring you PIN.
ATMs are also available in major cities with some accepting Visa and others only Master Card and some accept both. Amex is only accepted in a few ATMS. Bring your card's PIN if your planning to use an ATM.
When you use ATMS to get local currency COLONES you will also receive a good exchange rate for your US$ or Euro etc.
Be careful using ATMs as many tricks are used here. Use only ATMs that are in shopping Malls or inside stores of banks where it is difficult to alter them. Before you put your card in always check to see if anything is stuck inside the slot where your card goes in. Thieves sometimes put objects like paper clips inside the slot so yours will get stuck and then when you leave it to report the problem they come and take you card. Also beware of anyone behind you watching you type your PIN number. Problems are actually rare but it's wise anywhere to be to be weary. Do not use ATMs that in dark or lonely places at night.
Traveler's Cheques: T/Cs (Only US$) are only accepted where you are known by the recipient of your TCs, such as a hotel where you are duly registered and identified with your passport. Other than for the security aspect, TCs are the least practical form of payment as they are not generally accepted by strangers. When presenting a T.C. as payment or to cash in a bank that will charge a fee, you must show your passport and write the passport # on the back of the T.C. They are not usually accepted by restaurants, stores etc. because foreign counterfeiters make good false T.Cs. and US$ bills, but bills are easier to identify and so T.C s are less accepted.
Payments to Paradise Tours: We ACCEPT all major credit and debit cards but ONLY ONLINE via PayPal on our online payment page that has a link on top of every page of our website. Under special conditions and approval we can accept Personal checks in US$ payable against US & Canadian banks accounts deposited into our US bank account, and of course we accept cash US$. Traveler's Cheques in US$ are awkward for us to accept as we need to send them to our US bank account and ask for a lot of personal information to accept them. See our payment page Payment and Policy.
VISA AND PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: US and Canadian citizens (and many other countries) do not need a visa to enter C.R., but Costa Rica requires that your US or Canadian passport have at least 1 day validity remaining on it. This reuirement used to be 6 Months validity and still is required for passports of some countries. For a list of visa requirements by country go to: Visa Requirements by country.
Your airline will need to see that your documents are in order before allowing you to check-in. Upon entering C.R. your passport will be stamped with a visitor's permit that's valid for 90 days (citizens of some countries only 30 days). While traveling on day tours in Costa Rica it is recommended that you do not carry your passport around with you, but rather a copy of the passport pages with your photo and the date of entry stamp, that the hotel can copy for you.
Your passport is required at banks when you cash Traveler's Cheques or exchange money, or while driving a rental vehicle to show traffic police that your entry stamp in the passport is not beyond the 3 month period that allows you to drive with a foreign driver's license as a visitor/tourist.
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: If you walk downtown San
José, or anywhere else for that matter, refrain from wearing flashy gold jewelry
etc. that can attract unwanted attention and never walk around at night in the
larger cities or past 8 pm.
When your leave your hotel do not carry more cash and credit cards than what you'll need. Backpackers be aware of pick pockets while you walk down the street with your backpack on your back. Keep valuables with you and not in you backpack.
Refrain from driving long distances at night. Doing so multiplies many times the dangers of dark curvy unknown mountain roads and the risks of breakdown on a lonely road. Driving at night to dinner from your hotel to a local restaurant is OK.
Pay attention to where you walk and what you are walking on. Uneven ground, rocks and steps can easily trip you up. Pick up your feet when you walk, as dragging your feet can result in stubbing your toe and injury from falling.
Never go hiking where you are not familiar with the trails and always advise someone of your hike.
With rental cars always check your tires for slow leaks after leaving it out of your sight for a while. Puncturing you tires with an ice pick or similar will cause a slow leak that can cause a flat tire down the road that you may not notice at first and that's when a helpful Samaritan will offer to help you to change your tire while others with him or her will steal your valuables when you are busy with the tire change. Bumping your car with their car to have you stop is another trick used by thieves on Car Renters. It is recommended to not stop and rather drive on to find a safe place to see what happened to your car or flat tire. Never leave valuables like cameras etc in plain site in your cars or in hotel window views.
Laptop computers are a favorite to steal anywhere. Try to disguise them in a bag that does not look like a laptop case when not using it or when carrying it.
AT THE BEACHES: Always ask locals, like the hotel, about dangerous spots to swim and currents that can pull you out. If this happens, the accepted advice is to not fight the current, stay calm let it pull you out for 100 feet or so until you find water without the rip current where you can swim parallel to the beach and find yourself out of the rip tide current where you can swim back to shore. Never go swimming by yourself or at night or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
DRIVER'S LICENSE: Your valid U.S. or Canadian driver's license is good or 90 days and you must carry your passport (or a copy certified by a Costa Rican lawyer) to show a traffic officer that your entry stamp in the passport is not beyond the 3 month period that allows you to drive as a tourist with a foreign driver's license.
TAXIS: Red is the official color for regular taxis around the country. Official Red Taxis have a yellow triangle with their registration tag number on the door and a photo ID of the driver inside the cab, usually on the sun visor. IF you have a rare compliant about the taxi try to remember his tag/license # for the report. Fares depend on whether the drivers uses his meter called a "Maria" which is calibrated to the official tariffs for trips under 5 km. and results in a very economical fare. Over that distance you should ask for a quote before starting your trip. I always say to the driver "Use the Maria (meter) and I'll give you a tip" ("Usa la Maria y te doy una propina").
Pirate Taxis are widely available and are also red in color and are usually cheaper but without the yellow triangles with the registration tag number on the door or the photo ID of the driver inside the cab that identifies the official taxis.
Official Airport Taxis are the color orange and cost about $30 to $35 for the 12 mile trip to San Jose in a 4 door sedan. 9 to12 passenger taxi vans are available for groups or large amounts of luggage and cost some $45 or more for the same trip to San José. Fares are paid at the airport taxi stand where you get your ticket to board your taxi. US Dollars are widely accepted by taxis and always accepted by Airport Taxis.
AIRPORT PICKUP and TRANSFERS: We pick up groups of 1 to 3 persons for $35; 4-5 person for $45 to $50 to San José, Heredia or Alajuela city area Hotels depending on distances. Email us for larger group prices.
1½ hour Transfer to Pacific Beach Resort of Jaco for example, from Airport is $120 total for up to 3 persons, 4-5 person $150 and 6-8 $200, including reasonable amount of luggage. Transfer Prices are negotiable according to certain situations.
Contact us to request an Airport Pickup and Transfer to your Hotel anywhere and let us know if you would like some cold bottle water or refreshments waiting for you when you arrive.
TRANSFER SERVICE TO or FROM ANYWHERE is available
DOOR TO DOOR. We operate unique
4x4 late model 5-9 passenger SUVs with A/C. Call or
email us for a
quote. Our Tel. #s are at the bottom of every page.
WATER QUALITY: Unlike most Latin American countries, Costa Rica has a fairly safe water supply with only some isolated areas being occasionally a problem. Salads are generally safe to eat because they usually use good water to irrigate crops and wash the vegetables. Testament to C.R.'s good water is the fact that C.R. is the only place in Latin America where Heineken allows it's beer to be brewed, as good water is essential for good beer. C.R.'s beers are internationally recognized as being excellent lagers. Bottled spring or filtered water is readily available almost everywhere in different sizes at reasonable prices.
Vaccinations: Not needed unless your traveling deep into humid regions (Southern Caribbean coastal areas) where typically Indian reservations are. In 35 years in Costa Rica I've never had a malaria or dengue vaccination and have had no problems traveling throughout C.R.
HOURS OF DAYLIGHT and HOUR of TIME: C.R. has first light about 5:10 a.m. followed by sunrise around 5:30 a.m. Sunset is around 5:45 p.m. and it gets dark at about 6:00 p.m. Daylight length does not vary much during the year due to Costa Rica being only about 11° above the equator.
C.R. does not change it's clocks when the U.S. and Canada change in the spring to "Daylight Savings Time". We are on the same time year round in C.R., but the time difference to the U.S. does change when the U.S. changes their clocks. We are on the same time as Central Standard time when the U.S. is on Standard time and we are on the same hour as Rocky Mountain Daylight Savings Time when the U.S. is on Daylight Savings Time. In other words were 1 hour behind (earlier than) the U.S. East Coast when the U.S. is on Standard time and 2 hours behind (earlier than) the U.S. East Coast when the U.S. is on Daylight Savings Time.
Current Time in Costa Rica
The Mountain range that runs down the middle of C.R allows the 2 different
oceans on opposite sides of the country to control the 2 distinct weather
patterns on each geographical side of the country.
The Pacific side of the country has distinct dry and wet seasons, with the dry season being longer (6 months, Dec. - May) on the Northern Pacific region where 'Dry Tropical Forests' are predominate. On the Southern Pacific, where 'Humid Tropical Forests' are predominate, the dry season is shorter (3 months, Jan.- March). The Central or mid- Pacific region where San Jose is (albeit well inland and up at 3,500 ft above sea level) has the about 5 months of dry season from mid-December to early mid-May. The wet or rainy season on the Pacific does not mean rain all day long but rather mid-afternoon rain showers like clock work almost every day from mid-May to late November much like the summer weather in the south of the U.S., with a short 2-3 week relatively dry spell of Indian Summer called "El Veranillo" ("Little Summer") occurring from around late June into early July, which even then can have a little occasional rain shower. September to mid-November is the wettest time of the year on the Pacific side of the country, with October the traditionally wettest month and when we can sometimes be affected by the heavy rains of a hurricane in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean or Atlantic side of the country has no real prolonged dry season with only maybe mid May and the months of August - October being a little less rain than normal. "Normal" in the Caribbean is afternoon rain year round, much like the summer weather in the south of the U.S., with the occasional Caribbean storm and fronts bringing several days of continuous light rain and overcast days, which can also often happen in October on the Pacific side. December is considered to be a wet month in the Caribbean, when the Pacific is starting to progressively enter the dry season,
Temperatures in the Central Valley at 3,500 ft above sea level are mild with lows in the 60s F° (18 C°) and highs in the 80s F° (27° C). Low coastal areas are hot in the day with highs in the 90s F° (32°C) and lows in the 70s (22° C). High mountain temps are quite cool at night and pleasantly moderate in day.
ElectricAL power here is the same as in the U.S with 120V, 60Hz current and the same wall outlets. Sometimes outlets only have 2 slots w/o the 3rd 'ground' receptacle, so an adapter can be handy.
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All information included in this document is not meant or implied to be a guarantee of what you may actually encounter or experience but rather it is intended to be a guide as an un-biased opinion based on 35 years of life and working experience in Costa Rica by it's author who accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies contained within.
Call us via our U.S. Telephone #s: 1-352-505-4001
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And for calls from other countries, only charges to the US apply.
From Costa Rica call Our Local Telephones #s in C.R. which are:
2215-2162 and 2215-2163.
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