We get asked all the time...
Where is Costa Rica? Is it an island?
Costa Rica forms a small portion of the Panama Isthmus bordered by the Caribbean Sea on the East side and the Pacifico Ocean on the West. It is the country sandwiched between Panama and Nicaragua in Central America. The country enjoys over 1200 km of coastline on both the Caribbean and Pacifico coasts.
Does Costa Rica have different time zones or area codes?
No. The entire country works on the same time frame. That also applies to the single area code for the country (506).
Does Costa Rica have states or provinces?
Costa Rica has 7 provinces: San Jose, Cartago, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, Alajuela and Guanacaste. Each has a unique culture that makes it special. Be sure to take time to travel within the country to see what each province has to offer.
What language do they speak in Costa Rica?
The official language is Spanish although as the country welcomes immigrants and tourists from around the world, it enjoys a more diverse culture including hearing various languages spoken by both tourists and residents. Costa Rica also supports 5 recognized indigenous languages.
Does Costa Rica observe Daylight Savings Time?
No, Costa Rica no longer participates in Daylight Savings Time changes. This changed in 1992. Until then the country followed the standard “spring ahead” and “fall back” strategy.
How big is Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is 51,100 km² or 19,730 mi². In other words it is roughly the size of Denmark or the state of West Virginia. An interesting comparison …. You can put 21 countries of Costa Rica into the Canadian province of Ontario.
Can I rent a car in Costa Rica?
Yes. The minimum age is 23 years old to rent a car and all you need is a valid passport and a current driver’s license. There are many car rental companies in Costa Rica such as Alamo, Adobe Rent a Car, Budget, Hertz and National. Be sure to check out our rental car article featuring Adobe Rent a Car – our preferred agency.
Click here to see our car rental discounts from Adobe.
What are the roads like?
Roads in Costa Rica are constantly improving. Many of the major highways are paved with some having recently been resurfaced. The roads linking the major towns and cities are also in good condition. As you venture off the beaten track, you will likely need a 4 X 4 in case you need to drive through a local creek or to dodge the potholes. Every year the government commits to improving the number of paved roads throughout each province which is good for tourism and certainly improves the daily life of the local people.
Is there public transportation in Costa Rica?
Yes, Costa Rica has its own public transportation with many private bus companies offering to take you all over the country. Many of the buses have fixed schedules to the major cities and towns. Getting to the smaller towns is abit of a challenge but with a little ingenuity and patience, you can do it. Most tourists who decide to tour the area to the more remote locations opt to rent a car. It is by far the easiest way to get around if going off the beaten path.
Are there ATM machines?
Yes. There are a variety of banks offering ATM machines. In the Playas del Coco area there are 7-8 machines available dispensing both US dollars and colones.
Is the water safe to drink?
Yes, in the majority of the country the water is safe to drink. The only exception would be in the more undeveloped and remote locations. Some people still prefer to purchase bottled water but based on our experience, the tap water here is delicious!
What is the currency in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica’s currency is called colones. The exchange rate is roughly 565 colones to $1 USD in 2017. US dollars are widely accepted in stores and restaurants but if you convert to colones before you come, you may get a better exchange rate. You can also convert your dollars to colones in the local banks. Be sure to take your passport with you when you go as they will require proof of ID to make the conversion.
When is the rainy season?
Costa Rica’s rainy season is from May to October and the dry season is from November to April. However there are slight variations of these two seasons due to many micro-climates in the country so one part of the country may have a longer or shorter rainy season. The most important thing to remember is that it is always warm in our area regardless of the rain.
What fruits are grown?
A wide selection of tropical fruits are grown in Costa Rica such as cantaloupe, mango, lime, pineapple, papaya, avocado and banana. There are also the more exotic varieties like cas, guava, tamarindo, jocote, soursop, coconut, granadilla, rambutan (aka mamon chino) and passion fruit.
How long can I stay in Costa Rica without residency?
A tourist visa lasts 90 days. You can renew it by leaving the country for at least 3 days.
What are some typical Costa Rican dishes?
Some of the traditional foods you will find in Costa Rica are gallo pinto (rice and beans), casado (variation of rice, beans, plantains, salad and meat) and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken)
Do I need a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica?
Most countries require a tourist visa which is given upon arrival with no fee. However there are different visa entry groups so check which group your passport country is in to check if you need one.
Do I need to take malaria pills?
It is up to you but Costa Rica actually does not have a problem with malaria. However you do need to bring insect repellent to prevent dengue and chikungunya.
How many volcanoes are there in Costa Rica?
There are six active volcanoes in Costa Rica and 61 dormant or extinct ones.
Where are the international airports?
There are two. One in Alajuela, the Juan Santamaria International Airport most commonly known as SJO and one in Liberia, the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport more commonly known as LIR.
Is the voltage the same as North America?
Yes, Costa Rica uses 110- 120 volts, the same as US and Canada.
Do I need an international driver’s license to drive in Costa Rica?
No, if you have a valid driver’s license from another country, you are permitted to use that license to drive a car or motorcycle for up to 90 days or the length of your Visitor Visa.
Can I come to Costa Rica with a one way ticket?
No, to enter Costa Rica, you must show proof of onward travel unless you have Costa Rican residency status. This could be an airline or bus ticket to exit the country within your 90 day stay (not necessarily back home). Airlines do not always ask for this documentation but Costa Rica Immigration may deny you entry without proof of onward travel.
Are there English speaking doctors in Playas del Coco?
Absolutely! There are at least 3 doctors here in the Coco area that offer great medical care and advice. They are affiliated with the hospitals in Liberia and San Jose so will take good care of you. We highly recommend the following doctors: Dr. Pablo Valenciano, Dr. Hanzel Larios or Dr. Alejandra Mendez Rodriguez. There are a variety of specialists who take office days in the Playas del Coco area as well.
Do you have a question we haven’t included in this FAQ?
Send us a message and we will do our best to answer all your Costa Rican questions!