Great Tips for a Great Trip
Driving Conditions and Car RentalDriving conditions have improved dramatically in the last few years. Nearly all roads are paved in this area, with improved signage. We try to avoid driving at night, as there is little or no street lighting, often wildlife or livestock on the road, sometimes people, bicycles or even sometimes cars with no lights.Local people tend to drive very fast on the main highways, particularly the buses and trucks. Get used to people sitting right on your tail and constant overtaking – even on blind corners, hills etc. Luckily drivers are generally more relaxed in this area at the beach!There are sometimes police checks on the roads, checking drivers licenses and tourist visas. Make sure you have them to hand. They are very friendly and polite (if you are too!) and nothing to worry about. There are also speed checks and fines are very heavy. Stay below the speed limits (80km/hr on the main roads).Most people have absolutely no problems with driving in CR and we always recommend renting a vehicle to get the most out of your vacation. We always recommend 4x4s as they are much sturdier and the extra traction can sometimes be useful. Also, we recommend the FULL insurance coverage.If you have a smartphone, we recommend downloading the free WAZE app for navigation. Cheaper than hiring a GPS and one thing less to worry about (see below!)Finally, please be careful of leaving anything in your car at any time. If you stop en route with your luggage in the vehicle, never let it out of your sight. Theft is very rare, but it does happen, so be aware!
Please note US$ are widely accepted in Costa Rica and can be withdrawn from ATMs locally (but please let your bank know you will be traveling to avoid the card being blocked). Smaller bills, up to $20, in good condition, are preferred. You may have problems with $50s and greater but these can be exchanged at the bank without charge, but with ID. You can also use local ATMs to withdraw cash (US$ as well as CR colones) but you may have to let your bank know you will be travelling and there are likely to be extra fees for withdrawls.
If paying in dollars you may find you receive change in local currency, the colon. Exchange rate currently around 540 colones to the US dollar – much easier to remember and do the math at 500 to 1, so the smallest bill of 1000 colones is roughly $2, 5000 colones is $10 etc.
Restaurant Tips & Taxes
In bars and restaurants you will find 13% tax and 10% service charge (tip) automatically included in your tab – no need to pay any more to your waiter unless you would like to. Recommended tips for hotel maids $1/day, private drivers $5, taxi drivers do not expect tips over the fare.
Passport Validity for Entry to Costa Rica
Please note that by law you must have your passport with a valid entry stamp (or a photocopy) on your person at all times. It’s rare, but you may be asked by police to produce it so best to ask your hotel to make a copy for you on arrival. Please ensure you have all necessary visas for travel, also generally passports must be valid for 6 months upon arrival.
In case of illness – there are excellent private clinics throughout Costa Rica – a consultation, prescription and meds will usually cost around $40 so don’t hesitate to ask at your hotel if you do feel unwell. Remember to keep hydrated – this is the main cause of feeling tired or unwell particularly when coming from cooler climates.
Crime & Safety
Crime in Costa Rica is rare but like anywhere in the world it can happen, especially petty theft. Leave Rolexes and diamonds at
home, take care with cellphones and wallets/purses/bags when in public at restaurants or at the beach etc. If your hotel has a safe its always best to use it.
Always better to keep personal documents, wallets, cameras, phones etc inside a plastic bag inside your day bag when out and about – in case you are caught in a rain shower!