All public phones in Costa Rica require a phone card. There are
3 types of phone cards available throughout the country. Chip cards
only operate in blue phones labeled "Chip," while Servicio
197 cards are for in-country calls from any touch tone phone. Servicio
199 cards are for international calls.
The currency is the colón. New coins are
gold-colored and the old coins are silver. Both are used, however
the silver version is being phased out.
Orientation in San José is easy: streets
running from East to West are called avenidas (avenues); those from
north to south are called calles (streets). All avenues south of
Avenida Central are even-numbered and all avenues to its north are
odd. All streets west of Calle Central are even-numbered while streets
east of Calle Central are odd-numbered. For example, the address
Av.2/C.2-4 is on the Avenida Central, between 2nd and 4th streets.
Orientation outside of central San José
becomes a bit more difficult. Directions are given with regard to
common landmarks such as churches, malls, hospitals, restaurants,
etc. A city block is estimated to be 100 m. Try to get a feeling
for cardinal directions by remembering local landmarks within your
first few days in Costa Rica.
The standards are the same as in the United States.
Outlets are 110v with a standard two-prong plug.
Canada: (506) 242-4900
Great Britain: (506) 258-2025
United States: (506) 220-3939
Emergency Call: 911
(It will be faster to call the police or fire station directly)
Fire Department: 118
Traffic Police: (506) 222-9330
Lost credit card
Master Card: (506) 295-9898
Visa Card: 001-800-847-2911
In San José you can find almost everything.
There are many small, inexpensive restaurants (Sodas) that offer
typical food. Typical food is gallo pinto (rice and black beans)
and eggs for breakfast and rice and salad with chicken, beef or
fish for lunch or dinner. Be sure to try the fried plantains and
the batidos (fresh fruit drinks).
The health system in Costa Rica is very good.
Just for a normal check-up you must wait. Good hospitals in San
San José: Mexico Hospital 232 6122
San Juan de Dios 257 6282
Cartago: Max Peralta Hospital 550 1999
Heredia San Vicente de Paul 261 0091
Alajuela San Rafael Hospital 440 1333
Northeast: Clinica Católica 283 6616
West: Hospital CIMA Escazú 208 1000
Central: Clinica Biblica 257 5252
There is almost no Malaria in Costa Rica. A certain
amount of risk exists in the Caribbean. Try to avoid mosquito bites
by using mosquito repellent and sleeping with a mosquito net.
Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes.
These mosquitoes bite mostly during daytime hours, often indoors.
Dengue (also known as bone break fever) causes body aches, high
fever, headaches and rash. There is no cure for Dengue but a test
can be done to verify the illness. The easiest way to prevent Dengue
is to use mosquito repellent.
To avoid this uncomfortable situation you must
be careful what you put into your body! Be careful of food bought
from street vendors, and make sure to wash your fruits and veggies
thoroughly (cooking first is a good idea) before eating. If you
develop this problem, be sure to drink a lot of fluids, including
something with salt and sugar. If the problem continues you should
begin taking an antibiotic. Ask your doctor and buy in advance before
making the trip.
Wear repellent with deet-25%
or more is best, apply to exposed skin and clothing.
Stay covered up- if possible
wear long sleeves and pants
Avoid being outside at dusk,
which is the worst time for bites
Don't wear sweet smelling
perfumes and lotions, they attract bites.
If possible, sleep with a
mosquito net or at least close windows to avoid night time bites.
Wash anything you buy on the street very carefully!
If you are in a normal condition you do not need to be afraid of
eating in the sodas. Most of them comply with the health standards.
In Central Valley the tap water is drinkable. In other regions
bottled water is recommended.
‘Farmacia’ or ‘Botica’ are almost everywhere.
Hospital Pharmacies, Clinica Catholica, Clinica Biblica and CIMA
in Escazú are open 24 hours a day.
(The most important ones)
New Year’s Day, Jan. 1
Día del Boyero (Oxcart driver’s day), second Sunday
in San Antonio de Escazú
Holy week, March or April
Juan Santamaría day, April 11th
Annexation of Guanacaste, July 25th
Virgen de Los Angeles, Aug. 2nd
Mother’s day, Aug. 15th
Independence Day, Sep. 15th
Cultures Day, Oct. 12th
You can access internet from the many internet
cafes throughout the country, even small towns have internet and
The two recommended newspapers in Spanish are
La Nación and La Republica. If you prefer newspapers in English
you can pick up a copy of the Tico Times or go online to read A.M.
Film and film development is very expensive in
Costa Rica. Buy your film at home and have it developed at home
as well. Almost every shop accepts digital camera chips and is able
to burn your photos onto a CD for you.
Keep in mind that you need very sensitive film if you want to take
pictures in the rain forest (400 ISO).
Costa Rica is a fairly safe country however you
still have to beware of crime. In San Jose you need to stay alert
and be careful of pickpockets and other crime. There are many scams
to distract foreigners so they can run off with belongings. Always
take just the copy of your passport! Keep the original in your house
or hotel. Never leave any bags or possessions unattended. If you
sit down in a restaurant or at a bus station, have a strap of your
bag looped around your foot. Never show valuable jewels, keep your
backpack in front of you, and pay attention on what is happening
around you. Mind some central areas during the night such as the
Coca Cola district. Avoid looking lost on the street. Do not let
strangers help you for any reason. Also while on the bus watch out
for your bags on the overhead compartment. Thieves can easily steal
This is the most dangerous thing in Costa Rica.
Here exists only the survival of the fittest. Drivers have to give
the right of way to busses and not towards pedestrians. Most drivers
have never had classes but learned from a friend. Be aware of this
while crossing a street. Look all four ways when crossing a street,
even at a one way street and never trust the traffic lights. Pay
attention to cars whipping around the corner – they won't
stop for you. As well pay attention to the road condition. Beware
if ever present pot holes and missing sewer lids.
Be very cautious. You will not find standard warning
signs on most beaches.Be sure to ask the natives about current conditions
of riptides and undertows. If you get caught in a riptide, do not
panic or try to fight it. Try to swim parallel to the shore, toward
the breaking rip wave.
Taxes and Tipping
Checks at restaurants automatically include the
13% sales tax along with a service charge. Tip is automatically
included in the bill so it is not necessary to leave one.