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Frequently Asked Questions

About getting here

1. How do I plan the perfect trip?
Costa Rica Unique Tours is a full service tour operator company, so we can coordinate with our customers to create fully detailed and highly customized itineraries for them, either for individual travelers as well as for groups. Please contact us regarding any travel requests and requirements. We’ll be more than happy to talk to you.

2. What are the entry requirements?
All visitors should have a passport valid for at least six months beyond the dates of the trip. Not all travelers who wish to come to Costa Rica need a visa; this will depend on your nationality, the purpose of your visit, your country of residence and the length of your stay. To find out if you require a visa to enter the country, log on to: www.costarica-embassy.org

3. What are the customs regulations?
No customs duties are charged on personal luggage, which includes an array of items for personal and professional use, as long as they do not appear in quantities that suggest commercial intent. Costa Rican law requires baggage to be examined and that travelers submit customs declarations listing all articles acquired abroad, including fruit, vegetables, meat, meat products and biological products such as vaccinations, serums, etc. In the case of families, one declaration can be filled out by the family head.

4. When is the best time to travel?
The travel industry divides the year into three main business seasons as follows: i) High Season (from December to April and related to the dry season), ii) Peak Season (in December during Christmas, New Year and Easter), and iii) Green Season (from May to November and also called Low Season as it is related to the rainy season,). If you live in the Northern Climates, you will probably consider winter the only time to visit. However, people from other areas in North America and Europe usually find the rest of the year equally pleasant, as well as quite a bit more affordable. In addition, other vacationers just prefer the country when there are fewer tourists –that is, during the Green Season.

 

About being prepared

1. What should I bring?
A pocket-size English/Spanish dictionary (although you will find that many people in Costa Rica speak English, especially in tourist areas), a small first aid kit, binoculars, camera, walking shoes, sunscreen, traveler's checks - cash and/or credit cards, swim suits, casual clothes for nightlife and fine dining, insect repellent, copies of your favorite Costa Rica travel guide, sandals, sunglasses and a hat, necessary medications, a rain jacket, your passport and your driver's license. If you are flying locally, make sure you also check luggage restrictions.

2. Is there a good communication system?
Direct-dial telephone service, facsimile, radio and cable television are all available. Find bilingual operator assistance for international calls by dialing 1116, local information regarding telephone numbers (white and yellow pages) at 1113, and long distance information and help at 1024. Internet is available nationwide and most hotels and restaurants have good wi-fi connection available included in their rates. However, in case of signal failures, Internet cafes are available in most towns and hotels.

3. How much money should I bring?
Your budget depends on what you intend to do, see, buy, etc. Nevertheless, in order to give you a fair estimate on costs, a typical lunch costs around $7 at an affordable small restaurant or "soda" or up to $15 (or more) at a nicer establishment. Beer or mixed drinks can cost about $2 each at a typical bar or restaurant, and up to twice as much at a nicer hotel or high-end eatery. Taxi fares are affordable, the public bus service even more so. Costa Rica can be seen by some as a very affordable destination and expensive by others. There is a dual economy here (local/foreign) and if you wish to make the effort to find bargains they certainly do exist, as do tourist traps that overcharge. Be smart, know the value of the colon vs. your currency and purchase accordingly.

4. How much money should I tip?
The amount you tip will vary according to your level of satisfaction with the service. A rough guide for services you may encounter is, based on local standards, as it follows:

  • Restaurants: 10% on top of the service charge that is already included in the bill. The 10% charge that is already included is divided between all of the restaurant staff.
  • Private Transfers/Chauffeurs: 15 - 20% of total trip price. (Taxi drivers generally do not receive a tip.)
  • Sport Fishing Crew: 15 - 20% of total cost for the day. You can give this to the boat captain who will share and distribute to the mate(s).
  • Housekeepers: $50 - $200 per week / per home.
  • Concierge: $100 - $300 per week / per home.
  • Tour Operators: 15 - 20% of tour price.
  • Executive Chef: 15 - 20% of your culinary services

5. What taxes must I pay?
Travelers must be at the airport two hours before departure, where there is a departure tax of US$26.00. There is a 13% sales tax at hotels, restaurants and most service industries, and an additional 3% tourist tax at hotels.

 

About health and safety

1. What are the medical concerns and suggested vaccinations?
Make sure you always check with your physician for the most up-to-date advice and for a personal consultation, at least a few weeks in advance of your vacation. In Costa Rica, health care is very good and sanitary standards are high. First class private and public hospitals are found throughout San José and some of the other largely populated areas. Since long ago, diseases such as malaria and yellow fever were eradicated in Costa Rica. In fact, if you are traveling to Costa Rica from certain countries in South America and Sub-Sahara Africa you must have an International Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever. Both hospitals and the Red Cross will provide any medical treatment in case of emergency.

2. Do I need to take any special precautions?
It does not matter where you are in the world; there are always special considerations that one must take in regard to health and safety. Do not leave your luggage unattended at the airport or with a stranger, do not carry any stranger´s luggage through customs or immigration, and always carry your money within an inside pocket or a body pouch, or money belt. Daily spending money could be carried in your bag or front pocket. Credit cards and travelers´ checks are good tools when you travel.

It is especially wise to carry a separate package with the following information: a copy of the identifying pages of your passport and pages which show recent stamps, the number of your credit cards, traveler checks, bank accounts, airplane tickets, and emergency phone numbers.

Valuable items should be left in a safe box – check if your accommodation provides one of them. Avoid crowded or lonely places after dark, and deal with well-known tourism agencies instead of unknown people. Do not attempt to buy or sell drugs, or engage with sex workers. In other words, take the same precautions you would take when visiting any other country, but do not let that decrease your enjoyment of this experience. For emergency assistance in Costa Rica, dial 911.

3. Is it safe to drink local water?
Costa Rica is a hot country where you can quickly become dehydrated, especially if you are doing a lot of physically engaging activities. Therefore, you need to drink lots of fluids. Costa Rican health authorities state that tap water is safe to drink in all areas of the country. However, we suggest you exercise caution, especially in rural areas, as an upset stomach can definitely ruin a vacation. Hence, whenever you can, buy bottled water for drinking. Also, when buying fresh fruits and vegetables, you must always wash them carefully before eating.

 

About local Information

1. What is the time zone in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica’s time zone is the same as U.S. Central Standard Time, but it does not observe daylight savings time.

2. What are normal business hours?
Most banks are open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and do not close for lunch. Credit cards are widely accepted, with Visa, MasterCard, Dinners and American Express being the most popular. Government offices are open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Most commercial business open from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Tour operators are usually open till late. Stores and other businesses at commercial centers are open from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Most restaurants open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm. Hotels and some restaurants are open 24 hours.

3. Is bus transportation available?
Costa Rica has a public bus system that offers inexpensive, timely and convenient transportation. For many Costa Ricans, taking the bus is the primary means of transportation. As an alternative to taking the public bus, you can check with us about arranging transfers through tourism transportation agencies which provide quality service at reasonable rates.

4. Is driving a good idea?
Car Rentals in Costa Rica are available from the major rental companies. To rent one, you must be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver's license and a major credit card. Gasoline is available at stations throughout Costa Rica and most stations are open 24 hours and take credit cards. Auto insurance is a MUST, but this will be included in your contract with the car rental agency, as most insurance companies explicitly exclude foreign countries from their coverage. If you have a question, contact your carrier. When the rented car is given to you, the contract will explain the responsibilities of both parties, so read it carefully and make sure you ask any questions before signing it.

If you are involved in a traffic accident, do not lose your temper and do not leave (or attempt to leave) the place of the accident- Also, do not move the car until you are told to do so by the traffic police officer, cooperate with the legal authorities and do not sign any agreements nor accept any liability. Contact your rental car company immediately.