Ahh, Costa Rica! A country of rolling green landscapes, vast white sand beaches, lush jungle, mystical cloud forests, volcanoes, and a mantra that is “pura vida - it's no wonder Costa Rica attracts yogis, surfers, adventurers, partiers, healers and those just looking for a relaxing vacation. Here you can find good surf (especially in Puerto Viejo), diverse trekking (don't miss La Fortuna or Puntarenas), exotic animals, tropical fruits, chilled beach vibes (head to Nicoya Peninsula or Guanacaste for this!) and pure living ~ what’s not to love?!
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Climate in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s climate is tropical and consists of two seasons: Dry and wet. Rainy season runs from May to November with average temperatures between 12°C and 27°C (70-81 °F). But depending on the regions and elevations, the seasons vary. Rain is highly likely across the country in May and June.
Caribbean and Pacific Coastline: Has its own micro-climate that is hot and humid all year. The northern pacific coast is known as the ‘Gold Coast’ with minimal rainfall all year and longer summers. Visit Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast for some surfing and the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Coast for some laid back beach vibes.
Mountainous highlands: Cooler than the coastal regions due to elevation with rains May to November.
Jungle: Hot and humid with heavy rains between May and November
Best times to visit tend to be during December to mid April, but that is governed by what areas you are visiting. If you are a keen surfer, the rainy season may be better for the large swells as it is sunny in the mornings before the rains starts in the afternoons. During rainy season the landscape is more appealing as it is bright green and full of life, drawing in a lot of nature enthusiasts.
Currency in Costa Rica
The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colon (₡), named after Christopher Columbus, which come in paper and coin form. In addition to Colones, USD are also widely accepted. At the time of writing the conversion rates were as follows:
€1 = ₡672
$1 = ₡580
To get the best conversion rates when exchanging your month in Costa Rica, head to a local bank. Make sure you bring identification with you (passport).
ATM’s are plentiful in Costa Rica.
Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) and Banco Nacional have a $100 transaction limit and $200 limit per day (You could do a maximum of two $100 withdrawals per day). There is no transaction fee with BCR
Banco Nacional and other providers have a small transaction charge.
Keep in mind that if you are traveling in peak seasons, the ATMs may run out of money. If you need cash, get to the ATM early!
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Always let you bank know beforehand that you are travelling abroad and where you are going. This will notify the bank and prevent them from freezing your card which they will do if they think it has been stolen.
Getting around Costa Rica
Public buses are often the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica. Although there is no unified bus network, buses service nearly every town/city in Costa Rica, making it very easy to jump from one place to the next. San Jose is the main transportation hub in Costa Rica however, it has no centralised bus station; instead individual bus companies have their own station sites scattered around, so be sure to check where you are departing from. As the network is so good and it is incredibly cheap, the buses fill up fast, so make sure you book in advance when you know where you want to go next. With the larger more well known bus companies, you can buy your bus tickets from their terminals. Expect to pay anywhere from $1 (€0.86) to $15 (€13) for these types of buses, depending on where you are going.
It is important to note that there are two types of buses: Directo and Colecto.
Directo: These buses go directly to your destination with few stops along the way
Colecto: These buses are much slower and make more stops along the way
Shared Shuttles (tourist buses / gringo buses): If public buses aren’t your thing, you could take a shared shuttle, which are private minibuses with air conditioning. Companies include; Gray line, Monkey ride, Easy ride, Interbus and Tropical tours. Whilst, they are much more expensive than a public bus, they are still affordable, covering large distances and picking you up from your accommodation and taking you directly to your next place, so you don’t have to worry about connections. A single ticket for these type of buses can range from $15 (€13) to $25 (€22) depending on where you going.
If you are on a tight timescale, you could easily take domestic flights between the major cities. But please bare in mind your carbon emissions which are increased tenfold through flying. If you can, travel by bus as much as possible. However, there are some places that cannot be reached by bus, such as Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast. Local airlines include: Sansa and Nature Air.
Hiring a car:
Another option to explore Costa Rica is to hire a car. This is a good option if you want flexibility, expect to pay around $300-$700 (€300-600) per week.
Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical advice for Costa Rica
When you know where you want to go in Costa Rica, go to your doctor’s and ask to see the nurse to discuss travel vaccinations. They will go through your travel plans and suggest the appropriate vaccinations. It is likely that you will need:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Diphtheria, rabies, Tetanus
- Yellow Fever - this is a must. You will need to show your certification for some places.
In the UK, some of the vaccinations will be free of charge through your doctor’s, and some will cost. To keep the cost down, you can always visit a travel centre instead, where the injections are slightly cheaper. When thinking about vaccinations for your trip, the following website can be really helpful: Fit for Travel.
What to pack for Costa Rica
- Long sleeved tops and long trousers if you are hiking.
- Dresses / shorts / light clothes
- Quick dry towel
- Good walking shoes / sandals / trainers
- Waterproof clothing / rain jacket / poncho
- Packing cubes. Get different colours to separate your dirty and clean clothes!
- First aid kit
- Battery pack / electronics
- Zip lock bags ~ perfect for carrying opened food or protecting liquids from spilling
- Money belt
- Padlocks x3
- Travel pillow
- Ipod / music for the long bus journeys
- Biodegradable soap ~ especially important when you are camping and washing in nature
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- Life Straw. This is an amazing accessory to have when you are trekking and a cheap alternative to buying water along the way, it also saves on buying plastic bottles and for every purchase, a child in a developing country, receives clean drinking water for 1 school year!
- Zip lock bags for traveling with left over food items / prevent liquid items from spilling
Safety Considerations for Costa Rica
Costa Rica feels very safe and there have been few, if any, reports on crimes against foreigners. However. as with other countries, it is important to always remain aware of your surroundings and take precautions with regards to your safety. Please see below some of my top tips for remaining safe.
- Always keep your valuables hidden or locked away.
- Always keep your valuables in your small backpack and wear it on your front
- Always choose an ATM inside of a bank rather than on a street. Put your cash in your money belt, under your top straight away. If you feel nervous about withdrawing money, go with someone else.
- If you are travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security: put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes. You can buy these from: Amazon
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag and put your rain/protective cover over it.
- Do not walk around at night on your own, always take a taxi, even if it is a short distance.
- Always ask your hostel about the area and for safety advice.
- Keep your two bank cards separate, so if anything happens, you have a second source of money.
- Always have at least one photocopy of your passport, so if you lose it, you still have a copy of it and bring another form of identification with you (driver’s license).
- Do not leave your drink unattended
- Get insurance before you travel! Even if you are only going on a short trip as you never know when you are going to need it. As a wise man once said, “if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you shouldn’t be travelling”. We recommend World Nomads.
Budget for Costa Rica
Costa Rica is very budget friendly. Activities, food, transport and accommodation are incredibly affordable, but of course it depends on how you would like to travel and how long you are going for. For hostel accommodation, prices can be anywhere from $9 (€8) per night to $20 (€17) and the cost of a meal can be as cheap as $5 (€4) or $20 (€17) for a more touristy place. With cheap transportation, a backpacker could survive on $30 (€26) to $50 (€43) a day.
Don't forget to buy your Travel Insurance....