Costa Rica FAQ

Planning Your Trip To Costa Rica

Arrival in Costa Rica


Going Home

Planning Your Trip To Costa Rica

Will I need a passport?

Yes, you need a passport to enter Costa Rica. The passport must not expire until at least six months after the date you return to the US.

Do I need a visa? No. You do not need a visa to travel to Costa Rica. When your passport is stamped at immigration, the stamp will state your return date and you are approved to stay in the country until then. This can be up to 90 days. Also remember you must have a return airline ticket to enter Costa Rica.

What Documents Should I Bring?
• Passport
• Driver’s license
• Insurance cards
• Credit cards you intend to use
• Airline tickets, any receipts for prepaid tours or excursions and any confirmations
• Copy of travel insurance documents
• Phone numbers for contacts during the trip

NOTE: Make several copies of all of these documents before you leave. Leave a full set of documents with someone at home who will be available. Also carry a full set of copies with you on the trip. When you are in Costa Rica, only carry the copies when fishing or on excursions to avoid the loss of the originals.

What should I bring—my packing list?
There is really no winter or summer in Costa Rica. Keep in mind the parts of the country you may visit. You may want light jacket and longer pants if you are going to stay in the higher elevations. We recommend the following for coastal and beach locations and if you are fishing:

• Long sleeve T-shirts and long lightweight pants to wear while fishing. The sun is very strong in Costa Rica and these items help protect you. Make sure the fabric protects against UV rays.
• Wide brim hat that will help shade your neck and face. Also other hats, caps, visors that you are comfortable wearing
• Hiking or walking shoes, sandals, and shoes with light soles to wear fishing. Also bring a swim suit even if you don’t think you will swim.
• Regular items such as underwear, socks, sleepwear.

IF you are going to stay in San Jose for a period of time, you should bring some nicer casual clothes to wear out in the city. You may also want to bring a light jacket if you are visiting the higher elevations.

Luggage Requirements

There are relatively low weight limits for luggage on domestic airlines—one check bag weighing 40 pounds and one carry on of no more than 10 pounds. Excess weight and baggage is costly and there may not be room on the plane. Bring soft side luggage if possible. Bring a day pack for sight-seeing or fishing. Bring water proof bags for laundry and to keep electronics and other items dry on the boat.

Personal Items

Medicines including over the counter items which may not be available in Costa Rica. Bring prescription medications in the original bottles. You will need insect repellent (a brand containing DEET is recommended) and waterproof sunscreen with a high UV protection. Even local people wear sunscreen so this is a must. Bring any other personal care items.

Electronics and Other Items:
• Camera and their chargers and memory cards
• Sunglasses with UV protection
• Extra pairs of prescription sun glasses or regular glasses you need in case of loss of a pair
• Hand sanitizer
• Personal items from your experience: pens, pencils, books, lighter or matches. I have dozens of cork screws because I forget one and have to buy them nearly everywhere I go.

What Not To Bring
I know I over pack and always feel like I am missing something. There are usually laundry facilities or services and you can wash clothing during the trip. There are some items you should just leave at home:

• All your keys except the ones you really need (car and house)
• Expensive or irreplaceable jewelry and other personal items
• Any credit cards or other cards in your wallet you will not use
• Business, government or personal ID cards

Think about losing your wallet or purse today in your home town and the problems that creates. Take only those items you really need to travel to and from Costa Rica.

Do I need any vaccinations?

Visitors from the US and Canada are not required to have any vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone be up to date on their routine vaccinations when going anywhere.
People have different sensitivities and you should consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Are there weight limits for people on the airlines?

Yes. Airlines in Costa Rica require the weight of every passenger when you make a reservation. People are actually weighed prior to check-in. Passengers weighing more than 250 pounds are required to pay for an extra seat. You should make reservations as early as possible in any event but early reservations ensure the seats are available and may also be discounted.

Are there baggage restrictions on Costa Rica domestic airlines?

Yes. Carry-on bags are limited to one bag of less than 10 pounds. Checked baggage is limited to one bag not exceeding 40 pounds.

Do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. We have comprehensive travel insurance for every trip and we have had to use it on many occasions. Airline provided travel insurance is limited. Comprehensive travel insurance covers cancellations of the trip, flights, medical emergencies, weather delays, etc. Once again, we strongly recommend travel insurance.

Arrival in Costa Rica

Do I need to reconfirm my reservations?

You should reconfirm your flights both to and from Costa Rica no later than 48 hours from the departure times.

How early should I really be at the airport for an international flight?

When you leave Costa Rica, check-in at the San Jose airport is 3 hours before the flight time. You may lose your seat if you check-in later. Keep in mind that security and check-in can take much longer than US airport screening. You can check in on line in the US for international flights 48 hours before the flight and also pay baggage fees or any other fees depending upon your airline.

Where do I go when I get off the plane?

Flight attendants will provide immigration and custom forms for you to complete. Exit the plane and follow the signs to immigration where your passport will be checked. Also have the forms you completed on the plane available. After you pass through immigration, you go to the luggage claim area for your bags and then you proceed to customs. Your luggage will be scanned and may be search. Once you are through customs, you exit the terminal for ground transportation.

Does someone meet me at the airport?
Lisa Montgomery will instruct you about transportation for your trip prior to your departure to Costa Rica.

How do I get to my hotel?
Lisa Montgomery will instruct you about transportation for your trip prior to your departure to Costa Rica.

Do I have to stay the night in San Jose?

An overnight stay is dependent upon your international arrival and departure times to and from Costa Rica. We will explore these options and possibilities if you desire.

How do I get to my connecting domestic flight?
You will be given instructions prior to your trip to Costa Rica about how to travel to your destination.


Is there Wi Fi?

Wi Fi is available at the San Jose International Airport. Most resorts and hotels have Wi Fi in rooms or at least in designated areas. Both Crocodile Bay and Los Suenos have Wi Fi in the rooms.

Are there appliances and televisions in the rooms (hair dryers, phones, safes, irons)?

Each hotel and resort is different but these items are typically available.

Do I need a voltage converter?

No. Costa Rica has the same electricity supply as the US.

While You are In Costa Rica Will my cell phone work?

From a practical standpoint when you search the Internet, getting US cell phones to work in Costa Rica is difficult and with roaming charges from your carrier, can be very expensive. Connecting with your data plan can also be very expensive. We have talked with carriers over the years and representatives do not always have accurate information.

You can purchase pre-paid SIM cards to use in your phone at the San Jose Airport and many other places. To use the prepaid SIM, you must have a quad band, unlocked cell phone. The vast majority of US cell phones are not unlocked (they are tied to your carrier) and therefore cannot use the prepaid SIM. You can also buy a cheap, prepaid phone at the airport once you arrive in Costa Rica.

We use Skype as much as we can and avoid completely turning on our cell phones. If by chance the phone does connect, you may end up with hundreds of dollars of data or roaming charges even if you never make or receive a call.

How do I call the US from Costa Rica?

Using a land line or cell phone, dial the prefix 001 and then the area code and phone number. For example to dial (321) 555-1212 you must dial 001-321-555-1212.

How can someone in the US call me in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica phone numbers are eight digits. For example, say a person wants to call you at 5454-1212 in Costa Rica where you are staying (they would have you actual number). They would dial the international prefix of 011 as well as the country code of 506 before the number. In this example, the person calling you would dial 011-56-5454-1212.

Do I need to exchange money?

The Costa Rica currency is the Colón but US dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica. You will usually receive change in Colónes. The easiest way to exchange currency is through an ATM. You can select whether you want dollars or Colónes. Airport exchange booths are expensive and banks are very time consuming. Don’t exchange too much money—it is expensive to convert it back to US dollars and dollars will work fine. Carry small bills to Costa Rica—no bills greater than $20 as it is difficult to get vendors to accept larger bills. Generally, carry no more than $100 in cash.

Will My Credit Cards work?

Credit cards are widely accepted for goods and services in Costa Rica. As in the US, not all merchants take all cards. Discover Card is not accepted and you may find American Express is not accepted. Be sure and notify your credit card companies you are going to be in Costa Rica so charges are not blocked or your cards put on hold.

Can I drink the water and other beverages and is the food safe to eat?

The water is safe to drink in Costa Rica but we always drink bottled water. Food and water is typically safe in the resort areas and in hotels were tourists stay.

Can I rent a car?

Costa Rica driving conditions are very difficult with very few directional signs, no street signs, narrow roads, changing weather conditions and different traffic laws. You must be at least 25 years old, have a valid official driver’s license from your state or country, and have your passport and a major credit card to rent a car in Costa Rica. Extra drivers and increased insurance coverage is available for additional charges. A refundable deposit up to $2,500 is required to cover the car.

Can I obtain health care services?

Costa Rica has an excellent healthcare system that ranks very high worldwide for its standards. Costa Rica has socialized health care that covers all citizens. There are public facilities and also many private facilities in major urban areas. At tourist destinations across the country there are clinics where doctors are available. There are pharmacies where you can obtain prescription drugs with your prescription. The US Embassy for Costa Rica has a list of providers on their website at

Do people accept tips?

Resorts will provide a tipping guide for boat captains, mates, and staff. Most restaurants will add 10% tip and a 13% sales tax to your bill. If you feel they provided excellent service, tour guides and service people appreciate tips very much as their compensation is very low. Be sure to watch your receipts in local businesses as they will make miscellaneous charges to your bill many times. While most businesses are honest, we have had restaurants charge us large amounts of money for a single cocktail. You must pay attention.

Is Costa Rica safe?

Costa Rica is a very safe country with a very low crime rate. Violent crime is rare and firearms are illegal in Costa Rica. Petty theft is the most common crime. Just take the same precautions you would at home. Don’t walk alone at night or on the beaches at night. Don’t leave handbags, cameras, electronics laying on a table, bench or beach chair. Be diligent and keep an eye on your things. Don’t show large amounts of cash in transactions. Use your hotel safe and carry only a copy of your passport. Have fun but everything in moderation.

Is There a US Embassy in Costa Rica?

Yes, the US Embassy is in San Jose. The Embassy website is and there is a menu option on the home page for “U.S. Citizen Services” which includes emergency services. The embassy telephone number is (506) 2519-2000.

Going Home

Do I need to reconfirm my flight leaving Costa Rica?

You should confirm your flight home no later than 48 hours prior to your departure date/time.

How early should I be at the airport?

You should check in at the airport at least 3 hours prior to your departure time.

What is the departure tax?

To leave Costa Rica, you must pay an exit or departure tax of $29 USD per person. You can pay the tax in US dollars or Colónes. You can use a credit card but the transaction may be treated as a cash advance and can be expensive. We recommend using cash and you will probably have some extra Colónes you can use

Can I bring any fish home?

No. Tropical climates, limited refrigeration, hot airport tarmacs, and connections make it nearly impossible to bring fish home.