Horseback riding in Costa Rica

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Equestrian tours in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Mini Guide
   Source: World Travel Guide

Overview

Emerald rainforest, pastel-colored hummingbirds, shouldering volcanic peaks, tumbling rivers, and freshly picked oranges still warm from the glowing Central American sun: if Mother Nature can ever be accused of showing off, it is in Costa Rica.

Sat just north of the equator, this verdant chunk is one of the most bio-diverse spots on the planet. Costa Rica has a simply stunning variety of landscapes, microclimates, flora and fauna. Showcasing the country's breathtaking plant life, Costa Rica's national parks are its greatest glory, with one-third of the country set aside as protected natural areas. As well as being a world leader in eco-tourism, Costa Rica superbly caters for visitors looking for an adrenalin kick, with options including white water rafting, zip line tours through the rainforest canopy, surfing and quad biking.

The country’s eco-consciousness has been one factor in why Costa Rica remains a pristine wilderness; you won’t find the rampant overdevelopment that blights many tourist spots here. Instead, the government, having recognized the environment to be one of its biggest assets, has maintained its commitment to ecotourism, most recently evidenced by a promise to make Costa Rica the worlds’ first carbon-neutral country by 2021. The country’s long-term stability in a region often fraught with political uprisings is another factor in its relative prosperity – having abolished its army in 1949, all the money can go towards medical and social facilities instead.

Tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to getting up close and personal with nature. Whether it’s catching a glimpse of all four native monkey species in Corcovado National park, admiring the incredible orchids in the Monterverde Cloud Forest reserve, or becoming a bona-fide twitchier whilst out spotting one of the country’s 840 birds, Costa Rica will turn you into a nature-lover if you weren’t already.

The cities may not be its premier attraction, but that’s not to say tourists shouldn’t make a stop at one of Costa Rica’s urban centers. Get a sense of local life and culture as you explore downtown San Jose and its mishmash of architectural styles, national museums and excellent cafes. Or head to Puerto Limón on the Caribbean coast, a sleepy port town which makes an excellent jump-off point for surfers looking to catch the waves off Isla Uvita. It’s worth spending some time in the cities, if only to get a sense of how many Costa Ricans live, and what a multi-faceted country this truly is. For all those looking for an ethical adventure, Costa Rica’s charms will have you under their spell all too quickly.

Passport/Visa

Passport Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Visa Required?

British

No

Australian

No

Canadian

No

USA

No

Other EU

No

Return Ticket Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

 

Passports

US and British passports must be valid for one day beyond the date of departure from Costa Rica.

Note: Costa Rican Immigration may require tourists demonstrate financial capacity of at least $100 per month while in Costa Rica.

Visas

Visas are not required by nationals referred to in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days, although under tourist visa scheme the exact period is at the discretion of the immigration officer on arrival.

Business visas are not really issued for Costa Rica. If intending to do business, the normal procedure is to enter on a tourist visa and conduct your business within that time. If you wish to stay longer without leaving the country to renew your visa you can apply for a Business Temporary Residence Permit once you are there.

Note: Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements (see Contact Addresses).

Types and cost:

The cost of tourist visas varies according to nationality; check with the consulate.

Validity

Visas issued by the consulates of Costa Rica are valid for stays of up to 30 days.


Money

Currency

Costa Rican Colón (CRC; symbol ¢) = 100 céntimos. Notes are in denominations of ¢10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of ¢100, 50, 25, 20, 10 and 5. US Dollars are also widely accepted.

Currency Exchange

Available at banks and bureaux de change. Some hotels may also change money. Additionally, small stores will allow visitors to pay for goods in US dollars and receive change in colones.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are all accepted; American Express slightly less so. Many banks will only process MasterCard for cash credits. Cash may be the only form of payment in smaller towns and rural areas but many places will take US dollars, giving change in colones. ATMs are common throughout the cities and small towns. They will usually accept foreign cards but in some regions only Visa cards are accepted. Occasionally, paying with credit cards doesn't work for technical reasons. Bringing a good supply of US dollars in cash is advised, as many things such as entrance fees to national parks or meals at restaurants, can be paid for with US dollars.

Traveller's Cheques

Although travellers can avoid additional exchange rate charges by taking traveller's cheques in US Dollars, fewer and fewer businesses in Costa Rica are willing to accept them.

Banking Hours

State banks: 0900/1500. Private banks: 0800/1600.

Exchange Rate Indicators

Date

March 2018

£1.00=

¢801.69

$1.00=

¢566.68

€1.00=

¢699.62

 

Health

Vaccinations

 

Special Precautions

Diphtheria

Sometimes

Hepatitis A

Yes

Malaria

Sometimes

Rabies

Sometimes

Tetanus

Yes

Typhoid

Yes

Yellow Fever

No*

Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt. Where 'Sometimes' appears in the table above, precautions may be required, depending on the season and region visited.

 *A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate must be presented on arrival to the country if you are coming from a Yellow Fever-infected country. Such countries include Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Gambia, and Sudan.

Food and Drink

Mains water is normally heavily chlorinated and, whilst relatively safe, may cause mild abdominal upsets. Drinking water outside main cities and towns may be contaminated and sterilisation is advisable. Bottled water is available and is advised for the duration of the stay. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.

Other Risks

Costa Rica is considered to have a high risk of Zika virus transmission. The World Health Organization advise pregnant women and travelers planning for pregnancy postpone non-essential travel to the country. All travelers should take basic precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites, These include use of repellents containing 20%-30% DEET or 20% Picaridin on exposed skin, wearing light coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and ensuring rooms are fitted with screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering. Women who are pregnant, at risk of getting pregnant, or planning pregnancy should seek further advice from their doctor before traveling to Costa Rica.

Hepatitis B and C occur. Outbreaks of dengue fever are common in lowland areas, notably on the Caribbean coast and they have been on the rise since early 2013, so it is advised that you wear insect repellent. Most of Costa Rica is malaria-free apart from the Limon province. Rabies is widespread throughout Central America; for those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay.

Health Care

Standards of health and hygiene are among the best in Latin America, although public facilities may not come up to par with developed countries, particularly in more rural areas. Both public and private hospitals are available but tourists may only use the publicly-run healthcare service known as Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) in genuine emergencies. Private treatment is on the whole, of good quality and much lower cost than equivalent services in the US. Most doctors will expect payment in cash. Tourists visiting Costa Rica are recommended to take out health care insurance before traveling.

 

Getting There

Getting There by Air

Flights to Costa Rica are roughly the same prices throughout the year, with costs rising noticeably only for major holidays. The main national carrier is Avianca (www.avianca.com). Lots of major international airlines fly to Costa Rica, such as Delta (www.delta.com) and United (www.united.com). British Airways (www.ba.com) flies direct to San José from London Gatwick.

Main Airports

Juan Santamaría (SJO) (website: www.alterra.co.cr) is outside Alajuela, 23km (14 miles) northwest of San José. To/from the airport: Coaches depart regularly; return pickups stop at various hotels. Buses depart to the city every 15 minutes (journey time - 20 minutes). Some hotels have shuttle services to the airport; these are 24 hours and free of charge. Taxis are also available to the city (journey time - 15 minutes). Facilities: ATM, bank, restaurants, shops and duty-free stores.

Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) is 8 km (5 miles) west of Liberia.  To/from the airport: Regular buses serve the airport, connecting Liberia with Playas del Coco and other beach resorts. Rental cars are available. Facilities: ATM, bank and restaurant.

Departure Tax

US$29, payable if staying more than 24 hours. Many airlines (including Delta, United, British Airways, Air France, and American Airlines) include the departure tax in their airfares. Note that if paying by credit card there is an extra fee.

Getting There by Water

Puntarenas, the main port in the Costa Rican Pacific coast, is a major port for cruise-liners and is situated about 113km (70 miles) from San José. There are hourly public buses to San José from Puntarenas’ main bus station. When crossing the Gulf of Nicoya from Puntarenas to Paquera to explore the southern regions, be aware that although the final ferry leaves quite late, the roads on the other side are bumpy and take a while – you may well end up arriving at your destination in the middle of the night, so allow plenty of time.

 
Ferry operators:

Princess Cruises (+44 843 374 4444, in the UK; www.princess.com) runs cruises with stops in Costa Rica. However, there are plenty of Costa Rican ferry companies for smaller and more local trips that can be found at any tour operating company in any city or town you travel to.

Driving to Costa Rica

Coming into and leaving Costa Rica is by way of the same road – the Pan-American Highway. Getting in and out is all very accessible, but have your passport and entry card handy because stop-and-checks are frequent. For getting in, out and around the country, the Tica Bus (tel: +506 2296 9788; www.ticabus.com) has routes running from Mexico down to Panama, and TransNica (+506 2223 4242; transnica.com) services Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The international buses can get chilly, so bring a jumper.

Climate

In the Central Valley, where the main centres of population are located, the average temperature is 22°C (72°F) and the region enjoys a spring-like climate year round. In the coastal areas, the temperature is much hotter and humid, while the Pacific Northwest can be extremely hot and dry. The rainy season starts in May and finishes in November, although there are distinct regional variations. June and July are the wettest months, particularly on the Caribbean side, but the season can run form May until December.

The 'warm' dry season is December to May, though temperature differences between summer and winter are slight. March is the height of the dry season, and the humidity is lower at this time, making this a popular time for visitors. Volcano Arenal is notoriously hard to see due to the clouds, but the best time of year to give it a shot is during April and May.

Required Clothing

Lightweight cottons and linens most of the year, warmer clothes for cooler evenings. Waterproofing is necessary during the rainy season. Loose-fitting clothing is best. Wear neutral browns and greens for birding and wildlife viewing.

Contacts

Embassies and tourist offices

British Embassy in Costa Rica
Address: Apartado 815-1007, Edificio Centro Colon, Paseo Colon and Streets 38 and 40, San Jose
Telephone:
(506) 2258 2025.

Website:
http://www.gov.uk/government/world/costa-rica

Opening times:
Mon-Thurs 0830-1600, Fri 0830-1300.

Embassy of the Republic of Costa Rica in the USA
Address: NW, 2112 S Street, Washington DC, 20008
Telephone:
(202) 499 2991.

Website:
http://www.costarica-embassy.org

Opening times:
Mon-Fri 0900-1400 (appointment only); Mon-Fri 0900-1700 (phone queries).

Embassy and Consulate of the Republic of Costa Rica in the UK
Address: Flat 1, 14 Lancaster Gate, London, W2 3LH
Telephone:
(020) 7706 8844.

Website:
http://www.costaricanembassy.co.uk

Opening times:
Mon-Fri 1000-1500 (embassy); Mon-Fri 1000-1300 (consulate).

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