In a nutshell

Costa Rica has a total area of 51,100 sq km (19,700 sq mi), of which 0.7% is water.
The total population is 5,111,238.
Spanish is the only official language.
The currency is the colón (CRC).
San José is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Founded in 1738, the city became the capital of Costa Rica in 1823, replacing Cartago.
The country is located in the UTC -6 time zone (difference with continental Europe: 7 hrs. in winter, 8 hrs. in summer).
It is a constitutional republic, with a president elected every 4 years. The current president (elected in 2018) is Carlos Alvarado.
Catholicism is the official religion; around 60% of Costa Ricans are Catholics, the remaining 40% are Protestants, Evangelical Christians or indigenous minorities.

Currency and means of payment

Costa Rica’s national currency is the colón.
US dollars are widely accepted in most tourist-oriented businesses.
Currently, 1 USD is worth about to 610 colónes.
Credit cards are accepted (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) in most tourist establishments as well as many restaurants, bars and shops. However, we recommend using colónes for smaller daily transactions: shopping in grocery stores, local markets, small souvenir shops, etc.
Tipping is customary, but not mandatory. The amount depends on your satisfaction. At the end of a visit or to thank someone for a service, it is customary to tip guides and the team of workers who have taken good care of you. This must be adapted to the country’s living standards, which in Costa Rica are similar to Europe.
Please note that in some establishments, prices do not include taxes (13%) or service (10%).

Internet and telephone

The local cellphone network is very good in cities and across the central valley, but as soon as you leave the main roads, 4G coverage is much more patchy.
Internet access is also very easy across much of the country: hotels, bars, restaurants, and some public buildings offer WI-FI connections.

Airports and local public transport

Costa Rica has two international airportsJuan Santamaría International Airport, located in Alajuela just outside the capital city of San José, in the middle of the country; and Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, in the north of the country.
The main global airlines (Air France, Iberia, KLM, United, Delta, Copa Airlines, American Airlines, Lufthansa, etc.) serve both airports with daily flights from Europe and the United States.
Several regional airports are also served by two national airlines, Sansa and Aerocaribe, and connect the capital San José to outlying local destinations such as Playa Tambor, Tortuguero, Corcovado, Tamarindo, etc.

Costa Rica also has many local bus routes connecting the country’s main cities. This is a cheap way to get around, but buses make many stops and journey times can be quite long.

There are also shared shuttle companies that connect the country’s main tourist spots at fixed times, once or twice a day. Shared shuttles run by private companies are much faster and smaller, but more expensive than local buses.

The best way to explore the country in depth is to rent a car. This is the option chosen by most visitors when touring Costa Rica. Several international and national companies offer this service.
To rent a vehicle, you will need a credit card (valid for at least six months) in the name of the main driver + a passport + a valid driver’s license (international license not required).
A deposit (usually around $1,000) will be taken on your card to guarantee your rental. Please note that almost every rental company does not allow you to leave the country with a rental vehicle.

Local newspapers and media

Costa Rica’s two best-known daily newspapers are La Nacion and La Republica.
Two other popular papers are more like tabloid scandal sheetsDiario Extra and La Teja.
The country’s main television networks are Repretel (channels 4, 6, 11) and Teletica (channel 7), the historical channel founded in the 60s.

Jours fériés

DateCelebrationLocal NameDescription
January 1New Year’s DayAño NuevoThe celebration of the first day of the Gregorian Calendar.
March or AprilMaundy ThursdayJueves Santo 
March or AprilGood FridayViernes Santo 
April 11Juan Santamaría DayDía de Juan SantamaríaSantamaría was a hero in the battle against North American Filibuster William Walker in 1856.
May 1Labour DayDía Internacional del Trabajo 
July 25Guanacaste DayDía de GuanacasteCelebrates the annexation of the Partido de Nicoya in 1824.
August 2Virgin of Los Angeles DayDía de la Virgen de los ÁngelesEmployers must provide an unpaid day off.
August 15Mother’s DayDía de la MadreAlso the Assumption of Mary.
September 15Independence DayDía de la IndependenciaCelebrates the Act of Independence of Central America of 1821.
October 12National Cultures DayDía del Encuentro de las CulturasThis holiday honors the many different cultures that make up the people of Costa Rica today. Non-paid holiday.
December 1Army Abolition DayDía de la Abolición del EjércitoCelebrates abolition of Costa Rican army since 1948.
December 25ChristmasNavidad


Costa Rica is one of the safest destinations in Latin America.
However, common sense is advised at all times :

  • don’t leave travel documents or personal belongings in sight in your car.
  • don’t wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry.
  • exercise caution in cities, especially in San José and Limon: pick-pocketing in shopping streets and bus terminals is widespread.
  • avoid walking alone at night in the capital’s public parks or on beaches.
  • due to the risk of pick-pocketing, maintain increased vigilance in the country’s main tourist resorts: Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Tortuguero. Visitors traveling by rental car are easy to spot and are preferred targets.

It is also best to stick to marked and maintained trails when hiking in Costa Rica, both in private and public locations (National Parks, biological reserves, etc.). Entrance fees are often charged ($5 to $30 per person, on average). “Having to pay for a hike” can be an unpleasant feeling, but given the hostile natural environment and how hard it is to find your bearings in the rainforest, hikers are strongly advised to use infrastructures designed for the public to safely enjoy Costa Rica’s natural environment.


Medical care :

  • Clinica Biblica : +506 25 22 10 00
  • Clinica Catolica : +506 22 46 30 00
  • Cima Hospital : +506 22 08 10 00

Emergencies: 911 (police, fire department, ambulance)

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