Most asked questions and answers

A Quick Overview of Retirement in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is considered one of the jolliest countries in the world. Costa Ricans or Ticos, as people from Costa Rica are called, use 'Pura Vida (pure life) in their daily speech to show appreciation for something or as a greeting. The country boasts its political freedoms and stable economy. The Caribbean Sea borders Costa Rica along the northeastern coastline, the Pacific Ocean along the southwestern coast, Panama on the southwest, and Nicaragua to the north. The Central American country is home to outstanding biodiversity, passion for freedom, rich culture, excellent health care, long history of democracy, equality, and education for everyone. With its lush valleys and rich lands, a few of the country's significant imports are agriculture products such as coffee, pineapple, and bananas.
Spanish is widely spoken in Costa Rica, being its official language. Official businesses and major newspapers are all in Spanish. English is also used in the country, especially in most frequented by students. Tourist information is usually in English or bilingual. Costa Rica has been one of the top destinations for retirees and tourists alike, hence the construction of several businesses usually operated by European businesspeople accommodating English, Spanish, and other native languages.
There are also five indigenous languages in the country, namely Cabécar, Bribrí, Boruca, Maléku Jaíka, and Térraba. These are Indian languages spoken in the country, also part of the Chibchan language family.
Like other countries, those who plan to visit Costa Rica must present a valid passport. Along with the passport, visitors from some countries might need a visa to enter the country legally. As for US Nationals, all they need is a valid passport and a return ticket within ninety days. A US passport must be valid for at least one day after entry to Costa Rica.
One of the most convenient ways to spend money in Costa Rica is through credit cards. They can be used for payments of hotel accommodation, shuttle services, tours, meals, and attractions. MasterCard and Visa are two of the most accepted credit cards in the country, followed by American Express.
It's also essential to note possible additional credit card fees. Check with your credit card company to check what charges, if there are, will be added for overseas transactions. Confirm with your bank before leaving for Costa Rica to avoid surprise charges on your billing statement.
Surely you can use your existing mobile service and avail of international plans offered by your provider while you are in Costa Rica. However, another option is to buy a temporary Costa Rican prepaid sim. Three primary prepaid cellular phone providers are Movistar, Kolbi, and Claro. Movistar is a Spanish provider that has become very famous across Latin America. Claro was previously a subsidiary of Verizon but is now owned and operated by a telecom group from Mexico. Meanwhile, Kolbi is owned by the government.
If you wish to choose the second option, you need to ensure your mobile phone is unlocked. There are prepaid sim cards available in airports and all of the big cities in the country.
The primary emergency number in Costa Rica is 911 which covers several emergency institutions, including firefighters, Red Cross, civil guard, transit police, police patrols, Judicial Investigation Bureau, National Intoxication Center, and the National Emergency Commission. Costa Rica is equipped with several training centers offering a vast range of courses for different first responders.
Easter week is probably the most celebrated and significant holiday in Costa Rica. It is the best time to witness colorful religious processions, as most towns across the country also celebrate their Patron Saint's day, with rodeos, bullfights, fireworks, and dancing. Since most Costa Ricans practice Catholicism, its holidays revolve around religion. New Year's Day, Christmas, Independence Day, and Mother's Day are a few of the famous celebrations in the country.
Beans and rice are part of almost every Costa Rican plate, especially during breakfast. Potatoes are another staple food in the country which is a part of the usual Costa Rican diet. Beef and pork are the most commonly preferred meats. However, chicken and fish are also available, significantly on the Caribbean coast.
Costa Rican food is famous for being reasonably mild with utmost reliance on vegetables and fruits. Thanks to the country's location, tropical agricultural products like vegetables and fruits are widely available and are always included in the local cuisine. Gallo Pinto is the most popular Costa Rican dish for breakfast. It has rice mixed with black beans, sour cream, eggs, and fried plantain.
The sales tax, called the VAT tax, on services and most goods in Costa Rica at 13%. This law has an exemption for medicinal products, food items, and other goods purchased in Costa Rica.
In general, tipping is not a norm in Costa Rican culture. There is an automatic additional ten percent gratuity on top of your total bill and the 13% sales tax in most restaurants. Tipping is optional, though it will be appreciated if customers offer an additional amount of money if they feel the service exceeds their expectations. Customers and tourists can tip using Costa Rican colones or dollars.
The quarantine of pets entering Costa is not required, given that the owner adheres to the requirements. Pets arriving in Costa Rica must be vaccinated for rabies more than thirty days before traveling. Additional vaccination requirements for dogs include hepatitis, distemper, parvovirus, and leptospirosis. Meanwhile, cats must be vaccinated against calicivirus, feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline leukemia, and panleukopenia.
You can bring up to five pets in Costa Rica without an import permit. This permit is necessary if your pet is entering the country unaccompanied for commercial purposes (resale, competition, or breeding). The terms for bringing pets other cats and dogs will be on a case-to-case basis.
Costa Rica uses 60 cycle electricity and 120 Volts, similar to the United States. The plugs are usually those two-pronged flat types, as those three-pronged ones are scarce. If the standard voltage in your home country ranges between 110 and 120 Volts, then you can utilize your electric appliances in Costa Rica.
Internet connectivity is very common across Costa Rica. Restaurants, hotels, and parks provide free Wi-Fi services. Around Costa Rica's capital San Jose, people can quickly get a high-speed and reliable internet connection. The country is also starting to install more fiber optics. It is also very easy to spot local internet cafes in the country, as just about every rural town in Costa Rica has at least one.
Costa Rica's national currency is Colón (₡) or colones in plural. Several merchants and areas across the country also accept US dollars. The currency was named after Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon), a Spanish explorer. Columbus was the admiral who first discovered Costa Rica in 1502. The design of the first-ever coins appeared in 1935 and remained without any changes until 1978. Since 2012, Costa Rican bills now consist of a new colorful design, getting inspiration from the country's wild animals.
Exchanging money in Costa Rica is handy as it's available at public and private banks and the airport. You can conveniently exchange your money for the local currency at the airport; however, the rates may not be very reasonable. Others would opt to exchange their money at local banks for better rates. Either way, a passport is needed for this kind of transaction.
Regular unleaded gasoline costs about $5 per gallon. Most of the gas stations in Costa Rica are open 24/7, so you will not have a hard time finding one if you run out of gas on the road. There are also stations in small towns near or a few kilometers away from a tourist destination. As Costa Rican gas stations are full service, attendants will guide you on which lane to go in as you arrive and ask for your preferred fuel.
The Costa Rican government regulates gas prices, so there is no need to shop for a much cheaper fuel price.
Costa Rica observes Central Standard Time for the whole year, six hours behind the Greenwich Mean Time, the same a standard time in Denver. The country does not operate daylight saving time, as the days only vary by half an hour in-between seasons.
Visitors from most countries can stay in Costa Rica for up to ninety days. Meanwhile, citizens from restricted countries can stay in the country for thirty days but are given the luxury to apply for an extension up to ninety days. All visitors must enter the country with a valid passport and a departure ticket. If one does not have a ticket out of Costa Rica, they might be stopped from boarding the plane to Costa Rica. If you wish to stay in the country for more than ninety days, you should apply for residency.
Approximately 28% of Costa Rica's land is protected through national parks, wildlife refuges, and reserves. About 12% of which are in the form of national parks, spread across the country in various ecoregions. There are more than twenty national parks in Costa Rica, with the three being named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A few of the national parks that visitors must not miss are the Arenal Volcano National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Monteverde Biological Reserve, and La Amistad International Park. The government also created initiatives to promote places of historical and archeological significance. The early battlefields and pre-Columbian settlement areas are preserved with enthusiasm and effort as the wildlife and rainforests.
Costa Rica is generally and beautifully warm all year. It is a tropical country that experiences two seasons - dry and rainy. The dry season is usually between mid-December and April, while the rainy season falls between May and November. While it may be advisable to tour the country during the dry season, the weather in Costa Rica also varies by region. You can expect high humidity in the thick forests of the Caribbean coast and Northern Plains.
The most stable weather in Costa Rica is between December and April, as these months experience little to no rain in most parts of the country.
You can only marry legally in Costa Rica through a priest, judge, or lawyer. They are those who are legally authorized to conduct marriage ceremonies. Foreigners' marriages in Costa Rica will also be internationally recognized. Most tourists who decide to be married in Costa Rica do a civil ceremony officiated by a lawyer. You will need to present a copy of both birth certificates, another copy of any divorce decrees, a lawyer, and two witnesses.
Costa Rica requires a Yellow Fever vaccine certification for nine months and older visitors coming from countries with Yellow Fever transmission risks. These include certain South African countries, Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Panama, Argentina, French Guiana, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname.
A medical practitioner can issue a vaccination waiver for medical reasons.