Habla en espanol?
Do you speak Spanish?
No es necesario hablar espanol en Costa Rica, pero es una buena idea para entender un poco espanol!
(It is not necessary to speak Spanish in Costa Rica but is a good idea to understand a little Spanish!).
A few words you should definitely know:
Hola = hello
Buenas dias = Good day = hello
Buenas tardes = Good afternoon
Buenas noches = Good night
Como esta = How are you
Muchas gracias = Thank you
Con mucho gusto = With much pleasure (sort of like “your welcome”)
Hasta luego = See you later
Bano = Bathroom
Pura Vida = Pure Life (this is a Costa Rican’s expression for “life is great!” and you will hear this often)
Costa Rican’s LOVE it when you try to speak their language, but do not worry as many in the hospitality business are bi-lingual (Spanish/English).
Following are a few tips I hope you will find useful:
Bring a water bottle of some type. You almost always want to have fresh water with you. The water is safe in most hotels and restaurants but if you go off the beaten path be careful what you drink. Delicious home-made juices are sometimes made with bacteria contaminated water. I’ve come home with giardia a few times, but I spend a lot of time in the jungle, in very mountainous areas and in very rural villages (no electricity or potable water).
If you fly to San Jose, Costa Rica chances are you will land in Juan Santamaria airport later in the evening. Hopefully you secured a hotel room near the Juan Santamaria Airport before leaving on your trip and otherwise are not trying to drive long distances at night.
If you land in Liberia Airport then you are only an hour +/- from the Nicoya Peninsula.
Try to exchange dollars for colones at a bank rather than at hotels or the airport exchange. You should expect roughly 500 colones to 1 dollar, but the exchange changes daily and can vary by 10 – 50 colones depending on where and when you exchange. If you exchange at an airport you might as well take advantage of the transaction fee (I cannot remember but do not think it relates to how much money you exchange) and get more rather than less money.
When you use a credit card you will almost always be charged 5% more. Your credit card will also add a small transaction fee which you do not see until you get your next monthly statement. It’s not a lot of money, but it is a bit annoying.
Tipping is not compulsory in Costa Rica but is becoming more commonly expected. I tip 10 – 20% depending on the service, but I think I am a bit looser with my money than other travelers. I do not usually tip the cab drivers more than a little bit.
There is a lot of petty crime all over Costa Rica so be very careful with your valuables. Consider leaving things like jewelry and expensive watches, etc at home. Otherwise, use common sense by recognizing you are in a third world country and I doubt you will have any problems at all.
If you rent a vehicle do not leave it out on the street and otherwise unattended overnight. Most hotels and restaurants have on-site attendants. They expect a few hundred colones ($.50 +/-) when you leave and it’s worth it!
For obvious reasons do not take long walks alone on gorgeous seemingly deserted beaches at night.
Costa Ricans are generally very friendly and you will often get approached with offers of help. Like any place you travel always be a bit wary.
When you leave the airport you will be just about accosted with cab drivers wanting to help in any way they can, including of course, a cab ride. If you need a cab you might want to stick with the red colored cabs which are generally legal. The others are generally not legally registered to be cab drivers so I have always avoided them.
You can purchase chips to make mobile telephone calls while in Costa Rica. But your mobile telephone will not work unless you “unlock it”. You might check with your service provider on this.