Costa Rica Pre-Departure FAQs

International Flights:

Check-in for all international flights departing Costa Rica is 3 hours prior for economy class and 2 hours prior for business/first class. Reconfirm flights 72 hours prior to departure.

Passport Entry Requirements

Passports are mandatory for all travelers from the U.S. We recommend they be valid for at least 6 months or longer beyond the dates of your trip for all international travel (this is not a requirement). Passports should be in good condition; Costa Rican immigration may deny entry if the passport is damaged in any way. Citizens of other countries: please check entry requirements. We recommend that you carry a photocopy of the passport and leave the original in a safe place while traveling about the country.

Consent for Minor Traveling Without Both Parents/Guardians

Minors under the age of 18 who are traveling with only one parent/guardian are recommended to have additional documentation if leaving their country of residence. We suggest a notarized letter from the parent/guardian not traveling. Also, minors under the age of 18 traveling with adults with a different last name are recommended to have additional documentation if leaving their country of residence.
Please contact the Costa Rican Consulate or your airline for more information.
Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington, DC: 2114 “S” Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008 Phone: (202) 234-2945 and (202) 234-2946 Fax: (202)265-4795 Website:
After your arrival at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose (SJO) or Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia (LIR), you will pass through immigration before proceeding to baggage claim to collect your luggage. Then, pass through customs before meeting your driver outside the airport. They will have a sign bearing your last name.
There is a US $31 departure tax at international airports. This must be paid in cash, or by Visa/MasterCard. The fee can also be paid in advance at some hotels or banks. Some airlines include this in their ticket price; some do not. Please check with your airline. If your airline does not, it is payable at a special counter at the airport before you check-in.


All tours and transfers depart from your hotel lobby unless otherwise noted. Please arrive 10 minutes before the pick-up time to ensure an on-time departure. You can also ask your concierge to call the day prior to reconfirm pick-up times.
Reconfirm domestic flights 24 hours before departure (the concierge can do this for you). There is a baggage limit of approx. 40-50 lbs per person on all domestic flights (see individual service on your final itinerary for specifics), and a personal weight limit of 250 pounds. Excess baggage will be accommodated on a space-available basis at an additional charge.

Private charter flight restrictions are much stricter, going over established weight guidelines could result in an inability to fly; and any incurred expenses are your responsibility. You may store excess luggage in your San Jose hotel. Dress in Costa Rica is very casual, pack lightly!

Health & Safety:

Costa Rica is a generally safe destination but petty crime and thievery do exist, especially in San Jose. Common sense and being alert to surroundings and scams is effective crime prevention. We recommend keeping a low profile and leaving trappings of affluence at home to avoid becoming a target. Do not leave things in unprotected cars, not even in the trunk.
No immunizations are required to enter Costa Rica (with the following exceptions):
  • Yellow Fever: Persons traveling to Costa Rica from certain countries in South America and Sub-Sahara Africa must have a valid yellow fever vaccination. Those affected countries include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, French Guiana, and Venezuela. If you have specific health concerns, we recommend speaking with your physician before you travel.


The local currency is the Colón(es).

Money exchange is provided at most banks. There is also a money exchange service at the airport and at most hotel front desks, but they may not have the most favorable rate if you are exchanging a large amount.  The US Dollar is widely accepted. We recommend traveling with small denominations of US dollars for tipping purposes. Credit Cards are widely accepted most commonly MasterCard, Visa, and American Express. ATMs may be unreliable. Look into fees your bank may charge for withdrawal, they tend to be higher for international transactions.
Tipping is entirely up to you based on the level of service, overall experience, and your budget. Nobody should expect a tip but it is a nice way of rewarding someone for their knowledge, experience, and help.
  • Transfer Guides & Drivers: the average tip is between 5-10 dollars p/p per service
  • Naturalist & River Guides: the average is 5-10 dollars p/p per tour
  • Housecleaning & Bellboys: the average tip is $3.00 per day for cleaning and $2.00 per bag at check-in/out.
  • Sportfishing: tipping for private sportfishing tours is usually about 20% of the total cost of the excursion. Since you've purchased a pre-paid package, check with your trip designer or ask the captain if you would like to verify the proper amount to tip.
There is a 13% sales tax at restaurants and retail stores and an additional 10% service tax is added to meals as a tip for the staff.

Phones & Internet:

Costa Rica’s country code is 506. To call Costa Rica from the US, dial 011-506 followed by the 8-digit local number. Hotels and supplier phone numbers can be found on each travel voucher. Cellular service and WiFi are available at almost all destinations. Reliability may vary.
Please contact your service provider to discuss international roaming service packages, as data usage can be very expensive.
Wireless internet is readily available at most hotels. Most travelers take advantage of this and use WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom, or other similar apps to communicate while traveling.  Be cautious about bringing laptops, as the humid tropical climate may be harmful to electronic devices.


Electric current is the same as in the US, 110 volts ac.

Food & Water:

The water is safe to drink. However, if you are in remote areas of the country, it is recommended that you drink bottled water.
If you want to eat like a tico (native Costa Rican) expect to have a breakfast of eggs, spiced beans and rice, and perhaps a side of plantains. A typical lunch is a casado – a six-part dish: chicken in sauce, beans, rice, fried plantains, salad, and a scoop of mashed potatoes. Dinner along the coast will consist of whatever fish is in season. If you are staying in the central or mountain region of Costa Rica, steak is recommended.
You will also see a variety of American fast food restaurants and the tico version called a Soda, where one can get a quick lunch with local flavor.
Many dinner tables will have a bottle of brown sauce on the table. That popular sauce is Lizano salsa, a slightly sweet with a hint of spiciness with black pepper and cumin. It is used for almost all food types including salads and accompanying meats, eggs, gallo pinto, tamales, and vegetables. Keep in mind if you ask for salsa, you will receive this Lizano salsa.  If you want the chopped tomato, onion, and pepper salsa, ask for pico de gallo.
Related Article: 7 Costa Rican Food Staples You Must Try

Geography & Weather:

Costa Rica is located in Central America between Panama and Nicaragua. It is a small country, about the size of West Virginia with 20,000 square miles. Discover Costa Rica destinations.
For the record, we think that any time of year is a great time to visit Costa Rica. Keep in mind that there are 2 distinct seasons: The Dry Season is from December - April. And the Green Season from is May - November. During the Green Season, there are typically afternoon or evening showers awaking the rainforest and wildlife. Green Season travelers can also expect fewer crowds and lower prices!

Related Articles:
Costa Rica enjoys mild, subtropical weather with little variety year-round. The most variation comes from differences in elevation. For example, evenings are cool in San Jose and Monteverde. Daytime temperatures range from 70 degrees to 90. The lowlands average around 80-90 F, the Central Valley about 72 while it can dip below 50 in the mountains at night!
Don’t panic when your weather app shows rain. That’s the tropics! It’s typical to see little to no rain from December to April, but the remaining months of the year routinely have rain at some point in the day. Don’t let that keep you from traveling though! Rain is a way of life in the rainforest. The rain cools everything down, keeps the forest lush and verdant, and gives life and vibrancy to the animals of the forest! Pack water-wicking clothing, a light rain jacket, and appropriate shoes – and the rain won’t slow you down! It’s part of the experience.

Day Excursions & National Parks:

How can I prepare for day excursions and national park visits?

Single-use plastics are prohibited in most if not all, parks in Costa Rica. Most food and beverage items are also prohibited, although there are some medical exceptions. If you have a specific dietary need, please advise prior to travel.

What can I expect in a tropical destination like Costa Rica?

  1. Please be aware, Costa Rica is an equatorial country and the sun may be more powerful than you are used to. Try to limit exposure to the sun during peak hours (9 am-2 pm) and ALWAYS remember to use sunscreen.
  2. Most wilderness lodges do not have air conditioning. Hotels tend to be built in such a way that airflow remains constant and provides a pleasant sleeping temperature. For hotels and resorts that do not have AC, they may not have the same level that you are used to.
  3. Remember, you are in the rainforest. Rain, bugs, and insects are common. Be aware of your surrounding environment. Do not leave open food in your room or luggage. The animals were there first and you are visiting their home. Tolerance of the ever-present animal population is a necessary compromise in order to enjoy your time in the rainforest.

Car Rental:

Renting a car is a great option for those who are independent-minded and who prefer spontaneity in their schedule.
Costa Rica is roughly the size of West Virginia, but the roads are not the same quality as the United States. This typically makes travel times longer. You are likely to encounter roads with potholes, slow-moving traffic on 2-lane highways, and other inconveniences. Remote areas may be more difficult to access by car during the green season. Only you can determine if this option will add to or detract from your adventure. Please discuss this option with an Expert if you are unsure.
Driving in Costa Rica is safe as long as you exercise the same precautions that you would observe in the United States or while traveling in any other country. We do not recommend driving in Costa Rica at night due to the nature of the roads. NEVER LEAVE PERSONAL BELONGINGS IN AN UNATTENDED RENTAL OR TRANSFER VEHICLE.
You must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. An international driver’s license is not required. Mandatory insurance with basic coverage is included with all car rentals through Costa Rica Experts. Additional insurance to cover the $1000.00 deductible (except third-party liability) is available at $10.00 per day at contract signing. A credit card imprint is required for all rentals.
A Costa Rica road map will be provided for you when you pick up the car. For detailed driving instructions ask the car rental representative when you pick up your vehicle and hotel front desk staff from point to point. For an additional fee, you may rent a GPS system and cell phone from the rental car company.

Please do not leave personal belongings unattended in vehicles or at beaches.