Costa Rica is said to be the “Happiest Place on the Planet”. Whether it still holds that title or shares it with another deserving country, we here in Costa Rica are proud to call it home. The country is nestled in Central America between Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. The landscape is varied and diverse, with the dry Guanacaste region, the thick jungle of Southern Costa Rica, the cool mountains of the Central Valley and the white sand beaches of the Caribbean. The official language is Spanish, the money is the Colon and yes, you can use all of your US appliances here.
Costa Rica has become one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. It permanently abolished its army in 1949. This has allowed Costa Rica to focus on improving the quality of life of it’s citizens, the Ticos. Costa Rica has consistently been among the top-ranking Latin American countries in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 62nd in the world as of 2012.
Costa Rica is also known as being at the center of EcoTourism. Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world’s landmass, it contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Around 25% of the country’s land area is in protected national parks and protected areas,the largest percentage of protected areas in the world (developing world average 13%, developed world average 8%). Costa Rica has successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world from 1973 to 1989, to almost zero by 2005
You do not need any special vaccinations before coming to Costa Rica, other than routine vaccinations. However, travelers are encouraged to check with the CDC before traveling to be updated with any changes in regulation.
What to Bring to Costa Rica
One can find almost everything in Costa Rica that they can find in their home country, but it is likely that the items will be much more expensive in Costa Rica. It is recommended to bring any medication and specialty items used at home. Cell phones and plans are inexpensive in Costa Rica and can be set up upon arrival. It is advisable to use caution when bringing expensive items such as computers, jewelry, cameras, and other electronics.
The currency in Costa Rica is the colon, though US dollars are widely used. Study abroad students can use major credit cards almost anywhere and pull Costa Rican colones or US dollars out of the ATMs. Traveling with large sums of cash is not advisable, but travelers checks can be safely cashed in any bank.
Phone and Internet
If your cell phone company offers an international plan, no problem. If not, you may want to buy a local sim card. Most iPhones and smart phones work in Costa Rica, but you will have to check a few things before you arrive. First, check with your phone service to see if it automatically “unlocks” your phone. Many services, like AT&T, lock your phone making it impossible to simply switch out your SIM card for a new Costa Rican number. Other services like Verizon tend to be unlocked. Either way, research ahead of time to double check. When you get a SIM card, you will just have to wait a few minutes before restarting your unlocked phone, and you’ll have a Costa Rican phone number (they’re all 8 digits long) that you can use to communicate while down here.
ICE, a large technology store located in Huacas (between Flamingo and Tamarindo), is a great place to get a new SIM card for $2. You can purchase minutes and data at a fairly inexpensive price at ICE or at any grocery store in Costa Rica.
Some apps, like MagicApp and What’sApp, make it convenient to stay in touch with friends and family back home, as well as those in other countries. Skype and Facetime also work just fine.
Another option, if you don’t want to bring your phone, is to purchase an inexpensive local phone for around $30.