We have lived in Costa Rica for over two years and have traveled all around the country several times. We made Costa Rica our home because of the incredible nature and beaches; the climate, the people and tropical fruits were also important factors. Costa Rica is the most biodiverse country in the world, which has fascinated us since day one. Especially as nature and wildlife photographers, Costa Rica has much to offer.
We are passionate about sharing our insight so others can have the most incredible and unforgettable travel experiences in our favorite country in the world. This blog post contains all the information you need when planning your trip so you are well-prepared and can have peace of mind during your travels.
Entering Costa Rica
Entering Costa Rica is usually straightforward. There are a few things that are required when entering the country:
- You always have to show a return ticket. If you travel for longer and did not book a return flight, we highly recommend using the service of Best Onward Ticket
- Also, they want to know where you are staying, so it’s recommended to at least have your first night booked somewhere when you arrive.
- Your passport has to be valid for at least six more months
- No health pass or proof of vaccination is needed to enter
Your Tourist Visa for Costa Rica will be valid for 90 days. If you want to stay longer, we recommend doing a border run in either Nicaragua or Panama. Update: Costa Rica extended the Tourist Visa on arrival to 180 days
Getting around in Costa Rica – Transportation options
If you are wondering how to get around Costa Rica, here is an overview to choose the best transportation for your to explore.
Depending on the destination, you will have the option to fly domestically. Two different companies are offering domestic flights; one is Fly Sansa the other one is Green Air Domestic Flights are usually quite affordable, but if you have a lot of luggage, it may add up to the price. Domestic Airplanes in Costa Rica are very small and often charge for luggage separately. Flying is the most efficient and time-saving way of getting around in Costa Rica.
Traveling by bus in Costa Rica is the cheapest way to get around but also the most complicated. There are two types of buses directo and colectivo. The direct buses go from one destination to the next with few stops; the colectivos make more stops and are very slow going. Buses can be very crowded, and the schedules are always changing.
Tourist Shuttle buses are pricier than public buses but also much more convenient. They are a popular way to get from one place to the other. There are many companies offering that service, such as Gray Line, Easy Ride, Monkey Ride, Tropical Tours, and Interbus.
The most expensive option to travel in Costa Rica is a rental car. It can be worth it if you plan to visit more remote locations or if you want to explore a lot. It’s the most convenient option when it comes to the freedom to explore.
Rent a Car in Costa Rica
Car Rental in Costa Rica is very popular and a great way to explore the country. In some parts of the country, the roads are terrible (for example Guanacaste area). That’s why we usually recommend renting a 4×4 vehicle.
Driving in Costa Rica is easy. There is not much traffic as soon as you leave the city of San Jose. Maximum speed is usually 80km/h, but many roads are not good, so you will have to travel slowly anyway. Distances in Costa Rica often don’t look far, but the travel time is extended because of the road quality.
We always find the best rental car prices on Discover Cars and usually choose Alamo or National when renting a car in Costa Rica. We have always had excellent experiences with them.
Costa Rica Seasons – The best time to visit
Costa Rica has two seasons – the dry season and the green season (or the rainy season). Depending on your travel preferences and budget, choosing a suitable month for your visit is very important.
The dry season
Goes from December to April. During this time of the year, you will experience a lot of sunshine, hot temperatures, and the highest prices. Especially around the holidays (Christmas and Easter) are the busiest and most expensive times to visit Costa Rica. If you are looking for a beach holiday with lots of sunshine, it might be worth coming during this time of the year.
The green season
Goes from May to November. This is the wetter and rainier time of the year but also off-season for tourism, which means better prices when traveling during this time. It does not mean you will have rain all day. Usually, tropical rains can come and go quickly. Most days have sunny mornings and only experience some rain in the late afternoon or even at night. The rainiest months tend to be September and October but don’t worry, if that’s the best month for you to travel, we recommend visiting the Caribbean Coast as it has the driest climate during this time.
Especially when you are like us and work online, Internet while traveling can be a struggle; in Costa Rica, Internet Access is usually not bad, and most places (like cafes & restaurants) offer wifi.
We anyway recommend buying a local SIM card upon arrival. We use a SIM card from Kolbi and find it the one with the best reception in most parts of the country. You can recharge your SIM card from your phone, which is very convenient. We pay 4000 Colones (6-7$) for 2 GB.
The most convenient option for travelers is the eSim Card (digital SIM card) from Airalo. You can download and install a digital data pack and get connected anywhere in the world as soon as you land, so there is no need to waste time looking for a local plastic SIM card.
Costa Rican Food
An essential part of diving into the culture of a country we visit is always trying the local food. The kitchen in Costa Rica is simple but delicious. These are the dishes you must know and try during your trip:
- Gallo Pinto: The typical Tico breakfast plate. It consists of Rice & Black Beans and eggs (fried or scrambled). It can also come with tortillas or sour cream. If you are vegan like us, the best option is to ask for avocado instead of eggs.
- Casado: The most typical plate in Costa Rica, which consists of rice, beans, and a choice of meat, chicken or fish, and vegetables or salad. As Vegans, we usually order Casado Vegetariano. It usually comes with cooked veggies, salad, and fried plantain.
- Patacones: Delicious starter or snack made of fried plantain served with guacamole or puree of black beans.
- Empanadas: Basically, a patty made of cornflour filled with cheese, mashed beans (vegan option), meat, or chicken. They are commonly fried in oil, so the outside is crispy.
- Ceviche: A dish made of fish mixed with tomato, onions, cilantro, and lemon. Vegan options are usually only available in more Western-style restaurants.
On another note, Costa Rica produces high-quality coffee and chocolate, which are a must-try when traveling here.
For us personally, the tropical Fruits are the gold of Costa Rica. The quality and taste of the fruits are very high. So try the Pineapples, Papayas, Mangoes, Bananas, and much more during your stay.
Costa Rica Travel Costs
Most people think Costa Rica is a cheap country to travel but, it is not. Prices in Costa Rica are comparable to the US and Europe. So if you are traveling on a budget, we can help you with the following tips:
- Accommodation is one of the most expensive parts of your trip in Costa Rica, so a great budget option is either staying at hostels or what we prefer to camp. Cosa Rica is very attractive for camping as you are allowed to wild camp everywhere. Besides that, you can find camp campgrounds in most parts of the country. We traveled a lot with our bus and camped all around the country and absolutely loved it. Costa Ricans also love camping themselves s,o this will help you connect with the locals as well.
- Eating in local places or cooking your meals will also help you save. Local restaurants are called sodas and usually offer typical dishes with rice, beans, vegetables, and optional fish, meat, and eggs.
- Skip the tourist attractions like ziplining, river rafting, ATV tours, whale watching, etc. Even though they are enjoyable experiences, usually, they are not budget-friendly. What we do is prioritize the experiences we want to make.
- Visiting in the off-season (May to November) is probably the most effective way to save money on your trip. At this time you will find cheaper flights and accommodation.
Get money & pay in Costa Rica
The local currency is Colones. You can pay almost everywhere in USD Dollar, but we recommend using the local currency for better prices.
When you get cash, we recommend using Banco National or BCR (Banco de Costa Rica) because these two don’t charge you ATM fees.
You can pay with a card in most restaurants and shops, and there are no additional fees charged for that. We usually only use cash on markets, for tuk-tuks, or in small local places.
Pura Vida in Costa Rica
If you started researching for your upcoming trip to Costa Rica, you probably already stumbled across the words Pura Vida. They are everywhere in Costa Rica.
Pura Vida is used by the Ticos (local people in Costa Rica) to say hello, goodbye, thank you, or when something is great. It means to live a pure or simple life, but here in Costa Rica, it is more than just a saying; it’s a way of life.
Unsurprisingly, Costa Rica has been named one of the happiest countries in the world. The Ticos don’t stress about things as other people do. They are relaxed and have a simple way of looking at life. Pura Vida means for them to be thankful for what they have and not worry about negative things.
The Pura Vida way of living has inspired us since we first set foot in Costa Rica, and we believe it was a relevant part for us when choosing this country as our new home.