Planning a trip to Costa Rica and, specifically, Tamarindo? You’ve probably read the books. You’ve stalked a few Facebook groups. You’ve scoured the web. Still worried you’ve missed something? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few things you should know before you visit Costa Rica:
Your Valid Passport May Not Be Valid
Bags are packed, think you’re ready to go? Not so fast! Your passport, while “valid,” may not be valid enough for Costa Rican Immigration. According to the Costa Rican Embassy, your passport must not expire for 6+ months after your date of entry. (Example: If you’re arriving on January 1, your passport must expire after July 1.) You may also be asked for proof of exit – for example, your return flight reservation.
You Don’t Need Any Special Vaccinations or Immunizations
A lot of people wonder if special vaccinations, such as yellow fever, are required and/or recommended before you visit Costa Rica. The short answer: probably not. But there’s a but.
If you’re up-to-date on your standard vaccines (tetanus, hepatitis, etc.), you’re probably fine. The CDC also recommends a typhoid vaccine, but that’s a blanket recommendation for all of Mexico and Central America; as of 2018, typhoid is not a widespread problem in Costa Rica and even those of us who live here are not vaccinated against typhoid.
Note, though, that dengue and chikungunya can be a problem here. Bring your insect repellent – and wear it!
Almost All Car Rentals Add Mandatory [and Pricey] Insurance
Five minutes on Google and you’ll soon find that rental car quotes online are notoriously cheap. Why? Because the vast majority does not include all mandatory costs – namely, the obligatory liability (aka SLI, TPL, SLC or API) insurance in their quotes. Note that, even if your credit card covers international collisions, you’ll probably still have to pay some additional insurance. This insurance can easily add $10-$25 per day to your rental cost.
(Tip: Looking to rent a car? Cris, our onsite concierge, can make the booking for you – and she’ll be sure to send your quote including insurance. Just ask!)
Driving Anywhere Will Take Longer Than Expected
A Costa Rican mile is like no other mile you’ve ever driven (probably). Roads can be bumpy, or narrow, or circuitous, or unmarked – or all of the above, and more. Driving speeds are understandably slow. Google Maps notoriously under-estimates driving times so, instead of budgeting 90 minutes for that 100-mile drive, bank on something more like 3-3.5 hours.
… and There Are No Addresses in Costa Rica
Believe it or not, there really are no addresses here. Yes, there have been a few efforts to establish an address system and yes, there are occasional road names but no, there are no addresses as most people know them.
Instead, Costa Ricans give addresses based on loose cardinal directions, often from a central landmark (that may no longer exist). For example, a rental house address could be something along the lines of, “from the fig tree, 100 meters west, 200 meters north, and 25 meters east.” This means that you’ll find the fig tree, then drive 1 block west (toward the Pacific), then turn right and drive two blocks, then take another right and drive 1/4 block. Only, the fig tree may have fallen down a decade ago…
Do yourself a favor, and install Waze before you visit Costa Rica! It’s a free GPS app (with accident reporting and other helpful features) and the best that exists for Costa Rica.
You Can Drink the Water
Unlike in many parts of the world, Costa Rica’s water is safe to drink. That said, there are some exceptions so always check with us before you pour yourself a cold glass.
Costa Rica Is Home to 4% of the World’s Total Biodiversity
Did you know that Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places in the world? By that, we’re talking numbers: though the country only occupies 0.3% of the planet’s surface, we’re home to an incredible 4% of all species. It’s a big responsibility, which is a major reason why more than 25% of Costa Rica is designated as national park, nature reserve, or under other private protection.
You Probably Won’t Have to Pay the “Departure Tax”
You may have read about a “departure tax” – usually quoted around $29. For decades, this tax wasn’t included in your airline ticket: you had to get in a special line at the airport, pay, then go about all your other airport duties.
No longer! There’s a lot of old information floating around but, as of 2018, almost all airlines now include the airport tax in your ticket purchase. There’s a problem, though: Different airlines began collecting the tax at different times, so the only way to know whether yours includes the tax is to check your ticket (or call the airline).
Tamarindo (and Costa Rica) Really Is as Beautiful as You’ve Heard
Yes, it really is. And, since images speak a thousand words, we’ll leave you with these: