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Facts about Costa Rica

 

Calling Cards

All public phones in Costa Rica require a phone card. There are 3 types of phone cards available throughout the country. Chip cards only operate in blue phones labeled "Chip," while Servicio 197 cards are for in-country calls from any touch tone phone. Servicio 199 cards are for international calls.

Also, it is possible to get a pre-paid phone from different companies such as ICE, Claro, etc. You can get one of these phones for $20 or $25. This allows you to be in contact with your family and friends while in Costa Rica.

 

Currency

The currency is the colón. New coins are gold-colored and the old coins are silver. Both are used, however the silver version is being phased out.

Directions

Orientation in San José is easy: streets running from East to West are called avenidas (avenues); those from north to south are called calles (streets). All avenues south of Avenida Central are even-numbered and all avenues to its north are odd. All streets west of Calle Central are even-numbered while streets east of Calle Central are odd-numbered. For example, the address Av.2/C.2-4 is on the Avenida Central, between 2nd and 4th streets.

Orientation outside of central San José becomes a bit more difficult. Directions are given with regard to common landmarks such as churches, malls, hospitals, restaurants, etc. A city block is estimated to be 100 m. Try to get a feeling for cardinal directions by remembering local landmarks within your first few days in Costa Rica.

Electricity

The standards are the same as in the United States. Outlets are 110v with a standard two-prong plug.

Embassies

Canada: (506) 2242-4900
Great Britain: (506) 2258-2025
United States: (506) 2220-3939

Emergency

Emergency Call: 911
(It will be faster to call the police or fire station directly)
Ambulance: 128
Fire Department: 118
Traffic Police: (506) 2222-9330

Lost credit card

Master Card: (506) 2295-9898
Visa Card: 001-800-847-2911

Food

In San José you can find almost everything. There are many small, inexpensive restaurants (Sodas) that offer typical food. Typical food is gallo pinto (rice and black beans) and eggs for breakfast and rice and salad with chicken, beef or fish for lunch or dinner. Be sure to try the fried plantains and the batidos (fresh fruit drinks).

Health

Hospitals

The health system in Costa Rica is very good. Just for a normal check-up you must wait. Good hospitals in San José are:

Public

San José: Mexico Hospital 2232 6122
San Juan de Dios 2257 6282
Cartago: Max Peralta Hospital 2550 1999
Heredia San Vicente de Paul 2261 0091
Alajuela San Rafael Hospital 2440 1333

Private

Northeast: Clinica Católica 2283 6616
West: Hospital CIMA Escazú 2208 1000
Central: Clinica Biblica 2257 5252

Tropical Diseases

Malaria

There is almost no Malaria in Costa Rica. A certain amount of risk exists in the Caribbean. Try to avoid mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent and sleeping with a mosquito net.

Dengue

Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes. These mosquitoes bite mostly during daytime hours, often indoors. Dengue (also known as bone break fever) causes body aches, high fever, headaches and rash. There is no cure for Dengue but a test can be done to verify the illness. The easiest way to prevent Dengue is to use mosquito repellent.

Traveler's Diarrhea

To avoid this uncomfortable situation you must be careful what you put into your body! Be careful of food bought from street vendors, and make sure to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly (cooking first is a good idea) before eating. If you develop this problem, be sure to drink a lot of fluids, including something with salt and sugar. If the problem continues you should begin taking an antibiotic. Ask your doctor and buy in advance before making the trip.

 

Mosquito Prevention

Wear repellent with deet-25% or more is best, apply to exposed skin and clothing.

Stay covered up- if possible wear long sleeves and pants

Avoid being outside at dusk, which is the worst time for bites

Don't wear sweet smelling perfumes and lotions, they attract bites.

If possible, sleep with a mosquito net or at least close windows to avoid night time bites.

Hygiene

Food

Wash anything you buy on the street very carefully! If you are in a normal condition you do not need to be afraid of eating in the sodas. Most of them comply with the health standards.

Water

In Central Valley the tap water is drinkable. In other regions bottled water is recommended.

Pharmacy

‘Farmacia’ or ‘Botica’ are almost everywhere. Hospital Pharmacies, Clinica Catholica, Clinica Biblica and CIMA in Escazú are open 24 hours a day.

Holidays

(The most important ones)
New Year’s Day, Jan. 1
Holy week, March or April
Juan Santamaría day, April 11th
Annexation of Guanacaste, July 25th
Virgen de Los Angeles, Aug. 2nd
Mother’s day, Aug. 15th
Independence Day, Sep. 15th
Cultures Day, Oct. 12th
Christmas Day, Dec.25th.

Internet

You can access internet from the many internet cafes throughout the country, even small towns have internet and email access.

Newspaper

The two recommended newspapers in Spanish are La Nación and La Republica. If you prefer newspapers in English you can pick up a copy of the Tico Times or go online to read A.M. Costa Rica.

Photography

Film and film development is very expensive in Costa Rica. Buy your film at home and have it developed at home as well. Almost every shop accepts digital camera chips and is able to burn your photos onto a CD for you.
Keep in mind that you need very sensitive film if you want to take pictures in the rain forest (400 ISO).

Safety

Street crime

Costa Rica is a fairly safe country however you still have to beware of crime. In San Jose you need to stay alert and be careful of pickpockets and other crime. There are many scams to distract foreigners so they can run off with belongings. Always take just the copy of your passport! Keep the original in your house or hotel. Never leave any bags or possessions unattended. If you sit down in a restaurant or at a bus station, have a strap of your bag looped around your foot. Never show valuable jewels, keep your backpack in front of you, and pay attention on what is happening around you. Mind some central areas during the night such as the Coca Cola district. Avoid looking lost on the street. Do not let strangers help you for any reason. Also while on the bus watch out for your bags on the overhead compartment. Thieves can easily steal from above.

Traffic

This is the most dangerous thing in Costa Rica. Here exists only the survival of the fittest. Drivers have to give the right of way to busses and not towards pedestrians. Most drivers have never had classes but learned from a friend. Be aware of this while crossing a street. Look all four ways when crossing a street, even at a one way street and never trust the traffic lights. Pay attention to cars whipping around the corner – they won't stop for you. As well pay attention to the road condition. Beware if ever present pot holes and missing sewer lids.

Swimming

Be very cautious. You will not find standard warning signs on most beaches.Be sure to ask the natives about current conditions of riptides and undertows. If you get caught in a riptide, do not panic or try to fight it. Try to swim parallel to the shore, toward the breaking rip wave.

Taxes and Tipping

Checks at restaurants automatically include the 13% sales tax along with a service charge. Tip is automatically included in the bill so it is not necessary to leave one.