Costa Rica Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQ'S TABLE OF CONTENTS

Click the links below to answers to your questions about Costa Rica.  
Don't see an answer to your question
Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] for further assistance.

  1. Renting a Vacation Home vs. Hotel

  2. Rental Cars, Road & Driving Conditions, Driving Requirements

  3. Local Currency Exchange, ATM's Machines, Credit Cards

  4. Restaurants, Tipping Customs, Grocery Stores & Local Cuisine

  5. Costa Rica Safety, Travel Safety, Bugs, Sun and Medical Facilities

  6. Airports, Travel Requirements & Passports

  7. Costa Rica Holidays, High-Season vs. Low-Season & Planning Tours

  8. Packing Recommendations, Cell Phones, Electricity Outlets, Time Zone & Other Miscellaneous Items


Q: Why should I rent a house or condo rather than stay in a resort?
A: Where you stay, as well as what you like is personal to your taste. Both have advantages; however we feel that a private vacation rental has advantages that far outweigh those of a hotel:
         - Privacy!
         - Full kitchen to eat at home when you wish (results in savings on food costs)
         - Usually a private pool or communal pool shared with a select few.
         - Laundry facilities allows you to bring less clothes

Q: What services are provided with my rental?
A: A member of the ZINDIS Group will be available to assist you with planning your Costa Rica vacation and will introduce you to your Vacation Home and review a local map of the area to get your Costa Rica vacation started in the right direction.  Our wonderful folks at our Concierge Desk can help with many aspects of your vacation such as reservations for cars, trips and tours, private chefs, spa services, and general help and local information. Click here to be directed to our CONCIERGE DESK.

Q: Can we get someone to cook meals at our vacation home?
A: Private chefs are available but are limited, therefore,  planning in advance is required. You should contact your Concierge to make reservations. (This service is at an additional cost.)

Q: Will there be an internet connection and WiFi available?
A: All of our homes are equipped with internet via CAT5 cabling; fiber optics have not found their way to our area of Costa Rica as of yet.  The average download speed here is 1-5 Mbps, & you may notice that North American are a little slower due to the fact that at peak times the cables between countries become overloaded. 


Q: Is smoking allowed inside my vacation home?
A:  We proudly promote our homes as "smoke-free" environments.  However,  smoking is permitted outdoors and on terraces as long as the smoke does not enter the unit. NOTE: There are penalties for smoking inside and for leaving cigarette butts around the property.


Q: Do I need to rent a car?
A: This depends on which property you rent. However, we feel that at least one car is necessary to run errands and to personally tour all the sights.  Some of our wonderful homes are walking distance to local amenities; however there are some that do require some form of transportation in order to grocery shop, etc.  Please verify with the reservation desk at [email protected] about your vacation home if you are not planning on renting a vehicle.

We proudly promote Adobe Rental Car based on the quality of customer service & cars provided. We will be happy to assist you with your rental car needs. Simply review the Adobe Rate Sheet provided and let us know which car you would like. Please rent as soon as you know you flight information to assure the best selection and pricing. If you choose to rent elsewhere, please verify that your rental quote contains both the required Costa Rican Limited Liability Insurance and Taxes as these two fees can nearly double a rental quote and make for an unpleasant start to a vacation.

Q: I’ve heard the roads are bad in Costa Rica, is it safe to drive?
A: The rural roads in Costa Rica are not paved and can be rough especially in the rainy season. However, the roads around Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, Liberia, and the Gulf of Papagayo area are actually quite good as there are many luxury hotels and upscale communities that maintain their roads to North American standards.

Q: How are the roads  in the rain & do I need to rent a 4WD vehicle?
A: Be warned that potholes are common, but for travel to many of Costa Rica’s vacation hotspots – Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa and Playas Del Coco for example – you will NOT need a 4WD vehicle. If Monteverde or some of the country’s more remote areas are on your itinerary, 4WD is suggested and sometimes necessary. During the rainy season (September-November), all roads are susceptible to landslides and flooding, and a 4WD is recommended. 

Q: Do I need an international drivers license to drive in Costa Rica?
A: No, your country's license is valid (make sure it has not expired) in Costa Rica for the duration of your tourist entry stamp. When driving, always carry your passport, or a copy of your passport ID page and entry stamp page on your phone or a xeroxed copy showing proof of legal status in the country.

Q: Are taxi's available?
A: Yes! The official taxis in Costa Rica are RED, not yellow. Take only those. They're insured, pay their taxes, and charge you with a meter ("maria").  You will find them available all over Playa del Coco however you may need to call them if located in Playa Hermosa.  The local Taxi number is 2670-0303 and they generally arrive within 10-15 min.

Q: Who are the guys trying to wave me down on the side of the road and what do they want?
A: When driving through parts of Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco you may see young men & women frantically waving you down, generally by speed bumps or corners (areas that require you to slow down). These individuals are selling time-shares to local Costa Rican hotels. Please do not stop in the middle of the road to chat with with these solicitors – If so inclined to hear about time share opportunities, please pull off to the side of the road for safety purposes.


Q: What currency does Costa Rica use? Are credit cards accepted and are there ATMs’?
A: The Costa Rican Currency is the Colon (named after its discoverer Christopher Columbus). The US Dollar is also widely accepted throughout Costa Rica. All major credit cards are accepted at restaurants and stores and there are ATMs throughout Costa Rica.

Q: Can I exchange money at the airport?
A:  Yes, but the exchange rate is not favorable. If you must get Colonés at the airport, exchange the bare minimum and then head to a local bank to exchange for larger denominations (bring your passport). Generally, prior to your arrival,  there is no need to do a cash exchange for the local currency, the Coloné. US Dollars are accepted everywhere as are most credit cards. The easiest way to end up with local currency is to make a purchase with large bills at a local grocery store and your change will be the in local currency.  Also be aware that for bills $50 or larger, you will be asked to provide a photo ID.

Q: Are Credit Cards accepted by local businesses?
A: Almost all places accept major credit cards, with the exception of smaller local vendors. To be sure that you do not have unexpected complications with your credit card transactions, we advise you to notify your credit card company of your intent to travel abroad prior to your departure and verify whether there are additional International processing fees attached to each purchase made.

Q: Are ATM's available?
A:  There is 1 ATM machines located in Playa Hermosa (20 yards in front of our office), And 3 located in Playa's del Coco.  Most will dispense your choice of local Colonés or US dollars.


Q: How much do I tip in Costa Rica?
A: Restaurants, in general, include a 10% gratuity in the bill. While tipping is not customary in Costa Rica, tipping for professional services has become universal, especially in the tourism industry.  If you received great service, it is always nice to show appreciation by leaving a dollar or two more and is always welcome.  It is also considered polite to tip Concierge, Maids, Guides, Boat captains, and Drivers for performance and services rendered. While largely a personal decision, a tour guide may be tipped $5-$20, depending on the size of your group and performance.

Q: Are there many restaurants close by?
A: Playa Hermosa has several excellent restaurants and bars offering casual and upscale dining. Within a 10 minute drive there are dozens of restaurants of all kinds from the family run "sodas" to fine dining and cuisines to meet just about every taste.

Q: Is there a supermarket in the area, where can I buy bread, milk, meats, and adult beverages?
A: There are 4 full service market in Playas del Coco and 2 smaller stores in Playa Hermosa, plus a local "Carniceria" or meat market which sells beef, lamb and pork along with fresh homemade sausages and burgers.  The Super Luperon is located on the main road here in Playa Hermosa and is just minute's drive from many of the homes.  The Auto-Mercado located in Playas del Coco (10 min away) is a very large North American style grocery store and will have almost anything you are looking for.  You will receive a local map upon check-in and your shown where each grocery store is located.  There are also several local fresh fish markets around the area which can be pointed out to you on your map as well.

Q: What is the food like in Costa Rica?
A: Costa Rican cuisine is mostly mild and savory. Spicy food is uncommon, and traditional dishes go heavy on the Latin American favorites of rice, beans and local produce. Small diners, called "sodas", serve up generous portions of homemade meals, and are very economical; you’ll pay $4-$7 for a full plate of food and a natural fruit drink.


Q: Is Costa Rica considered a safe place to travel?
A: As anywhere is the world, Costa Rica does have crime but considerably less than the U.S., Canada and Europe, with violent crime virtually unheard of in our area.  That being said, petty theft does occur, so please be careful when deciding to bring electronic gadgets and we strongly encourage valuable jewelry & other small valuable items be left at home.  When traveling anywhere you are encouraged to use simple safety precautions such as always locking the doors to your Vacation Home and car as well as making sure that any valuables and electronics remain out of sight.

Q: What about medical services?
A: There are emergency medical services (with ambulances) in Playas del Coco, Sardinal which are both only 10 minutes from Hermosa. The best private hospital (CIMA Guanacaste) only 15 min away and a public hospital 35 minutes away in Liberia.

Q: Is the water safe to drink?
A: Yes! Water is potable in all parts of the country. We recommend that you travel with a bottle of water at all times to prevent dehydration.

Q: Are the beaches in the area safe for swimming?
A: Yes. Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, Playa Ocotal and Playa Panama beaches are located in Bahia Culebra (Snake Bay, named after its shape), which is reef protected and the surf is very calm. There are no riptide currents that are associated with the other beaches to the south. Nevertheless, the ocean should always be respected by those who intend to enjoy it.  NOTE: Costa Rica does not provide Life Guards on the public beaches.

Q: Are there any travel safety tips you can offer?
A: Unfortunately, petty theft in Costa Rica is common. While enjoying a swim, please always keep an eye on your belongings on the beach, or have a member of your party watch them for you. Keep your money on you or in a safe place, and never leave anything of value in your car! It is also a good idea to keep a copy of your passport with you. Leave your passport at your vacation home in a safe place. You don’t want to lose it! Simply use your common sense.

Q: What precautions should I take?
A: The Centers for Disease Control offers recommendations for certain vaccinations (such as tetanus), there are no health requirements for visiting the Costa Rica.


Q: Bug Spray, Sunscreen or Both?
A:  BOTH!  The suns rays are particularly potent due to our proximity to the equator, sunscreen is highly recommended with the waterproof/sweat-proof kind being the best options for our area.  A bad sunburn at the start of your vacation can actually impact the outdoor activities that you are able to do during the rest of your vacation.  

Costa Rica boasts a healthy ecosystem; along with that are bugs that range from being a mild nuisance to ones that can bite or sting.  We recommend using bug repellant, particularly in the early morning and early evening hours.

Q: What number should I dial in case of emergency?
A: In an emergency, please dial 911.


Q: Really, how far away is the airport?
A: The Liberia International airport (LIR) is a mere 25 minutes drive away.  San Jose airport (SJO) is around 4 hours; and while that does not sound too bad, we do recommend that if you opt to arrive through San Jose that you spend the night if your flight is scheduled to arrive at 2PM or later.  The roads between our area and the Costa Rica capital are poor lit and there is virtually no signage.  To complicate the drive, there is currently major road construction making for possibly dangerous conditions in the dark.

Q: Do I need a passport?
A: As of December 31, 2005, US visitors to Costa Rica are required to have a passport.  It MUST NOT expire less than 6 months before your arrival date, you will not be allowed to enter Costa Rica if your passport is within 6 months of expiring!

Q: When do I pay my departure tax?
A: Payment can be made at the airport prior to checking in for your departure flight.  Departure tax is $31 and can be paid via cash or Visa.


Q:What are Costa Rica's biggest holidays?
A: Costa Rica is primarily a Catholic country and its most important holidays revolve around Christian based events. Holy Week, known as Semana Santa, is the week leading up to Easter Sunday – and a very popular time around the beaches. Christmas (December 25) until the day after New Years is also important/busy, followed by Costa Rica’s Independence Day, celebrated on September 15.

Q: What does High-Season mean?
A: High-Season in Costa Rica generally refers to our "Dry Season" staring mid-November through the Easter holiday.  If planning to travel during these months, you will see our area at it's busiest as well as the warmest & driest.  Very little, if any rain will occur during this time.

Q: What are your recommendations when planning to travel to Costa Rica?
A:  PLAN AHEAD! To make the most of your vacation experience please plan ahead, especially during busier times (December - July). This is true in regards to the best selection and pricing for rental car bookings, tours & sight seeing trips, and any other special experiences you would like to enjoy in Costa Rica.  Please check out our Concierge Services to help start you on your way.  Also, Trip Advisor and many other websites offer great insight into what to do while you are here.  


Q: What should I pack?
A: Costa Rica is very laid back and casual so there isn't a need for formal attire. Feel free to go light on luggage as even the nicer restaurants have relaxed standards of dress. Also be sure to pack walking shoes or amphibious hiking shoes to visit some areas you may want to see. These areas are forested and feature hot springs, various wildlife, waterfalls, and volcanoes. You may also want to ride the zip lines of a canopy tour and they require closed-toed shoes.  Make sure and pack some sunscreen ans well as bug repellent for the rainy season and or rain forest trips.  

Q: Will my cell phone work in Costa Rica?
A: Yes, many carriers have coverage in the Hermosa and Coco area. Please check with your carrier for official detail.  The ZINDIS Group has cell phone rental available to our guests and are generally inexpensive.  Coupled with an international credit card or Voice over IP's (like MagicJacks phone lines that many of the home have), you can stay in touch internationally. All domestic and received calls are free with the rental.  For more information on renting a cell phone during your stay, feel free to contact us at [email protected].

Q: What voltage and type of electric plugs are used?
A: Electrical outlets in Costa Rica are 110v just like in North America, no currency converters are required. 

Q: What is Costa Rica's time zone?
A: Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Savings Time (DST), so it operates at GMT-6 year-round. During Daylight Savings Time in the United States (mid-March through early November), Costa Rica is in the Mountain Standard (MST) time zone. The rest of the year, Costa Rica is in the U.S. Central Standard (CST) time zone.
   
Q: Does it rain a lot during the rainy season?
A: The rainy season starts in May and ends sometime in November. The rain is more frequent during the latter part of September through October. Actually the Green (Rainy) Season is tropical and an average “Green Day” is sunny throughout the morning and early afternoon. Then it gets cloudy and you may have a short shower or downpour. Sometimes, in the late day or evening you could have a thunderstorm followed the next day by sunshine.  Our region receives more sunshine than anywhere else in Costa Rica. There is less rain here than anywhere in the country as evidence by many of our homes having palm trees and cactus as part of their landscaping.