Top 12 Surprises


When arriving in Costa Rica you will go through immigration, collect your bags, and then pass through customs before you exit the terminal. If you have any food (including fruits, vegetables, etc.) or substances which can be sniffed by dogs, you will be stopped. Declare food or get rid of it before you arrive.


Costa Rica is in the Central Standard Time Zone but does NOT observe daylight savings so the time difference is an additional hour April through October

3Service Charge

A ten percent (10%) "service charge" is always added to your bill (along with a 13% tax). If service was particularly good you may choose to leave a tip but it is not expected. Something else to know is that servers will not bring your bill until you request it. Your plates will be picked up but you will need to ask for the bill before it will be brought to you.


Although 110-volt AC service is throughout Costa Rica; many outlets may not accept three-prong grounded plugs. A two-prong adapter is needed.

5 Open and Close Time

Stores are usually open Monday through Saturday from 8 or 9 am to 6 or 7 pm but don't be surprised that many close for a one hour lunch.

6Rent a Car

If you rent a car, be aware that the rates you see advertised on websites are usually the base rates for a vehicle, not including insurance, taxes, and other fees that add up to 100% or more to the daily rate. Additional drivers add fees, etc. Even if your credit card covers car insurance for rentals (call your credit card company to find out) liability insurance is mandatory in Costa Rica and is anywhere from $10-15 per day, depending on your deductible

7Road Conditions

Road conditions throughout the country are quite variable. Relatively short distances can take many hours due to poor road conditions or traffic, and some roads may be inaccessible during the rainy season when rivers swell. It is always a good idea to check with the locals about current road conditions before planning a day trip.

8 Officia Taxi

Always take an official taxi (red with yellow triangle). Don't take unlicensed or unmarked taxi cabs. In San Jose, always make sure the meter is turned on. Outside of San Jose, many taxis don't have meters; always settle upon a price before climbing inside.


Costa Rican plumbing often has very low pressure and small pipes. The practice is NOT to put toilet paper in the toilet as it can easily clog. A trash can is found next to the toilet for you to dispose of toilet paper


Your cell phone may work in all but some remote areas, but there are large international fees/roaming charges. You can buy a reasonably priced calling card in Costa Rica.


Costa Rica runs on Costa Rica time, which might it is most likely more leisurely than what what you experience at home.Buses are often late, and food at restaurants sometimes takes a little longer.


In order to leave the country, you must pay a $26.20 exit tax. you can use this opportunity to get rid of any remaining Costa Rican currency.

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