Costa Rica is Central America's special jewel. It has a reputation for being an oasis of calm among its turbulent neighbors, but there's more to Costa Rica than a stable status quo. The country's natural attractions, wildlife and reputation for enlightened conservation draw tourists from all over the world. Successive governments have made a real effort to preserve the country's image as an ecotourism heaven, making Costa Rica one of the best places to experience the tropics naturally and with minimal impact.
Facts At A Glance: Full country name: Republic of Costa Rica Area: 51,100 sq km (19,929 sq mi) Population: 3.8 million Capital city: San José (pop 340,000) People: 96% Spanish descent, 2% African descent, 1% indigenous Indians, 1% Chinese Language: Spanish, Creole English and Indian dialects Religion: 85% Roman Catholic, 14% Protestant Government: Democratic Time: GMT/UTC minus 6 hours Electricity: 110V, 60 Hz Weights & measures: Metric Major industries: Tourism, electronics, coffee, bananas, sugar, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, plastic products Major trading partners: USA, Germany, Italy, Japan, Guatemala, Mexico
Visa requirements for Costa Rica change rapidly so check http://www.costarica-embassy.org for updates regarding passport requirements. Currently citizens of the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Panama, Romania, South Korea, Uruguay, the UK, France and most other Western European countries do not need a visa for a 90-day stay. Citizens of Australia, Ireland, Iceland, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Vatican City and most of Eastern Europe and Latin America can stay 30 days without a visa. If you do need a visa, it will cost approximately US$20 from a Costa Rican consulate. All foreign citizens entering Costa Rica must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after the date they enter the country. As of April 2007, citizens of the United States are required to have a valid passport for at least 30 days after the date they enter into the country.
Tourists are encouraged to use the same level of caution that they would exercise in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world. Travellers should avoid urban areas that are known to have high crime rates, should avoid deserted properties or undeveloped land, should walk or exercise with a companion, should avoid responding in kind to verbal harassment, and should bear in mind that resort areas popular with foreign tourists are also common venues for criminal activities.
There are no required vaccinations for travel to Costa Rica, although in some provinces there is a malaria risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which posts its recommendations at www.cdc.gov.
The CDC’s bible for medical recommendations is called the Yellow Book and available online. From the website’s travel section, select Yellow Book / Build Custom Report to find risk assessments for yellow fever and malaria.