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Country

Within Costa Rica's 51,200 square kilometers there is a wider variety of species of birds than in all of Europe or North America. With a relatively small population of roughly three and a half million inhabitants, Costa Rica also boasts of one of the oldest and more consolidated democracies in Latin America. In 1869, primary education for both sexes was declared obligatory and free of cost, defrayed by the State. In 1882 the death sentence was abolished. In the 1949 the armed forces were abolished and in 1983 Perpetual Neutrality was proclaimed. Prestigious international human rights organizations have their headquarters in Costa Rica. Because of this, and of its lush 1500 kilometers of tropical sun-bathed beaches and the wild diversity of flora and fauna to be found in its wide array of microclimates (most present in one or more of its National Parks), Costa Rica has justifiably earned its reputation of paradise regained.

Language

Spanish is the official language, although English is widely spoken in the business community and at most tourist destinations. The use of French and German is increasing.

Climate

Costa Rica's fantastic weather is just one of the factors that makes it such a stellar place to visit. Located between 8" and 11" north of the equator, it has a mild tropical climate defined by two seasons: wet (summer, verano) and dry (winter, invierno). Year-round warm temperatures and at least some sun during the rainy season make Costa Rica pleasant to visit any time. From the cool temperatures found in the higher elevations of the Central Valley and Montverde regions to the hotter climates along the coasts, there is something for everyone. The wet season generally runs from May until October with April and November being months of transition. During the rainy season, mornings are usually sunny, with afternoon storms moving in later in the day. There is an average of 4 hours or more of sun per day during the rainy season.

Food

Costa Rica native dishes rely heavily on rice and beans, the basis of many Costa Rican meals. Home-style cooking predominates although; restaurants in towns and cities serve a variety of foods including Chinese, French, Italian, Mexican and North American. Food is satisfactory, from the most expensive to the cheapest places (which are generally found west of the city center). Food sodas (small restaurants) serve local food.

Communications

Costa Rica has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in Latin America. The cheapest way to phone internationally is a direct call using a phone card. Mobile phone operators use AMPS, TDMA and GSM 1800 networks. Internet cafes are available in the main towns.

Currency Exchange

Currency of Costa Rica is Colones. The colon is divided into 100 centimos. You can change money at all state-owned banks. Hotels will often exchange money and cash traveler's checks as well. ATMs are quite common throughout Costa Rica, particularly in San Jose, and at most major tourist destinations around the country. You'll find them at almost all banks and most shopping centers. You can also get cash advances on your credit card at an ATM. Credit cards are invaluable when traveling, and they are widely accepted in Costa Rica (MasterCard and Visa have the greatest coverage, although American Express has relatively wide acceptance and Diners Club is making headway).

Visa Requirements

All nationals require passport valid for at least six months at date of entry. Visa is required by all except nationals of Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA for stays of up to 90 days; nationals of Australia, Estonia, Ireland and Slovak Republic for stays of up to 30 days. Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA and other EU must obtain an exit visa from the Immigration Department in San Jose at least three weeks before leaving Costa Rica. Those who stay for less than 30 days are exempt if in possession of a disembarkation card. Everyone is advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements. If the visa being applied for is other than Tourist Visa, the visa application should include supporting documents for the type of visa applied for.

Immunization Requirements

As of now, Costa Rica does not require visitors to have any particular vaccinations, although you should make sure that all your normal vaccinations are up to date.