Guide to A Happier Vacation in Costa Rica, Using Credit Cards
After working as a travel agent for many years, specializing in Costa Rica, I gathered many “little pearls of wisdom” to share with my clients to make for a happier vacation in Costa Rica plus save you time and money. And I will share these with you:
American Express credit cards are not accepted everywhere in Costa Rica. Master card and Visa cards are widely accepted. However, if you are renting a car paying with American Express has advantages. Check with the car rental agency you are renting from and ask if they accept American Express.
If you make a purchase in cash for gifts to take home, ask for a 10% discount because you gave them cash (not a credit card). You can bargain better with cash, because credit card commissions are very high for the merchants.
Restaurants already have a 10% tip added to bill when it is presented to you. If you had excellent service it is customary to add some to that, say 5% or whatever you feel is right for you.
Take some $1 dollar bills to use for tips.
Take your student ID along. You get discounts at museums and some other attractions, but you have to ask for the discount.
Changing money: The international airport has a money changing counter but the exchange rate is bad. There is an ATM machine located in the airport that takes VISA cards. It is located across from the elevator on the Departure Level for arrivals. Just ask any airport attendant for directions to it. Or you can simply wait until you get to the hotel to change money. Taxis will accept dollars. Banks have long lines, so avoid the banks, unless you are in a small town where the banks are not so busy. But I always like to change, say $100 into colones. Most tourist establishments will accept dollars, but it is better to “get the Costa Rica money (colon) straight in your mind.” So if you pay in colones, you can determine if the change they give you is correct.
ATM machines are closed between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Debit cards are not accepted everywhere in Costa Rica.
Take only the credit cards you will use on the trip.
Pack light. Most airlines today limit the weight per suitcase to 50 pounds. If it is over that limit they will charge you extra, the amounts depends on the airline.
Small aircraft inside Costa Rica limit the luggage weight to 25 pounds per piece. Ask ahead of time. Last time I flew, I was allowed only one piece of checked luggage weighting 25 pounds or less. I took my backpack in my hand and they did not weigh it.
Clothing is casual, usually cotton jeans, shorts, T-shirts, rainproof light weight jacket, comfortable walking shoes like such as tennis, beach sandals, sun hat and sun screen. bug spray. However, I see less bugs in Costa Rica than in Florida. Small backpack, small flashlight, small folding umbrella if you go during the rainy season.
Electrical current is same as North America. You do not need a converter (like Europe)
Take an ample supply of medications you take on a regular basis. Interesting thing: In Costa Rica you can buy across the counter (without prescription) all medications, except narcotics.
Can I drink the water in Costa Rica? Just the change of water can upset some people’s stomach, so when I am in Costa Rica, I keep bottled water with me at all times. Is the water safe to drink? Depends on the location, so it is better just to drink bottled water. Check the new bottle to make sure it has an unbroken seal.
Time Zone: same as central time zone in north America except Costa Rica does not observe day light savings time. In Costa Rica there is same amount of day light each day-all year . Sun sets around 5:30 p.m. and rises around 5:30 a.m. every day of the year.
Departure tax per person (which you pay at the airport upon departure) is $26.00 per person.
The red taxis are the government approved ones. At the airport they are orange. They have meters but always ask when you enter the taxi, “How much does it cost”?
If I get sick can I get a good doctor? Yes, the doctors in Costa Rica are considered to be very good. Some, especially specialist, have been trained in the US or other places abroad. There are several private hospitals- Clinica Biblica in San Jose and Hospital Cema in the suburb of Escazu are excellent hospitals with North American standards.
I welcome questions or comments on this post. At the end of the post you will see no comment. Click on it. (Yes, I know it should say comment.)