Ticos, local slang for Costa Ricans, mainly speak Spanish although English is also common in most tourist areas. It’s a good idea to drink bottled water in coastal areas, FYI. For more important details about Costa Rica before you go, read on.
Australian passport holders are permitted to holiday in Costa Rica for 90 days without a visa. If you have travelled within the last 6 days to certain countries in South America, you may be required to show a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate upon entry into Costa Rica. Visa conditions change regularly. For up-to-the-minute visa information, contact your local Costa Rica Embassy or Consulate. Always make sure your passport has at least 6 months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.
The currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón; however US Dollars are widely accepted in bigger businesses. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and Costa Rican Colón fluctuates constantly, so it’s a good idea to monitor the rates before purchasing cash. For safe spending while overseas, consider using a credit card or debit card.
Costa Rican cuisine is a savoury affair with more garlic and herbs used over chillies and spices. The unofficial national dish is gallo pinto, a black bean and rice dish served with onion, capsicum, cilantro and Lizano hot sauce at breakfast time with eggs, tortillas and a sour cream sauce known as natilla. Most dishes are quite mild and the Costa Rican cuisine utilises the abundant fruits and produce available in stews and soups. Refrescos - fresh fruit mixed with sugar and either milk or water, are popular refreshments. You’ll find fine dining and Western fare in the capital, San José, and plenty of streetside stalls, markets and small restaurants in other areas. A typical Tican snack is the plantain, a banana-like starch enjoyed fried like a potato chip. For sweets, try the national dessert, tres leches (a 3-layer custard flan), sugar candies (melcochas) and coconut fudge (cajeta de coco). Don’t forget to sample the coffee – Costa Rica is a renowned coffee producer.
Costa Rica’s nightlife is both urban and coastal in setting with bars, discos, casinos and so forth scattered throughout the country. For salsa and mega clubs, you know the way to San José, and for party time on the coast, try the surfer bars of Tamarindo or the emerging club scene of Jaco on the Pacific side and reggae capital Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Sea. While some clubs have a dress code, most are relaxed and it’s best to take your fashion cues from the locals. Clubbing doesn’t start until around 11pm and can go until dawn. Be aware that the beach areas of Costa Rica can get pretty crowded during the US Spring Break.