Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos (men) and Ticas (women). San José locals are known as Josefinos. You might hear yourself being called a gringo or gringa, ‘foreigner’ for man and woman respectively; however this is not an insult in Costa Rica and merely a description for anyone who speaks English. For more insider info before you go, here’s some essential reading.
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, although US dollars are widely accepted in San José except for smaller businesses and markets. 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.
San José has cheap eats, modern fusion cuisine and full-blown fancy pants restaurants. 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). The local cuisine is more garlic and herbs over chillies and spice like the dish called casado (meaning 'married'), which can have a mix of beans, rice, meat or fish, fried plantains and a basic salad. 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 sour cream. Don’t forget to sample the locally grown coffee – Costa Rican coffee beans are renowned worldwide.
San José’s nightlife offers a mixed bag from backstreet karaoke bars to salsa clubs, plus jazz cafes, trendy boho bars and mega dance clubs like Vertigo and Rhapsodia. Hipsters and the in-crowd frequent Cuartel de la Boca del Monte, El Observatorio and the University district. While some clubs have a dress code, most are relaxed and it’s best to follow the lead of the regulars if you want to fit in. Clubbing fun doesn’t start until around 11pm here, so get the party started with Bavaria and Imperial beers at bars around San Pedro near the University of Costa Rica. Some more traditional San José establishments will also serve bocas – like tapas – snacks to accompany your drink.