What Do I Need to Do Before Traveling to Costa Rica?

Experiencing Costa Rica for the first time is what dreams are made of. From the moment you land, the Latin flair and lush nature will instantly have you falling in love with pura vida. (Pure life in Spanish, and the all-encompassing saying of Costa Ricans.)

But there is more to it than just jumping on Google flights and choosing the cheapest ticket. Which is why I’ve put together this guide on everything you need to do before traveling to Costa Rica. From travel docs to how to snag a taxi without getting ripped off. (Ok, I’m still practicing this one, but you get the point.)

By the end, you’ll be ready to hop from San Jose, Costa Rica to Monteverde to Santa Teresa, and anywhere else you wish, so let’s dive in!

Punta Uva, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica- A view of the beach at Punta Uva in Costa Rica

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Making last-minute plans for your Costa Rica itinerary. We’ve got you covered. Our recommended hotels and tours for a getaway are listed below.

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Travel Documentation and Entry Requirements

Before you pack your bag and head out on your Costa Rican adventure, there are a few important travel documents and Costa Rica entry requirements to keep in mind.

First, ensure you have a valid passport and it doesn’t expire within six months of your departure date. Citizens of the United States, Canada, or any EU country can stay in Costa Rica for up to 90 days without a visa. But make sure to check with your country’s specific entry requirements, to see which countries need a visa for Costa Rica.

You will also need proof of onward travel when you’re entering Costa Rica. This means you need to have a confirmed return or onward flight or bus ticket out of Costa Rica within 90 days.

Health and Safety

The only Costa Rica vaccine requirement is based on your origin country. If arriving from South America or Sub-Saharan Africa, a yellow fever vaccination is mandatory. (This vaccine lasts a lifetime.)

However, they recommend having your Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations, especially in rural areas. Some travelers will opt to take Malaria pills, but it’s not a huge issue in Costa Rica, so it’s totally up to you.

Don’t forget about travel insurance. It’s a must for any trip. In case of illness, injury, or any other unexpected event, having travel insurance is a must. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Male doctor holding syringe making covid 19 vaccination injection dose in shoulder of female patient wearing mask. Flu influenza vaccine clinical trials concept, corona virus treatment, close up view.


Costa Rica is the most developed country in Central America and has become very familiar with tourism, so getting around is usually pretty easy.

The public bus system is extensive and affordable, making it a popular choice for locals and tourists alike.

You can also grab a taxi, BUT if your Spanish is lacking then expect to pay more (sometimes a lot more).

To make your life easier, just take an Uber. If you’re in a popular tourist area, there will most likely be a few drivers around, and it’s just all-around safer with the tracking devices. And it will always be cheaper than a taxi.

If you are traveling long distances, you can also schedule a ride with a private shuttle company. Some popular tour operators are Montetours (shared vans) and Willies Transfer for private vans.

And lastly, you can rent a car in Costa Rica. The roads are often narrow and winding, and traffic laws may not always be followed. But driving in Costa Rica is definitely the best way to see the country and be in charge of your own schedule.

Accommodation and Booking

Costa Rica is the epicenter for eco-tourism, meaning there are some seriously cool jungle lodges to choose from. It’s also a very popular solo traveler destination, so you can always find hostels and budget accommodations on booking.com or hostelworld.

But the main thing to know about booking accommodation in Costa Rica is if you plan on visiting during peak season (December-April), you need to book your accommodation as soon as you know you’re going.

Over the last few years, Costa Rica has become the go-to destination for travelers in the region, so good accommodation goes quickly, and I don’t want you to miss out!

Scenic view of Lake Arenal in central Costa Rica and a lodge

Culture and Etiquette

Costa Ricans are some of the warmest and friendliest people you will ever meet. They are known for their “Pura Vida” lifestyle, which translates to “pure life”, and it perfectly captures their chill, easy-going approach to everything.

When visiting Costa Rica, remember to always greet people with a smile and be respectful of their culture. Ticos (the local word for Costa Ricans) are super proud of their slice of paradise and usually jump at the chance to share some hidden gems and top tips with travelers.

Now, while Spanish is what you’ll hear spoken in the streets, speaking English is definitely possible in touristy spots. But having a few Spanish phrases up your sleeve will go a long way.

Here are some Spanish phrases that will help you to get around Costa Rica easier:

  • Hola: Hello
  • Por Favor: Please
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • Cómo estás?: How are you?
  • No hablo Español: I don’t speak Spanish
  • Dónde está el baño?: Where is the bathroom?
  • Cuánto cuesta?: How much does it cost?
Main active crater of the volcano of Poas. Costa Rica of Poas. Costa Rica

Staying Connected

This isn’t the Dark Ages, ha! Costa Rica has a good cellular network, and most places offer free Wi-Fi. However, if you’re planning on staying for an extended period, it may be worth getting a local SIM card for your phone. You can easily purchase one at any convenience store or the airport.

If you’re coming from the US, multiple phone plans work in Costa Rica without any additional fees. Just make sure to contact your provider and let them know you’ll be traveling abroad.


I know it’s nerve-racking going out to uncharted territories, but trust me, you won’t be alone.

Everywhere in Costa Rica has a well-mapped gringo trail (certain hotspots that all travelers hit). You’ll most likely run into other travelers from around the world who will happily give you insider tips on the ground, but I trust this guide on what you need to do before traveling to Costa Rica is a good starting point.

So get ready for the first of many trips down to Costa Rica! You will quickly realize how easy and good life is here.

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  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

    View all posts https://www.tiktok.com/@travellingkng

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