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Costa Rica is a place of dreams. It enjoys a tropical climate all year round, boasts perfect white sandy beaches, rainforests thick with wildlife and an abundance of adventure activities for the adrenaline junkies amongst us. It’s no surprise that over 489,000 expats already call this place home.
It may be petit but Costa Rica’s complex and unusual geography helps to make it one of the most varied and biologically-diverse regions on the planet. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific, a large mountainous range running down the centre of the country creating unlimited variations of weather, climate and wildlife.
Costa Rica has a temperate tropical climate. Due to its location, nine to ten degrees north of the Equator the weather is tropical all year round, however, it has many microclimates.
The plains and coastal areas remain hot all year round, while in the plateaus it’s milder but temperature variations are very slight the main thing that separates seasons is the rain.
The year has two distinct periods, the dry season (summer) which runs from Dec-April and the rainy season (winter), which runs from May – November.
Costa Rica is vibrant, in nature, colour and culture. It’s influenced by Spanish colonial, Jamaican, Chinese and a variety of other cultures.
The Costa Rican natives, known as Ticos, are laid-back and friendly country but with strong traditions. They love to dance, which is noticeable immediately in its larger cities. Ticos learn several traditional dances from a young age and these are usually a significant part of national holidays.
They live the pura vida (pure life) and even use the phrase as a greeting or farewell. The phrase, which has become their way of life evokes a carefree, laid back and optimistic perspective.
Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish with around 99.2% of the population are Spanish native speakers.
The variety that is spoken there is Costa Rican Spanish, which is a form of Central American Spanish.
If you’re going to make the most of your time in Costa Rica you’re going to need a reliable way to get around. While local buses are cheap and run regularly, they can be an impractical source of transportation depending on where you want to go and how quickly you need to get there.
For new expats in Costa Rica still finding their way around, The Grayline Bus company covers the country and allows you to book by phone or online for a minibus will pick you up from your home and drop you at your destination.
A further alternative is to drive; however, Costa Rica’s public roads aren’t the best. Many first-time visitors to Costa Rica are shocked by the state of many of the roads which can make driving a challenge.
The further you get from the more populous areas like San Jose the worse the road surfaces become, however, if you’re willing to embrace the challenge you can hire cars relatively easily in most popular areas.
Costa Rica offers both public and private healthcare. It’s universal healthcare system, equivalent to the NHS, is called Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).
The CCSS offers 100% coverage to citizens, permanent residents and visitors for a monthly fee that depends on the individual’s income. The public healthcare system in Costa Rica is of excellent quality, however, if residents want more they can opt for private healthcare.
The National Insurance Institute (INS) is backed by the Costa Rican government, or other foreign private health insurance, including international health insurance that covers travellers, permanent residents, and Costa Rican citizens no matter where they are in the world.
The only downside to the healthcare in Costa Rica is that when receiving healthcare, hospitals and private doctors expect payment up front, even if you already have health insurance. But there’s always a silver lining, most surgical procedures cost only a fraction of what they do in the UK or US.
The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Ricans colon, which is actually named after Christopher Columbus. As well as this the country also widely accepts US Dollars and ATM’s, which can be found easily in urban areas dispense both types of currency.
Credit cards are generally accepted everywhere with the usual transaction fee on international cards. This is why it is advised to open a bank account once arriving in the country so that you can avoid the extra charges.
Education is compulsory for children aged between 6 and 13 and the Costa Rican education system is considered both robust and high quality.
Thanks to the widespread use of English in the country – particularly in schools – expats may choose to enrol their children in local state-run schools. Realistically though many expats opt to send their children to one of the many high-quality privately-run schools instead, where English is the primary language.
The food in Costa Rica is nothing to write home about, however, it’s satisfying and healthy. The national dish is known as Casado and generally consists of a portion of rice, fresh seasonal vegetables and some form of meat; often locally-reared beef or grilled fish.
Meals lack any spicy ingredients and are best described as wholesome but unrefined. Eating out is easy as local café’s known as “sodas” may be found all over the country and offer reasonably priced food.
Areas more popular with tourists have many of the restaurants we are used to at home including Burger King and McDonalds.
Costa Rica is generally a very safe country to visit so long as you’re not flashing around cash or expensive technology such as cameras or laptops.
That said, there are areas of San Jose that visitors and expats alike should avoid after dark as muggings do sometimes happen in these areas. Outside of the capital city though a little common sense should keep you safe and sound at all times.
Costa Rica is a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in many of the incredible experiences that await you. Here are just a few places that need to be on your hit list.
San Jose is Costa Roca’s spirited capital. Visitors to the country tend to leave San Jose off their itinerary due to its global reputation. However, if you give the city a chance and dig beyond the surface you can uncover the city’s charms.
It’s not just concrete structures and ear-blasting traffic, it’s historic neighbourhoods, art galleries, traditional farmers markets, vibrant nightlife and Costa Rica’s culture at its best.
Monteverde is one of the largest and best cared-for tropical forests anywhere in the world. Located high up in the mountains, Monteverde is referred to as the “cloud forest” “.
Wander through the forest, surrounded by tropical wildlife with an incredible view from above the trees.
For the more active, take the zip line through the forest or feel the thrill of white water rafting down the lively rivers.
For picture-perfect beaches seen on postcards and holiday brochures head to Manuel Antonio National Park. Impeccable white sandy beaches with a tropical rainforest backdrop dripping.
Explore the coral reefs, seek out the three-toes sloths or, follow the hiking trails or simply relax on the sand.
This protected National Park hosts Costa Rica’s largest active and most accessible volcano. A walk up the side of the volcano at sundown will provide a panoramic view like no other.
The area is popular for watersports as well as residents such as jaguars and tree frogs.
Head over to the Caribbean coast and you’ll find the spectacular Tortuguero. This village stands out from the rest of Costa Rica. The biggest draw of Tortuguero is the thousands of rare sea turtles that haul themselves out of the water to lay eggs in the damp, warm sand.
Tortuguero also comes with freshwater canals, manatees, stunning traditional lodges and even more wildlife.
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