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Geography

Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panamá to the south-east. To the west is the Pacific Ocean and to the East the Caribbean Sea.

Four mountain ranges divide the country from north to south creating very different micro climates on each side. The Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range starts at the border of Nicaragua and continues all the way to Arenal Volcano. Then is the Tilaran Mountain Range where the Arenal Volcano is located. The Central Volcanic Mountain range surrounds the central valley. The Poas and Irazú Volcanoes are part of this mountain range. The fourth one isvb the Talamanca Mountain Range which extends into Panamá to the south east, and includes the highest peak in the country, Chirripó (3,820 meters /12,530 ft.)

The Central Valley is a fertile plateau located in the center of the country and surrounded by mountains. Today this is the area where most of the population live concentrated in the capital city of San José and also the cities of Alajuela, Heredia, and Cartago.

Climate

Located in a tropical latitude, the country has only two seasons: the dry season from December to April and the rainy season from May to November. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica does not have a defined rainy season (be prepared for rain or sun at any time). In San Jose temperatures range from 15 C. /60 F. during a cool night in December to 28 C. /82 F. on a hot afternoon. Temperatures change with the altitude and not with the time of year; you'll find cooler temperatures in the mountains. At sea level you'll find the warmest temperatures up to 30-35 C. / 85-95 F. temperatures.

Banking and Money

The currency in Costa Rica is the "colón" (plural: colones). The exchange rate fluctuates almost every day. As of July 2011 the rate was: US $1 = 500 colones.

As soon as you arrive, we recommend you to change your currency into colones at a bank or at the hotel. If you go to the bank, bring your passport. Although, US dollars are accepted at all major tourist destinations, for small purchases it's better to use colones, because some people will give you a lower exchange rate. Major credit cards are accepted at all medium - large size hotels, restaurants and stores.

Only at some banks you can change your travelers cheques. When arriving at a bank and before making the line, ask at the information desk if you need to pre-authorize the travelers cheques.
Banks are open from 8:30 to 15:00 and do not close for lunch. On Saturdays some branches open in the morning. Request their schedules at your hotel. ATM’s are becoming more common and we find them at most towns and cities.

Electricity

Runs 110 volts / 60 cycles AC, the same as in the United States. Most hotels feature polarized outlets (two flat prongs of different size) that fit US appliances. You may need an adaptor for some older outlets with two flat prongs of the same size.

Government

Costa Rica is a democratic republic. It has independent executive, legislative and judicial branches. Elections are held every four years.

Health

There are NO epidemic diseases in Costa Rica. No immunizations are required if you are traveling from Europe or the USA. You do need a Yellow Fever Vaccine if you are traveling from some countries in South America or Africa. All the population is covered by the socialized medical system.

Holidays

Official holidays are: January 1st, April 11th (Juan Santamaría Day - national hero), Good Thursday and Friday, May 1st (Labor Day), September 15th (Independence Day) and December 25th.

Water

The water is drinkable in all the hotels. You can also buy bottled water at all restaurants, shopping stores and small shops (Pulperias).

Telephones

Country code is 506. Local phone numbers have 8 digits. The telephone service is public, owned by the government and operated by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, I.C.E. Costa Rica is the Latin American country with more telephones per capita. Long distance calls can be mad through the operator or with pre paid cards, like ATT. There has been an effective transition to pre-paid phone cards, but you still find some phones that use coins, so be prepared. We recommend you buy a pre-paid 500 colones "Colibri 197" card. These cards are available at many stores throughout the country. Ask at your hotel where you can find them.

Important Telephone Numbers

Hospitals