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Costa Rica Fact Sheet

Geography: Costa Rica is situated between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America, with extensive coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Most of Costa Rica's people live in the central plateau, which rises 3000-4000 feet above sea level around the capital of San Jose. The country covers 19,700 square miles (slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia).

Population: Costa Rica has approximately 4.1 million people. The metro area of San Jose, the capital, is home to about half of Costa Rica's population. Puntarenas on the Pacific and Puerto Limon on the Atlantic are the largest coastal cities. In contrast to its Central American neighbors, life expectancy, literacy, and other socio-economic indicators in Costa Rica are comparable to the levels found in affluent countries.

Getting to Costa Rica: Although the Pan-American Highway links Costa Rica with Nicaragua and Panama, most visitors fly in to San Jose's Juan Santamaria international airport. There is also a smaller airport in the northwestern city of Liberia that serves international flights. In addition, the Atlantic port of Puerto Limon and the Pacific port of Puntarenas are now on the itinerary of leading cruise lines.

Getting around in Costa Rica: Costa Rica has a well-developed transportation system, especially around San Jose and other urban areas. Costa Rica's good roads and minimal levels of crime give travelers the option of using public transportation or renting a car. The country also has two domestic airlines and a plentiful supply of taxis.

Visa Requirements: Citizens of the United States, Canada, most Western European countries, and several Latin American countries do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less, although they will need to produce a valid passport at entry. Cruise ship passengers do not need to be concerned about visa or passport requirements. Due to recent changes in U.S. regulations, Americans are required to present their passport in order to re-enter the United States.

Money Matters: U.S. dollars are generally accepted in the tourist areas of Costa Rica. However, visitors venturing beyond the tourist zones should plan to exchange their money for Costa Rican colones. Credit cards (especially Visa and Mastercard) and traveler's checks are widely accepted by larger businesses. ATM machines are also increasingly common in urban areas.

Food and Drink: Costa Rican cuisine is relatively bland compared to other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. However, eating and drinking in areas frequented by tourists is generally safe. Costa Rica's concern for food safety also makes it an ideal location to sample the wide variety of tropical fruits that are available throughout the year.

Electricity: 110 volts AC (the same as the United States and Canada) is the standard in Costa Rica.

Time Zone: Costa Rica is in the Central time zone (like Chicago, Houston, and Mexico City). It does not observe daylight savings time.

Climate: Costa Rica's tropical climate can be roughly divided into two seasons: wet and dry. The dry season runs from December to April. The wet season begins in May and typically peaks in September and October. Temperatures vary little throughout the year, although the dry season tends to be less humid. Altitude is the other major influence on climate. The weather in San Jose and the other cities of the central plateau is near perfect by almost any standard. In San Jose, for example, the average high temperature is 79 F and the average low temperature is 60 F. The lowlands are much warmer. In the Caribbean port of Puerto Limon the average high temperature is 86 F and the average low temperature is 70 F. Temperatures are slightly warmer in the Pacific port of Puntarenas.

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