I’m constantly updating this list with links to useful information or services that travelers or expats might need in Costa Rica. Feel free to share and bookmark.
Telephone: 2519-2000 From the U.S.: 011-506-2519-2000
Location: In Front of Centro Comercial del Oeste Pavas (google maps – Embassy entrance)
Address: Calle 98 Vía 104, Pavas, San José, Costa Rica
Costa Rican News Sources:
Tico Times: Costa Rica’s leading English newspaper since 1956.
La Nacion: The Costa Rican National newspaper, in Spanish of course. Sometimes I find their website to be a little overwhelming and I just want to see the recent news in chronological order, so I go to their Twitter page.
Exchanging money: If you care about getting a good exchange rate in Costa Rica, don’t exchange money at the airport and don’t rely on being able to spend dollars everywhere (which you can for the most part). The best rates will be at the banks (check rates by following the link above), but there is an even better way. Get an account that does not have or returns fees for all ATM transactions and foreign exchanges. Schwab is a good one. Then you can just get your money from the ATM and can skip the line at the bank, which could be shockingly long. Another money tip: get a Capitol One Venture card and use it without fees and accumulate points you can use towards your travel purchases. Most places in Costa Rica accept cards nowadays.
Costa Rica Weather Forecast and Live Satellite Imagery: HA! You can check the weather forecast, but I bet it says “partially cloudy with a chance of rain” regardless of what is actually happening. Tip: If you don’t like the weather where you are in Costa Rica, drive ten minutes in any direction for a change in climate. The only time they really do predict the weather is when there are winds from a storm at sea and they can pretty much guarantee strong winds or rain over the whole country for a few days.
Travel and Vacation Resources
My favorite tour operators and vacation planners are Gecko Trails because of how highly customized and specific you can make your tour. On their homepage, they start off asking what kind of vacation you are looking for and the options are: I like a good dose of nature!; Pura Vida – let me disconnect!; Discover family friendly Costa Rica, Let’s be romantic!; Rafting, Hot Springs, Canyoning, Hiking, Canopy – just wanna have fun!; Tuanis Mae – give me some Tico culture!; Costa Rica is awesome – at least my friends told me so!; I did it again! Repeat visitor. NO ONE ELSE does it like this, they are awesome. Reject generic and go Gecko.
Find places to stay in Costa Rica
AirBnB is gaining popularity in Costa Rica. Many vacation rentals and long term rentals are now listed and you benefit from seeing all the photos and reading all the reviews. So much better than Craigslist. Use my special link to get $42 off your first trip of $75 or more.
HotelsCombined has tons of options and lets you search by city or place of interest.
You can find an entire house on VRBO, although it caters towards more of a luxury crowd: Vacation rentals starting as low as $55/night – book online today!
Craigslist has rentals, but be smart here because it’s a great site for scammers. Expect to negotiate on the price. Here is the Craigslist housing site in English.
Read my article How to Find a Place to Live in Costa Rica if you’re looking for a long term rental in Costa Rica.
Getting around Costa Rica
Stop asking how to get somewhere on Road 121. Just don’t use street names. Just don’t. Directions and addresses in Costa Rica are different. Google Maps might show a street name, but people who LIVE on it won’t even know what you are talking about. In Costa Rica, we use landmarks, cardinal directions, meters, and gestures to give directions and addresses. So, for example, my house is not at 1234 Smith Lane. It is actually: the papaya colored house with the green gate, 250 meters east of the church and 50 meters north of the old mango tree (that actually isn’t there anymore and is instead a bakery, but you leave this part out when giving the address).
Got it? No? That’s ok… It took me a while. Just start thinking in landmarks instead of names and meters instead of blocks or streets and you’ll get there eventually.
Transportation Information: useful links for air, bus, train, and car travel, as well as links to services you are required to have while owning and operating a car in Costa Rica
Airport flight status: Real-time arrivals and departures for SJO (Juan Santa Maria International Airport aka San Jose International Airport). They have an app, too.
Costa Rican Bus Schedules:
Best Bus Schedule for Costa Rica in English (call to verify times and prices — pura vida means not necessarily sticking to the schedule)
Official Costa Rica Tourism Board Bus Schedule and Pickup Location pdf (this one is super sketch, but it exists, so I put it here)
Costa Rican Train Schedule (runs in the Central Valley) (Check the news to make sure the train hasn’t collided with any cars before you head out to catch it. This happens, a lot.)
State of Costa Rican roads and routes (particularly useful during the rainy season!):
Costa Rican transit authority (a list of all the highways and whether there are problems or not)
Autopista del sol (The new highway from San Jose to the Pacific coast, also called 27. Check that link to see if both lanes are open – on Sundays, they frequently open them both in one direction from the coast to San José, i.e., you can’t drive on the highway from San José to the coast.) For up to date reports, check their Twitter page.
Twitter Traffic Reports for the Central Valley of Costa Rica:
Marchamo: Find out the amount owed on the yearly Costa Rican vehicle tax and add insurance if you want.
Finding Expats Online
Major disclaimer. As with many online forums, the Costa Rica expat Facebook groups are filled with trolls who sit in front of their computer waiting to pounce on a question and spew hate and misinformation. I still recommend, and even use myself, these groups because there are also good people with useful info and the masses usually contradict the trolls. Just don’t take it personally and ignore them and you’ll get your question answered.
Expatriates in Costa Rica (fb group)
Gringo Expats in Costa Rica (fb group)
Public Hospitals in San Jose, Costa Rica
Hospital San Juan de Dios
Location: Paseo Colon, Calle 14, next to the Children’s Hospital
Hospital Calderón Guardia
Location: Calle 15 and 17, Avenida 9-11
Location: Barrio La Uruca in front of the Autopista to the Airport
Hospital Nacional De Ninos (Children’s Hospital)
Location: Paseo Colon, Calle 14, next to Hospital San Juan de Dios
Private Hospitals in San Jose, Costa Rica
CIMA Hospital San Jose
Location: Escazu, San Jose, near the Multiplaza off Highway 27 (la pista nueva)
Clínica Bíblica Hospital
Location: Calle Central, Avenida 14
Hospital Hotel La Católica
Location: Pillar Jimenez, Guadalupe
Hospital Metropolitano San Jose
Location: 300 meters south of Hospital San Juan de Dios, Calle 14, Avenida 8