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Costa Rica

“Bold and brave, serene and reflective, scientific and industrial, intimate and inspiring, Costa Rica has all the natural ingredients in its polychromatic palette.”
Atlas Magazine.

Did you Know?
• Costa Rica has no military.
• Costa Rica has devoted more than 25% of its land to National Parks and protected areas, ensuring great ecotourism and the widest range of adventure options.
• Our currency, the Colón, was named after Christopher Columbus, who landed in our caribean coast in 1502.
• Costa Rica is only a 2 ½ hour flight from Miami and 3 hours from Houston.

Within its 51,100 square kilometers there is a wider variety of species of birds than in all of Europe or North America. With a relatively small population of roughly four million inhabitants, Costa Rica also boasts one of the oldest and more consolidated democracies in Latin America. In 1869, primary education for both sexes was declared obligatory and free of charge, defrayed by the government.

In 1882 the death penalty was abolished. In 1949 the armed military forces were abolished. In 1983 Perpetual Neutrality was proclaimed and former president Oscar Arias S. was honored with the Nobel Peace Price in 1989. Several prestigious international human-rights organizations have their headquarters in Costa Rica, among them the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the University for Peace. Due to all of this, its lush 1.500 kilometers of tropical sun-bathed beaches and the wild diversity of flora and fauna found in its wide array of microclimates, Costa Rica has justifiably earned its reputation of a natural, social and democratic paradise.

Wheather

Costa Rica's microclimates vary from the barren cold volcanic tundra to the exotic cloud forests, from the deep dense wet jungle of Talamanca to the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste, from quiet gold-hued beaches where the Baula turtles dig their nests to the winding evergreen Tortuguero Canals where the crocodile is king. Even so, Costa Rica's overall climate can be best described as mild. Being located within the tropics, seasonal changes in Costa Rica are not as drastic as they are in countries on higher latitudes. There is a 'dry" season from December to May (equivalent to summer and spring) when temperatures range pleasantly from the high sixties to high eighties. (20 / 35 C degrees) and a "wet" season from June until November when mornings are usually sunny and showers might be expected after noon. On areas near the coasts temperatures may be as much as ten degrees higher. At Chirripo Peak, the highest mountain of Costa Rica (3800 meters), temperatures may drop down to freezing point, although snow is unheard of even at the Chirripo. Tourists should bring light clothes, a jacket and a raincoat as all the protection they need unless going hiking
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Language and Religion

Costa Rica's official language is Spanish. On the Caribbean Coast a small minority of Jamaican descendants speak a local version of English, and most Costarricans understand and speak a bit of English. Quite recently all public schools made the learning of a English as a second language mandatory.

Roman Catholicism is the official religion, as in the rest of Latin America, but freedom of worship is established by the Constitution and there are large congregations of other religious groups.

National Currency

The national currency is the Colón. U.S. dollars are easily exchanged in local banks; other foreign currency can be exchanged through highly reliable private agencies. All mayor credit cards as well as traveler checks are widely accepted.

International Communication Services

There are postal and telegraph offices in cities and villages throughout the country. The Central Post Office is located in San José on Second Street between Avenues 1st and 3rd, and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 12 noon. Radiográfica Costarricense is located on 5th Avenue between Streets 1 and 3. This company provides telex, fax, international data transmission, and many other services (including Internet access). The code for international calls to Costa Rica is 506, and there is no area code inside the country.

Transportation

International Air Transportation:
All air traffic to and from Costa Rica is handled through the Juan Santamaría International Airport, located 25 minutes from San José, in the city of Alajuela, and through the Daniel Oduber International Airport in the city of Liberia in the northern part of the country.

Domestic Air Transportation: All flights leave from the Juan Santamaría International Airport, Liberia Airport or the Tobías Bolaños Airport. There is a good network of internal airports that not only serve important cities, but special tourist interest areas. Among the most important are: Liberia, Palmar Sur, Tamarindo, Barra del Colorado, Tortuguero, Limón, Quepos, Golfito, Coto 47. From the Tobías Bolaños Airport, located to the west of the capital city, private airlines with twin-engine airplanes for five passengers and more, offer charter flights to anywhere in the country with a landing strip.

Domestic Bus Service: The country, in general, offers an adequate bus service. The majority are private companies that link San José with the major provincial towns and cities, seaports and tourist areas. With good-quality vehicles and frequent itineraries, the user can easily travel throughout the country, leaving from different bus terminals. In the main cities and villages nationwide, there are taxicab companies that provide service to the more remote places in the country. Four-wheel drive vehicles are typical for the rural areas.
There is also a shuttle service from San Jose to the most important tourist cities.
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Automobile Circulation: Costa Rica has a good highway network, the majority of which is paved. In most places there are adequate traffic signs. In the major highways there are toll booths (San José-San Ramón, San José-Guápiles, San José-Cartago, San José-Ciudad Colón). Throughout the country there are many gas stations, almost all of which offer round-the-clock service. Costa Rica does not have self-service gas stations.

Driver Requirements: A foreigner may drive in Costa Rica if he carries a current license issued by the country of his residence and his passport. Warning triangles should be carried at all times by all cars, and seat belts are also required for drivers and front-seat passengers. The use of helmets for motorcycle drivers is mandatory.

Medical facilities:
Any foreigner who is temporarily in the country has the right to receive medical attention at hospitals and clinics in case of an emergency, sudden illness or a chronic disease. Costa Rica boasts a modern and renowned medical health system, under the administration of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS).
Most hotels have contact with a doctor. In Costa Rica there are public and private hospitals and clinics that have 24 -hour service, seven days a week.

Time Zone
Costa Rica is on Central Standard Time and does not observe daylight saving time.

Democracy

Democracy is not only the type of government of Costa Rica. Democracy is also the source of tremendous pride in a country that brags about having more teachers than policemen and not having a standing army since 1948. Democracy also means that even the smallest town has a right to have electricity, potable water and public or private phones.

Elections are at the core of this democracy. In Costa Rica, elections are an incredibly interesting sociological phenomenon for any foreign observer. This event is held every four years, on the first Sunday in February. The previous days to the big event turn into a national party. Even in remote areas, children and adults stand by the roadside or ride cars honking horns and waving their party's flag. Anybody over eighteen can vote in the country's schools, which are equipped for this purpose during election time. The democratic nature of voting is reinforced by separate elections for presidential, legislative and municipal offices; one can vote for one party's presidential candidate and for another's municipal president.

Government
Costa Rica is a democratic republic, as stated by the 1949 Constitution, which guarantees all citizens and foreigners equality before the law, the right to own property, the right of petition and of assembly, freedom of speech, and the right to habeas corpus, among others. The government is divided into independent Executive, Legislative, and Judicial powers. This "separation of powers" is stipulated under Article 9 of the Constitution.


Costa Rica in brief...
Population: 4.000.000
Territory: 51.100 Km2
Capital: San José
Religion: Predominantly Catholic
Currency: Colon
Political System: Democratic
National Bird: Yigüirro tordus grayi
National Flower: Guaria Morada cattleya skinerii

 


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