Passports and Visas
Travelers need a valid passport that will not expire for at least thirty days after arrival to Costa Rica in order to participate in a Costa Rica Explorations program.
Travelers’ passports must be in good condition for them to be accepted in Costa Rica.
Make a copy of your passport to keep at home and to send to Costa Rica Explorations to have on record in case a passport goes missing.
To apply for a passport or renew your passport go to US Department of State click on the “Passports” button and follow directions according to your needs. Start this process as soon as possible, because it can take weeks to get your passport.
Every traveler not coming from the Americas or a European Union country should consult the following Costa Rican information web site. Click on the Passport & Visa button to ensure that they meet current immigration requirements.
Safety and Security in Costa Rica
In general, Costa Rica is an incredibly safe country to travel through. Costa Rican’s political and economical situation is stable and strong. Costa Rica was actually voted the“happiest nation” in the world! However, no country can be absolutely perfect.
Crime has become an increasing concern for Costa Ricans and visitors alike. U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise the same level of caution they would in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world. Americans should walk or exercise with a companion, bearing in mind that crowded tourist attractions and resort areas popular with foreign tourists are common venues for criminal activities. Travelers should ignore any verbal harassment and avoid carrying passports, large amounts of cash, jewelry or expensive photographic equipment. At all times have your belongings in your line of sight or in your possession. Tourists are encouraged to carry photocopies of the passport data page and Costa Rican entry stamp on their persons and leave the original passport in a hotel safe or other secure place. (On student trips, Costa Rica Explorations guides will keep a copy of students’ and professors’ passports.)
Driving is an adventure in Costa Rica. Rules of the road may not be observed. Lane changing can be abrupt and unexpected. If you are driving, make sure you drive with much caution. It is not atypical to have bikers, pedestrians, and/or stray animals pop out onto the road unexpectedly. Costa Rica Explorations provides private transportation and a chofer for their student trips.
Pedestrians are not given the right of way when crossing streets, make sure to be aware and wait until traffic has subsided before attempting to walk to the other side of the road.
Ocean currents on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts are swift and dangerous. There are few lifeguards or signs warning tourists of dangerous beaches. Every year eight to twelve American citizens drown in Costa Rica due to rip tides or sudden drop-offs while in shallow water. Extreme caution is advised.
For the latest security information about travel within Costa Rica, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site and select International Travel and then the country Costa Rica.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada. For callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
Luggage: Less is more here
- A duffle bag/roller bag or small suitcase
- A daypack and/or backpack that will be with you daily
Clothing: Participants will need to prepare for multiple activities
- Many accommodations, including homestays, have laundry services
Everyday clothing/Traveling Clothing:
- 2-3 pairs of comfortable pants-one pair of jeans
- 2-3 pairs of comfortable short (Costa Rican women don’t typically walk around town in shorts (only at the beach). Instead pack light weight skirts/travel skirts & capri pants
- 1 long-sleeve t-shirt
- 3-5 short-sleeve shirts (1 or 2 tank tops are okay for women)
- 1 sweatshirt/light fleece (for airplane & cool nights)
- 6-8 pairs of underwear/boxers
- 2-4 pairs of socks
- Shoes you wear in the summer – these shouldn’t be new (flip flops, comfortable sandals)
- Your feet tend to get wet, so an extra pair of shoes is recommended
- Quick dry shorts
- Quick dry t-shirt(s)
- Quick dry long-sleeve shirt
- Bathing suit/board shorts (2-piece suits for females are fine)
- Closed-toed water shoes for river—teva-type/chaco-type will work
- Tennis shoes and/or light hiking boots
- Towel (for beach and adventure activities; hotels provide bathroom towels)
- Women: sarong (optional)
- toothbrush & toothpaste
- travel-sized shampoo & conditioner
- travel-sized soap
- comb/hair brush
- bug spray
- hand sanitizer
- razors for shaving
- vitamins and/or prescribed medication
- glasses/contacts/cases/saline solution
- feminine products (they have them there, but it is nice to have the kind you normally use)
- hat & sunglasses
- 1-2 plastic bags for wet cloths and/or shoes
- reusable waterbottle
- small umbrella
- small flashlight/headlamp
- travel alarm clock
- paperback book
- photos of your family & home town (applicable to student groups)
Basic First Aid Kit: Costa Rica Explorations provides a comprehensive first aid kit for each student group. Safety is our number one concern.
If you would like to bring a small first aide kit on your own, here are our recommendations: adhesive bandages, gauze & adhesive tape, elastic bandages, antiseptic, cotton swabs, disposible gloves, tweezers, scissors, antifungal and antibacterial ointments/creams, 1% hydrocortisone cream, anti-itch gel/cream for insect bites and stings, aloe gel for sunburns, pain or fever medication, stomach upset /diarrhea medication, respiratory medication, anti-motion sickness medication, medicaiton to address allergic reactions, moleskin for blisters, digital thermometer, saline eye drops, first-aid quick reference card
Electronics: Bringing electronics is ALWAYS a risk!
Cell Phones — Do work in Costa Rica; however, there are typically large international fees. Travelers can easily buy a calling card in Costa Rica and can call families from their hotel and/or homestay. Calling cards are very reasonably priced in Costa Rica. You can also purchase a pre-paid SIM card at the airport.
Cameras – You will definitely want to remember this experience for the rest of your life. You can bring a disposable or a regular camera, again at your own risk! We recommend putting your camera in a waterproof container.
Computers – Wifi is accessible in many locations throughout Costa Rica; however, theft is also prevelant throughout Costa Rica. There are security boxes within many hotel rooms, but sometimes not large enough to fit a laptop. Students should not bring their laptops!We will visit Internet cafes, most hotels have Internet, and some homestays.
-Make sure that if you do chose to bring electronics that they are stored in waterproof containers/ziplock bags. It rains in Costa Rica and most likely you will be caught in the rain without warning.
Electrical outlets are the same as the US.
-Don’t forget chargers and/or memory cards!
Costa Rica Explorations does not require any vaccines for travelers going to Costa Rica. The following information is a summary of suggestions only. Please consult your doctor for recommended vaccines.
Routine Vaccines-Recommended if you are not up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc. Although childhood diseases, such as measles, rarely occur in the United States, they are still common in many parts of the world. A traveler who is not vaccinated would be at risk for infection.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)-Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A virus infection where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with “standard” tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.
Hepatitis B-Recommended for all unvaccinated persons traveling to countries with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission.
Typhoid-Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to Costa Rica, especially if visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where exposure might occur through food or water.
Malaria-If you will be visiting an area of Costa Rica with malaria (Limon Providence), you will need to discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to avoid getting sick with malaria. Ways to prevent malaria include the following:
- Taking a prescription antimalarial drug
- Using insect repellent and wearing long pants and sleeves to prevent mosquito bites
- Sleeping in air-conditioned or well-screened rooms or using bednets
For more information on vaccines and other health precautions, contact the Center For Disease Control and Prevention by email or calling 1-877-FYI_TRIP.