Costa Rica

“Pura Vida!” as the Ticos say, meaning everything from “Great!” to “I’m fine, thanks”. It pretty much sums up the zest for life that you’ll find in Costa Rica. And they have reason for their enthusiasm. Costa Rica offers an abundance of natural beauty including world class surfing, a live volcano, rainforest, waterfalls, and amazing diversity of wildlife. In addition you’ll find a large expat and tourist presence from Europe and the U.S. The local people are very accustomed to interacting with foreigners and maintain a warm, welcoming, but efficient attitude.

The larger cities and towns are well equipped with any technological needs a nomad might have. However, for those who venture to the smaller villages or outdoor interests, you will quickly find dirt roads and areas that are still waiting for landline phone service. Be prepared to either maintain contact with a larger town or use more advanced nomadic means of reaching the internet (perhaps using your mobile phone as a modem).

The Pluses

Costa Rica is beautiful, environmentally minded, nicely paced and the people are accustomed to working with foreigners.

The minuses

Once you are out of the bigger towns, Internet service is severely restricted. Mobile phone communication is limited and general prices are somewhat high due to tourist activity.

Nomadic ratings

A: Very Good / B: Good / C: Just Okay / D: Poor / E: Very Poor

  • Internet Access for the Nomad (ease in accessing it): A (cities), D (rural)
  • Internet Cost (from public to private service): A (cities), C (rural)
  • Accommodation Cost: C
  • Eating Cost (restaurants and groceries): B
  • Country’s Overall Affordability for the Nomad: C
  • Transportation Access: B
  • Transportation Cost: B

Basic Facts about Costa Rica

  • Language: Spanish but many locals are familiar with tourist English
  • Government: Democratic Republic
  • Population: 4,134,000
  • Climate: Tropical
  • Geography: 331,688 square kilometers
  • Neighbouring Countries: Nicaragua, Panama (See map)
  • Money: The Colon
  • Mobile Phone Frequencies: GSM 1800
  • Electricity: 120v 60hz. They use three plug shapes “A”
  • Daylight Savings: None
  • Time Zone: GMT/UTC-6
  • Country Code: 506
  • Main City Codes: Not required
  • To Dial Out of the Country: 00

Tourist Visa

You may stay in Costa Rica up to 90 days without a visa. You will only need your passport and documentation of exiting flight. In order to extend your stay you may file for an extension of stay at the Department of Temporary Permits & Extension of Stays at the Immigration Department in Costa Rica or you must exit the country to renew your status. Many expats travel to Panama or Nicaragua to do this.

Getting Around

Bus: The public bus system is extensive and very economical.  This is the method of choice for most local people.  However, seats may be a bit small and the bus may not be air conditioned.  Two other service providers, Grayline and Interbus, also offer rides between major cities on larger and air conditioned buses.

Planes: Paradise Air offers flights between major Costa Rican cities but rates are high.

Where to Stay

There is a wide variety of accommodations at all levels of cost in Costa Rica whether your budget is $1000.00 per night or $10 per night. With a bit of internet searching you can find everything from hostels, to aparthotels (fully furnished apartments for temporary stay), ecolodges, B & Bs hotels and motels. If you’re up to staying in a backpacker hostel you will be able to get a bed for as low as US $10 per night including breakfast and free internet although you will most likely share a room and bath with other guests. Hotels and ecolodges catering to tourists will be priced similarly to those found in the U.S. or Europe for a comparable star rating. Aparthotels can be rented by the month and can be found in the vicinity of US $1000.00 per month. Be aware that “motels” are used almost exclusively for the purpose of sex according the The Real Costa Rica.com

For NuNomad Guidelines on how to choose your nest, visit the NuNomadBlog.

Travel Insurance

Don’t let your Costa Rica adventure be spoiled. Get Travel Insurance. See our article Coverage Comparison of Travel Insurance.

Mailing in Costa Rica

For a comprehensive explanation of postal issues in Costa Rica visit CostaRica.com.

Essential information

International Cell Phones

Mobile phone communication can be somewhat tricky in Costa Rica. If you want to bring your own mobile phone, be sure to purchase a tri-band unlocked GSM as Costa Rica functions only on GSM 1800. Tmobile and Cingular offer international roaming in Costa Rica through an agreement with the local provider I.C.E. (the only local provider). However, be aware that roaming charges can be in the range of US $4.50 per minute! In general SIM cards are non-existent although we did find one provider (see above SmartCard) charging .79 cents US per minute. If you rent a car it is possible you will have the option of adding a mobile phone to the rental agreement. Another possibility is to rent a phone locally fromCell Phones Costa Rica who offer several different plans including the possibility of your own 800 number for friends and relatives calling from the U.S.

GPRS capability is possible through the I.C.E. network.

Internet cafés

can be found in every major city as well as some of the smaller towns. You can expect to be charged according to the amount of time you spend on the computer.

  • For more information on International Cell Phone basics, read our article on Cell Phone Basics.
  • For more information on the various methods of connecting to the Internet, visit our Connecting to WWW page.

International Calling

If you don’t have a Skype account yet, get one. You can use “telephony” service with any hi-speed Internet connection, which most Internet Cafés will have. Otherwise, you’ll have to use land-line systems. If you’re staying at a location where you want to use a land line, it may be most economical to purchase an international calling card. These can be purchased at many common locations throughout the country.