Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, knowing a few of the ins and outs of Costa Rican travel can save you unnecessary hassle. While it may be tempting to focus on your trip's more exciting details, like where you are going to stay and what you will do, you can avoid trouble by knowing what immunizations to get, what travel documents to bring and how to deal with money and safety issues.
In addition to routine vaccinations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend typhoid and hepatitis A and B vaccinations before travel to Costa Rica. If you will be in contact with any wildlife a rabies vaccination is highly advisable. While malaria is not a serious problem in Costa Rica it has been present in the Alajuela, Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Heredia provinces; receiving antimalarial drugs beforehand can prevent malaria contraction. The Costa Rican government requires those who have been in countries where yellow fever is present to provide proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Costa Rica is located on the Central American Isthmus, surrounding the point 10° north of the equator and 84° west of the prime meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea (to the east) and the North Pacific Ocean (to the west), with a total of 1,228 km of coastline (212 km on the Caribbean coast and 1,016 km on the Pacific).
Costa Rica shares a border with Nicaragua to the north (309 km long border) and with Panama to the south (330 km long border). The area of Costa Rica is 51,100 km² of which 50,660 km² is land and 440 km² is water, making it slightly smaller than the U.S. state of West Virginia...
The nation's terrain is coastal plain separated by rugged mountains, the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera de Talamanca, which form the spine of the country and separate the Pacific and Caribbean watersheds. Costa Rica claims an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles (370.4 km; 230.2 mi) and a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).
The climate of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country, situated between 8° and 11° North latitude, fairly close to the equator. Although in the mountains above 2000 meters you get much cooler temperatures, the average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 21.7°C (71°F) and 27°C (81°F). The coolest months are from November through January, and the warmest from March through May. San José, the capital, where over a third of the population lives, stands at approximately 1170 meters altitude and has a mean annual temperature of 20.6°C (69°F).
The nation's climate is classically divided into two major seasons: rainy and dry. The dry season runs from January through May and the rainy season from May to November and December. Locally, the seasons were named by the early Spanish colonizers, who compared them to their own Mediterranean climate, calling the dry months "verano" or summer, and the rainy, grey and gloomy months "invierno" or winter. It is interesting to note that some of the coldest temperatures are registered during the early dry season or "summer". Climate is, of course, a complex phenomenon, and there are many aspects of the weather in Costa Rica that are worth examining in more detail, such as the influences of wind, rain, and topography
Costa Rica (Listeni/ˌkoʊstə ˈriːkə/, "rich coast" in Spanish), officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: Costa Rica or República de Costa Rica, pronounced: [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈkosta ˈrika]), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.5 million, of whom nearly a quarter live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San Jose.
Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared sovereignty in 1847. Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. Following a brief but bloody civil war, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.
Tourism in Costa Rica is one of the fastest growing economic sectors of the country and by 1995 became the largest foreign exchange earner. Since 1999, tourism earns more foreign exchange than bananas, pineapples and coffee exports combined. The tourism boom began in 1987, with the number of visitors up from 329,000 in 1988, through 1.03 million in 1999, to a historical record of 2.43 million foreign visitors in 2013. In 2012 tourism contributed with 12.5% of the country's GDP and it was responsible for 11.7% of direct and indirect employment. In 2009 tourism attracted 17% of foreign direct investment inflows, and 13% in average between 2000 and 2009. In 2010 the tourism industry was responsible for 21.2% of foreign exchange generated by all exports. According to a 2007 report by ECLAC, tourism contributed to a reduction in poverty of 3% in the country.
The colonial period began when Christopher Columbus reached the eastern coast of Costa Rica on his fourth voyage on 18 September 1502. Numerous subsequent Spanish expeditions followed, eventually leading to the first Spanish colony, Villa Bruselas in Costa Rica in 1524.
During most of the colonial period, Costa Rica was the southernmost province of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, which was nominally part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico), but which in practice operated as a largely autonomous entity within the Spanish Empire. Costa Rica's distance from the capital in Guatemala, its legal prohibition under Spanish law to trade with its southern neighbors in Panama, then part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (Colombia), and the lack of resources such as gold and silver, made Costa Rica into a poor, isolated, and sparsely inhabited region within the Spanish Empire. Costa Rica was described as "the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all America" by a Spanish governor in 1719.
The coffee trade unintentionally gave rise to Costa Rica’s next export boom “BANANAS”. Getting coffee out to world markets necessitated a rail link from the central highlands to the coast and Limón’s deep harbor made an ideal port. Inland was dense jungle and infested swamps. The government contracted the task to Minor Keith, nephew of an American railroad tycoon.
The project was a disaster. Malaria and accidents forced a constant replenishing of workers. Tico recruits gave way to US convicts and Chinese indentured servants, who were replaced by freed Jamaican slaves. Keith’s two brothers died during the arduous first decade that laid 100km of track. The government defaulted on funding and construction costs soared over budget. To entice Keith to continue, the government turned over 800,000 acres of land along the route and a 99-year lease to run the railroad. In 1890, the line was finally completed, and running at a loss.
Early Costa Rican politics followed the Central American pattern of violence and dictatorship. In the 19th century, a few favored aristocrats competed to control patronage in the new state. The military, the Church and most of all the coffee barons were the main sources of influence. Presidents were more often removed at gunpoint than by the ballot box.
In 1842 Francisco Morazan, the last head of the CAF, returned to Costa Rica and became president via a coup. Morazan set the precedent for using arms to come to power, but he also confirmed that power was fleeting without elite support. He was executed shortly thereafter.
After this inauspicious start, political life slowly became more civil. A number of democratically inspired constitutions were enacted, and just as quickly discarded when elite fears were aroused. By the late 19th century, the eligible electorate expanded from 2% to 10% of the adult population. Military strongman, Tomas Guardia, forced higher taxes on the coffee barons to finance social reform. By the early 20th century, Costa Rica had free public education, a guaranteed minimum wage and child protection laws. Denied the right to participate, disenfranchised groups resorted to protest politics. In 1918 women school teachers and students staged effective strikes against the despotic displays of President Frederico Tinoco, who soon resigned.