|Arriving in Costa Rica, immigration, customs and first contact.|
For those travelling to Costa Rica for the first it can be a bit daunting, especially if you have been talking to people who have been here and you have been overloaded with information, stories, 'must-do's' and cautions.
Arriving in Costa Rica via the Juan Santamaria Airport is easy, it is a modern facility with good facilities. Passing through immigration is also a pleasure. Ensure your passport is valid and has at least 6 months available. You may be asked a few questions but generally a stamp for 90 days is issued without hassle. Check that you country is on the list of those whos citizens do not require visas. You can see if you need a visa for Costa Rica here.
Customs is also a cursory procedure but be sure to check what you can and cannot bring into Costa Rica ahead of time and do not under any circumstances take a chance by trying to enter the country with any illegal items or substances. Costa Rica takes its laws seriously and enforces them.
When you exit the airport you will generally be greeted by a wall of people either meeting relatives and friends, collecting tourists or trying to offer you a taxi. If you have made plans to be collected or have booked a rental car, exit to the right and wait on the sidewalk until you spot the person supposed to meet you or you see the rental car shuttle.
If you do require a taxi, be sure to take one of the orange airport taxis and get the driver to use the meter. They are generally trustworthy but it is always good to check your change.
If you arrive in Costa Rica without the local currency, do not change money at the airport, rather wait until you can find a bank. The exchange rate will be more favorable and banks are easy to get to and abundant in the major towns. Carrying US Dollars is almost just as good as the local currency, it is widely accepted and most places will give you the same rate as the bank. Make sure you have plenty of $20's, anything bigger is not readily accepted.
Literature about Costa Rica warns tourists about crime and everyone has a word of caution, but in reality Costa Rica experiences very little crime. In every place it is wise to be cautious and aware of your surroundings to prevent being a victim.
Do not leave your luggage unattanded, do not go swimming and leave your $5000 camera on the beach, do not accept help from strangers when your rental car gets a flat and do not walk around lonely streets. It is common sense and applies to every country.
Costa Rica has loads to offer tourists and is very welcoming and friendly. Show the locals some respect and learn a few words of Spanish before you leave home and come down and experience the Pura Vida lifestyle.