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Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country located in Central America that has unlimited tourist potential and is ranked as one of the most visited international destinations. One of Costa Rica's main sources of income is tourism. Costa Rica is a democratic and peaceful country, and it has not had an army since the year 1949.

Although the country is small and it covers only 0.03 % of the surface of the globe, it proudly shelters a 6% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. 25.58 % of the country is composed of conservation and natural protected territory.

Costa Rica is also an attractive country for investment and it offers great potential for the establishmentof important multinational companies, thanks to the outstanding academic level of its population, as well as the high standard of modern services and social and political stability.

Official language

The official language is Spanish. The grsecond language for a large portion of the population is English.

Official Religions

The official religion is Catholic. Freedom of religious choice is respected.

Official Currency

Colon.


NATIONAL SYMBOLS

The Purple Orchid
Guarianthe skinneri (Bateman, 1838). It was decreed as the national flower by Agreement number 24 on June 15, 1939.

Guanacaste Tree
Enterolobium cyclocarpum. It was declared as the national tree of Costa Rica, on August 31, 1959

National Emblem of Costa Rica
Enacted since May 5, 1998.

National Flag
Flag used for civil acts

Yigüirro (Clay-Colored Robin National Bird)
urdus grayi. It was decreed as the national bird on January 3, 1977.

Typical Cart
National Symbol of Labor. It was decreed as the National Symbol, on March 22, 1988.

Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces, these are: San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, and Limon. Each province is subdivided into regions and these are subdivided into districts.

The country has as a marine territory known as Coco's Island. It is a world-renowned natural reserve, located 548 kilometers from Cabo Blanco in the Pacific Ocean comprised of 2,400 hectares of land and 73,100 hectares of sea.


WATER PASSAGES

The most important water passages in the country which serve the purpose for everyday transportation as well as a route for tourists are:

- The Tortuguero Canals and Barra del Colorado, on the Northern Caribbean
- The Sarapiqui River, on the Northern zone
- The Matina River, on the central Caribbean
- Part of the San Juan River, on the border with Nicaragua
- The Cold River, the Caño Negro Lagoons, and Los Chiles on the Northern zone
- The Sierpe River, on the Southern zone
- The Tempisque River, on the Gulf of Nicoya

Other rivers of great importance are:

- On the Caribbean: Pacuare, Reventazon, Caribbean Chrripo, Estrella, and Sixaola
- On the Pacific: Bebedero, Grande de Tarcoles, Coto, Chirripo, and Parrita


AIRPORTS

The main airport is the Juan Santamaria International Airport, located in Alajuela. This airport is only twenty minutes away from San José.
Other important airports are:

- The Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, located in Liberia, Guanacaste.
- The Tobias Bolaños Airport located in Pavas, San José, for local as well as international flights.

There are also landing fields for local flights situated in different parts of the country such as: Limon, Tortuguero, La Fortuna, Tamarindo, Samara, Tambor, Quepos, Palmar North, Golfito, and San Vito.


HIGHWAYS AND ROADS

The whole country is adequately connected by internal infrastructure. The main artery is the Interamerican Highway, which connects the two borders from Peñas Blancas all the way to Paso Canoas. The Cerro de la Muerte (Death Mountain) region has the road with the highest elevation in the country with an altitude higher than 3,200 meters above sea level.
From Puntarenas to Limon: 246 kilometers by land

From Peñas Blancas (on the Nicaragua Border) to Paso Canoas (on the Panama Border): 534 kilometers by land.


HIGHEST PEAK

Chirripo summit of 3,819 meters above sea level.

HIGHEST VOLCANO

Irazú Volcano

LARGEST VOLCANIC CRATER

Poas Volcano crater. It has a diameter of 1,320 meters with a depth of 300 meters.

ELECTRICAL SERVICE

Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE).
Ninety seven percent of the national territory has electrical service. The voltage in residential areas is 110v.

OFFICE HOURS

Government sector: From 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. National Banks: From 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Some banks offer their services after regular hours until 7:00 p.m. and others that are located in some shopping centers are open on Saturdays.

PRIVATE SECTOR

From 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Commerce in general, opens Saturdays and Sundays up to mid-day.

NATIONAL HOLIDAYS

- January 1st: New Years Day
- April 11th: Juan Santamaria Day, National Hero.
- Holy Thursday and Good Friday: Religious activities.
- May 1st: International Labor Day.
- August 15th: Mothers Day.
- September 15th: Independence Day.
- December 25th: Christmas Day.

OTHER HOLIDAYS

- July 25th: Annexation of Guanacaste Day.
- August 2nd: Virgin of the Angels Day.
- October 12th: Christopher Columbus Day.


HISTORY

Heritage and Culture

Costa Rican culture is in many ways a reflection of its racial diversity. The predominant influence has long been European, which is reflected in everything from the official language -- Spanish -- to the architecture of the country's churches and other historic buildings. The indigenous influence is less visible, but can be found in everything from the tortillas that make part of a typical Costa Rican meal, to the handmade ceramics sold at roadside stands.

An important aspect of Costa Rica's cultural legacy is their love for peace and democracy. The Ticos like to stand out that their nation is the exception in Latin America, where military dictatorships have long dominated politics.

They take pride in having more than one hundred years of democratic tradition, and almost half a century without an army. The army was abolished in 1948, and the money the country saves by not expending in military issues is invested in improving the Costa Ricans' standard of living, which has fostered a culture of social peace that makes it such a pleasant place to visit.

The Ticos

The Ticos, as Costa Ricans are commonly known, are famous for their hospitality, and are quite happy to live up to their reputation. They are well-educated and hard working people, who are quick with a handshake and a smile. They are well aware of the special land they have, and most likely they will help foreigners when they get lost, even explaining things that might seem bizarre to foreigners, and making their stay as enjoyable as possible.

People say the Ticos are their nation's greatest asset, and once you've experienced their friendliness and spontaneity, you'll have no doubt to that regard.


Geography & Climate

Geography

Rugged highlands are found throughout most of the country, ranging from approximately 1,000 to 2,000 meters (3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level). The Guanacaste Mountain Range, Central Mountain Range, and Talamanca Mountain Range are the main mountain ranges extending the entire length of the country. There are several active volcanoes (Arenal Volcano, Irazu Volcano, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano and Turrialba Volcano) and the country's highest mountain (Chirripo Hill) with a height of 3,819 m/12,530 ft. The country has a relatively long coastline in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as a number of rivers and streams that attract specialist kayakers and rafters from all over the world.

Climate

In general, the climate in Costa Rica is very pleasant not only during the dry season, which extends from December to April but also during the rainy season, which runs from May to November. During the rainy season rain can be expected in the afternoons, on the other hand the mornings are usually sunny.
Costa Rica has a tropical climate with an average temperature of 22 degrees C (72 degrees F) that increases considerably on the coastal areas. The changes in temperature are considerable and due to the short distances in this relatively small country, they can all be experienced in just one day.
Due to factors such as the geographical location, the weather conditions, the formation of mountain chains, mountains, and valleys, this country experiences different microclimates that give a home to different types of vegetation.
The following climates in the country can be categorized in the following regions :

The high and cold region: With an elevation of 3,000 to 3,100 meters in altitude with temperatures of 0 degrees C.

The hot region: The elevation is above 1,500 meters in altitude, with temperatures between 14 degrees C and 18 degrees C.

The humid tropical region: The elevation is up to 1,100 meters in altitude with temperatures between 25 and 26 degrees C.

The tropical region: Pertaining to the dry season, with temperatures between 26 and 27 degrees C.

The inter-mountainous valley region with an elevation between 1,000 and 1,100 meters in altitude which is a characteristic of the central valley, with temperatures that range from 14 to 18 degrees C.

Due to the weather characteristics and the topography of the country, different types of forests can be appreciated: the cloud forest, the rain forest, the dry forest, and the transition forest.

Enjoy the sun, but carefully

Going to the beach is a must when traveling to Costa Rica and a nice suntan is always possible. It is not advisable however, to try to tan in just one day because it takes 24 to 48 hours for the skin to produce melanin, a dark pigment that reduces the aging process caused by sunburn. The healthiest thing for you to do is to use a PABA-free suntan or UV sun blocking lotion.


Our people

Costa Rica's richness also lies on the cultural diversity of our people. Throughout our history, the indigenous population of pre-Hispanic origins have been added movements of immigrants which settled in these lands, making it their home. Populations of European origin, mainly Spaniards, persons of African and Asian ascendance, as well as people from different places of the American continent have interacted among them, enriching the cultural backgrounds in the process.
Currently, besides the predominant half-breed component, there are ethnical-national groups and colonies of immigrants recovering their particular cultural heritage: African descendants, Chinese, Hebrew, Lebanese, Italian, etc.; as well as the indigenous populations of the Bribri, Cabecar, Maleku, Teribe, Boruca, Ngöbe, Huetar, and Chorotega.


Infraestructure

Communicactions

Costa Rica has one of the most advanced telecommunications systems in Latin America, with telephones and fax machines all over the country, and an increasing number of businesses online. To call or fax Costa Rica, dial the country code 506 before the number. There is also mail service and a wide selection of courier services in San Jose.
Most large hotels in the San Jose area have cable TV, with US and European stations. Newspapers and magazines from North America and several European nations are sold in many shops and hotels in and around the capital.

Transportation

It's easy to get around Costa Rica, and if you stick with public transportation, traveling within the country can be quite inexpensive. There are bus services to just about every town and city, and high-quality buses serving the main tourist destinations. Taxis are also plentiful and inexpensive, and in San Jose they are required to operate with meters for most trips.
The standard charge for a taxi ride between the international airport and downtown San Jose is $10 US. The quickest way to get around is to fly and several domestic airlines offer daily flights to most of the popular tourist destinations. There are also plenty of car rental agencies, most of which rent four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Airports

The main airport is the Juan Santamaria International Airport, located in Alajuela. This airport is only twenty minutes away from San José.
Other important airports are :

- The Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, located in Liberia, Guanacaste.
- The Tobias Bolaños Airport located in Pavas, San José, for local as well as international flights.

There are also landing fields for local flights situated in different parts of the country such as: Limon, Tortuguero, La Fortuna, Tamarindo, Samara, Tambor, Quepos, Palmar North, Golfito, and San Vito.


Government

The political system is represented by three powers, which are: The Executive Power, the Legislative Power and the Judicial Power. The Elections Supreme Court is considered the fourth power of the Republic. Every four years national elections are carried out. Among other positions of popular representation, the President of the Republic is elected through direct representation by secret ballot.
CAPITAL CITY: San José
ÁREA: 51,100 km2 (19,730 millas2)


Health & Education

Medical Services

Despite its size and being an under developed country, Costa Rica has positioned itself among the countries with the highest public healthcare development in Latin America.
The Costa Rican Social Security Service (CCSS) is a public service institution that has accomplished important goals regarding health issues, including pensions and social security. This institution offers coverage and integrated health services through two types of insurance:

General coverage insurance, with a service that covers 100% of the country.
Contribution coverage insurance, with an 86.80% of the population.

Costa Rica is the country in Latin America with the highest life expectancy rate at 77.75 years old; it is also one of the countries with the lowest infant mortality rate: 10.82%. It is also far advanced in issues regarding prenatal prevention and control.

Education

Costa Rica is praised because of its efforts for investment in public education that different governments have accomplished throughout the years. There are close to 6,147 elementary, middle, and high schools and more than 50 universities in the country.
The first higher education institution to be established was the University of Costa Rica, which was the only higher educational center up until the year 1971, when the Technological Institute of Costa Rica was founded.
In 1973, the National University of Heredia (UNA) was founded, also the Distance Education University (UNED) was established in 1977, and in the year 1979, the first private institution known as the Autonomous University of Central America (UACA) was created which set the example in 1986 for a large number of other private universities to open their doors in Costa Rica.


Business & Economy

Banks & Money

There is an ample selection of state owned and privately held banks in San Jose, and throughout the country. The official currency of Costa Rica is the colon; however US dollars are widely accepted. US dollars and traveler's checks can be changed in banks and hotels. Most major credit cards are widely accepted, and cash advances can be obtained at banks around the country and a variety of places throughout San Jose.

Business Hours

Government offices are generally open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, while banks close anytime between 3:00 and 6:00 pm, according to the bank and its branch. Most shops are open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, while some open at 8:00 am and others close at 7:00 pm; most grocery stores close at 8:00 pm. Some shops also close for lunch, between noon and 1:00 or 2:00 pm.

Economy

You don't have to drive very far in Costa Rica -- past the coffee, pastures, bananas, and other crops -- to realize that agriculture is the basis of its economy. Coffee has historically been the country's most important crop, and Costa Rica continues to produce some of the finest coffee in the world. However in recent years less traditional crops have been playing an increasingly important economic role. Bananas are the second most important export crop, with vast plantations covering parts of the Caribbean lowlands. There is also significant land dedicated to the cultivation of pineapples, sugar, oranges, rice, hardwoods, and ornamental plants, as well as raising cattle for beef and dairy products.
Though agriculture remains the basis of the national economy, tourism has earned more than any single export crop during the last few years and the tourism industry continues to grow providing new employment opportunities and stimulating the conservation of our complex biodiversity.

Holidays

Though government offices and most banks close on national holidays, this causes little inconvenience to travelers, since money and traveler's checks can be changed at most hotels. We recommend that you do not change money on the street.
There are days when hardly anything will be open, such as Christmas, New Year, and often a couple of days proceeding, and during Holy Week from Wednesday to Easter Sunday.

Some holidays can be attractive for travelers, such as the last week of the year, when there are parades and many other activities in San Jose and throughout the country. On July 25 every year (the annexation of the province of Guanacaste), the main towns in this northwest province are overflowing with revelry and folklore. Carnival, which is celebrated in the Caribbean port of Limon during the week of October 12, is another colorful affair.
Fuente: Instituto Costarricense de Turismo