8 Cross Cultural Tips for Traveling to Costa Rica in 2024


By Sharon Schweitzer and Shannan Bloomstrand


Costa Rica consumes only 0.03 percent of the globe’s surface yet contains six percent of the world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica reserves the highest percentage of its land for conservation and preserving national parks than any other nation worldwide. It has been incorrectly called the ‘Switzerland of Central America,’ since it is not an armed nation, although Switzerland is armed. Beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountains, and lush rainforests make it the ideal place for a getaway. Check out these cross-cultural and travel tips to discover what Pura Vida!

1. Business culture: 

Costa Ricans are punctual (monochronic), although business can move painfully slowly because Costa Ricans are risk-averse and conservative in comparison to their Latin American counterparts. Excellent conversational topics include their natural biodiversity, pura vida culture, parks, and sports like surfing and soccer. Ticos are proud of their former president and Nobel Prize Winner, Arias Sanchez, hailed for his efforts to halt the Nicaraguan civil war. 

2. Speaking Spanish:

Spanish is the official language. Be sure to use Google Translate or a pocket dictionary. Costa Ricans use both the formal pronoun usted, and the reflective voceo informal pronoun (not tu) where vos replaces tu interchangeably.  Costa Ricans refer to themselves as ticas (females), and ticos (males).  Be aware of a few colloquial terms like brete and mae. English is spoken by many locals and in business.

 3. Colón & US Currency:

Costa Rica uses the Colón. Currently, 500 Colón is about the equivalent to 1.00 USD. Hotels, restaurants, and shops accept credit cards. US dollars are accepted in Costa Rica; it is wise to have clean crisp, untorn bills printed after 2006. 

4. Regional Dining:

A unique dish is gallo pinto, a mixture of beans and rice, cooked together served with or without eggs, meat, onions, cilantro, peppers, and vegetables. Plantains are also popular. Ticas enjoy flavoring their dishes with their local sauce https://www.amigofoods.com/products/lizanosalsa.  

5. Transportation:

Visitors can drive in the country with a valid driver’s license from their passport country. An international driver’s license is not required unless your home license is printed in a different alphabet, Arabic, Hebrew, or Mandarin. Consider hiring a local driver or using rideshares. Renting a car is a popular transportation choice, but it is expensive. A deposit of approximately $1,000 is required. The roads are challenging to navigate in various areas with narrow bridges and may not be well marked. Instead of relying on your mobile phone, take extra precautions and rent a  GPS device

6.  Climate

Costa Rica has both a dry season (Dec-April) and a wet season (May-November). Keep these months and the terrain in mind when packing. The tropical climate includes both mountainous rainforests and isolated beaches, so pack rain gear and comfortable shoes. The country is located just 10 degrees north of the equator making the sun much stronger. Reapply sunscreen often. Find shade as well, with the average annual temperature 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

 7. SIM Card/Cellular Plan 

The best communication is with a Costa Rican SIM card or prepaid phone. Airalo offers prepaid eSIMs in Costa Rica and globally, with options that are 5G compatible; plans starting at 1GB for 7 days at approximately $9 and on up to 20GB for 30 days for approximately $30. Kolbi, as the Costa Rican government-backed company with national and airport kiosks, has the best country-wide coverage.

 8. Departure Tax and Passports:

A Passport is required. The Costa Rican departure tax is now included in your airfare.




Photos by Sharon Schweitzer

Sharon Schweitzer JD, is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Sharon served as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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Shannan was a Summer Intern with Access to Culture and graduated from Clemson University with a Language and International Health degree. Feel free to connect with Shannan at http://www.linkedin.com/in/shannanbloomstrand