Costa Rica Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by BLewJay
  • Local Customs
    by BLewJay
  • Typical iron fence enclosures
    Typical iron fence enclosures
    by starship

Costa Rica Local Customs

  • Official (and unofficial) currency

    The official currency of Costa Rica is the colón...plural is colones. It was named after Christopher Columbus and currently exchanges at around ¢520 per USD (e.g., if you think of a ¢5,000 note as ten, and ¢10,000 as twenty-dollar bills you'll be right on). For those of you coming from the States, the USD is also accepted unofficially in many...

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  • Is Security an Issue?

    Unfortunately, we rarely had time for long conversations with the local people, but the conversations we did have were very interesting and enlightening. One of the most forthcoming persons from Costa Rica was a taxi driver. He drove us from the airport to our 1st hotel and happily shared information about San Jose. At one point on our drive to San...

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  • A symbol of peace in the city

    As we were walking around San Jose, we spotted several colorful dove statues spread throughout the city, each with their own special pattern. I later found out that these were part of the Peace Parade event: in total, 70 "blank" statues were brought to San Jose and people were invited to submit artistic designs to the event's organizing committee....

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  • NO ARMY

    Costa Rica has not had a standing army since 1948. It’s a bit hard to take 5 photos of something that hasn’t existed for decades to make a tip here on VT! The end of the Army came at the Cuartel Bellavista, which is the castle like structure in the first photo. The President at the time, José Figueres Ferrer, broke part of its walls with a hammer...

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  • I'm so excited. I just found this...

    At the camp ground in Jaco, we made so many new friends. This family was great ! They cooked us real CR food and the kids introduced us to the Macarana. Camping is a great way to get to know the wonderful people of Costa Rica!

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  • Addresses? Don't have 'em.

    I don't know how a city of this size functions without a street adress system, but San Jose gets by. But don't ask for an address -- like 620 N. Main St -- in Costa Rica. Although the government is allegedly trying to create a street-numbering system at this time, most addresses in San Jose and elsewhere in Costa Rica are like this: "The white...

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  • Don't wear shorts in town? Hogwash.

    I was advised by several locals to avoid wearing shorts while in San Jose. They said that males wearing shorts are thought to be gay. Perhaps that was true at some point, but I don't believe it is true these days. Don't buy that advice. No one will think you're gay for wearing shorts. They'll just think you're a tourist. It is true that I don't see...

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  • Electric shower heads

    I have never heard about electric shower heads before my trip to Costa Rica, so I thought it would be nice to add this information here. The majority of hotels and tico homes have them in the bathroom and they are a great way of providing hot water 24 hours a day. The combination of electricity and water pouring over your body may make you nervous,...

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  • Newspapers

    If you visit Costa Rica you will end up sooner or later holding "The Tico Times", one of the locals papers. The newspaper is a good source of information not only for locals, but for tourists also. During my visit to Costa Rica I really enjoyed reading the "Arts, Travel and Fishing" section of the newspaper, where you can find information of all...

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  • Ticos

    People who live in Costa Rica are called Ticos. The official language of the country is Spanish, but you will find many Ticos who also speak English to some degree. The majority of Ticos are Catholics. They are very friendly, polite and discrete. They treat you with respect and they expect the same from you.Christopher Columbus was the one who...

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  • The ox carts

    The painted ox carts are a tradition in Costa Rica. They are still used in some parts of the country today to carry coffee beans. We saw several of them on the road with all kind of loads (sugar canes, fruit). The tradition to paint them started in the early 1900. You can get a really nice small ox cart souvenir if you go to Sarchi.

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  • Tipping

    DO NOT leave a tip for an exceptionally good waiter on the table.... as the busboy will probably take it for himself before the waiter ever sees it! Gratuities at restaurants are automatically included in your charges, but if you would like to go above and beyond to show appreciation for a great server, then hand the cash directly to that person...

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  • Language

    Language is the bridge between cultures. Learn a little Spanish and make the effort to communicate - you are a visitor so show your hosts respect. A Spanish phrase book is a must and a smile goes a long way too!

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  • Cock a doodle Dooooooooo-all night

    This was a great family to do a homestay with. Very helpful in my spanish studies and very friendly.

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  • Cowboy

    There is still a lot of farmland with lifestock in the north of Costa Rica. The man on the pic is a typical farmer of these regions and is called a cowboy like in the US.

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  • Bananas

    Bananas represent one third of Costa Rica's export. Big companies such as Delmonte, Dole and Chiquita have banana plantations and factories in Costa Rica. Most banana plantations can be found in Eastern Costa Rica.

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  • A town in Costa Rica

    We were told that to be considered a town in Costa Rica country it must have a church, a school and a soccer field.It is very usual to see the kids playing soccer with a large crowd watching. Also you'll see the kids during school hours always wearing their school uniform.

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  • Food in Costa Rica

    On our birding tour, we mostly ate at the lodges and hotels that we stayed in. Most of the meals had rice and beans with chicken or fish and a variety of vegetables and fruit. Even breakfast often had rice and beans with scrambled eggs or an omlet and toast. Fried plantain was also popular. Salad was usually cabbage with tomatoes and cucumbers in...

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  • Futbol (or football or soccer)

    In Costa Rica, it's called futbol. In the US, it's called soccer. From whichever country you hail, the game of football has been around for hundreds of years. A popular pasttime, you will see many portenos playing on the beach. It is probably most similar to a pick-up basketball game here in the US. Guys will just get a group together and start...

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  • Good Advice

    Costa Rica is a stunning land, with much of it heavily forested. The coastal areas are ringed with mangrove and there are herbaceous swamps. Looking for a beautiful location we jumped for joy finding a perfect surrounding which included hundred of palm-trees, green grass and a small restaurant-house nearby. We would get wonderful summer...

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  • Tico/Tica

    Tico is the nickname for the Costa Ricans. It is derived from their habit to diminutive words (words end with tico or tica). The Ticos and Ticas (females) are descendants of the Spanish colonists who first arrived in the 16th century. They are catholic and speak Spanish.In contrary to other Latin Americans, Ticos are very friendly, polite and...

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  • Money and tips

    The currency used in Costa Rica is the colon. Anno 2005 one US dollar is about 465 colones. However, it is easy to pay with US dollars, they are widely accepted. Only in local small shops or small restaurants, you will need some colones.Credit cards, especially Visa, are also accepted almost everywhere.Don't bring travellers cheques, because of the...

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  • Climate

    Costa Rica has a warm and dry season from December to April, and a rain or 'green' season from May to November. During the rain season there are usually heavy showers in the afternoon. Best to plan your excursions in the morning.All year round the sun rises at 6 am and sets at 6 pm.

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  • Basic Spanish

    Mot Costa Ricans obviously speak Spanish, and a small percentage of the general public speak English well enough to communicate with you. Almost all Costa Ricans in the tourist industry, however, have finely polished English, so knowing Spanish before you leave is not necessary. It is wise, however, to learn a few helpful phrases before you leave....

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  • Basic Spanish

    Mot Costa Ricans obviously speak Spanish, and a small percentage of the general public speak English well enough to communicate with you. Almost all Costa Ricans in the tourist industry, however, have finely polished English, so knowing Spanish before you leave is not necessary. It is wise, however, to learn a few helpful phrases before you leave....

    more
  • Costa Rican rocking chairs

    People in Costa Rica live outside. You will always find them in the garden or on the porch chatting with friends and family or just watching what is going on on the streets. I guess that's why you will find many rocking chairs in Costa Rica. You will see them everywhere. At the homes of locals and, of course, in the hotels. There is nothing more...

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  • Painted oxcarts

    In the old days wooden oxcarts were used for the transportation of coffee beans. But it was not until the beginnning of the 1900s that someone started to paint the wheels of this means of transportation. Another 10 years later the whole cart was painted in bright colours. The town of Sarchi is specialised in this technique. Now that no longer...

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  • Barbwire - nothing to fear

    When traveling to strange cities I use the ‘bar on the window rule’ as a safety measure. First signs of spray paint on the walls, purse is pulled in tighter, and awareness level goes up. Bars on the windows, take it up a notch no after dark walking, and watch my back even closer. Then if there is barbwire and such I just to go there. However this...

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  • Big guns & banks

    While it is common to see an armed guard at most banks anywhere in the world, the guards here carry BIG guns! Don’t let this scare you it’s just their custom. You will also find that many of the smaller banks only allow a certain amount of people in at one time. Nothing to worry about, it’s just the way things are done. If you think about it, it...

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  • Meat – white/red & white/dark

    When it comes to meat some things are pretty much standard around the world, like red and white meat. What isn’t standard is the poultry terms white and dark!All chicken is considered ‘white meat’ so if you don’t like dark and you ask for white meat, you will get a very strange look, and most likely end up with a leg or thigh. You must ask for it...

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  • Costa Rica

    In 1502 Christopher Columbus came ashore on this part of the world. He was greeted by Indians wearing golden jewelry and called the country Costa Rica (rich coast).

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  • Afro-Caribbeans

    5% of the population is Afro-Caribbean. The first ones came to Costa Rica at the end of the 19th century for the construction of the Atlantic railway. Many stayed and settled at the East Coast. They kept their language (Jamaican English), belief and traditions.

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  • Chicharroneria

    A "chicharroneria" is a kind of restaurant famous because of the "chicharros", a kind of meat with an special sauce.In San Jose, when costarrican celebrate a family meal they come to the chicharronerias to have fun. You can listen to some typical songs and see the "giants" puppets, another local custom.

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  • Smile

    It was my observation that generally speaking, the Ticos are eager to please, and want us to love their country as much as they do! A truly genuine thank-you and a smile are priceless, because they know they've been appreciated. These are some of the kindest people I have met, and they want to teach you about their native Costa Rica.The ladies in...

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  • Carts are still used for transport

    Oxen drawn carts are often seen on the road. Becareful driving. Some of the carts are very vividly painted with traditional Costa Rican designs.

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  • Horses are a good way to get around

    In the Monteverde area where there is quite a bit of Coffee growing, you can see people using horses for transportation. It makes a lot of sense to me. Be careful when you drive.

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  • Eat local

    You may find the best tasting food is the food prepared for the locals. Upscale restaurants are available for tourists and ex-pats, but we found the local fare to be very satisfying and the best value.

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  • Always begin with simple greetings

    In Costa Rica, it is polite to begin any discussion, no matter how brief, with a simple greeting and query. Please do not simply point at something and say "Que?" (What?) This is considered very rude. You would not want someone doing that to you in English.Begin by saying Hola Senor(ita) (Hello Mr. or Miss). or Disculpe Me (Excuse Me) before asking...

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  • Bartering is OK

    Bartering over price is OK in the shops in the towns where tourists frequent. Bartering in stores at the resort or in local stores is not going to make you popular. Generally expect to be able to get 10-20% of the marked price, and if you can't get anything, then just give up and move to the next vendor, they probably have the same or similar...

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  • Farming EVERYWHERE

    Due to the mountanous terrain of much of Costa Rica, the farmers will plant crops anywhere... including incredibly steep hillsides. As we drove through mountains I was amazed at how the heck they could plant and harvest in such straight lines on almost-vertical slopes. I would like to see the farmers tending to those crops...

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  • Always ask permission

    When you want to enter a Costa Rican home you should always ask permission. Con permiso? The Costa Rican women work hard to keep their homes clean and you should also be sure to wipe your feet before going in. Tradition used to be that you didn't call on a home until afternoon because morning was cleaning time. It is a bit looser now.This picture...

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  • Fresh Orange Juice!

    I had to take a picture of this Tica on our way out of our San Jose Hotel. I didnt know what she was squeezing at first and realized it was fresh oranges. ..... PURA VIDA!

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  • The Usual

    In most of my bigger pages--I always try to include a tip that shows Becky and I together. Costa Rica, Banff, Belgium, Venice, Alaska, Thailand--none of those places would have been as fun or as meaningful without Becky alongside.Next stop--the Czech Republic in June 2004.

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  • Take care of your guides

    Most people would not have a chance to see some of the great wildlife if not for the excellent guides. These guys grew up exploring the various nooks and crannies of their locales. And as adults they spend their days in and about the forests, so they know where the wildlife is lurking. Invaluable!But they generally get paid very little by the big...

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  • Slowly but surely

    Tico's are welcoming, friendly, warm and generous peoples. Take the time to discover it. Be patient, be gracious. Try not to show any impatience... It's going to pay off as a world will open to you!A somewhat reserve and shy taxi driver offered me his own eye drops to cure a burning contact lens...A distant and one-word-answer guide unvailed his...

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Costa Rica Local Customs

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