9 things to know before studying in Costa Rica – Part 2

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Part 2 of what you need to know before studying in Costa Rica!

Here is the second (but just as important!) part of the things you need to know before studying in Costa Rica! So, if you want to study abroad in Costa Rica continue to read to be well prepared and ready for the time of your life abroad in Costa Rica! If you haven’t read last week’s first part make sure to check it out before your adventure in Costa Rica starts.

5. Travelling in Costa Rica 

Costa Rica looks like a small country, but it takes longer than it seems to get around! So, calculate enough time to explore the whole country during your semester abroad. The infrastructure of Costa Rica isn’t the best, and you might get stuck in traffic, especially during rush hour. It would be best always to calculate a time buffer of around 1h for your trips. Moreover, be aware of the crazy and aggressive driving style of Costa Ricans. However, we still highly recommend you hit the road and see as much as possible of Costa Rica because it has so much diversity to offer. Another tip is the Waze app, which is the best option for navigating in Costa Rica.

You can take a taxi or busses to get around. The taxis in Costa Rica are generally safe and reliable, though you should always make sure that you are using an authorized taxi that is red colored and has a yellow triangle on the side. In the cities, you can also take an Uber. Busses are the cheapest option for short and long-distance travel, ranging from around $0.90 to $18.00, and can also be the fastest and most convenient method.

travel costa rica road trip explore
It would be best always to calculate a time buffer of around 1h for your trips!

6. Safety while studying in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Central America. However, like in any other study abroad destination, you should use caution and common sense. The most significant safety hazard of all is traffic. Therefore, be careful and always pay attention. Local pedestrians at crossroads even in the middle of highways, but it is not a good idea to follow along. 

Another safety issue is theft, which is quite common in Costa Rica. We highly encourage all exchange students to keep their passports locked at your accommodation and only carry a photocopy of the ID page and the page that shows your Costa Rica entry stamp. Most of the theft in Costa Rica occurs while taking the bus. Keep your bag with valuables and papers on your lap and stay cautious. Furthermore, always ask locals or other tourists to take care of your valuables when you are at the beach and want to go swimming. If you go swimming, a critical piece of advice: never go alone and be aware of the strong currency!

San José, like many big cities, can be riskier for travelers, particularly after dark and especially in the downtown area. Moreover, it would help if you avoided any of the parks in San Jose at night, as they are considered dangerous. Avoid dark alleys and quiet neighborhoods in the dark hours, especially as a girl. In the unlikely event of a robbery, follow the robber’s instructions and give up your valuables.

Additionally, Costa Rica is in a volcanic area, and several of Costa Rica’s volcanoes are considered active. However, the volcanoes have been relatively quiet over the last few years. Due to the country’s geographical location, the possibility of earthquakes occurring is high. If natural phenomena occur, it’s essential to stay calm, follow the instructions of the local authorities, and keep your family at home updated about the situation.

You might also be interested in 7 tips to get the most out of your semester abroad!

7. What you should know about the weather

Costa Rica is a tropical country, but it is not only sunshine. Bring some long pants and a sweater, especially if you plan to visit the colder regions. The rainy season lasts from May to the beginning of December. But don’t worry, if you prepare yourself and bring a raincoat, you’ll also have a fantastic time during the off-season. Of course, the dry season has the best weather, but the rainy season is less busy and cheaper, and you can see more wildlife such as whales or turtles. 

Don’t forget that Costa Rica is not too far from the equator. You can get sunburned quickly, so bring sunscreen from your home country. You can also buy it from Costa Rica, but it is usually more expensive.

Costa Rica nature weather mountains clouds
The rainy season lasts from May to the beginning of December – But don’t worry, you’ll also have a fantastic time during the off-season.

8. Internet and phone service 

When you study abroad in Costa Rica, you should get a local cell phone subscription because it is the most affordable way to make calls in Costa Rica or use the internet. Therefore, you need to buy a local SIM card to convert your phone to a Costa Rican phone number. You can buy it at the airport already or in the city. Take some time to look at all deals available and decide which one is the most suitable for you. But the easiest option is prepaid. 

There are three operators in Costa Rica: Kolbi ICE, Movistar, and Claro. There is, of course, debate on which offers the best coverage and pricing, but usually, tourists use Kolbi ICE, a state-owned company. You can find their SIM cards in almost every store. However, registering a new number must be done in an official phone provider office. The process is fast and straightforward: a passport, an unlocked phone, and a little cash. After changing to the local SIM, be careful not to lose your original SIM. If you choose a prepaid, you can top up the credit almost at any store. They will ask for your phone number and the amount of credit you want to purchase. You can also buy a scratch card with a code that you enter for more credit.

Free wi-fi is very common in Costa Rica, especially in metropolitan areas and tourist destinations. However, the connection is not always the best. On-campus, there is free wi-fi available for the students. When traveling, it is good to keep in mind that there are places in Costa Rica with no internet and cell phone coverage. This is because many hills, mountains, and forests in Costa Rica can block the signal locally. 

Costa Rican Emergency telephone numbers:

  • 911 Main Emergency Number 
  • 128 Ambulance and Medical Emergency (Red Cross) 
  • 118 Fire Department

Do you want to know what it is like to live in Costa Rica as a student? Click here!

phone service internet contact travel
Take some time to look at all deals available for phone service and decide which one is the most suitable for you!

9. All you need to know about Money

Another thing you should know before you study abroad in Costa Rica is that you will need cash as the opportunities to pay with a credit card can be limited. We recommend you exchange a small amount of Costa-Rica-Colóns already in your home country for your arrival. In addition, you can also bring US dollars with you as most places in Costa Rica accept this currency. The unit of currency in Costa Rica is Costa Rican Colón (CRC; symbol ¢) = 100 céntimos. Notes are in denominations of ¢50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of ¢500, 100, 50, 25, 20, 10, and 5. 

Moreover, we suggest you take at least one credit card and/or a VISA Electron. It’s better to have a second card in a separate area because you can lose your card. Don’t wait until you’re all out of cash to withdraw more money because sometimes you may face technical difficulties when using the ATM. ATMs are common throughout the cities and small towns. They will usually accept foreign cards, but ATMs only accept Visa cards in some regions. While Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards are all taken, American Express often won’t work. Many banks will only process MasterCard for cash credits. Occasionally, paying with credit cards may not be possible for technical reasons.

Find out more information about studying abroad in Latin America!

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact usWe’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

The blog post was written by our Content Specialist Nele!
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