Behavior recommendations for Costa Rica

Every country is different so even those with travel experience should make adaptations to the new travel destination’s culture and peculiarities. One of the biggest concerns in Costa Rica is protection and preservation of the ecosystem. Costa Ricans are warm and helpful people and will make you feel welcome as a tourista as long as you respect their beautiful home by following a few guidelines.

When traveling the roads of Costa Rican it is a good idea to find out about the conditions in advance. Especially if you are traveling with a rental car as the traffic is often quite chaotic. Once you have left the capital San José, however, the streets quickly become empty and it is no longer as hectic. Nevertheless, unlike other countries, there are a few challenges specific to Costa Rica.

Code of Conduct in brief

  • preserve nature
  • Wildlife “only” observe
  • Do not touch plants and animals
  • Friendly to the Ticos
  • Learn and understand the traffic

How do I approach and respect the local people?

The Ticos and Ticas (as they call themselves) are known for their very friendly and helpful nature. They have an open and warm personality and you can be sure of making many new friends on a trip to Costa Rica. In order to be able to talk to the locals, you should already have some knowledge of Spanish. They are family friendly and love to party. Since Costa Rica is a Catholic country, there are many religious festivals. The Ticos are not as direct, so it often makes more sense to say something “bluntly” than to get upset. When we travel, we must not forget that we have just left our own country to get to know something different. Therefore we should accept the mentality of the Ticos, such as “a la hora Tica”. This means “Costa Rican time” and refers to the stress-free way of life of the Ticos and that they sometimes arrive a little late. So take it with ease if something does not go as planned. Ticos live up to the well known phrase, Pura Vida meaning full life and are some of the happiest people in the world. Take something of this serenity with you and remember that you want to get to know a foreign country and this includes the way of life you discover during your experience.

What should I consider when I'm out and about in nature?

When hiking throughout the nature of Costa Rica, we ask you to consider a few points:

  • Please do not feed any animals! Otherwise the animals will start begging and risk their lives on the streets or through wrong food. In addition, animals can lose their ability to get food for themselves and become dependent on humans in the long term.
  • Please do not touch plants and animals. There are some toxic species that could land you in the hospital and no vacation should look like that.
  • Please never touch an animal after you have used anti-mosquito sprays and creams. Even hours after you have applied the cream, residual substances of these preparations can kill insects and even frogs by mere contact.
  • Please do not take any souvenirs from nature with you. When entering an ecosystem like that in Costa Rica please conduct yourself in a way that does not endanger nature and wildlife and allows other travelers to enjoy it as well. Particularly rare woods, corals and plants can also get you into trouble at customs.

How does Costa Rican traffic work?

Road traffic is typically a bit more chaotic than in other countries. Nevertheless, you can calmly explore Costa Rica with a rental car. Traffic drives on the right side of the road and the traffic rules are often very similar to the states.

Due to the heavy rainfall, there are often large potholes. A road in Costa Rica is not always a “road”. It can sometimes take hours for a few kilometers because you are on a gravel road and making slow progress. The nature you end up in afterwards often rewards the patience that driving sometimes takes. We recommend driving in daylight because it is easier to see all the potholes and better visibility in the higher mountain areas. A 4×4 rental car is always a good choice as you can get almost anywhere with it.

Speed limits must be observed at all times because speed cameras are also popular in Costa Rica. If there is a branch somewhere in the middle of the road, you should expect a deep pothole, a missing manhole cover, an accident site or a small break in the road, because branches are often used instead of a warning triangle.

Gas stations should be used for filling up as sometimes there are no gas stations between the cities. San Jose has a traffic restriction during the weekdays and depending on the last digit of your license plate, you may not be allowed to enter downtown on certain days of the week. This does not apply to rental cars. If you are stopped by the “traficos” (traffic police), show the rental car documents.


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