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Travel Tips for Costa Rica - Central Valley Cloud Forest Region

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Note: All United States citizens are required to present a valid passport.

Size / Population: Costa Rica is 20,000 square miles with a population of 4 million.

Political Status: Costa Rica is a Democratic Republic, similar to U.S.

Language: Spanish; English is spoken in many resorts.

Currency: Currency is called the Colon. U.S. dollars and credit cards are widely accepted; ATMs are available in most tourist areas.

Electricity: 110 volts, same as U.S.

Time Zone: Central Standard Time; Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Communication: Calling from the U.S. dial 011 + 506 + local number. Internet access is available at most hotels and internet cafes. Contact your cell phone provider about coverage.

Drinking Water: The water is potable in most of the country; however, bottled water is recommended, especially in coastal areas.

Transportation: Taxis are available as are local buses and tourist shuttle buses. Your hotel can make arrangements for excursions. It is also possible to rent a car or 4-wheeler. Must be 25, have a valid U.S. driver’s license and a major credit card.

Local Customs: Legal gambling / drinking age is 18. Restaurant tipping is 15 to 20 percent for good service. Local sales tax is 13 percent and should not be mistaken for gratuity. Porters should get approximately US$1.00 per bag; hotel maids should get US$.50 to US$1.00 per day. Taxi drivers can get 10-15% of the fare. Don’t forget to tip your guides!

What to Pack: If you are planning any optional excursions (and you should!) practicality and comfort are key. Hiking boots, sneakers and even aqua shoes are recommended. Take along shorts as well as long pants (khakis, blue jeans). Long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts (t-shirts, etc.), a swim suit and a waterproof windbreaker or rain poncho are recommended. There may be cool nights in Arenal area, so a light sweater is a good idea. Take along a small back-pack or fanny pack for holding personal items while on tour. Incidentals: binoculars; camera (w/extra batteries, etc.); hat or cap; insect repellent; and sunscreen.

Getting Married: U.S. citizens can legally get married in Costa Rica. Please contact a Vacation Express representative for details on resorts offering special wedding packages and to discuss your particular wedding requirements. Our experienced group department will be happy to assist with travel arrangements for all attendees.

Wedding Requirements
The information below is a general list of requirements to perform a legal wedding ceremony in Costa Rica. Depending on your destination wedding resort, requirements may vary. In Costa Rica, only priests, judges and lawyers are legally authorized to perform a marriage ceremony. If you wish to have a religious, but non-Catholic, wedding ceremony, a judge or lawyer must also be present to make the marriage official. Please check with the Costa Rica Tourism Department or the Wedding Coordinator at your resort for additional information on legal requirements and fees for weddings in Costa Rica. All information below is subject to change without notice.
Documentation:(No notarized documents are necessary)
You will not need to bring any notarized legal documents because all your data will be included in a sworn statement which both sign the day of the wedding. This avoids the couple having to notarize at the Costa Rican Consulate, saving time and money. Couple must email the following information for both bride and groom (as well as any witnesses accompanying them from the States):
a) Full name: (first, middle and last - no initials)
b) Profession/Occupation
c) Current address: This should be your home street address
d) Passport number and nationality: Make sure each passport is signed by the bearer. Fax a preliminary copy of each passport to your wedding coordinator (photo/information page only). If you prefer not to fax the passport copies, just bring a set of good, clear copies with you and you can give them to the wedding coordinator upon arrival.
e) Marital status - if divorced, please indicate the date, city and state, name of Court that decreed the divorce, and the full name of ex-spouse (no initials). Note: If the bride is divorced, her divorce date must be at least 300 days prior to the date of the upcoming wedding. If not possible, there are options available.
f) Date and place of birth: (city, state, country)
g) Full name of Father and Mother and current citizenship: (no initials; include mother’s maiden name)
h) Mailing address: This is the address where the final documentation will be sent. Courier companies require a street address (no P.O. Box). The package containing the Certificate of Marriage will require a “received” signature.
i) Phone number and E-mail address: Necessary for the courier company.
ID Required: Costa Rica requires a valid passport (valid for at least 6 months) – original and a copy. A Birth Certificate is not required since a sworn statement attesting to your date and place of birth covers that requirement.
Waiting Period/Residency Requirement: If data is complete, accurate and sent along with passport scans, 10 days before the ceremony date is normally sufficient, but a month prior is recommended. No required residency stay in Costa Rica exists for a valid marriage.
Witnesses: Two (2) people are required to bear witness. They cannot be family members. Your hotel may be able to provide witnesses for an additional charge.
Divorces Decrees (Decree Absolute): Copies are not required since the sworn statement will attest to when, where and from whom you are divorced. All you need to do is send the date, place, name of court that decreed the divorce and full name of ex-spouse, so that it can be included in the sworn statement. If the bride has been previously married, she must wait 300 days after her divorce (or the death of her husband) before she can remarry. Exceptions can be made with a certified negative pregnancy test and some official paperwork.
Consent: People under the age of 18 may not get married in Costa Rica without parental consent.

Notes: The Certificate of Marriage takes up to three (3) months to process. The Costa Rican Civil Registry can take 11 (eleven) weeks to register the marriage in its books. A Rush Option is available for an additional fee, whereby the Certificate is ready in 10-12 business days. The Certificate arrives via Fed Ex translated and authenticated by the Consulate of the country of residence of the couple. Once the Certificate is received, it must be registered in the couple’s city of residence. It is best to call city hall, town hall, municipality or equivalent to inquire where marriages are registered, and take the Certificate as proof of marriage. Costa Rican marriages are recognized all over the world.

Spanish Phrases Everyone Should Know
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta? How much is it? (As you're pointing at an item)
  • ¿Donde estoy? Where am I?
  • ¿Cómo se dice ... ? How do you say ... ? (Followed by the word you wish to learn)
  • ¡Muchas gracias! Thank you!
  • Con permiso. Excuse me. (As you are trying to get by someone)
  • Por favor ... Please ...
  • No hablo español. ¿Hablas inglés? I don't speak Spanish. Do you speak English?
  • ¿Dónde está ... ? Where is ...
  • No, gracias. No, thanks.
Assistance in Destination

While on vacation, a destination representative is available to you. Take a few minutes to meet your destination representative and benefit from expert local knowledge. For your convenience, a Vacation Express binder is available at your hotel in the hospitality desk area. This binder provides you with destination and local contact information for your representative and local office in case you need assistance during your stay.

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