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LOCATION - Costa Rica is situated in Central America. Nicaragua is to the North, Panama to the south, and on the east side, the Caribbean. To the west is the Pacific Ocean in all it's splendor. Of the countries in Central America, Costa Rica is one of the smallest.
Over 4 million people inhabit Costa Rica. Large numbers of the population is made up of immigrants with the majority being Colombian's, Nicaraguans, and North Americans.
Spanish is the official language of the Ticos. Wide number also speak English as well. In communities popular with Gringos (or other foreigners) it is usually possible to located someone that speaks almost any of the world's most popular languages.
Being a republic does not necessarily guarantee democracy. In Costa Rica's case it does however. Recent elections (held every four years) have demonstrated this with Costa Rica's first female president - Dona Laura Chinchilla. Her policies on immigration are favored by the majority of citizens, residents, and visitors alike. The first world countries are looking forward to her time in office.
Approximately 50 years ago the army was abolished through constitutional amendment. The results are that Costa Rica developed into the most stable democracy in Central America. There are three branches of Government - The Legislative, Judicial and Executive respectively. The elected president runs the country with the co-operation of the other elected representatives that form the central government.
The colon is the official currency of Costa Rica and although the US Dollar is popular, the colon is more widely accepted. generally speaking most businesses will accept either currency and currency can be exchanged at banks and hotels throughout the country. Watch the exchange rate carefully when exchanging at hotels or businesses as they may not always pay a fair exchange rate. Credit cards are accepted as well be cash tends to be the preferred method of doing business here due to the high fees charged by the banks for credit card transactions.
To enter Costa Rica you will need a valid passport. Check to see if your country can enter visa free or you may be in for a surprise when you arrive at the port of entry. North Americans can enter visa free. Nicaraguan's need a visa unless they are resident in the US and Canada. If they have been nationalized in the US or Canada they are treated like a North American though. The same tends to apply to many residents of the major countries.
Costa Rica operates at -6 hours from Meridian time or Greenwich Mean Time. From what I recall they do not follow Daylight Savings Time.
Two main seasons are prevalent in Costa Rica. The dry or summer season and the rainy (wet) or winter season. Summer runs from December through April and Winter from May through November. Temperature can vary widely between the mountain areas and the lowlands. Temperatures generally range between 60F and 79F in the Central Valley while along the coastal regions (the tropics) temperatures tend to be considerably higher and fall between 70F and 90F. Coastal areas on the Caribbean side are quite humid while areas in Guanacaste are quite arid.
Most banks in the 'Rich Coast' (Costa Rica) are open from 9am until 3pm. A lot are also open on Saturdays as well. Opening an account is limited to residents are foreigners living in Costa Rica. You need to provide a utility bill or rental contract with your name on it as well as your passport to open an account. Some banks have more restrictions for account opening and you should check to see what the specific banks requirements are. Tourists are not allowed accounts unless they can show they are intending to live in Costa Rica. The larger banks are more heavily regulated by the Costa Rican government and are the best bet for new accounts. The banks are Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica. Prepare to speak Spanish when opening an account as most branches do not have English speakers on staff.
Government run attractions and Public museums are closed on Mondays. Large stores are usually open from 10 am until 7 pm in the evening. The small local or 'Tico' stores usually close about 4:30pm or 5:00pm. A few os the larger locations available - Multiplaza,, Plaza del Sol, Multiplaza East, Price Smart, Office Depot, Plaza Real Cariari, Mall San Pedro, and Mall International. Remember if you are on foot darkness comes early in Costa Rica (around 5pm).
If you want an adventure that you have difficulty forgetting then consider making Costa Rica your next stop. It's an incredible ride!