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General Information
SIZE:
51,060 square kms (19,714 square miles)

POPULATION:
3.13 million, (source: World Bank).

CAPITAL CITY:

San Jose, estimated population : more than 1 million

LOCAL TIME DIFFERENCE:
GMT minus 6 hours.

LANGUAGES SPOKEN:
Spanish is the official language, although English is widely spoken in the business community and at most tourist destinations. The use of French and German is increasing.

TAXES:
There is a 13% sales tax on all purchases. There is an additional 3% tourism tax on hotel rooms. Restaurants add a 10% gratuity to the check, along with the sales tax.

RELIGION:
Roman Catholic Church (2.33 million followers); Methodist Church (estimated 6,000 followers); Baptist Church; Episcopalian Church; Jewish and Bahai Faith.

ENTERING AND EXITING:
US and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of most European and Latin American countries do not need visas for a stay of less than 90 days. It is advisable to confirm your return flight 72 hours ahead of your departure date. Get to the airport 2 hours before departure time. Tourists pay a departure tax of about US$20 (as of September of 1998) at the airport at check in.

ETHNIC MAKEUP:
The majority of the population, 98 per cent, is white or racially mixed, except in Limon province on the Caribbean coast, where an estimated 70,000 blacks and 5,000 Indians live. The Northern Guanacaste province also has a sizeable Indian population.

GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE:
Costa Rica is the second smallest country in Central America after El Salvador. The country lies between Nicaragua and Panama and has coastlines on the Caribbean and the Pacific. A low, thin line of hills between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific is prolonged into northern Costa Rica, broadening and rising into high and rugged mountains in the center and south. The capital city, San Jose, lies in a central basin set in these highlands.

Both coasts have lowland areas. The sparsely inhabited east coast has a narrow swamp strip and tropical forests as the terrain slopes inland. The Pacific coast has two peninsulas: the mountainous Nicoya peninsula in the north and the lowland Osa peninsula in the south. A rich lowland savannah patched by deciduous forests stretches along the Pacific coast between the two peninsulas.

Costa Rica's weather is influenced by altitude. The Pacific coast is drier while the Atlantic coast has the most rainfall - about 300 days a year. The temperature in San Jose ranges from a high of 24 degrees centigrade (C) to 27 degrees C, to a low of 14 degrees C to 16 degrees C. The wet season is from May to October. The hottest months are March and April.

HEALTH CONCERNS:
Drinking water is safe in all the major towns and cities. Malaria had to a large extent been eradicated, but it has begun to re-appear around Limon and the Caribbean coast. Malaria pills may be advisable for extensive stays in lowland areas. Costa Rica has one of the best standards of health and hygiene in the region.

MEDICAL FACILITIES:
Hospitals: Any foreigner who is temporarily in the country has the right to receive health attention at hospitals and clinics in case of an emergency, sudden illness or a chronic disease. Costa Rica boasts a modern and renown medical health system, under the administration of the Caja Costarricense deSeguro Social (CCSS).

Hospital San Juan de Dios 222-0166
Hospital México 232-6122
Hospital Nacional de Niños 222-0122
Hospital Dr. Calderón Guardia 222-4133

Physicians:

In Costa Rica there are public and private hospitals and clinics that have 24-hour service, seven days a week. The following medical services may be consulted:

Clínica Católica 225-5055
Hospital Clínica Bíblica 223-6422
Clínica Santa Rita 221-6433
Centro de Intoxicaciones 223-1028
Red Cross 221-5818

CURRENCY:

Colon (CC) = 100 centimos.

EXCHANGE RATE:
CC519 per US$ (September 2006).

WORKING HOURS:
Business: 0800/0830-1800/1830 (Mon-Fri); 0800-1200 (Sat).
Government: 0800-1600 (Mon-Fri).
Banking: 0900-1500, 1530-1800 (Mon-Fri).
Shops: 0800-1800 (Mon-Sat).

 
 
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