So you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, eh?  Here are 7 things that may help you to know before visiting.

1.  Costa Ricans are called ‘Ticos’

A tico is a man from Costa Rica, and a tica is a women from Costa Rica.  They are referred to as ticos, just as they refer to people from the U.S. as gringos.  These nicknames simply describe the origin from which you come, and in Costa Rica getting called gringo should not be taken to offense.


2.  Always use “usted”

   Unlike most other Central American countries that use ‘tu’ to say ‘you’,  in Costa Rica it is considered rude to use the ‘tu’ form.  Most likely the person will realize you are not from their country and will not take offense, but it’s safer and more polite to just use usted when speaking.

3.  Costa Rica means ‘Rich Coast’

Costa Rica should be called the expensive coast!  It is by far the most expensive country in Central American.  You may be shocked at how expensive it is to live, eat, or vacation here.  Sure there are ways to bargain and get deals, but Costa Rica has become quite Americanized over the years, and therefore has a very consumer-driven economy.  I was very surprised to find things like shampoo and face wash costing more than double the price of those in the U.S.

*Colones is the currency*

4.  Pura Vida

Pura Vida is the way of life here, and it can be used in virtually any context. 

“¿Como esta?” (How are you?)

—”Pura Vida.”

“Perdon” (Excuse me)

—”Pura Vida.”

“Hay una inundación” (There’s a flood!)

—”Pura Vida.” 

It means letting go of what you can’t control and accepting what life hands you!



5.  Casados

A typical and immensely satisfying dish of Costa Rica, casado, meaning married, is a plateful of good food.  Rice, beans, plantains, a salad, and a meat are usually what occupy your plate when you order one.  For vegetarians, it’s extremely simple to enjoy a meat-free casado, just ask for no meat, and most places will simply switch it for eggs and cheese, or more veggies. 


6.  Bring your umbrella!

It rains pretty much every day in Costa Rica.  However it does depend on your location.  When you’re near the coast, you may notice that the rainy weather doesn’t always reach you, but if you’re living in-land, be prepared with a rain coat or umbrella.  September and October promise rain.  Walking home from school during those month’s the weather was like clock-work.  Not one single day dare upset the daily routine of afternoon showers.  Within the hour of noon and 1pm, it went from hot and dry, to down pouring, which persisted for most of the afternoon. 

I have always loved the rain, but it’s not hard to become frustrated when it starts mid-day every day and doesn’t stop until late at night.  However after almost 3 months,  I have long learned to not only appreciate but embrace the beauty of the rain.  It naturally becomes less regarded as a burden, and more-so part of your daily routine, and check-list when leaving the house:  Key, purse, umbrella.  Good to go.


7.  The official language is Spanish

This may sound obvious, but some people may get the idea that because this country is decently populated with people from the US, that lots of people speak English. Sure there are people who speak English, but people appreciate when you speak to them in a language they understand better.  Practice your Spanish before you visit, especially if you are not planning to stay in a luxurious hotel (where they obviously can speak some English).  If you plan to be moving throughout the city, or traveling via public bus, you should be trying your best to speak their language.

8. Street Smarts

Good for you if you noticed that this list has 8 tips, rather than 7, but I figured I’d add one for good luck.  So this 8th tip is going to be a bundle of things that you might notice in Costa Rica:

  • Personal space doesn’t really exist here
  • Slamming doors is looked down upon (bedroom door, car door, etc)
  • Guys may stare at you, make comments, or whistle at you as you walk by them— it’s cultural, supposed to signify a compliment towards women, not vulgar or rude like we consider it in the U.S., however I would still ignore it
  • Tica time is a thing.  If you have something scheduled at a specific time, plan for the person to get there 15-20 later than the time you agreed on.  It’s kind of nice, nobody rushes, you get there when you get there!

I hope these tips helped.  Comment below if you want to know more or have any questions!

 Do something today that your future self will thank you for