Visiting Costa Rica

Things you May Want to Know Before you Arrive

The below is important information you should read through before your arrival to Costa Rica. Please contact us if you have any questions or need further information.

Airport and Visas

Upon arrival in Costa Rica, you will first go through immigration where you will show your passport and be asked various questions about your reasons for visiting Costa Rica. If you are arriving into San Jose (Juan Santa Maria Airport) and have signed up for a homestay you will be met by your family once you are completely out of the airport. If you are arriving into Liberia (Liberia, Guanacaste) for study at our Samara campus, you will need to set up airport pick-up service before arriving in Costa Rica. We can help you with this service if you would like.

Those that are staying in Heredia in other housing may ask for a taxi as you exit the airport. There is an airport taxi service to your left as you exit the airport, just let them know where you are going and they will set you up with the taxi. All Costa Rican taxis have to use the meter (la maria) by law but the airport taxis tend to be more expensive. You cannot take the luggage trolleys outside of the airport so it is better to bring luggage that has wheels so you can travel more comfortably.

You may not be able to enter into Costa Rica without an exit ticket and in some cases, you will not be able to board the plane in your host country without a return ticket. We suggest you buy a round trip ticket or at least an exit ticket out of Costa Rica to a surrounding country. The isn’t always an issue but in the US, the airlines have been known to adhere to this requirement.

Your passport acts as a 90-day visa with which you may stay in the country. Most foreigners take what we call a ‘visa run’ every three months. This involves leaving the country for 72 hours. Most people travel to the surrounding countries of Nicaragua or Panama, which is about an eight-hour bus ride, depending on your final destination. These ‘visa runs’ are a great excuse to travel around Central America and most schools will give you time off for this process.

At this time, the Costa Rican government only offers a few work permits so most teachers take visa runs and report their earnings to the local taxing authorities. When looking for a job, it is best to ask the school about their salary and taxing processes. We will aid you in this process.

Teaching is most often characterized as ‘professional services’ since most are not teaching a 45 hour week (average work week in Costa Rica).

Taxes

Until the government begins to grant more work permits for teachers, teachers will follow a process called Tributacion, which requires teachers to report their earnings to the local taxing office for Professional Services. This way, teachers are not working without reporting and paying taxes.

The process is as follows:

  • Teachers receive a form from accounting to take to the Tributacion office (there is one located in Heredia).
  • Tributacion assigns a taxing number and with that number you or your school will order payment receipts.
  • At the end of each month, teachers will turn in a receipt of their earnings with their hour sheet. They will also keep a copy of that receipt.

Teachers should collect all expense receipts (food, rent, clothes, electricity, water) until October. In October, they will declare their earnings using the salary receipts and expense receipts. Teachers will pay 10% taxes, only if they have earned over 1.600.000 colones after expenses. Teachers close out the taxing process when leaving the country in any bank.

*** This process may vary depending on your employer.

Climate

We have two seasons in Costa Rica: dry and rainy season. The Costa Rican summer usually runs from December to April during which we have sunny days and an average temperature (Heredia) of 75- 80 degrees F (24-27 degrees C). On the coast, the temperatures are higher and can be between 90-95 degrees F (32-35 degrees C). The rainy season is usually from May to November during which we have sunny mornings and rainy afternoons and evenings. In September to mid-November days can be cloudy and rainy all day and night. The weather does vary depending on where you are in Costa Rica, which means the weather does vary depending on where you are within the country.

Click for more specific information and today’s forecast. »

Heredia

Heredia is one of the seven provinces of Costa Rica and is considered a University town. The Heredia campus is a colonial style building whose architecture dates back to the early 1900s. It is only 20 minutes from of San Jose and is home to the National University and other prestigious private universities.

Heredia, also referred to as the city of flowers, offers all of the necessary services of a large city but manages to still maintain a small-town feeling. Restaurants, bars, Internet cafes, shops, supermarkets, banks and other amenities are all within walking distance of the school. Like most traditional cities in Costa Rica, it is situated around a central park and church.

In Heredia you can often sit in Central Park, enjoy a Pops ice cream and chat with the friendly locals. At night you can enjoy concerts in the park, have a delicious typical meal, go Salsa dancing at the local bars or take in a movie in Spanish at the local mall.

Playa Samara

Samara Beach is located in the province of Guanacaste, one of the largest provinces in Costa Rica. Guanacaste’s lush countryside, beaches and rich culture make it an exceptional region for travel and study.

The school has a beautiful campus and offers fully equipped air-conditioned rooms. On the weekends trainees can enjoy local surf contests, music concerts, bonfires and a variety of delicious international restaurants.

Trainees can also snorkel, take surf lessons, swim or boat to Isla (Island) Chora, go horseback riding, bike ride and bask in the sun on the white sandy shores of Samara, and other local beaches.

Suggestions for what to bring:

  • Professional dress clothes/shoes
  • Travel guide
  • Shorts/Jeans
  • Reading material (magazines with pictures for your classes)
  • T-shirts / tank-tops
  • Tote bag/backpack
  • Casual trousers/skirt
  • Memory Stick (USB device)
  • Tennis or walking shoes
  • Any prescription medicine you need
  • Sweater/sweatshirt/light jacket
  • Insect repellent
  • Swimwear
  • Sunscreen lotion (15 SPF or more)
  • Sandals or flip-flops
  • Camera & batteries
  • Towel
  • Earplugs
  • Umbrella
  • Contact lens solution
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Small flashlight
  • Spanish-English dictionary
  • Rain jacket (only during rainy season)
  • Notebook, folders & pens
  • Laptops can be handy but are not totally necessary as there are a number of Internet cafes throughout Costa Rica.

Safety Guidelines

In order to ensure you get the most out of your teaching abroad experience, we feel it is important that you take into consideration the following safety guidelines. We remind you that we are available to give you maps, directions and transport information. The below information is aimed towards those that have not traveled abroad before, but it may be useful for everyone to read over.

Be Alert

  • Be aware of your surroundings and the people with whom you have contact.
  • Know beforehand where you are going; avoid looking as if you are lost.
  • Learn which areas should be avoided. If you find yourself in uncomfortable surroundings, act confident.
  • Walk along well-lit and populated streets.
  • Avoid wearing Ipods or other electronic devices while walking in order to hear what is going on around you.

Be Prepared

  • Carry emergency contact numbers of school staff members and your host family in a place other than where you keep your money.
  • Carry a copy of your home address and the school address.
  • Arrange to meet other students or friends: avoid going out alone.

Blend In

  • Avoid walking around with large backpacks, computers, or carrying/wearing cameras and Ipods (or other listening devices) in eyes view.
  • Don’t dress or behave in a way that will easily identify you as a tourist.
  • While you are further developing your language abilities, try to learn the basic useful phrases for everyday use.

Avoid Theft

  • Carry small change for taxis and public telephones.
  • Carry a copy of your passport and only small amounts of cash; DO NOT carry all of your documents, credit cards, traveler’s checks, cash etc.
  • Put your wallet in your front pockets. If you must carry a bag, wear it in front of you. Do not carry valuables.
  • Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or accessories.
  • Leave non-essential items, such as expensive jewelry, in your home country. If you can’t replace it, don’t bring it.
  • NEVER leave your bags unattended (even briefly!) in a restaurant, Internet cafe, supermarket, airport, or bus station.
  • Do not hang your bag or purse off the back of your chair in a cafe/restaurant/internet cafe, etc.
  • When taking public transportation, do not store your bag above on the bus shelves then fall asleep, it may not be there when you wake up. Store your bags under the bus in the ticketed compartments or between your feet.

Be Smart

  • If you are of age, and going to consume alcohol do so in a responsible and culturally appropriate fashion. It is best to go out with friends/other students, etc., not alone.
  • Don’t accept rides with friends or acquaintances that have had too much to drink.
  • Do not walk home at night – take an official taxi. Remember the taxi ‘placa’ number and try to share taxis with friends.
  • Avoid overt acts or displays of patriotism.
  • Be aware of stereotypes of US men and women.
  • Understand local verbal and non-verbal communication.

Be Prepared for any Emergency

  • Have phone numbers of school contacts handy at all times.
  • Know how to reach a doctor, a hospital or clinic, and the police.
  • Know the exact location of your homestay and the school.
  • Carry enough change to for a taxi and/or a local phone call.