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Guide to Living and Teaching in Costa Rica

September 24, 2013

What to bring


Money and Essentials:
The currency of Costa Rica is the colon. American dollars, though, are widely accepted especially in tourist areas. To exchange money at banks you will require your passport. This is the most recommended route to do so, as the rates at the airport are not on par with the banks and tend to rip off its users.

Costa Rica is a cash society, but all major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. The exceptions would be little family-run businesses that only accept cash. Along these lines, in small businesses be sure to give as close to exact change as possible and avoid large bills. Sometimes getting change back is a challenge!

What to bring in terms of wardrobe is often a point of confusion. Costa Rica is well known as a tropical – and hot – country, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t drastic changes in weather patterns. In fact, Costa Rica has 12 separate climate zones, which is impressive given the small size of the country. While coastal areas are generally always hot and humid, climactic conditions in central areas can change drastically within a window of only a few kilometers.

Costa Rica has mountain ranges, volcanoes, beaches, vast rainforests and even severe dry areas – some resembling deserts. On top of its tallest volcano, Irazú, temperatures can drop to as low as the freezing mark. Couple this with a very distinct rainy and dry seasons and life in Costa Rica definitely requires a diverse wardrobe.

Costa Rica has high import taxes and this extends to clothing as well. So clothing in Costa Rica is very expensive.

Antibiotics and prescriptions are much easier to acquire in Costa Rica than is seen in the first world. Often times what requires a prescription elsewhere does not here. Pretty much anything, outside of medication for extreme cases, can be found at local pharmacies. Prices range from inexpensive to expensive depending on what you’re looking for. Generally speaking, prices are much lower than in the United States.

In addition, most pharmacies have a physician on-site that will examine you for minor illnesses free of charge. Private clinics are also available and consultation rates range anywhere from USD$40 to $100.

The topic of sex is still a little on the taboo side in Costa Rica. Being a very religious country – at least on the surface – with a rate of roughly 96% being Roman Catholic, sex, and especially pre-marital sex, is not something that’s talked about publically. This is changing in the younger generation, but the country is still behind in terms of education and progressive thinking in these respects – and this can be seen with high teen pregnancy rates.

Condoms are readily available at almost any supermarket or convenience store. The Pill is available through doctors, but is hard to acquire. The morning after pill is illegal as is abortion. As with anything, if you feel more comfortable bringing your own supply, you should do that.

The ELT News guide to living and teaching English in Costa Rica was compiled by Andrew Woodbury.

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