Things you must to know.
In this page you’ll find information you should find helpful on your travels in Costa Rica and I’ll also explain a little about we “ticos” as we’re affectionately known throughout Central America.
The words Tico (masculine) and Tica (feminine) identify us as Costa Ricans. According to legend it was the Nicaraguans who gave us this nickname after hearing us use the “tico” suffix so commonly in our speech. Added to the end of most adjectives (poquitico, chiquitico, pequeñitico) it adds extra emphasis to the significance of the word.
Costa Rica is the name that Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) gave to this region on his fourth voyage to the Americas. Amazed by the natural beauty of our Caribbean coast, he decided to call the area Rich Coast (Costa Rica in Spanish)
The national currency is called The Colón (¢), in honor of Cristóbal Colón. For decades the currency has experienced mini – devaluations every day against the U.S. Dollar.
A variety of different races and nationalities live in Costa Rica, although the majority of the population are directly or indirectly of Spanish decent. There remain 12 reservations of indigenous people and the majority of these are located in the southern part of the country and along the Atlantic coast.
The most typical dish in Costa Rica is “Gallo Pinto” (pronounced: guy- yô peento) which consist of a mixture of white rice and black or red beans with some native spices added. It can be served at breakfast or dinner and is typically accompanied by eggs, chicken, beef, and the like. For lunch or dinner also typical is a “Casado” (pronounced: ca-sâ-tho) which is a plate of white rice, beans (separate this time), salad, and chicken, fish, or beef with a natural fruit drink. Another common accompaniment to the “casado” is called “Picadillo” (pronounced: pee-ca-dêê-yo). “Picadillo” is simply a cooked vegetable chopped into small pieces which could commonly be potatoes, green banana, chayote, carrot or green beans.
A mid afternoon coffee break is typical in Costa Rica and is served with bread and butter. For those who don’t drink coffee, commonly available would be “Agua Dulce” (pronounced: â-gwa dôôl-say) or sweet water. This popular native drink ia made from the natural stalk of the sugar cane and is recommended because it contains almost no calories.
Throughout the country there is an excellent network of public telephones. Recently, the old operated phones have been replaced with modern versions operated with prepaid cards. These prepaid cards are readily available, economical to use, and can also be used to make long distance calls to outside the country. The cards are available in two classifications (“197” and “199”) and can be found in denominations from 500 colones to 10,000 colones.
In restaurants the tax is 23%. This includes a 13% sales tax plus a 10% mandatory service fee or tip, for this inclusion in the check, no additional tip is typically left for the wait staff.
The population of Costa Rica is approximately 4.5 million inhabitants (last report in 2000). The majority of this group is located in the central valley area in the Providences of Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia and San José. Interestingly, the capital city of each of these Providences has the same name!
Alajuela is known as the Mango Providence due to the large number of native Mango trees found there.
Cartago city is known as the city of fog (ciudad de brumas) and its inhabitants known as “Brumosos” due to the mist or fog which often times envelopes the city. The residents of Cartago Providence are often refered to as “Paperos” due to the extensive production of “Papas” (potatoes) grown there.
Heredia city is known as the city of flowers (ciudad de las flores) and its inhabitants as “Florenses” due to the large quantity of flowers produced there to export.
San José city is known as “Chepe” ( a common nickname in Latin America for anybody named José) and its inhabitants are refered to as “Josefinos”.
Costa Rica is a beautiful country to visit during all seasons of the year. Many foreigners believe that during the rainy season it rains all day, every day, which really isn’t true. Certain regions are more affected by the rainy season than others, these being the Caribbean coats and the Southern zone. In most of the country the rainy season only involves a couple of hours of rain some days. We are a tropical country with a typical tropical climate.
A typical Costa Rican phrase you’ll regularly hear is “Pura Vida” (pronounced: pôô-da vêêda) and literally translated it means “Pure Life”. It is use as a positive response typically and answers an inquiry into how you’re doing or how things are going. (Example: ¿ Cómo estas?, response: Pura Vida!)
Another common term you’ll hear is the word “Mae” (pronounced: my) this is a masculine term used to refer in general to a person (Example: ¿ Cómo estas? response: Pura Vida, Mae!)
The word “Güila” (pronounced: wêê-la) is a common term used to refer to children or young people (Example: El Güila or La Güila refers top the (boy) child or the (girl) child. Example: ¿ Cómo están los Güilas? means, How are (the/your) children?). The term can sometimes also be used to refer to adults but only between very close friends.
Ticos love parties and weekends and as such the majority of businesses are closed Saturdays and Sundays. Throughout the country there are a number of different festive activities during the year. In Puntarenas at the end of February a carnival is celebrated. In Cartago on the 2nd of August is celebrated the apparition of the Virgin Mary. Annually more than a million people walk from all over the country to Cartago’s Cathedral to give thanks to the Virgin Mary (Virgin of the Angels, Patron Saint of Costa Rica) also commonly known as “La Negrita”. The 15th of August is observed as Mother’s Day and the 15th of September is Independence Day. In Paso Canoas, on the Panamanian border, this is an enormous 15 day celebration beginning on the 15th. It is a traditional celebration enjoyed by both countries in recognition of their longstanding ties as friends and brothers and often attracts huge crowds.
The city of Limón on the Caribbean Coast also celebrates carnival but theirs is in the month of October. To find out specific dates send us an E-mail as the exact dates change each year basically around the second week of October.
In the month of December the city of San José has a variety of different activities and celebrations. Each year between the second and the third weeks they present the “Festival de la Luz” which is a Christmas light parade. Right after Christmas San José celebrates its Carnival along Avenida Segunda (2nd Avenue), the main street through the center of town. Between the 20th of December and thru the New Years Festival an José and the surrounding cities celebrate their “Festejos Populares” which most resembles a county fair.
Night life in San José abounds due to the numerous choices of bars, restaurants, discoteques, night club and casinos.
One of the most popular night spots is a commercial center named “El Pueblo” where you’ll find a broad selection of restaurants, bars, discoteques and artisan shops set in a 19th century Spanish village atmosphere and lots of weekend activity. Adjacent to San José on its east side you’ll find the city of San Pedro and the main campus of the University of Costa Rica (U.C.R). The college crowd can typically be found weekend nights in full party spirit filling the numerous economical bars and clubs lined along the “Calle de la Amargura”, just outside the University grounds. For a more exclusive nightlife environment you’ll want to check out the western San José city of Escazú. Only at 8 minute taxi ride outside of San José. Escazú is home to the regions finest restaurants, bars and nightclubs as well as some of the most exclusive residential neighbors in the city.