Frequently asked questions - Costa Rica

Application Information

 

When should I apply for a volunteer in Costa Rica program?


Global Crossroad has offered volunteer in Costa Rica program (including internship) since 2003. We are able to place volunteers on the 1st or 3rd Monday of any month, year round. We recommend applying at least two months in advance, as there is an ever-increasing volume of applications. If your application must be expedited for quicker placement, please contact our office for more information.


What happens once I submit my documents and application to volunteer in Costa Rica?


Once Global Crossroad receives and reviews your completed application, it is then forwarded to our In-Country Coordinator in Costa Rica who will then finalize a personal assignment as per your qualifications, experience and requests. Your finalized placement details are forwarded to you upon completion.


How long does it take to process my application to volunteer in Costa Rica?


The application process may take up to 2-4 weeks – occasionally longer given the time of year and influx of applications to your chosen country. However, in the event that an applicant requires quicker placement due to time constraints, we request you contact Global Crossroad's offices prior to submitting an application.


What documents do I need to submit with my application to volunteer in Costa Rica?


The only initial documentation required is our completed application form, which can be found online (http://www.globalcrossroad.com/apply.php). We reserve the right to request further information or documentation; however, in most situations information contained in the application is sufficient. Applicants have the option to either submit their application online or download the application from the website and submit the completed form to Global Crossroad's USA-based offices by either mail or fax.


Are there any necessary requirements to participate in volunteer in Costa Rica projects?


The only qualifications are:

  • An open-mind, a willingness to teach others as well a passion for helping those in need.
  • Enthusiasm for living abroad, meeting new people and embracing varied cultures.
  • Be in good mental and physical health.

Visa Information


Securing a tourist visa is the volunteer's responsibility and Global Crossroad requires all volunteers to obtain a tourist visa before departing for Costa Rica.


Please call our office or contact your nearest Costa Rica embassy to learn more about visa, visa fees and visa extensions. Much information can be learned online by searching out Costa Rica’s embassy or consulate.


Project Information


Who manages the volunteer in Costa Rica projects?


Global Crossroad's in-country Coordinator in Costa Rica is responsible for researching appropriate volunteer projects as per the qualifications, skills and interests of the applicants.


What are the daily schedules while volunteering in Costa Rica?


Project schedules vary for each project in Costa Rica. Most projects are from Monday to Friday, for approximately 4-5 hours a day. Most volunteers have the weekends and evenings off to sightsee or explore COSTA RICA on their own.


Where are volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica located?


Most programs in Costa Rica will take place outside of the cities in rural areas. Review the details of your project on our website or in your placement documents for the particular city or area to which you will be travelling.


What is the language spoken in Costa Rica?


The primary language spoken in Costa Rica is Spanish. Some native languages are still spoken in indigenous reservations, and a Creole-English language (also known as Mekatelyu) is spoken in the Caribbean coast. Around 10.7% of Costa Rica's adult population (18 or older) also speaks English, 0.7% French, and 0.3% speaks Portuguese or German as a second language.


When are volunteer in Costa Rica projects available?


Global Crossroad programs are available year round and begin on the 1st or 3rd Monday of every month.


We organize Language Studies orientation programs twice a month throughout the year and the schedule coincides with our volunteer assignments. We suggest that volunteers adjust their flight schedule according to accommodate this important cultural exposure program’s schedules. Volunteers can go straight to their assignment and skip the language and culture program if they choose; however, we strongly recommend enrolling. Solid understanding of your chosen country’s culture and communication will vastly improve your experience as a volunteer and the experience of the citizens and children who you are there to assist. If the volunteer opts out of this program, their assignment begins on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month.


How long can I volunteer in Costa Rica?


We normally suggest participants volunteer for a 2-12 weeks timeframe. In general, most countries do not allow those travelling on a tourist visa to stay longer than 12 weeks. If you would like to stay longer, please contact our offices to discuss your options.


Arrival and Departure Information


Who will arrange my flight to Costa Rica?


International flight coordination and payment of international airfare is a volunteer’s responsibility.


At which airport should I arrive?


San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaria)


If my assignment begins on Monday, when should I arrive in Costa Rica?


Please arrive the day before your assignment begins. If you wish to arrive earlier, your accommodation and meals will be your responsibility. Please review our assignment or Spanish Language Studies start day details in your personal placement information package we will forward to you.


Will someone pick me from the airport? If so, how will I know who they are and where they are?


You will be greeted up at the airport, but you must send your travel itinerary to our Costa Rica in-country Coordinator and to us at Global Crossroad’s offices before your arrival in Costa Rica. You will be met by a local staff member or our in-country coordinator. They will be holding a sign with your name, awaiting your arrival outside of the airport.


If you miss our representative due to flight delay or confusion, please call the in-country coordinator number provided in your placement details. This rarely happens, but be prepared by keeping this important information with you as you travel. Make sure you look carefully for your pick-up representative, as it is normally busy outside of the airport.


What should I do if my flight is delayed?

  • Try to call our Costa Rica in-country coordinator from the airport to notify him/her of the possible delayed arrival time.
  • Check your placement instructions pertaining to details of hotels that have been recommended for late arrival if your flight will after midnight.

Call/email our Costa Rica in-country Coordinator once you arrive so that s/he can orchestrate a new pick-up time.


How can I get to my accommodations from the airport, if I did not connect with Global Crossroad's local representative in the airport?


In the event that your arrival time is changed/delayed, requiring you to stay overnight in a hotel (or if you failed to meet Global Crossroad's representative at the airport), you should hire a taxi at the airport. Request the taxi deliver you to the hotel designated in your placement details/pre-departure information. Remember to request a receipt from the driver.


IMPORTANT: Ensure that you have contacted Global Crossroad's in-country coordinator BEFORE boarding a taxi. Participants are advised to contact Global Crossroad's Costa Rica In-Country Coordinator the next day and let him/her know their whereabouts.


What do I need prior to departure from my home country?

  • Please make sure that you pack all your necessary documents: passport, copy of passport and at least one other form of picture ID.
  • Please bring your volunteer assignment placement details.
  • Prepare financially to cover unforeseen expenses up to $50-100 USD/week for extra expenses and travel to your project each day.
  • Prepare your mind and spirit for the experience to which you have committed. Culture shock affects everyone and it may be so strong that you want to quit the week after arrival. Take precautions: read about your county/city, study the culture and language(s) and learn about food and customs.

If I want to arrive earlier than when my assignment begins, where do I stay and who will organize the accommodations?


You can arrive up to a week early for your assignment; however, you are responsible for making and paying for these arrangements (including accommodations and food), and must still meet the in-country coordinator at the airport on the designated date.


When should I depart from Costa Rica?


We ask that participants depart from Costa Rica on the Saturday following the completion of their assignment.


From which airport shall I depart?


All Costa Rica volunteers should depart from San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaria).


Who will bring me to the airport for my departure?


Global Crossroad does not offer airport drop-off services. You will need to arrange a taxi or bus ride to the airport following your assignment’s completion. This is a simple process and our Costa Rica in-country coordinator or your host family will normally be very happy to assist you with the arrangements.


Living Accommodations and Food


Who will arrange my accommodations and what are they?


While volunteering in Costa Rica, Global Crossroad’s weekly fees include management of volunteers’ meal plans and accommodations throughout projects and travel options. Three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) will be provided and will consist of local ingredients and feature traditional cuisine choices for Costa Rica. Our meal program can accommodate vegetarian needs; however, we are not able to provide for other dietary restrictions. Food and drinks outside of mealtimes are the volunteer’s responsibility. In most cases, there are restaurants and markets nearby the homes in which our volunteers stay.


In our projects, we normally place our volunteers with a host family. Volunteers usually have a single bedroom, but may occasionally share a room with another volunteer of the same gender. Our host families are chosen carefully and are esteemed community members, who have experience in the realm of hosting international travelers. Host family residences are in comfortable, clean and safe neighborhoods and rooms are simply furnished and tidy. Staying with a host family can offer the support system a volunteer will crave during their program and it is a great way to learn about a host country’s culture and customs. Most volunteers who have stayed with a host family note that their stay truly enriched their entire experience abroad.


A unique and important part of Global Crossroad’s successful volunteer abroad programs is our volunteer support in-country. We put safety and comfort first as we deliver enriching and consistent experiences for our international travelers. Our support is multi-faceted while volunteers are in Costa Rica and our staff is in contact with our volunteers on a regular basis either with face-to-face visits or via phone/email. Key support comes from our country coordinator and in-country field staff. These individuals are employed by our company and committed to ensuring your experience the best it can be. Your chosen project staff and host family offers support as well, and they are familiar with working with international volunteers and accustomed to answering questions and providing guidance. Volunteers also have access to our country coordinator’s mobile number for emergencies. With longer assignments, our field staff visits regularly (every 2-4 weeks) to ensure the experience is meeting your expectations. Sometimes an assignment may be too far to visit physically, so staff members will touch-base via phone/email. You are also welcome to stop in the offices at any time. You are never alone.


Specific details regarding accommodations, food and contact details for our local coordinator will be provided in personalized volunteer placement documentation prior to arrival.


Are singles rooms available?


Occasionally, in most cases you will share a room with a same-gender volunteer. Please note your request and we will do our best to meet your needs.


If I arrive with my friend, or girlfriend/boyfriend, can we stay together?


In many situations yes, but please contact our office regarding your situation, since it may depend upon individual accommodation availability and time-of-year circumstances. Please be reminded that volunteers of different genders are often not permitted to stay in the same room, unless they are a married couple.


Will there be other foreign volunteers/interns at my placement?


Yes, more often than not, but this depends on the exact assignment and accommodation placement. If you want to travel with a companion or group, we allow and encourage this option. You may be placed with different host families, but these residences will generally be located close (within one to two miles) to each other. Please be reminded that volunteers of different genders will normally not be allowed to stay in the same room, unless they are a married couple.


What are the bathroom facilities like?


Bathroom facilities depend up on the location and project. Most of our homebases and host families have running water and western (or modern)-style toilets. However, in a few projects/accommodations there are varying toilet and bathroom situations.


What are the laundry arrangements?


In most cases, laundry will be washed by hand. It is the responsibility of volunteers.


Can I use appliances if I bring them from my home country?


Yes, but you will need an electrical converter. Information for different countries can be found on the internet, for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mains_electricity. Your local small appliance specialty or travel retailer can advise you on plugs and voltage converters.

 

What are the local cuisines? Who manages my meals?


Costa Rican cuisine is a blend of Native American, Spanish, African and many other cuisine origins. Dishes like the very traditional tamale and many other made of corn are the most representative of its indigenous inhabitants, and similar to other neighboring Mesoamerican countries. Global Crossroad organizes food and accommodations for the extent of your volunteer assignment.


Can you accommodate special diets?


Global Crossroad can provide both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. However, we cannot accommodate special dietary needs (i.e. diabetics). If you require a special menu, you will need to be responsible for your own meals.


Is the running tap water safe for drink?


In most developing countries, tap water is not safe to drink. We recommend that you purchase bottled water for your consumption, but make sure that the cap's seal is not broken! You can also request that your host family boil water for you each day for you to consume.


Are there hot and cold-water facilities available?


Specifics pertaining to availability of hot water will be included in participants' placement details.


Will bottled water be provided?


No, the purchase of bottled water is a volunteer’s responsibility.


Health and Safety


How safe is Costa Rica?


Any international travel requires caution and awareness. We suggest that all volunteers consult their own government advisory office before participating in a Global Crossroad program.

 

International travel does present risks, especially with the modern-day threat of international terrorism. The U.S. State Department issues travel warnings and advisories in many countries for American travelers. These travel advisories and warnings change frequently as situations in each country transform.


These links provide travel information:
British Foreign Office Advice
http://www.fco.gov.uk/
American State Department Advice
http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html
Australian Government Advice
http://www.dfat.gov.au/
Canadian Government Advice
http://canada.gc.ca/main_e.html


What are the principle health risks in Costa Rica?


We use the Center for Disease Control traveler's health recommendations www.cdc.gov. You should also consult a travel doctor who will be knowledgeable about current epidemics, health risks and recommended vaccinations.


Is the food safe if I buy it from a street vendor?


No! Costa Rica is still considered a developing country and you should be cautious. While you are in Costa Rica, food safety should be a major consideration. You can hardly resist the tempting novelty of street vendors and their food variety, but you should abstain. Our suggestion is to avoid eating on the streets until you get familiar with the general situation. The food will likely taste quite different from anything you have had before. Food safety problems can range from chemicals and contaminants, to bacteria as well as some other diseases. In Costa Rica, poor food cooking, preparation, and storage, as well as improper cleaning and disinfecting of cooking supplies is very common among street vendors. Therefore, we do not suggest buying food from street vendors.


What are the sanitary conditions in Costa Rica?

  • Be prepared and never expect a clean toilet 100% of the time. Carry some tissue in case you need to use the public toilet.
  • In Costa Rica, toilets generally do not do well when flushing large amounts of items or feminine hygiene products so do not flush them and throw them away in the trash.
  • In some areas/restaurants, toilet systems are old, have very narrow plumbing and are easily blocked. In these cases, a small basket is usually placed beside the toilet (for your used toilet paper).
  • Use hotel lobby toilets; these are everywhere and are tend to be clean. Still, they may not always have toilet paper.

Money


Are ATMs easily available? If yes, which debit and credit cards are accepted?


Credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, JCB, Master and Visa are accepted at the local large hotels or tourist stores. You also can withdraw cash from most international banks from ATM machines, but $2-4 USD surcharges apply for each transaction.


Ensure that you notify your home bank of your intent to travel to Costa Rica. This will provide you necessary information and alleviate any confusion at your home bank regarding international transactions (which can result in a cautionary freeze on your account in some cases).


What is the local currency and how do I know the exchange rate?


Costa Rican currency is the colón.


You can find the current exchange rate at currency website like www.xe.com, or by looking in a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal.


Where should I exchange my money?


There are banks in San Jose and in several other major cities that will allow you to withdraw cash from ATM or credit cards. You may be charged a service fee, depending on your bank. There are many ATMs now in those cities that are open 24 hours a day. Be sure to keep all currency exchange and ATM receipts, as they are required at the airport bank to convert back to your original currency. If you don't have them, they will refuse to convert your currency.


Visa is the most widely accepted credit card, but all major international credit cards, including Diners Club and MasterCard, are accepted in the large establishments, although facilities may be limited outside major cities.


Traveler's checks are a good travel option, but will be very difficult to exchange in small towns and villages. Travelers are advised to have cash on hand. You may exchange currencies at the airport or at a bank.


How much money should I bring with me?


Global Crossroad manages food and rooms for our volunteers throughout the assignment; therefore, you will not need more money to pay for these expenses. However, if you plan to take part in activities outside of our organization or buy some souvenirs, you will need to bring extra money.


On a side note, you must also remember the fee for visas, which can range from US $50-100 depending on the length of stay. There may also be an airport tax that you pay upon your departure from Costa Rica. You will want to determine the amount of extra money you bring based on these factors.


Is it safe to carry cash with me?


Carrying cash is not always safe; therefore, do not carry a large surplus of cash with you.
Important Reminder: Retain your receipts whenever you exchange any currency or traveler's checks. You may be asked to show proof of the exchange. Without receipts, you will not be able to exchange your currency back to any other currency upon your departure.


Communication


How do I contact with Global Crossroad's local coordinator?


The contact details of our Costa Rica in-country Coordinator will be given in final placement sheet. You can contact him by email or telephone; we suggest all volunteers talk with country coordinator before they arrive.


How do I contact my family and friends once I arrive in Costa Rica?


International Direct Dialing from Costa Rica is available in cities. Phone cards are widely available and calls can be made from post offices, hotels and phone booths on the streets. In hotels, local calls are generally charged at a nominal fee. Internet cafes are available in most towns, although they can sometimes be noisy as they are a popular spot for the youth to play online games. You can use any type of communication to call back home.


How can my family members contact me?


Communication options depend on where you are placed. Most placements will have access to a post office, so mail and postcards are an option. If you are in a city placement, there are many places to make international phone calls or access the internet. These details will be provided prior to your departure to Costa Rica, so you can share communication options with your family and friends before you depart.


Can I bring my telephone from my home country?


Yes, but it may or may not work. You will want to contact your mobile phone provider to make sure that your phone will work while you are in Costa Rica, but remember that roaming will apply and those charges can be very, very expensive. To avoid them, you may be able to buy a local SIM card to use in your phone. Research and confirm this information before traveling.


Culture & Customs


Is there a special dress code that I should follow while staying in Costa Rica?


Volunteers should dress conservatively when at their assignments. Jeans and a t-shirt are acceptable. No short-shorts and tank tops please. Remember to consider the regional religious beliefs of Costa Rica, which may be extremely conservative and revealing clothing is unacceptable - shorts and skirts must be at least knee-length and no one should show their shoulders.


What should I know about religious conduct in Costa Rica?


Christianity is the predominant religion, and Roman Catholicism is the official state religion according to the 1949 Constitution, which at the same time guarantees freedom of religion. According to the most recent nationwide survey of religion, conducted in 2007 by the University of Costa Rica, 70.5% of Costa Ricans are Roman Catholics, 44.9% of the population are practicing Catholics, 13.8% are Evangelical Protestants (many of them Pentecostal), 11.3% report that they do not have a religion, and 4.3% belonged to another.


The people of Costa Rica respect different cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs and moral concepts. You may practice on your own accord. Remember to be respectful of Costa Rican customs and traditions while traveling.


How do I respect the people of Costa Rica?


Be inclusive and show respect of their culture.


Costa Rica’s culture is rich in customs and traditions. People of Costa Rica enjoy sharing their customs and traditions with foreigners so feel free to take part with them. You can go with your host family on outings if they ask you to or invite them along with you to go on an outing. Simply helping your family do household chores will be another bonding experience that you can enjoy.


More Information about Costa Rica

Climate


What is weather like in Costa Rica?


Costa Rica is a small country in terms of size, yet offers a wide range of weather that is diverse and varied. Costa Rica can be divided into several climatic zones, each of which is distinct and individual. Though generally classified as a tropical country because of its close proximity to the equator, Costa Rica has no real winter period and the sun shines here throughout the year. With over 12 hours of sunshine a day, the sun rises at about 5 am and sets at about 6 pm consistently throughout the year. Average rainfall will vary by location.

 

Average Daily Temperature

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

inches

.20

.10

.90

.70

3.5

4.4

3.3

3.9

5.1

5.1

2.2

.60

  •  
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
    • inches
    • .20
    • .10
    • .90
    • .70
    • 3.5
  •  
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
    • inches
    • 4.4
    • 3.3
    • 3.9
    • 5.1
    • 5.1
  •  
  • Nov
  • Dec
    • inches
    • 2.2
    • .60

 

Average Daily Temperature

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

°c

14-24

14-24

15-26

17-26

17-27

17-26

17-25

16-26

16-26

16-25

16-25

12-24

  •  
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
    • C
    • 14-24
    • 14-24
    • 15-26
    • 17-26
    • 17-27
  •  
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
    • C
    • 17-26
    • 17-25
    • 16-26
    • 16-26
    • 16-25
  •  
  • Nov
  • Dec
    • C
    • 16-25
    • 12-24


Official Holidays in Costa Rica


Like many other countries in the world Costa Rica schools also observes three sets of holidays: school, official and traditional holidays.


Jan 1: New Year's Day
Mar 19: St. Joseph's Day
Easter: Holy Week, Semana Santa
Apr 11: Juan Santamaria Day
May 1: Labor Day
June: Corpus Christi
June 29: St. Peter and St. Paul's Day
Jul 25: Guanacaste Day
Aug 2: Virgin de los Angeles Day
Aug 15: Mother's Day and Assumption Day
Sep15: Independence Day
October 12: Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day). Limon province only, marked by carnival, which take place in the week prior to October 12.
Nov 2: All Soul's Day
Dec 8: Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
Dec 25: Christmas Day


What about tipping in Costa Rica?


Tipping is expected in Costa Rica, so make sure to tip all service employees as well as in restaurants. 10% is a normal amount.


Materials to Bring


• Backpack
• Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots
• Sandals
• 2 pairs of pants (lightweight)
• 2 T-shirts
• 3 short-sleeved shirts
• 2 long-sleeved shirt
• 3 pairs of shorts and bathing suit
• Lightweight jacket or rain jacket, depending on season
• Layer for warmth, evenings may be cool regardless of season
• Hat or cap
• Towel and personal bath kit
• SPF/sun protection, sunglasses
• Camera
• Mosquito net
• Bedding (if noted in placement document)


NOTE: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is generic information and should not be used as a definitive travel guide. Travel information and situations abroad change constantly. Participants should consult Global Crossroad or travel advisors to verify this information.