Volunteer In Costa Rica
FAQs Costa Rica
- When should I apply for the volunteer/internship programs in Costa Rica?
- How long does it take to process my application?
- What are the daily schedules of the projects?
- Where are the projects located?
- Which airport should I book my flight into?
- When should I arrive in Costa Rica ?
- Will someone pick me from the airport? If so, how do I know about the person?
- Who will arrange my accommodations and what are they?
- Are singles rooms available?
- If I arrive with my friend, or girlfriend/boyfriend, can we stay together?
- Will there be other foreign volunteers/interns at my placement?
- What are the bathroom facilities?
- What are the laundry arrangements?
- Can I use appliances if I bring them from my home country?
- How safe is Costa Rica ?
- What are the principle health risks?
- Do I need health insurance?
- Who do I contact in case of a health-related emergency?
- Is the food safe if I buy it from a street vendor?
- What are the sanitary conditions in Costa Rica ?
- What vaccinations are required?
- Are internet services easily available?
- Can I bring my telephone from my home country?
- What is weather like in Costa Rica ?
We are able to offer placements on the first and third Monday of each month year round. Because of the increasing volume of applications, participants are requested to apply at least two to three months in advance, but if you want to expedite your application within less than three months of time, please contact our office for more information. We send 200 volunteers each year to Costa Rica
The application process can usually take anywhere from 2-3 weeks – occasionally longer (given the time of year). However, in the event that interested participants require their application expedited due to time constraints, they are requested to contact Global Crossroad's offices prior to submitting their application.
Costa Rica does NOT require a Visa from citizens from the USA , EU, Canada , and Australia . Volunteers from other countries should check with the Costa Rican embassy in your country. If you are unsure if you need a visa, please visit www.projectvisa.com for a complete and up-to-date list of visa requirements for Costa Rica .
When entering Costa Rica politely ask for a 90-day stamp as this will provide you with the most flexibility in your travels. Visas can be easily renewed by exiting Costa Rica via Nicaragua or Panama and the re-entering Costa Rica 24 hours later; you can also renew your visa for up to 30 days while remaining in Costa Rica .
A valid passport is required to enter Costa Rica . Costa Rica does not allow entrance if the holder's passport expires in less than six months; returning home with an expired passport is illegal, and may result in a fine as well. It is a suggested that you have a photo-copy of your passport containing your photo, passport number, along-with your international travel insurance, air-tickets, and traveler's checks' serial numbers to prevent any lost of important information.
New Hope Volunteers suggests that ALL volunteers acquire the appropriate visa in their home country BEFORE arriving in-country to avoid any unnecessary hassles at the airport.
Project schedules vary for each project in Costa Rica . Most volunteers participate in their respective/assigned projects from Monday to Friday for 4-6 hours a day. The Mini-Venture, of course, follows a different and abbreviated schedule. Most volunteers have the weekends to themselves where they can see the local sights and explore Costa Rica on their own.
New Hope Volunteers’ volunteer projects in Costa Rica are located in the following towns/cities:
San Jose: San José has been the capital of Costa Rica and the seat of its democratic government since 1823. Nestled high in the Central Valley (1,253 meters/3,770 feet) between green volcanic mountain ranges, the metropolitan city of about one million people is oriented east and west, surrounded by suburbs that cling to the gentle foothills. The nearby town of Escazú, southwest of the city off the autopista, is home to the largest population of North Americans living in Costa Rica, either full-time or part-time, and is consequently more upscale than San José's downtown or other suburbs.
Unlike other Central American capitals, San José is not a very colonial city, although the heart of the historic center features several beautiful old buildings. It didn't become a decent-sized city until relatively late in the 1800s, long past the colonial era, and had a modern building boom in the 1950s and 60s. Because of its economic success from coffee exports, San José became the second city in the Americas to install electricity (1884). At its heart are the National Theater, Plaza de la Cultura, Parque Central, the Cathedral and Gold Museum , which are all centered in a four-block area with a long pedestrian-only shopping walkway bisecting the middle of downtown.
Despite the lack of stone and plaster, many of San José 's buildings boast a unique and charming architectural style known as “Caribbean Victorian.” Just beyond the modern office high-rises are wood-framed clapboard houses built at the turn of the century. Graceful porticos and wrap-around verandas distinguish these appealing homes (some converted to offices or small hotels) painted in soft pastels. Many have the original metal roofs that sound the well known “rat-tat-tat” in the rain.
San José is a very cosmopolitan capital with many welcoming qualities. Near-perfect weather is a big attraction to visitors as well as expatriates who call the Central Valley home.
Some 250,000 foreigners, mostly North Americans, live in Costa Rica full time. The temperature is fairly consistent between 70 and 75°F. Occasional Northerlies, cold fronts, call for a jacket or sweater at night. The rainy season, when late afternoons and evenings bring showers, lasts from May to October. As the cultural heart of the nation, San José is home to several theater groups, excellent museums, parks, a national symphony, cinemas and universities. It is also host to nightclubs, casinos, discos and fine restaurants. Residents of San José are known as Josefinos.
All volunteers must arrive in Juan Santa Maria International Airport in San Jose . New Hope Volunteers and its staff will not be able to pick you up from a different location.
Volunteers should arrive in Costa Rica the day before their projects start, which is usually on a Sunday. If you come in earlier to Costa Rica , you will need to arrange a place to stay and a return to the airport on Sunday to be picked up.
Will someone pick me from the airport? If so, how do I know about the person?
You will be picked up at the airport, but you must send your travel itinerary to our Costa Rica in-country Coordinator and to us at New Hope Volunteers before your arrival in Costa Rica (we'll pass it on to the Coordinator). You will be picked up by a staff member or our in-country coordinator who will be holding a sign with your name written on it, awaiting your arrival outside of the airport. In case no one is there, you can call our in-country coordinator, who can help with the picking-up or arrange the accommodations immediately. You will be supplied with all contact information in-case of the rare instance that you are not picked up. Make sure you look carefully for your pick-up, as it will be extremely busy outside of the airport.
Your accommodations will be arranged by our in-country coordinator in Costa Rica . You will stay with a host family in Costa Rica . We attempt to place all of our volunteers with a host family by themselves, but in some cases, due to project location, you may have other volunteers at the same host family. If you want to travel with a friend, we can arrange for both of you to stay at the same host family if you like. Host families in Costa Rica have electricity as well as hot and cold running water.
Most of the time you will be assigned a private room, however a private room is NOT guaranteed and you may share a room with another volunteer. To guarantee a private room a $10/day housing surcharge applies.
Yes, but you need to inform our Costa Rica in-country Coordinator of this so that he can help prepare accommodations.
This usually depends on the exact placement (i.e. date, project) and your preference in this issue.
Most bathrooms will have a Western style toilet rather than a squat style. A shower with hot & cold water is usually installed in the bathroom. In most cases, volunteers share bathroom/toilet with host family
Laundry can be done at a number of very good dry cleaning businesses or your host family will provide laundry for an additional charge – generally $2 per kilo (2.2 lbs).
Yes. Please note that Costa Rica uses 120V, 60HzHz.
Travelers in Costa Rica should exercise caution. Robbery at knife point is not uncommon. Young women can be victims of rape while on the beaches in the evening. Women should never travel alone, and neither should men for that matter. There is no army in this country and the police have known to be corrupt.
Traffic in Costa Rica is dangerous, so be careful. Pedestrians in general do not have the right of way. Roads in rural areas may also tend to have many potholes. Driving at night is not recommended.
Like any other tourist destination, watch out for pickpockets. Purse snatchings, armed robberies and car-jackings have been on the rise lately. Stay alert and protect your valuables at all times, especially in the San Jose area. "Smash and grabs" of car windows are very common all over the country so do not leave valuables in your vehicle. Another common robbery scheme includes slashing your tires, and when you stop to fix the flat, one or two "friendly" people stop to help and instead grab what valuables they can. If you are motioned to pull over by anyone, do not do so until you are at a well-lit place.
More about Travel Safety to Costa Rica
International travel does present risks, especially with the threat of international terrorism. The U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings and advisories in many countries for U.S. travelers. These travel advisories and warnings change frequently as situations in each country change. We suggest that all volunteers consult their own governments before participating in a New Hope Volunteersprogram. These links provide travel information:
- British Foreign Office Advice
- American State Department Advice
- Australian Government Advice
- Canadian Government Advice
We use the Center for Disease Control traveler's health recommendations (www.cdc.gov). Your travel doctor will be knowledgeable about current epidemics and should be consulted.
Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications
The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Central America including Costa Rica . Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
- Hepatitis B , especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
- Malaria: if you are traveling to a malaria-risk area in this region, see your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug. For details concerning risk and preventive medications, see Malaria Information for Travelers to Central America and Mexico
- Rabies , if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
- Typhoid vaccine. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
- Yellow fever , for travelers to endemic areas in Panama
- As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles
- Precaution again Malaria
The best prevention of mosquito born diseases is long-sleeves and pants, especially in the early evening. This area of Costa Rica has no malaria, but there are other mosquito carried diseases, such as dengue that are just as bad and there is no vaccine, just prevention through clothing and repellent.
Besides the above vaccinations, be sure to consult your doctor or a travel health specialist before your trip to Costa Rica . New Hope Volunteers is not staffed by medical professionals. Also, if you plan to travel to rural areas of Costa Rica you should be vaccinated for Yellow Fever and obtain pills to protect yourself against Malaria. If you intend to stay in cities, these are not required. If you plan to travel to rural areas of Costa Rica , it is generally recommended you receive a Rabies vaccination.
New Hope Volunteers takes out comprehensive medical insurance for its volunteers. It is suggested that you pay up-front costs and then file an insurance claim to get reimbursed back home after medical expenses such as doctor's visits, medicines, etc. For some larger expenses, the insurance company may be able to arrange direct payment to the hospital or medical provider, but this is rare.
East or west, home is the best. There is no place better than home when you are ill. But if you do get ill, don't panic. Participants can obtain information pertaining to medical assistance through a number of channels:
- Global Crossroad's In-Country Coordinator;
- Assigned host-family;
- Your country's embassy in Costa Rica – participants are greatly encouraged to obtain and maintain contact information for their respective embassy; keeping it on their person for easy access.
Probably not. While you are in Costa Rica , food safety should be the major factor in your decision to abstain. You can hardly resist the tempting novelty of street vendors and their food variety. Our suggestion is to avoid eating on the streets until you get familiar with the general situation. The food will likely taste quite different than 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. So, we do not suggest buying food from street vendors.
- Be prepared and never expect a clean toilet 100% of the time. Carry some tissue in-case you need to use the public toilet.
- Costa Rican toilets generally do not do well when flushing large amounts of items or feminine hygiene products (i.e. tampons) so do not flush them. Rather, throw them away in the trash.
- In some areas/restaurants, toilet systems are old and have very narrow plumbing and get blocked easily. 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 always clean. Still, they may not always have toilet paper. It depends on the class of hotel that you are using.
No vaccinations are required for entrance into Costa Rica , but you should go over the above recommendations for vaccination with your doctor.
New Hope VolunteersSTRONGLY suggests volunteers follow the Center for Disease Control's travel advice (www.cdc.gov).
The GC office in Costa Rica provides free Internet access and modern computers as well as office-wide WIFI access for all volunteers free of charge. The office is open Monday-Friday 7am – 9pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am – 8pm.
Your cell phone may or may not work in Costa Rica - you can check with your service provider. You may be able to purchase a Costa Rican SIM card to use with your cell phone.
Costa Rica enjoys two major seasonal categories: the dry season, from December to May, and the wet season, from June to November. Costa Rica 's Caribbean coast line is very humid and warm, while in the interior it's much cooler. San Jose 's weather is famously beautiful, with an annual average temperature of 57-72°F.
Lightweight clothing and rainwear is recommended as well as warmer clothing for the evenings (light jacket and/or light sweaters). A solid pair of walking shoes is highly recommended for trekking.
Average Daily Temperature
Official Costa Rican 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 12th: 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
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
- Day pack
- Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots
- 2 pairs of pants (lightweight)
- 2 T-shirts
- 3 short-sleeved shirts
- 2 long-sleeved shirt
- 3 pairs of shorts and bathing suit
- Hat or cap
- Towel and personal bath kit
- Sun block, sun glasses
- Mosquito net
- Suggested Study Materials
- Laptop computer (if possible)
- Notebook and pen
- Spanish-English dictionary