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The Rules in Costa Rica: A Guide to the Cultural Norms


When traveling to a new country, it is important to not only explore the beautiful landscapes and immerse yourself in the local culture but also to respect and follow the rules and cultural norms of that country. This ensures a positive and meaningful experience for both travelers and locals alike. In this article, we will take a closer look at the rules and cultural norms of Costa Rica, a country known for its stunning beaches, vibrant wildlife, and warm hospitality.

Key Elements

Pura Vida: Embrace the Costa Rican Way of Life

One of the most important cultural norms in Costa Rica is the concept of “Pura Vida,” which translates to “pure life” or “simple life.” Pura Vida represents the laid-back and easygoing attitude of the Costa Rican people. It is a way of living that emphasizes enjoying life, appreciating nature, and being content with what you have.

When visiting Costa Rica, embrace the Pura Vida mentality by slowing down, taking time to enjoy the beauty around you, and adopting a relaxed and friendly approach towards locals. Engage in conversations, smile, and show genuine interest in the culture and traditions of the country.

Respect for the Environment and Wildlife

Costa Rica is renowned for its incredible biodiversity and commitment to environmental conservation. As a visitor, it is important to respect and contribute to the preservation of this natural paradise. Follow these guidelines to show your respect for the environment and wildlife:

  • Do not litter: Dispose of your waste properly and recycle whenever possible. Keep Costa Rica clean and beautiful for future generations.
  • Avoid touching or feeding wildlife: While it may be tempting to get up close and personal with the wildlife, it is important to remember that animals should be observed from a safe distance. Feeding animals can disrupt their natural behaviors and even harm their health.
  • Stay on designated trails: Stick to marked paths in national parks and protected areas to avoid damaging delicate ecosystems.
  • Use eco-friendly products: Bring environmentally friendly products such as biodegradable sunscreen and insect repellent to reduce your impact on the environment.

Driving and Traffic Etiquette

If you plan on driving in Costa Rica, familiarize yourself with the local traffic rules and etiquette. Costa Ricans are generally polite and considerate drivers, and it is important to follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and pleasant driving experience:

  • Speed limits: Observe the speed limits, which are typically between 40 and 60 kilometers per hour in urban areas, and up to 90 kilometers per hour on highways.
  • Seatbelts: Always wear your seatbelt, and make sure all passengers do the same. It is mandatory for both the driver and passengers to be buckled up.
  • No drinking and driving: Just like in many other countries, driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Costa Rica. Be responsible and arrange for alternative transportation if you plan on consuming alcohol.
  • Right of way: When approaching a yield sign, give way to vehicles on the main road. At intersections without traffic lights or signs, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.
  • Parking: Park in designated areas and avoid blocking entrances or fire hydrants. Be mindful of parking restrictions and always pay attention to signs.

Respecting Ticos: Costa Rican Customs and Etiquette

To show respect to the locals, or Ticos as they are affectionately called, familiarize yourself with some of the customs and etiquette in Costa Rica:

  • Greeting: When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to greet them with a handshake. If you have developed a closer relationship, a hug or a kiss on the cheek may be preferred.
  • Tico time: Costa Ricans often operate on a more relaxed schedule, so it is important to be patient and flexible, especially when it comes to appointments and schedules.
  • Casual dress: Costa Ricans generally dress casually for everyday activities. Light and comfortable clothing is suitable for most occasions, although it is advisable to dress more formally in certain settings, such as upscale restaurants or formal ceremonies.
  • Tipping: Tipping is not mandatory in Costa Rica, but it is appreciated. It is customary to leave a 10% tip for good service at restaurants. If a service charge is already included, additional tipping is not necessary.

Tips for Traveling

Now that you are aware of some of the important rules and cultural norms in Costa Rica, here are a few tips to enhance your travel experience:

  1. Learn some Spanish: While many Costa Ricans speak English, especially in tourist areas, knowing a few basic Spanish phrases will go a long way in communicating with locals and showing respect for their language and culture.

  2. Research local customs and traditions: Before your trip, take the time to learn about the customs and traditions of the specific regions you will be visiting in Costa Rica. This will help you navigate social situations and avoid unintentional cultural faux pas.

  3. Be cautious of your surroundings: Like any other country, it is important to be mindful of your surroundings and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety. Avoid displaying expensive jewelry or electronics, be wary of your belongings in crowded areas, and always use reliable transportation options.

  4. Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun: Costa Rica’s tropical climate can be quite hot and humid. Drink plenty of water, apply sunscreen regularly, and wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

  5. Pack for adventure: Costa Rica offers a wide range of outdoor activities, from hiking through rainforests to surfing along pristine beaches. Pack appropriate gear and clothing to fully enjoy the adventurous side of this beautiful country.


While this article aims to provide valuable insights into the rules and cultural norms of Costa Rica, it is important to consult official sources and seek professional advice for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Laws and customs can vary, and it is essential to respect and follow the local regulations and traditions when traveling to any country.