Costa Rica operates on the metric system. Liquids are sold in liters, fruits and vegetables by the kilo. Some of the old Spanish measurements still survive in vernacular usage. Street directions, for example, are often given as 100 varas (the Spanish “yard,” equal to 33 inches) to indicate a city block. See the chart at the back of this book for metric conversions.
Costa Rica time is equivalent to U.S. Central Standard Time (six hours behind Greenwich mean time, one hour behind New York, two hours ahead of California). Costa Rica has no daylight saving time; during those periods elsewhere in the world, it is seven hours behind Greenwich and two hours behind New York. There is little seasonal variation in dawn (approximately 6 A.M.) and dusk (6 P.M.).
Businesses are usually open 8 A.M.–5 P.M. Monday–Friday. A few also open Saturday morning. Lunch breaks are often two hours; businesses and government offices may close 11:30 A.M.–1:30 P.M. Bank hours vary widely, but in general are between 8:15 A.M. or 9 A.M. and 3 P.M. or 3:45 P.M. Most shops open 8 A.M.–6 P.M. Monday–Saturday. Some restaurants close Sunday and Monday. Most businesses also close on holidays.
Costa Rica operates on 110-volts AC (60-cycle) nationwide. Some remote lodges are not connected to the national grid and generate their own power. Check in advance to see if they run on direct current (DC) or a nonstandard voltage. Two types of U.S. plugs are used: flat, parallel two-pins and three rectangular pins. A two-prong adapter is a good idea (most hardware stores in Costa Rica—ferreterías—can supply them).
Power surges are common. If you plan on using a laptop computer, use a surge protector. Take a flashlight and spare batteries. A couple of long-lasting candles are also a good idea. Don’t forget matches or a lighter.