It takes a lot of planning and preparation to travel to a new destination, and we’re here to help you every step of the way! Whether you’re purchasing your plane ticket, applying for a visa, or getting ready to pack, this guide (along with your expert Program Specialist) is your ultimate resource for a successful experience. So read on to learn more. And remember that we’re always available to answer any questions that you may have, and to share our personal expertise.

In Cartago, Costa Rica, it’s:


Your fellow volunteers will be from all over the world, and some of you may even end up on the same flight. Regardless of the flight that you choose, your arrival airport for Costa Rica is Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO).

Flight to Costa Rica:
Arrive at SJO between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm (2-12 weeks volunteers)
* 1 week volunteers must arrive between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm on your program start date
All programs start on a Saturday.

Departure Flight:
Depart SJO between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm on your program end date

Of course, many volunteers choose to arrive early, or stay a bit longer, in order to experience all that Costa Rica has to offer! If you plan to be in Costa Rica prior to your program start date or have any questions about scheduling flights, just let us know.

Reminder! There’s an airport departure tax you need to pay when you leave Costa Rica, so save the equivalent of around US $30 to pay this (in US dollars or colones).

There are many online resources available to purchase your flight, but here are a few recommended by our team of volunteer travel experts:

Call Key Travel
Sapphire Team

(646) 218-2100

Call STA Travel
(800) 781-4040

Once you arrive at the airport, you’ll be greeted by a friendly CCS driver or staff member, like Alan.

We’ll be waiting for you right outside of the arrival gate, so keep an eye out for a smiling face with a “Cross-Cultural Solutions” sign! It’s a 1 hour drive from the airport to our Home-Base, so you’ll be able to take in some of the sights of Costa Rica as you relax after your journey.

CCS Driver, Alan


We want to make sure you're healthy during your CCS experience, so take a moment to review the recommended vaccinations for your destination at the Centers for Disease Control, or by visiting a travel doctor. If you're traveling to Costa Rica from Peru, Brazil, Ghana, or a yellow-fever endemic country, please bring your yellow fever vaccination card, which shows proof of your immunizations.


As long as you're traveling in Costa Rica for less than 90 days, you don't need to obtain a visa if you hold a passport issued from the United States, Canada, or United Kingdom.

Is your passport issued from a country other than those listed above? Find out if a visa is required for your travel!


As a CCS volunteer, you’ll automatically be covered by our comprehensive Travel Medical & Emergency Evacuation Insurance while you’re participating in our program. If you’re traveling before or after your program, you may choose to extend your insurance so that you’re covered every step of the way.

What does your insurance include?
  • To start, up to $50,000 of medical expenses (with unlimited Medivac services), benefits allowing you to speak with mental health professionals, and $1,000 trip cancellation insurance in the event of illness or injury.
  • In the event that you do need medical assistance, keep in mind that you’ll need to pay the medical costs directly and claim for reimbursement once you return – so budget an additional $100 just in case.
  • Learn about all the details of your insurance in the Insurance FAQs.

Need to upgrade your insurance? There are alternate plans available to you, which can increase your medical expense limits to $500,000 and your trip cancellation insurance up to $5,000. Just log on to the Core Travel website to print your card, extend your insurance, or upgrade!

What to Pack

Cartago has moderate/subtropical weather, averaging around 76 °F year-round. Cartago’s also located at the highest elevation in Costa Rica, so it can get a bit chillier here than the rest of the country. The warmest months are between March and May (which is also part of the dry season), and the coolest are December to February (the wet season). No matter when you’re traveling, we think you’ll love the weather in beautiful Costa Rica!

As international travelers, we love everything about preparing for our next adventure—but we must admit, packing can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. We’re here to help you figure out what to bring and what to leave at home, and we've even created a handy packing list as a general guideline. This is based on a two-week volunteer experience, and assumes you’re doing laundry around every 10 days, so feel free to make adjustments based on what is right for you.

Pack light!

You don’t want to drag around heavy suitcases. And remember, you can get toiletries and other essentials in-country.

Save some room!

We’re sure that you’ll fall in love with some amazing keepsakes during your time in-country, so feel free to bring along an extra, empty bag to cart it all home.

Spending Money

Costa Rica’s currency is the colón – you can exchange your currency into colones when you arrive at the San Jose airport, or withdraw colones at one of several ATMs within a 5 to 10 minute walk of the CCS Home-Base. Remember to contact your bank and credit card companies before travel to let them know that you’ll be out of the country!

Currency Converter by Oanda

While everyone’s spending habits are different, you might want to budget for around $50 to $75 USD per week for keepsakes and free time activities. The costs of weekend trips, should you choose to travel around the country, can vary - it can be $150 USD for a weekend at the beach, or up to $500 USD for a more luxurious, action packed, adventure get-away.

Emergency Contact Information

It’s helpful to inform family and friends of your travel plans so they know how to reach you. Just input your flight information and you have a handy Travel Contact Sheet to email or print for your family and friends.

Remind friends and family that if they’d like to make an international call to reach you at the CCS Home-Base, US and Canadian residents should dial “011” before the number, and UK residents or residents of other countries should dial “00” before the number.

Your safety is our top priority, and to make sure you comprehensive support, we request that all volunteers register with their government for access to emergency support and safety information. Please select the appropriate link below to follow some simple steps (it only takes a minute) to register your travel information:

US Citizens: Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the State Department
UK Citizens: Foreign Commonwealth (FCO)
Canadian Citizens: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT)
Australian Citizens: Smart Traveler Program through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

CCS partners with and verifies information for your safety in-country with several resources, including OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council), the UK High Commission, the US State Department, and iJet. You can learn more about services available to you through the US State Department (for US volunteers) at

GO TO: Getting to Know Cartago

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