MAJOR FAQ-COSTA RICA

ABOUT COSTA RICA INTERNSHIP PROGRAM (IN GENERAL)
How long has IFRE been working in Costa Rica ? Whom do you work with? Where are you located? What are IFRE's programs?

We have been running our internship program in Costa Rica since 2006. In Costa Rica , IFRE works with many orphanages, schools, local NGOs, Health centers and community organizations. Our program in Costa Rica is located in Atenas, a small beautiful city 30 miles (about an hour by bus) from San Jose , and in the capital city of San Jose .

IFRE is able to offer internship projects working in orphanages, in public health, in public day care, teaching English, work in organic farming and environmental/agricultural conservation.

APPLYING FOR THE COSTA RICA INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
How can I apply? What happens when I apply? Do you guarantee placement? How long does it take to receive confirmation?

Please read IFRE's 4-step application process:

•  There are two options to apply for applying our internship in our Costa Rica programs. You can apply online ( http://www.ifrevolunteers.org/apply-now.php  ) or you can simply download an application form, fill it out and mail it into IFRE's offices. Participants are required to submit their application with a $349 application fee plus the program fee for the number of weeks you choose. However to simply start the placement process, all that is needed upfront is a $200 deposit which will be deducted from the final invoice. This non-refundable deposit from you is required to validate and initiate the application process.

•  Once IFRE receives your application, we immediately forward it to country coordinator for processing. The in-country coordinator reviews the application carefully to determine the most optimal project for you while you intern in Costa Rica . Decisions pertaining to room and board are made at this time - depending on the location of the project. The vast majority of participants stay in fully immersed in-home stays.

•  IFRE receives the details of the participants' placements from the in-country coordinator.

•  The information is then passed on to the prospective participants along with a final invoice. Final payment is due six weeks prior to departure and, in expedited cases, as soon as possible. The placement details contain local contact information to be used when applying for a visa and/or to get in touch with the local staff and host family.

Preparation for your internship vacation in Costa Rica should include reading about travel to Costa Rica , immunization, acquiring a travel visa and booking airfare for your internship journey to Costa Rica . If you face any problems, IFRE's Program Manager is always available for any assistance.

IMPORTANT: Once participants purchase airline tickets, we request flight information be forwarded to IFRE's U.S. office by fax or by email. Participants' flight information will then be forwarded to the in-country coordinator in Costa Rica , who will then arrange an airport pick-up.

AIRPORT AND ARRIVAL INFORMATION
Who will meet me at the airport? What should I do if I am delayed or miss a flight? When should I arrive?

All Costa Rica interns, regardless of project placement, are asked to arrive at the Juan Santa Maria International Airport (SJO) San Jose, Costa Rica where our staff will meet you and transport you to your respective accommodation or project.

We ask that you fly with all your important documents, including your internship placement, passport, visa and vaccination booklet. Please have them accessible in case you are asked to produce them. Our interns join our program with a tourist visa. Interns do not need a long term or working visa.

If some sort of delay occurs, including flight delays or missed flights, contact our Costa Rica office as soon as possible. Interns coming to Costa Rica are advised to arrive one day before their program start date. The program fee will cover expenses beginning of the first day of the program (Usually first or third Monday) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program and/or stay beyond the last day of the program, expenses will be the responsibility of the intern (usually $30 per day for room/food in hostel).

ROOM AND FOOD
Where Do I stay during my internship program? What do I eat? What about shower and restrooms? Do you accommodate special diets?

Interns placed in Atenas projects stay with a well-screened host family. Interns in San Jose reside at our homebase – a permanent home set aside for international interns and manned with a local staff. Our host families offer a private room and shared bathroom facilities. Many houses in Costa Rica do not have hot water. Our host families are well versed in the art of hosting international interns. Our San Jose homebase provides a same-gender shared room and shared bathroom with running hot water and a “western” style toilet. You will have the ability to do your laundry in the house or the host family may offer to do it for you.

You are provided with three prepared meals per day. We do not accommodate special diets except for vegetarians. If you will be out of the house during lunch hour, you can request a lunch "to go" that you can take with you or eat out on your own. The home stay families provide typical meals that are traditional to Costa Rica . They try to do their best with vegetarian options, but you must clarify any special needs ahead of placement. If traditional Costa Rican fare does not appeal to you, you are welcome to buy your own food and prepare it yourself. The simple rule is to please not use a homebase's or host family's food for your own use. If you have other needs for food outside of these meals, you are able to purchase snacks and meals at local restaurants and grocery stores.

Throughout the internship project, our local staff stays in contact with interns either with face-to-face visits or via email/telephone. With longer placements, we visit our interns every two weeks (when possible) and interns are always welcome at the local office. If project placement is local, we request that interns stop by the office once a week to keep us posted on how they are doing with their home stay and project. If project placement is very far, then our local staff members maintain communication by either email and/or phone.

VISAs
Being informed is your first defense against disease and safety risks. We recommend visiting some of the following websites for health and safety information:

WHO website for international travelers ( http:// www.who.int  )

General Health Tips for interns in Costa Rica

  • Water is very safe in all of Atenas and throughout most of Costa Rica . When traveling to the beaches or very rural areas, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Tap water should not be considered safe at the beaches nor fountain drinks and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by both filtering through an "absolute 1 micron or less" filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. "Absolute 1 micron filters" are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Buy bottled water from respectable outlets/vendors to guard against an upset stomach. Make sure that the seal of the bottle is intact as it is common for local street merchants to sell tap water in resealed bottles.
  • The most common health complaint in any developing nation is an ailing digestive system. In many cases, the illness may be attributed merely to a change in diet, but occasional cases of food poisoning can occur, whereby the symptoms occur very quickly, severely and explosively. These are seldom serious or extended illnesses, but medical treatment should be sought if it occurs.
  • Avoid eating food from roadside stalls/vendors. Don't eat unpeeled fruits or fruits that have already been cut by unknown handlers on the street. If you must eat food at a place that you have doubts about, make sure the food is served hot.
  • If you require any prescription drugs, bring enough for the duration of your stay in Costa Rica . They will need to be carried in their original prescription bottle and the prescription must be in your name.
  • It is advisable that you carry a small health kit which should include remedy for upset stomach, some antiseptic cream, hydration powder, deer mosquito repellant, sun block, band aids, etc.
IMMUNIZATIONS/ VACCINATIONS
We recommend all participants visit the Center for Disease Control's website ( www.cdc.gov  ) for traveler's health recommendations. 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 South 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 anti-malarial drug. For details concerning risk and preventive medications, see  Malaria Information for Travelers to South 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 .
  • Precautions again Malaria should be taken.

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.

MONEY MATTERs
What is the exchange rate? Where should I change my currency? Can I use a debit card or credit card? Should I bring travelers checks?

Costa Rica 's currency is the colón. Dollars can be changed at the exchange houses in the airport. Many businesses accept dollars at the current exchange rate. ATM machines are available in Atenas, San Jose and the airport and they usually offer the option of dispensing in Dollars or Colones.

Do not come without any cash as ATM machines can be out of service or not accept your card. It is wise to check with your bank ahead of time to confirm that your card will work overseas. Debit cards and credit cards are becoming more widely accepted at major stores; however, they are still not accepted as widely as in the States. Credit card fraud is a big issue in Costa Rica . Do not use your cards at any smaller or non-reputable locations. Traveler's checks need to be exchanged in the banks, as most locations will not accept them directly. ATM machines are still the best way to access money, and vendors are available in San Jose . Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted in some of the large stores and hotels in larger cities but may not be widely accepted in smaller cities and not at all in the villages.

Find the Exchange Rate for Costa Rican Colones (CRC) at  http://www.xe.com/ucc/

How much money you bring depends on your personal spending habits. Thrifty people can get by on less than $10/day. Your budget should also include money to explore Costa Rica in free time as well as for your personal use.

FIELD SUPPORT AND SUPERVISION
How does IFRE help me when I am in the field? How can I maintain communication? Do you visit me?

Once your internship program begins, our local staff members stay in constant touch with you. However, when interns stay far from our local office, our staff will visit every 2-4 weeks (if possible) and interns are always welcome at the office. We recommend that interns stop by the office once a week, if they are staying/working in the local area, to give feedback on their home stay and project. Many minor issues can avoid escalation with a just little extra communication. Your project will have local staff members in addition to our in-country coordination staff. If your project is located a substantial distance from our offices, then our local staff communicates by either email and/or phone.

We are available for you at the local office via email and phone for your entire trip. It's our job to make sure that you are safe and healthy.

COMMUNICATION
How do I communicate with my family? With IFRE staff? Is there internet?

There are internet cafes in Atenas and San Jose that charge about $1/hour and internet access in San Jose is everywhere. There are also international phone cards available to make international calls. Also, please use local phone cards for local calls as every minute of local or international use is billed to the families. If you need to contact the IFRE staff locally, the families will generally allow you to use the phone for short periods.

CLIMATE IN COSTA RICA
Yahoo Weather forecast (http://weather.yahoo.com)

Weather channel ( http://www.weather.com  )

Weather Underground ( http://www.wunderground.com )

Tropical and subtropical; dry season (December to April); rainy season (May to November); cooler in highlands.

itemS TO BRING:

Most daily use items are available in Costa Rica at a reasonable price. However, we suggest interns pack the following things:

  • Camera 
  • Mobile phone NOTE: only bring cell phones that have multi-national coverage. You cannot switch to a new SIM card here, as the local phone system requires resident status and a receipt for your phone purchase.
  • Sleeping bag-only necessary if you wish to actually camp-out 
  • Mosquito and insect repellents
  • Sunscreen, SPFs
  • Work gloves (if joining conservation or construction project)
  • Books about Costa Rica
  • Map of Costa Rica
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Electricity adapter/converter (Note: electricity is the same system as North America )
  • Sunglasses
  • Shoes/boots (for work and travel)
  • Towel
  • Hot weather clothing, but conservative
  • Jeans, pants or skirts
  • Swimsuit
  • Long-sleeve shirt and jacket for cooler areas
  • Jeans or pants or skirts for San Jose
  • Raingear, especially during the rainy season
What gifts should I bring for my host family and/or project?
It is a common courtesy to bring a small gift for your hosts. You are not required to do so, but if you choose to bring a gift, it can simple. We suggest a box of chocolates, a t-shirt with a hometown/country logo, pictures of your family and local post cards.

If you want to bring gifts for your project and if you are working for an orphanage or a school, please bring pencils, pens and paper, art supplies like markers and construction paper pads, as well as games for the children to enjoy. Remember that every child will need these items so you may wish to bring enough for a number of children.

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