Tips and Taxes
Hotels, resorts, bars, night clubs and restaurants charge a 13% sales tax plus a 10% service charge on every bill. The service charges is the tip for the waiters and other servers and is handed to them by the manager at the end of the week. Therefore, it's not necessary to leave a gratuity, although some persons do when they feel they have received exceptionally good service. Stores charge the 13%sales tax for merchandise which is taxable. Many staples and other items considered basic are exempt from the tax.
More than 95 per cent ofthe population (urban and rural) in Costa Rica has access to electricity. Most outlets in the country accept flat pronged plugs and some will accept the round prong plugs, but it's a good idea to have with you a small adapter just in case you might need it. The standard current is 110volts, 60Hertz. Your home lighting bill will not be too high if you use long-Iasting fluorescent bulbs in areas of your home which you keep lit for many hours and if you
don't have air conditioning.
The monthly bill for electricity in my 5-bedroom house never goes above $35. Ifyour kitchen stove uses 220 volts, you'll be saving some money on that too. Some families prefer to use gas stoves, and out in rural areas, others still prefer to use wood stoves even though they count with electricity and television. They feel that food cooked over firewood tastes much better. But gathering firewood is a problem.
Costa Rica has the cheapest electricity in all of Central America since 99% of it is produced by hydraulic power. In contrast, the electricity in the other countries is produced mostly by thermal power which requires costly imported oil. Costa Rica is blessed with having many rivers located by Nature in strategic geographic areas which lend themselves superbly to building dams and artificial lakes. During the dry season it exports electricity to Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras. In December 2000 the Angostura Dam near Turrialba was inaugurated and is the largest in the country.
Currently in the Los Santos area is being constructed the Pirris plant which will be the largest in the country when completed in 2009.
The hydraulic power of Costa Rica is definitely enormous and several dams are currently well on in their planning. One is the giant Terraba River Project to be located between Buenos Aires and Palmar Norte which will produce more electricity than all the other plants combined and will serve also to fill some of the needs of the other Central American countries and Panama.
Wind near Tilarán and steam from the Miravalles Volcano are also being utilized successfully to produce electricity . Fortunately, ever since the blackout days of 1953, availability of electricity has kept a good pace well ahead of demand due to the good work of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (lCE).