We often receive questions from travelers preparing for their trip in Costa Rica about what kinds of plugs and adapters they need to pack.
The fast answer is that our electrical plugs and voltage is compatible with chargers, devices, and appliances from the US and Canada. If you’re from Europe, Japan, or another country, then you’ll need an adapter.
Voltage and Electrical Sockets in Costa Rica Summary
Primary Socket Types
North American Non-Grounded (two prongs) and North American Grounded (three prongs)
Costa Rican standard voltage is 110-120 volts, which is the same as the U.S. and Canada. Most of the rest of the world operates with 220-240 volts.
Multi-Voltage Appliances (Laptops, cellphones, etc.) not from North America
Use a plug adapter.
Use a plug adapter and step-up transformer.
100V Japanese appliances
Use a plug adapter and step-down transformer.
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Electrical Sockets and Outlets in Costa Rica
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Costa Rica are like the electrical outlets found in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. If your device has a North American plug, you probably won’t require any adapter in order to plug in your cables and devices.
There are two outlet variations that may require an adapter: grounding and polarization.
Grounded and Ungrounded
Grounded plugs have 3 prongs. Outlets made for this kind of plug have three holes. Ungrounded plugs have two prongs while their outlets have two holes.
Non-grounded plugs can fit into both kinds of outlets, while grounded plugs can only fit into the 3-hole outlets. You will need an adapter to fit a grounding plug into an ungrounded outlet. North American appliance plugs usually have two vertical blades and one round grounding prong, which makes them compatible with Costa Rican grounded outlets.
Polarized plugs have the left blade longer than the right, preventing the plug from being inserted upside down. In Costa Rica, you will find many outlets do accommodate polarized plugs and some that don’t.
We do recommend bringing an adapter that works with your grounded and polarized plugs, just in case. It’s always better for travelers to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
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Voltage in Costa Rica
The standard voltage for electrical outlets in Costa Rica is between 110 and 120 volts AC. U.S. and Canadian 120 Volt appliances and multiple voltage devices like laptops and cellphones will be fine with Costa Rica’s voltage.
Remember that plug adapters do not change the voltage, just the physical plug to outlet connection. If the socket is supplying 110-120 volts, then your plug will receive that same amount, even if using an adapter.
Most devices in other parts of the world, such as Europe, are built for 220-240 volt electricity. Devices in Japan are built for 100V. This means an adapter won’t be sufficient. You’ll need a voltage transformer. When the voltage is higher than Costa Rica’s 110-120V, like it is in Europe, you’ll need a step-up transformer. If the voltage is less than Costa Rica, like in Japan, you’ll need a step-down transformer.
How to tell if your appliance is compatible with 110-120 volts
If your device is from the United States or Canada, then it is compatible with Costa Rica’s voltage. That’s the standard across North America. Otherwise, you’ll have to check. You don’t want to burn your device or start a fire, after all.
Where can you find the voltage requirements for your device?
Find the electrical input specifications on the device/charger’s label, where the brand name and model number appear. The input voltage is regularly shortened to “V” and it should look something like this:
Input: ~100-240V 50/60Hz 65W — This means the device is compatible with multiple voltages. This device can be plugged in almost anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter if there is a difference in voltage from one country to the next. The device or charger adjusts itself automatically to whatever voltage it receives.
Input: 115/230V 50/60Hz 200W — This means that the appliance can be switched between North America’s 110-120V and 220-240V. This is common for desktop computers and some hair dryers/curling irons/etc. Note that you might have to physically flip a switch somewhere.
Input: 220V 60Hz 2.8A — This means that the device is only compatible with the specified voltage, in this case, 220V. If the socket provides 110-120V, like it does in Costa Rica, then an adapter by itself won’t be enough. If you plug this device in only a travel adapter, you could potentially “fry” it. To plug in this device safely, the voltage needs to be changed from 110-120 volts to 220-240 volts by way of a step-up voltage transformer.
Worldwide voltage devices
That being said, most modern devices, especially ones that run on batteries, are built to be compatible with all voltages, from 100 volts in Japan to 240 volts in the UK. This normally includes laptops, cell phones, digital cameras, digital camcorders, many compact video game devices, digital music players, etc. More and more personal grooming items like hair dryers, curling irons, shavers (especially cordless ones) and such are being built to be compatible with multiple voltages as well. Always check, just in case.
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Device Voltage Compatibility
There’s no such thing as a “standard” electrical input/output for electrical appliances and devices. The information below is a general guideline and may or may not be correct for your specific brand and model. Again, check with your specific devices before traveling.
Note: The voltage information below refers to devices from areas other than North America.
Usually 100-240V, 50/60Hz, auto-switching. A travel plug adapter works just fine all by itself for ungrounded outlets.
Cell Phones usually come with a charger that is 100-240V compatible. Check the charger to confirm. If it says “100-240V”, then a voltage transformer is not necessary. If not, we recommend contacting your cell phone provider and buying a new charger that is multi-voltage compatible and works best with your specific phone.
Chargers are usually 100-240V compatible. A plug adapter is usually sufficient, just in case the outlets during your stay don’t accommodate grounded plugs.
Hair dryer, Curling iron, flat iron, etc.
Most non-North American hair care devices are only compatible with 220-240V, though some higher-end models can be switched between voltages. If your brand/model has a voltage switch, then you won’t need a voltage transformer. Otherwise, the appliance will require that the voltage be stepped up (or sometimes stepped down).
Like hair dryers, most non-North American corded electric shavers are only compatible with 220-240V. However, cordless/rechargeable shavers often come with chargers that are 100-240V compatible.
It’s 50/50 with CPAP machines. A lot of CPAP machines are built with DC motors, since they’re quieter. DC motors plug into AC power sources, through an AC adapter. Since AC adapters convert an AC voltage to a smaller DC voltage, the AC input voltage is often irrelevant. If the AC adapter says “100-240V” then a voltage transformer isn’t necessary. However, some brands/models of CPAP machines use AC motors and are only compatible with 220-240V. If that’s true of yours, then theoretically a voltage transformer + a plug adapter would at least allow it to power up. Keep in mind that the difference in frequency (Hz) may negatively affect the machine’s performance. For most devices, the effect is negligible, but for a CPAP machine, the effect can be significant. If you absolutely need the use of your CPAP machine during your trip to Costa Rica, then we’d suggest buying a multi-voltage compatible device, rather than depending on a voltage transformer.
iPhone, iPads, and iPods
You’ll have to check the charger since there are so many different versions from different years and models. If the device charger says “100-240V” then you’re good to go in Costa Rica. Otherwise, if it says “220V” then you’ll need a voltage transformer. Or you’ll need to replace the charger with one that is 100-240V compatible.
Costa Rican Adapters and Voltage Transformers
You can find adapters in most electronics stores in Costa Rica. Some hotels may provide or sell these items as well. There are always many options found online, though keep in mind that sites such as Amazon don’t always arrive so easily to Costa Rica. It might be best to purchase any adapter or voltage transformer prior to your Costa Rican vacation.
As always, if you have any questions, you can ask your travel agency. We’ll always do our best to make sure all your devices can connect as smoothly as possible on your trip.