I need to travel to Costa Rica for a business trip and don't speak spanish.How painful will the communication barrior be?
English is pretty prevalent...there is a little book of phrases...Spanish to English, I can't remember the exact name of it...ask your book store.
English is spoken in tourist places (i.e. most hotels, restaurants, bars, and all tours/excursions & souvenir shops). It is pretty much non-existent outside of tourist areas.
I would second Orange on that, and I would add that even someone with good Spanish skills might find it daunting to ask directions from a Costa Rican farmer out in the boonies...very friendly but CR has some unconventional accents sometimes...
It depends where you will be traveling in Costa Rica. The San Jose area English is widely spoken among people in business. Even in the beach area;s where you will find many expats English is the second choice.
Lic Giovanna Barrantes
Within the business community, you should do ok with basic english. Try not to use slang or off color remarks or stories. That usually ends biz relations. In major hotels - should have no problem. Remember it is their business. Obviously a few very basic words in Spanish is always helpful.
Most business people etc. speak it. If you go onto the street, you can buy what you want by pointing and mining.
They aren't as tolerant as Asians, but they understand.
There are definitely a lot of people in San Josť that speak English. In general, most employees in larger businesses speak English (like in your hotel, for example). But like someone said earlier, if you are out in more rural areas, you might want to take a small phrasal dictionary!
Living in Costa Rica myself, I find English to be spoken almost everywhere. Of course, you can't expect to find someone bilingual in a very shady place, but I am sure most major and even minor businesses have personal that speak English.
English is taught in all public and private schools. Many businesses require their employees to speak English and even Mandarin in some instances.
You won't have any big problems with your lack of Spanish. Specially rely on speaking to young people because they are the biggest English-speaking part of the Costa Rican population.
English is taught to children at young ages. A lot of the good (well paying) jobs require english. If you are a tourist that only speaks english, you will be fine.