Electrical Outlet and Voltage Information for Costa Rica
A trip to Costa Rica can be maximized by being prepared before visiting the country. Knowing some information about the standard voltage, plug, electrical outlet, and adapters that might be needed will come in handy for a tourist in Costa Rica. In here the standard voltage is 110-120 V and the standard electrical outlet types are North American non-grounded, non-polarized, Type A NEMA 1-15 (JIS C 8303) and the North American grounded, non-polarized, Type B NEMA 5-15.
In cases that the electrical outlet does not match with the plug, there are different kinds of adapters that can be used in Costa Rica. Also, when the appliance or electronic gadget uses 220-240 V, there are voltage converters and transformers that could be used to allow safe use of electronic gadgets and appliances in Costa Rica.
Type A NEMA 1-15 or JIS C 8303 (North American Non-Grounded)
The NEMA 1-15 is also known as the Type A North American/Japanese 2-blade electrical adapter plug and electrical outlet. It also has the technical name North American 15 A/125 V ungrounded. The NEMA 1-15 is a flat blade attachment plug that uses two flat parallel pins or blades. Older designs allow the blades to be inserted in either way to the electrical outlet; however, contemporary NEMA 1-15 plugs are designed with the neutral blade wider than the live blade allowing just one way of plugging and ensuring that the polarized plug is inserted appropriately into the electrical outlet. The new design of the NEMA 1-15 changed so much that it will not fit in the old type of NEMA 1-15 electrical outlet in Costa Rica.
The NEMA 1-15 is mostly found in North America and in the east coast of South America, as well as in parts of the South American region like Costa Rica, and is used for smaller devices that do not really need a ground connection.
There is also another electrical outlet that is commonly used in Costa Rica that was from Japan, the JIS X 8303 Class II (Japanese 15 A/100 V ungrounded) which is similar to the NEMA 1-15, the only difference being the stricter dimensional requirements for the plug housing, marking, and mandatory testing and approval. With the NEMA 1-15 adapter, the receptacle end will accept any standard household plug in Costa Rica, aside from the Type M South African SABS1661 plug, which is also known as the Old British BS-546 Large plug. The blades of this adapter are 6.4mm long, 1.5mm thick, and are spaced 12.7mm apart. The NEMA 1-15 plug is also non-polarized and non-grounded which is very important to know before inserting the plug into the electrical outlet.
In the NEMA 1-15, grounding is done by the third, round pin located beneath the two vertical blades on the plug. On the other hand, polarization is done by the left vertical blade being taller than the right one. If the plug does have grounding or polarization and the electrical outlet does not have one, it would be physically impossible to insert the plug into the electrical outlet. If this happens to a tourist in Costa Rica and there is also no adapter present, that person might not be able to use his or her electronic gadgets and appliances. Although the NEMA 1-15 of Costa Rica looks similar to the plugs of the U.S. and Canada and the appliance and electronic gadgets might be manufactured in the said countries, an adapter might still be needed because of the grounding and polarization requirements in Costa Rica.
Type B NEMA 5-15 (North American Grounded)
The Type B NEMA 5-15 is often used in North and Central America as well as Japan, and it is also what is used in Costa Rica. It is a class I plug that has two flat parallel prongs and a grounding pin, rated at 15 amps. The Type B NEMA 5-15 is also compatible with any standard household plug in Costa Rica, except the Type M South African SABS1661 (Old British BS-546 Large) plug. For the specifications, the Type B NEMA 5-15 has blade contacts 6.4mm tall, 15mm thick, and are spaced 12.7mm apart. The grounding pin, on the other hand, is 4.8mm in diameter. Although the Type B NEMA 5-15 is grounded, it is not polarized and must be used with care in Costa Rica.
In Japan, this kind of plug and electrical outlet is the standard. Similar to Type A NEMA 1-15 plugs, the NEMA 5-15 in Costa Rica is also one of the most dangerous plugs in the world because the prongs are not insulated. The black covering that is supposed to cover the plug body is lacking hence if the plug is pulled halfway and the prongs are still inserted in the electrical outlet, there might be some accidents like electrocution.
In a tourist’s trip to Costa Rica, if the the wrong plug is inserted in the wrong electrical outlet or the voltage does not match, there could be some real damage to the appliance or electronic gadget. In worse cases, this might even cause electrocution. There are three kinds of voltage converters available: the transformer, the network-resistor converter, and the combination of these two. For laptop computers, cameras, mp3 players, and charging of batteries in Costa Rica, the recommended voltage converter to be used is the transformer as it has a lower maximum watt rating of 50 to 100 watts and it could be used continuously although it could be heavy because of the large iron rods and copper wires inside. The resistor-network converter could support 50-1600 watts and are often used for a short period of time and in light-weight electrical appliances like hair dryers and iron.
The combination network-resistor converter and transformer device usually comes with a switch so a tourist using it in Scotland to convert voltage could just choose which mode to use. It is important to know the proper voltage, electrical outlet, plugs, and adapters to use when visiting Costa Rica and other countries because sometimes these electric requirements vary depending on the location. If the voltage of the appliance or electronic gadget to be used in Costa Rica does not match its 220-240 volts requirement, like most American products that only use 110-120 volts, a tourist in Costa Rica would need a voltage converter.