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Costa Rica Travel - Things To Know Before You Go


Let's just get it out of the way straight off: Costa Rica is safe, overwhelmingly so, for travelers of all stripe, families, kids, adventurers et al, despite any travel advisory you may have read.

It does, however, help to be well-informed about any country before visiting for the first time. A local travel expert is always invaluable when planning a trip, and he/she will be a one-stop source of all answers, but here are a few things to know before you decide to visit this Central American gem.  

 

Things to Bring

‘Less is more" is the clear-cut mantra when it comes to packing your luggage for Costa Rica. Don’t over pack; big bulky bags can be inconvenient, especially if you wish to travel the length and breadth of the country and partake of adventure activities. Hence, a basic and simple wardrobe of flip flops, daily wear, lightweight shorts, tees and tank tops is highly recommended, plus any adventure specific gear that you will need - great walking shoes, for example.
 
Bug Spray
 
Bug Repellant: Besides your passport, this is the second most important thing you must carry during your trip to Costa Rica. Dealing with mosquitoes can be an overwhelming task, particularly during the rainy season. If you can, try making your own DIY bug spray with essential oils.
 
Sun Protection
 
Sunscreen: Located 10 degrees north of the Equator, Costa Rica can be unrelentingly hot and sunny, especially in the dry season. Carry and apply a lot of sunscreen to avoid that awful skin-peel. Also a hat, or umbrella (if you are so inclined), are both useful options for sun protection.
 
Poncho
 
Poncho or Rain Jacket: It’s nice to have some kind of protection when you get caught in a sudden equatorial shower. However, if you are traveling during the wet season, and especially if trekking through the jungle, you will need something heavier.
 
Hiking Shoes with traction
 
Shoes with Traction: Unless you simply plan to lounge on the beach in your flip-flops, there is good chance that hiking shoes might come into the picture. There are hiking trails literally criss-crossing the country, and in some areas the terrain can get challenging. So carry either river-rock hiking shoes/sandals (Chacos strongly recommended) or simply get hiking shoes with a good amount of traction.
 
Clothing in Costa Rica
 
Clothing: Only carry lightweight, light-colored and breathable clothing. In the tropical climate of Costa Rica, you would only require clothing that dries quickly with a decent amount of air flow. Black colored clothing should be avoided (unless it's evening wear)! Also, it gets extremely humid, and anywhere you step out in the day, you will sweat. Hence, a lightweight sweat rag might prove very useful.
 
Insulated Water Bottle
 
Insulated water bottle: Chances of losing body-fluids is extremely high in the tropical and humid climate of Costa Rica (find out about best time to go). An insulated water bottle is the perfect solution; it will provide you with chilled water to sip right through the day.

Costa Rica Isn’t Cheap!

Money in Costa Rica

We hate to break it to you, but Costa Rica is not a cheap destination; it is probably more expensive than any other country in Central America. Food prices are equivalent to those in North America and gas is nearly twice as much as the US.

US dollars are readily accepted everywhere in Costa Rica. However, for any other foreign currency, we advise you to exchange it in your native country; exchange deals in Costa Rica aren’t that great. ATM’s are available almost everywhere, barring few remote locations.

Dry Season or Rainy/Wet Season

Costa Rica Climate

Editorial Copyrights: wsilver

There are two major seasons in Costa Rica: The dry season (which runs from December to April) and the wet season, also known as the green season (which runs from May to November). In theory, you might consider visiting Costa Rica during the dry season, but don’t get deceived by broad and generic weather predictions.

Costa Rica Climate

Editorial Copyrights: Jason Bachman

Costa Rica Climate

Editorial Copyrights: NH53

The climate totally depends on what part of the country you are travelling to. The weather tends to be much cooler and rainier in the Central Valley surrounding San Jose, Monteverde, Arenal and the rest of the mountainous destinations across the country. And if you are in the Guanacaste region, in the towns of Liberia, Cañas or Nicoya, the climate is particularly dry. Hence we suggest you plan your itinerary, and carry the right kind of clothing accordingly.

Also, the rainy season is not necessary a bad time to visit Costa Rica, as most of the days begin with bright sunshine. Thunderstorms don’t arrive until afternoon; hence, if you plan your activities smartly, you can totally exploit the spoils of the off-season (think less crowded beaches and better deals on hotels).

Transportation

Taxis in Costa Rica

Editorial Copyrights: /shtterstock.com

Everybody is aware of the pros of a rental car. It gives you the freedom to experience special, unplanned and off-the-grid activities. It is best advised to rent a car with a reputed company, or you can hire local cabs separately in any town.

Be careful though, cab drivers in Costa Rica are notorious for ripping off tourists; decide on the fare first (your hotel will give you accurate information). If you are driving your self, be cautious of other drivers; the otherwise laid-back people somehow become wild and vicious when you hand them a steering wheel. And the caution is not restricted to car-drivers; motorcyclists are also pretty reckless.

Hence, we advise you to avoid the hassle and let a travel expert get you the right man behind the wheel, someone who can safely guide you through the streets of Costa Rica. There are inexpensive airport shuttles you can organize in advance, and the local bus system is also very effective.

 

Tap Water Is Safe

Tap Water in Costa Rica

Unlike other Latin American countries, tap water is relatively safe to drink (apart from few rural towns). Travel experts and hotels can indicate whether the water is safe for consumption and will also indentify the right faucets to use. 

To reduce plastic bottle waste, we recommend getting an insulated water bottle (as mentioned before) so you can have cold water even in the 100 degree heat.

Ignore all Misconceptions Regarding San Jose

San Jose Costa Rica

Editorial Copyrights: /shutterstock.com
 
If you apply a bit of common sense and take basic safety precautions, then no place in Costa Rica is unsafe, and the country’s capital, San Jose, is no exception. However, one must avoid certain parts of the city, especially during the night. Petty theft and chain-snatching is common here; make yourself aware of the places to avoid, and stay alert (there is no substitute for street-smartness, and this applies to any country in the world).
 
Note: For the safety of all tourists, the police sometimes conduct random checks (which includes verification of your documents) as a precaution. But we strongly recommend NOT to carry your passport with you at all times; instead, take a photo-copy and keep it handy.
 

When In Costa Rica, Relax On Hammocks!

Hammocks in Costa Rica

This is not something you should pack, but just something you should know. Costa Ricans have a deep relationship with hammocks. They are everywhere: houses, apartments, bars and hotels. It’s a way of living and a testimony to the country’s easy going nature, and locals spend much of their free time swinging away; you should try it too, at every opportunity.

Hammocks in Costa Rica

Hammocks in Costa Rica

While you can rent them at any hotel, we strongly recommend picking up an authentic Costa Rican hammock as a parting souvenir from any local market. It’s a big trend in the country, so finding a piece is easy. Carry your own and string it up anywhere. 

Just Fyi, Prostitution Is Legal (And Quite Rampant)

Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, so don’t be surprised if you see girls wandering around the most family-friendly of beach shacks, particularly in Jaco (most popular for them), Playa Tamarindo and the kid-friendly Playas del Coco. We only mention it here as a matter of information; they are perfectly well-behaved, and there is nothing sleazy about the scene.

Again, just keep your wits about you and watch out for pickpockets. 

Locals Love To Talk To Foreign Travelers

Tico Men

Editorial Copyrights: casey atchley

Locals or Ticos (as they are popularly known as), are very expressive people with an endearingly curious nature. They enjoy meeting new people from all walks of life. Don’t be surprised if a local stops you on the street for a random conversation.

Female Travelers in Costa Rica

Note: Female travelers – be cautious! Tico men are generally very open and quite self-assured, if they see a single woman walking by herself, they won’t hesitate twice before asking about her relationship status. In some extreme cases, she might experience some mild eve-teasing. The ideal way to deal with such a situation is just by ignoring and moving on.

You can design a customized tour of Costa Rica with a local expert right here. 

Tripifini Team

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