13 tips to know before traveling to Costa Rica

“This article is a blend of the author’s personal experience traveling through Costa Rica and the article: 15 Things to Know About Costa Rica Before You Go, from the Mytanfeet blog.”

If you are planning your trip to Costa Rica, there are several things you should know, tourism to this Central American country has changed a lot in recent years, it is becoming more and more popular, not only for Latin Americans. but also for Europeans and North Americans.

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This increase in tourism has generated many myths that deserve to be debunked so as not to have any bad surprises once there. Of course, it is never possible to be 100% ready for a trip and know everything in advance, but without a doubt these tips before traveling to Costa Rica will surely help you a lot.

Tips to know before traveling to Costa Rica:

Tip 1 – It’s not as cheap as you might think

Contrary to what many think because Costa Rica is a country in Central America, it will be cheap, it turns out Costa Rica is not as cheap as you think. Many people travel to Costa Rica with the idea that a few dollars will make them rich in this paradise, but the reality is different.

I’m not saying it’s expensive or impossible to travel. It’s just that you take this into account when developing your travel budget and avoid surprises.

Tip 2 – The distances are longer than you think

Most people think that because it is a small country everything is close, they are wrong! Although it is a small country, getting from one point to another can take a long time.

The roads in Costa Rica are not the most modern, as there is usually only one outward and return lane, so you are likely to encounter traffic caused by freight trucks.

Maybe on the map you can see that point “A” is very close to point “B” but it turns out that the roads are not straight, remember that you pass through many natural parks so this does not does not always mean that a few kilometers are the same in a short time.

Tip 3 – Believe it or not, it’s cold out there

It is true that most of the year it is a tropical climate, but it should be mentioned that Costa Rica has many “mini-climates” in natural parks depending on their height and ecosystem, so if this is on your list visit Volcanoes (which surely will) then don’t forget to pack a jacket.

In addition, in Monteverde and Poas the weather is almost always quite cold and humid at the same time, check well before traveling whether it is a rainy season or not, if it is, then in addition to a raincoat, wear slightly warmer clothes.

Tip 4 – There are a lot of mosquitoes, but don’t be afraid either …

Being a tropical country, mosquitoes are the daily bread. In recent years, Costa Rica has reported cases of malaria, dengue, Zika and Chinkunguya. But of all these, dengue is the most common. Malaria and Zika cases are extremely low and there is nothing to worry about. As a traveler, your concern should be dengue. It’s not that I want to scare you or that you avoid traveling to this country, you just need to take the proper precautions.

It’s worth being informed and carrying a repellant with you all the time, as well as some sting ointment just in case.

Recommended equipment for your trip to Costa Rica:

Mosquito repellent

There are plenty of mosquito repellent options out there, just make sure yours has a minimum of 30% DEET as an active compound to be effective.

anti-itch bite

Scratching an itch can make it worse, so it’s best to wear something to prevent the itching. This bar is small and fits anywhere, it is ideal for traveling to places where there is a possibility of being bitten.

Tip 5 – There is no army and it has been declared the happiest country in the world 3 times

Since 1948 it is one of the few countries that does not have any type of armed force, but do not be surprised because it was not necessary either, they decided to invest this money in health and education.

The Central American country has been repeatedly cataloged as “the happiest country in the world,” according to the Happy Planet Index of the New Economics Foundation, which led it in 2009, 2012 and 2016. They are also known for their pleasure in talking to strangers, don’t be surprised if a Costa Rican approaches you just to talk and wonder where you are from; they like to meet people and are quite friendly and laid back.

YOU MUST BEWARE! ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A WOMAN TRAVELING ALONE… It is common for them to approach you and without embarrassment they ask you if you are single or with who you are in Costa Rica. Be smart and follow your instincts and go for a Pura Vida. See you later!

Tip 6 – It is safe to drink tap water

I know that in Mexico we are not used to this and if you drink tap water the next few days will probably have a bad time, but in Costa Rica it is safe to do so even s ‘it should be mentioned that it is always good to ask the hotel / hostel you are staying at to be completely safe, although I would recommend that you always take your reusable water bottle with you.

Tip 7 – Internet signal is weak and there is no Wi-Fi everywhere

It is common for hotels to offer free Wi-Fi, but it will not be common for this internet to be available throughout the property; it is common that you can only navigate at the reception, or in the common areas of the hotel. In public areas you also won’t find a wide range of internet connections. It’s not like in other cities that you can find Starbucks or where to log in on every corner.

If you’re worried about being logged in during your trip, I recommend purchasing a local SIM card. You can find them directly at the airport, in supermarkets and / or in local stores. They will ask you to present your passport in order to acquire one. The companies are KOLBI, MOVISTAR, CLARO, TUYO MOVIL.

Costa Rica SIM card

Promotion of the SIM card for Costa Rica

If you are from Spain, planning to travel to Costa Rica and would like everything to be ready before your trip, I recommend you review this Holafly SIM card; It will allow you to have data for your trip. As a My Trip around the World reader, you get a 5% discount.

Tip 8 – Their Spanish is different from what you know

They do not designate a person as “boy” or “girl” but as “el mae” or “la mae”, in Costa Rica there are no good or beautiful things, there are things “tuanis or chivas ”. If you ask how far away is this a place? They will tell you it’s not far; It’s long!

They don’t drink coffee, they drink “iodine” (yes, it’s coffee, actually); to be hungry is to be alive; the food is “moncha”; They are not going to ask you to wait a moment, they say “soft touch” (don’t worry they are not offering you marijuana), if you want the cab driver to turn on the meter then ask him to turn on “María”.

Ticos don’t say HELLO, GOODBYE or I AM GOOD; it all comes down to PURA VIDA!

Tip 9 – The local police can stop you at any time to ask for your papers

It is normal to see police on the road stopping people, so always have your passport or a copy of it and a photo on your cell phone of your entry stamp. Police in Costa Rica are authorized to arrest anyone in order to reduce drug trafficking, but this is more common in border areas.

If you have chosen to hire a car, needless to say, you should always carry your driver’s license with you as well.

Tip 10 – Public transport operates from San José / Alajuela

The bus operation center is San José so if you have chosen to use this means of transport it is likely that the center of your accommodation is Alajuela or San José, it should be mentioned that the time calculation is of a vitally important since the bus In Costa Rica they are governed by a tight schedule system, always plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before and don’t be surprised if there are any delays.

The most famous companies are TUASA, COOPETRANS, ARSA, TRANSPORTES MEPE, TRACOPA, among others.

Depending on the route and the address you go to, this will be the company and the terminal you need to go to, I repeat, it is easy to find them but the distances are long since they always come back to San José.

Tip 11 – Most of the time you will be using dollars instead of colones

The approximate exchange rate is US $ 1 = 560 colones, but I don’t recommend changing all of your money in the local currency as pretty much all travel companies will ask you to pay in dollars.

In supermarkets and stores they will also accept your dollars, although you should always take some colones with you, especially in less touristy areas; if they have to give you change when paying in dollars, they will do so in colones. It’s also worth mentioning that you won’t find ATMs in every town or town, so be forewarned.

Tip 12 – San José is not as bad as it is painted!

It is true that, compared to the rest of the country, San José is dirty, crowded and not very pretty at first glance. However, it is worth giving it the opportunity and visiting many places. It has interesting places all over the city, such as markets and bazaars where you can find authentic souvenirs from your trip. Plus, it has the best restaurants in all of Costa Rica. It has the national theater, museums and a lot of history.

Tip 13 – They drive poorly and too fast

Unlike the laid back attitude and good humor of Costa Ricans, when it comes to driving I have to say they drive like crazy! Since they’re pretty punctual (well, nothing we’re not used to in Mexico), they always drive really fast. Let’s say they don’t fully follow the rules of conduct as everyone knows them, but you have to be extra careful if you are going to rent a car, always stay in your lane and give way.

Hope these tips help you on your trip to Costa Rica and enjoy it as much as I do. Have a good trip!

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About John McTaggart

John McTaggart

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