“This article is a mixture 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 organizing your trip to Costa Rica, there are several things you should know, tourism in 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.
This increase in tourism has generated many myths that are worth debunking so that you do not get an unpleasant surprise once you are there. Of course, it is never possible to go 100% ready for a trip and knowing 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 is not as cheap as you think
Contrary to what many have in mind that because Costa Rica is a Central American country it will be cheap, it turns out that 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 am not saying that it is expensive or impossible to travel. It is just that you take it into account when making your travel budget and avoid surprises.
Tip 2 – Distances are longer than you think
Most people think that because it is a small country, everything is close, they are wrong! Despite being a small country, moving from one point to another can take a long time.
The roads in Costa Rica are not the most modern, as it is usually only one lane one way and one back, so it is likely that you will encounter traffic caused by cargo trucks.
Perhaps 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 cross through many natural parks so it does not always mean that a few kilometers are the same in a short time.
Tip 3 – Believe it or not, it is cold there
It is true that most of the year it is a tropical climate, but it is worth mentioning that Costa Rica has many “mini-climates” within the Natural Parks depending on their height and the ecosystem, so if this is on your list visit Volcanoes (which surely will) so 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, investigate well before traveling if it is a rainy season or not, if so, then, in addition to a raincoat, pack slightly warmer clothes.
Tip 4 – There are many mosquitoes, but it is not to be scared 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 nothing to worry about. As a traveler, your concern should be regarding dengue. It is not that I want to scare you or that you avoid traveling to this country, you simply have to take the appropriate precautions.
It is worth being informed and carrying repellent with you all the time, as well as some ointment for bites just in case.
Recommended equipment for your trip to Costa Rica:
There are many mosquito repellent options, just make sure yours has a minimum of 30% DEET as an active compound to be effective.
Scratching an itch can make the situation much worse so it is best to wear something to prevent 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, on 3 occasions, declared the happiest country in the world
Since 1948 it has been one of the few countries that does not have any type of armed force, but do not be surprised, since it has not been necessary either, they decided to invest that money in health and education.
The Central American country has been cataloged on several occasions 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 foreigners, do not be surprised if a Costa Rican approaches you just to talk and ask where you are from; they love meeting people and are quite friendly and laid back.
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 whom you are in Costa Rica. Be smart and follow your instincts and go with 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 that 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, although it is worth mentioning that it is always good to ask at the hotel/hostel where you stay to be completely safe, even so I recommend that you always carry your reusable water bottle.
Tip 7 – Internet signal is poor 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 for you to be able to navigate only at the reception, or the common areas of the hotel. In public spaces, you will not find a wide range of Internet connections either. It is not like in other cities that you can find Starbucks or where to connect on every corner.
If you are worried about being connected during your trip, then I recommend that you buy a local SIM card. You can find them directly at the airport, supermarkets and/or local stores. They will ask you to present your passport to be able to acquire one. The companies are KOLBI, MOVISTAR, CLARO, TUYO MOVIL.
SIM card Costa Rica
SIM card promotion for Costa Rica
If you are from Spain, you are thinking of traveling to Costa Rica and you would like to have everything ready before your trip, I recommend you review this Holafly SIM card; It will allow you to have data for your trip. For being a reader of My Trip around the World you get a 5% discount.
Tip 8 – Their Spanish is different from what you know
They do not refer to 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 is this a place? They will tell you that it is not far; it is long!
They do not drink coffee, they drink “iodine” (yes, it is coffee, actually); to be hungry is to be sharp; the food is “moncha”; They are not going to ask you to wait a moment, they say “soft touch” (do not worry, they are not offering you marijuana), if you want the taxi driver to turn on the meter then ask him to turn on “María”.
Ticos do not say HELLO, or GOODBYE, or I’M GOOD; it all comes down to PURA VIDA!
Tip 9 – Local police can stop you at any time, in order to ask for your papers
It is normal to see the police on the road stopping people, so always carry your passport or a copy of it and a photo on your cell phone of the stamp of your entrance. Police in Costa Rica are allowed to stop anyone in order to reduce drug trafficking, but this is more common in border areas.
If you have chosen to rent a car, it is unnecessary to tell you that you should always carry your driver’s license as well.
Tip 10 – Public transportation operates from San José / Alajuela
The center of operation of the buses 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 is worth mentioning that calculating the time is of vital importance since the buses In Costa Rica they are governed by a tight schedule system, always plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before and do not be surprised if there are delays.
The best known companies are TUASA, COOPETRANS, ARSA, TRANSPORTES MEPE, TRACOPA, among others.
Depending on the route and the address you go to, it will be the company and the terminal to which you should go, I repeat, it is easy to find them but the distances are long since they always return to San José.
Tip 11 – Most of the time you will use dollars instead of colones
The approximate exchange rate is US$ 1 = 560 colones, but I do not recommend that you change all your money to the local currency, since practically all tour companies will ask you to pay in dollars.
In supermarkets and stores they will also accept your dollars, although you should always carry an amount of colones with you, especially in the less tourist regions; if they need to give you change when paying with dollars, they will do so in colones. It is also worth mentioning that not in all cities or small towns you will find ATMs, 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 visit many places. It has interesting places throughout the city, such as markets and bazaars where you can find authentic memories of your trip. In addition, 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 badly and too fast
Contrary to the relaxed attitude and good vibes of the Costa Ricans, when it comes to driving, I must say that they drive like crazy! Since they are quite unpunctual (well, nothing to which in Mexico we are not used to) they always drive with in a great hurry. Let’s say they do not fully respect the driving rules as everyone knows them, but you must be very careful if you are going to rent a car, always stay in your lane, and give way.
I hope these tips help you during your trip to Costa Rica and that you enjoy it as much as I do. Good trip!