Tips for Travelers in Costa Rica

600_005-White_Water_RaftingAt this writing (January 2010) we are well into our dry season which lasts from mid-November to mid-April. It is a terrific time to visit Costa Rica as you have all day to enjoy our beautiful climate. I must warn you though, it will be hot in the sun especially at the beaches. The tree in the photo is the first to bloom and one of only a few that bloom at this time of the year.
1. Although Costa Rica is generally safer than most countries, keep in mind that you are a foreigner in a foreign country and often looked upon as being rich by Costa Rican standards. So, be careful where you go and guard your valuables at all times.

2. Never leave anything unattended in the car, restaurant, the beach or pool. Do not leave luggage unattended or give it to anyone.

3. As soon as you can after entering Costa Rica, make a copy of your Passport, including your entry page and carry the copy of the passport. Keep the original in a secure place such as a hotel safe or hidden in your room.

4. I suggest that men carry their valuables in their front pocket and women use a secure shoulder purse. Be careful with backpacks as they can be opened.

5. Do not exchange money at the airport. They give a lousy exchange rate. Wait and go to a local bank. Dollars will suffice at the airport. Carry a few ones for tips. Don’t carry much cash; you can always get more at an ATM. You can use your debit or credit card as long as it is a Pulse or Cirrus. They do not like travelers’ checks here and if you bring them you will probably have to go to a bank or hotel to cash them. Don’t carry valuables or wear expensive jewelery, lock them in the hotel safe.

6. Don’t forget that you will need to save enough money to buy an exit ticket for $26.00 each. You can’t leave the country without it. The cashiers for the exit visas are located to the right and left as you enter the airport. The will take dollars, colones or credit/debit cards.

7. In the mountains the weather is warm and pleasant during the day, but it cools off rapidly at night. You may want to bring a sweater or a light jacket. At the beach it is generally hot. humid and may rain.

8. We have two seasons. The dry season from mid-November to mid-May has little rain and we may go weeks without a drop. It can be windy during December and January. The wet season is from mid-May till mid-November with May, June and October being the rainiest months. Although you may get rain anytime during the rainy season it usually is sunny from early morning until 1pm or so. In mid-afternoon it rains heavily for a while and then clears off during the evening, although if there are tropical depressions in the Caribbean it may rain all day. Try to schedule your activities for the morning. The dry season is referred to as the tourist season and the rates are a little higher during that time. If you don’t mind a little damp weather you can get some really good deals during the rainy season.

9. Shorts are not worn by tico (acceptable slang for Costa Ricans) men or women in town, just by gringos, they are acceptable at the beach.

10. It will be hot at the beach. Suntan lotion will be necessary as the sun is bright and you will burn quickly. Remember we are only 9.5 degrees above the equator. You also may want some mosquito repellant for the beach. There are very few mosquitoes in the mountains.

11. When you get through customs and immigration you will have to carry your bags for about 50 feet. Don’t let anyone take them it will just cost you money and you only have to drag them outside. Also there will be taxi drivers and others trying to help and make a tip. It is a zoo at the curb, just keep saying, No, Gracias. If you have made arrangements for someone to pick you up they will wait for you just outside the exit. They cannot come in. If it is a tour or driver service they will have a sign. If you are going to use a taxi hire the Orange ones. They have a meter. All other taxis are illegal and you cannot be sure of the fare.

12. When you get a chance you may want to buy a 500 colon calling card that is good all over CR. Some of the pay phones do not take coins.

13. As far as clothes go, a good sturdy pair of running shoes or hiking shoes will work for horseback riding and walking and some sandals for the beach. The sun is bright so bring a good hat and sunglasses. Light weight slacks or jeans will work although I find jeans too hot. Nothing dressy, every place you go will be casual.
14. There are few street or road signs, everyone goes by directions using landmarks. For example, directions to our house are “en Barbacoas de cruce Cortezal, 500 metros sur, virar a la derecha, 100 meters contigua la bomba de agua.” Which means “ In Barbacoas from the cross street to Cortezal go 500 meters south, turn right and go 100 meters and we are next to the water pumping station.”

Other than that it is TODO BUENO

Fred and Mary