Waiting to explore the lush and wild world of Costa Rica? Here are a few things to keep in mind. One of the most ecologically rich destinations in the world, Costa Rica is a relatively small Central American country with an abundance of environmental attractions.
The country’s imposing volcanoes, tropical forests, wildlife, botanical gardens, stunning river valleys, and hundreds of beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts make for an enchanting journey.
The rich sights and sounds of this dream vacation spot are sure to amaze you and help you create memories that last a lifetime. If this sounds familiar to you because you’re planning a trip to this tropical paradise, it is essential to have some basic knowledge of Costa Rica before you pack your bags.
Lack of familiarity with the local language and customs can cause unpredictable situations and problems.
So here’s some useful information as listed by Jayanth Sharma, co-founder and CEO at Toehold, which will help you prepare for your trip and enjoy it completely.
-Proof of departure is a vital document for every foreign tourist:
Costa Rica requires proof of departure as an entry pass from every foreign tourist. The proof needs to be shown when you check in for your flight from your port of departure. Therefore, make sure that you carry this essential document, both as a printed hard copy and as an image/e-mail on your phone to ensure a trouble-free journey. Try to make sure that the file is downloaded onto your device, since you might not have Internet connectivity later, and accessing the ticket can become a problem.
-Taxi drivers are not always reliable:
If you are looking to book a cab and roam around in this vibrant country without a guide, be wary of rigged meters and taxi drivers who may be out to fleece you. There are high chances that these drivers will overcharge you, especially for picking you up from the hotel or while taking you across a provincial border. It would be ideal to conduct your own research beforehand by enquiring about the rates from the hotel manager to ensure that you are not paying more than you should.
-The weather is unpredictable:
The weather in Costa Rica can be unpredictable, with a dip or rise in temperature experienced in an hour’s drive. Although the country is known for its tropical weather, it can get extremely chilly or rain heavily as well. Therefore, plan your wardrobe wisely. Ensure that you carry your raincoat or an umbrella in addition to some warm clothes to beat any potential weather-woes. Carrying a few extra pairs of clothing is easier than having to deal with adverse weather conditions when you’re unprepared.
-US dollars are readily accepted:
Before travelling to a new country, tourists prefer exchanging currency in order to enjoy hassle-free travel. Most of you may find this a difficult and confounding exercise, and the variation in rates can cause a lot of heartburn, especially for more exotic currencies like the Costa Rican colon. However, it isn’t necessary to get INR exchanged to colon before you go to Costa Rica. Get your money converted into dollars because US dollars are commonly used in Costa Rica at the airport, restaurants, hotels, etc. and other places around the country. Most establishments that deal regularly with tourists will have some provision for receiving payments in USD. USD is far more easily available at foreign exchange counters across the world, and the exchange rates are more standardized for it.
– It is an ‘expensive’ coast:
‘Costa Rica’ literally means ‘rich coast’, but it’s expensive as well. If you were on a limited budget, it would be ideal to plan your itinerary and make a rough estimate of your expenses for your travel activities. Costa Rica can burn a crater in your pockets, as it is the most expensive country in Central America. Do not forget to carry all your essentials, so you avoid splurging on toothbrushes and the like, and instead, spend wisely on the many available experiences. Chart out your trip sensibly, and if you’re looking to be thrifty, take the time to look for low-cost lodging options like camping, hostels and small eco-guesthouses. The internet can be your friend here, giving you reasonably updated information about basic costs.
-Carry sufficient cash, since it’s difficult to find an ATM:
Make sure you have some cash or a forex card easily available, as ATMs aren’t as widespread as you’d hope. More offbeat locations, especially small towns and rural areas, can be entirely bereft of ATMs. Since ATMs are prominent in popular tourist destinations such as Arenal, Monteverde, Puerto Viejo, and Tamarindo, you should get the cash you might need from these places before you travel further afield.
-Bug spray is a must:
The public health officials of Costa Rica have cautioned that mosquitoes in the country are carriers of the Zika virus. Therefore, apart from your passport and other important documents, make sure that you carry some form of bug spray or mosquito repellent. This will protect you from the Zika virus, and the threat of dengue which is also common in the country.
-Tap water is safe to drink:
This might come as a surprise for most Indian travellers, but you needn’t spend money buying bottled water throughout your trip. Tap water is potable in most of the tourist destinations in the country, and can be consumed without the fear of infection or chemical poisoning. Hotels or tour guides will indicate which faucets to use.
-Police can stop you and ask for your papers at any time:
It is quite common for police officers in Costa Rica to conduct routine checks on the road for documentation. They do so to prevent illegal immigration and drug trafficking. During these checks, police officers are likely to ask for travel documentation, and you might not have found space in your beachwear for your passport. Therefore, it is necessary to always carry a colour photocopy of your passport and a photo of your entry stamp. Such instances are quite common near the Nicaragua and Panamanian borders and other popular tourist destinations.
-It’s a small country but it takes longer to get around than you may think:
Looking at a map of the country, you might be tempted to set off on a cross-country road trip. However, the mountainous geography of the island, traffic congestion and single lanes can severely jam up your peregrinations. Conventional maps are quite misleading about distances, as proximity of two towns does not guarantee a short travel time between them – often there might be no direct road between the two. Be wary of such miscalculations and always check with locals or reliable online forums before chalking out your plans.