12 Dos and Don’ts When Planning A Trip To Costa Rica

Dos and Don’ts When Planning A Trip To Costa Rica

Those who love nature, the thrill of active volcanoes, beach hopping and nature tours, Costa Rica is the country you should plan your next trip to!

With an abundance of a variety of hotels, restaurants, outdoor activities, and fresh tap water, this country is an amazing destination to quench your traveling thirst.

To help you have an amazing trip full of wonders in Costa Rica we’re providing 12 dos and don’ts. Not only will these tips help you save time and money, but they will also help you to make the most out of your trip with ease.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into it!

1. An Expensive Country

Costa Rica is considered to be one of the most expensive countries in Central America. Many travelers make the mistake of thinking that Costa Rica is an inexpensive country to go on a trip, but they find out the hard way that it isn’t the case.

So, don’t be surprised if you come across a tour that costs 100$ (per person). Even gas prices are expensive in Costa Rica. We recommend you plan your trip with a budget in mind if you haven’t already.

That being said, there are plenty of inexpensive hotels, activities and local spots you can find that are within reasonable rates. Visit the many national parks, museums or just rent a bike to make yourself feel like the locals!

You can save quite a bit of money if you plan smart and also get an amazing experience out of the trip.

2. So Much to See, So Little Time

Another misconception travelers make about Costa Rica is that they think it’s a small country. It may look small on a map, but don’t let the size fool you. A week is not enough in Costa Rica, there are too many places to visit!

The abundant rainforests, beautiful beaches, astonishing wildlife and let’s not forget the active volcanoes. Plan a trip for two weeks instead. This way, you can visit the places without feeling rushed and also go on adventures with enough time on your hands.

Even then you’ll feel like you’ve barely done justice to Costa Rica. For example, Monteverde and La Fortuna are two of northern Costa Rica’s most favorite spots for tourists and backpackers.

However, traveling from one spot to another can take up a lot of your time. It’s probably a smart move to plan a trip which allows you to visit these places with ease.

3. Travel During the Off-Season

Traveling during the dry season may seem like the ideal thing to do, however, that’s also the time Costa Rica is teeming with tourists from all over the world and everything is super expensive.

Hence, traveling during the rainy season is a much smarter choice. There will be rain showers here and there, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll experience cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, cheap rates and finally bask in the beauty of the green landscapes all around you.

You’ll still be able to take tours such as the whale watching and turtle nesting tours. Most tours run all year round, so you’ll still be able to enjoy the wonders Costa Rica offers.

Since the weather will be a little unpredictable during this time, carrying rain ponchos seem like a better idea than umbrellas. You’ll be doing outdoor activities and frankly, ziplining with an umbrella isn’t really a good idea.

Dos and Don’ts When Planning A Trip To Costa Rica

4. Stay Connected With a Prepaid Sim

Staying connected to the internet is important when you’re on your own in Costa Rica. You’ll need the internet to if you’re driving by yourself, looking for nearby places to eat, looking for an Uber or just looking for some basic information.

It’s best to buy a prepaid sim instead of relying on your roaming services. Prepaid sims are cheap and super easy to use as well. You can get them at both San Jose and Liberia airports.

Buy the one that’s widely used and has great connectivity all around the country. You can get some great deals in under 10$-20$ that can last you up to a whole week or a month!

You can recharge or top-up at any store that has a sign of the carrier you’re using. Just say ‘recarga,’ and they will ask for your number and how much money you want to recharge on your prepaid sim. It’s that easy and fast.

5. Use an Alternate Navigation App

Most people use Google Maps for navigation all over the world. However, in Costa Rica, people use an app called Waze for navigation. It’s popular and the go-to app for the locals. You should also download it in your smartphone just in case.

This app gives you real-time traffic updates and shows you the best routes like Google Maps, but they also show police warnings and any accidents as well. You’ll get alerts on your phone and this way you can choose a different route to your destination.

Just make sure you’re connected to the internet and you’re good to go!

6. Transportation

There are various transportation methods you can use while you’re in Costa Rica. From renting a car, using buses, calling an uber, taxis, shuttle to take domestic flights. Many tourists say that renting a car made their trip easy.

Others claim that calling a uber work just fine for them. And for some, taking domestic flights to their destination saves time. Whatever method of transportation you end up choosing, make sure you do your research well.

Some taxis will try to scam you by not turning on the meter, you need to be vigilant about them. Carry your driver’s license and passport with you or take a photo of the entry stamp as the police will stop you at some point.

For those who want to drive on their own, brush up on the traffic rules, knowledge about the road signs and navigating using a map of Costa Rica.

Road and Traffic Conditions

Due to the unique landscape of the country, there are places where you need to be careful about certain roads and traffic conditions.

For example, driving in San Jose can be difficult during the daytime as there will be a number of reckless drivers and motorbikes trying to get to their destination in a hurry. Best to let them pass rather than get in their way.

Similarly, going from Alajuela to Arenal can be tricky because of the hilly roads. The roads are in perfect condition, except you’ll find a few potholes here and there. They also don’t have street lights so avoid driving at night at all.

For some places such as Monteverde, you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle. The roads are full of potholes, dirt, and gravel. Some roads have only one lane that’s being used by trucks, buses and normal cars all at the same time.

Road and Traffic Conditions in Costa Rica

7. No Money Exchange? No Problem!

There’s no need to exchange your dollars to Colones as Costa Rica accepts US dollars. They are widely received by hotels, restaurants, and even tour agencies. You can go without exchanging your dollars at all! 

If you do need to exchange Dollars, it’s best to go to the bank or you can choose to pay dollars in supermarkets as well. The bank will give you the best exchange rates and the supermarket will give you your change back in Colones.

It’s also wise to keep some coins with you when you’re driving on your own. There are toll booths you may encounter and you’ll need those coins to pay the tolls.

There’s really no problem if you keep using your dollars when you’re in Costa Rica, so enjoy your trip to the fullest without any worrying.

8. Habla Inglés? Absolutely!

If you’re worried about the language barrier then you’re in for a surprise. Locals can speak and understand English in most developed areas and tourist destinations.

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to brush up your Spanish speaking skills. What’s more awesome is that the locals will appreciate your effort and will be more friendly towards you. So, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few phrases and keywords.

‘Pura Vida’ is a phrase used by the Ticos which translates to ‘pure life.’ It can be used to greet each other, say goodbye or just simply mean that everything is great! The local diners are called Soda in Costa Rica and it doesn’t hurt to learn some Spanish if you’re looking to eat at one!

You can always take help from a Spanish dictionary and other reference books. There are apps you can use to learn languages easily as well.

9. Take a Naturalist Tour

Self-guided tours and hikes save you a lot of money and give you an experience like no other, but it’s also true that taking a tour with a specialist is also pretty great.

With experts giving you knowledge about a certain plant, insect or animal you can learn so much more. Spotting a bird you would have never thought to look for in a certain forest with a specialist by your side can be totally awesome.

Parks like the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridge Park have specialists that take you on a tour where you can get to learn about a variety of animals, bird species, plants, and insects. Things you would have definitely missed yourself.

Remember to take lots of photos, record videos and make the most out of your tour!

Take a Naturalist Tour in Costa Rica

10. Eat at a Local Soda!

We already talked about what Soda means in Costa Rica, now let’s get down to their exquisite cuisine! These restaurants are usually named after their owners and many of the dishes are reasonably priced too.

Costa Rica has plenty of fresh seafood, however, shrimps are considered to be super expensive. This is because of the government ban on using trawler nets to catch shrimps and destroying other fisheries and corals. Be careful when you order shrimps!

You can enjoy a variety of other seafood dishes and can indulge in happy hour deals. By eating at a local Soda you’re also supporting the local business.

However, the Sodas near tourist spots can be expensive so look for ones that are a bit further away. There’s also no need to tip the waiters, as the diners already charge 10% of service charge. So, don’t worry about not tipping.

11. Buying Souvenirs the Smart Way

Buying souvenirs from airports or gifts shops can be seriously super expensive. They will be overpriced and frankly, it’s best to buy them from populated areas like Manuel Antonio, La Fortuna, Tamarindo.

You can also buy some nice souvenirs from huts along the beaches, smaller towns or from the shops from the side of the roads. They will be much cheaper and also have an authenticity to them. The best part is, you’ll be helping out the local business!

Check the local grocery shops for souvenirs as well. Costa Rica is the home of coffees, so you can buy some from the grocery store than from an expensive store at the airport which will cost you an arm and a leg.

12. Beach Hopping is a Fun Idea

Beach hopping is a fun trend to jump into when you’re in Costa Rica. even though these beaches may look closer to one another on the map, that’s not the case at all. They are actually pretty far apart and are quite a drive as well.

This is mainly because there is no actual road connecting these beaches. That makes it harder to drive because you have to get out on the main road and start for the next beach rather than going directly from the beach.

Be careful about driving your car on the sandy pathways as you can easily get stuck. The locals and the people around will help you but there’s really no need to trouble them.

Instead, be smart and rent an ATV. it’s the fastest way you can go from one beach to another and have fun along the way!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we hope that our list of dos and don’ts helps you have an amazing trip to the beautiful city of Costa Rica. Remember to help yourself to the fresh and incredibly tasty fruits, take lots of photos, make amazing memories and have an experience of a lifetime!

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