Picture the scene. You can see the sand and crystalline waters of the Pacific Ocean, framed by swaying palm trees. Listen to the soft crashing of the waves, and relax as you watch the sun gradually go down on the horizon. You return to your hotel room to get ready for dinner and another entertaining evening. This is what you’ll experience on a well-planned trip to Costa Rica. But first, what do you need to bear in mind before traveling to Costa Rica?
1. Have your Documents Ready Before Traveling to Costa Rica
First things first: the basics. Check your passport, and how long you have before it runs out. A Costa Rica visa is not necessary if you’re a US citizen, but you’ll need your passport to be valid for at least 6 months after your date of entry into the country.
Another basic to bear in mind is your airline’s luggage policy. This varies company by company, and some will even charge you to bring a carry-on. Fines for not respecting the restrictions can be unpleasantly pricey. Take a moment to check the policy with your airline to avoid problems at check in time. This especially applies to domestic flights in Costa Rica, as the limits are particularly restrictive.
2. Be Aware of the Dollar-Colones Exchange Rate
A final basic thing to bear in mind: money. The airport exchange rate is generally eye-wateringly bad, so wait until you get to your hotel or a major bank. It is a good idea to shop around for exchange rates at home, so you have some cash on arrival. The current exchange rate at time of writing is 567 CRC (Costa Rican colones) to the dollar. Over the past year it has varied from 563 to 578 CRC to the dollar, at an average of 570 CRC. Generally, it’s worth paying in local currency, especially in smaller stores. The in-store exchange rate is usually pretty terrible.
Another tip is to open an account with a bank that doesn’t charge fees for using your debit card abroad. Don’t forget to notify your bank of your travel plans! Vacation spending abroad can easily look like suspicious activity to the bank, and they can suspend your card.
3. Get Ready for Some ‘Pura Vida’ Smiles
“Ok great”, you say, “I’ve got money, valid passport, and I’m not going to get charged at check in time. But”, you say, “I’ve heard that Central America is a dangerous place to go. Is it safe to travel to Costa Rica?”
Know this before traveling to Costa Rica: it is one of the happiest places in the world. The Ticos are proud of the feel-good vibe tourists feel here, and 2 million visitors a year agree. With planning and common sense, you’ll enjoy the “Pura Vida” (pure life) of Costa Rica during an unforgettable vacation. Just take the same precautions as you would anywhere else, and take advantage of properly licensed tour companies for your day trips. The country has excellent healthcare and the tap water is safe to drink. Most locals working in the tourist industry know English, but it can be helpful to learn basic stock phrases in Spanish. The locals will appreciate the effort at least!
4. Reserve Your Plane and Hotel Before Traveling to Costa Rica
All the above is assuming you’ve got your plane ticket and hotel reservation in hand. But what if you’re still looking for the right hotel? In Costa Rica you’ll find everything from budget hostels to luxurious all-inclusive resorts. So what should you pick? The answer really depends on your budget and preferences.
If you’re going to spend all your time exploring the region’s stunning countryside and enjoying outdoor activities, it might be worth staying in a budget hotel and just using it purely as a place to stay. If you want to mix in chilling by the pool or sea, then the obvious choice is an all-inclusive resort. These impressive properties make it as easy as possible for you to enjoy your vacation; most offer excellent dining options and lots of things to do. They take all the hassle out of eating, drinking, and daily food budgets.
5. Take Tours to Truly Encounter Costa Rica
Talking about things to do, don’t pass up the chance to take guided tours of the country’s great outdoors and national parks. You’ll get so much more from the experience and your time in Costa Rica. Plan your day trips ahead of time, and bear in mind the time of year of your visit.
Some trips are perfect for the rainy season, for example, while others aren’t! If you do choose to travel during the rainy season, take some insect repellent with you — it can be pricey in country. A high factor sun block is also highly recommended, whenever you travel.
6. Extend Your Stay in Costa Rica!
Finally, and this is a bit cheeky, especially if you’ve already booked your vacation: stay more than a week! Some of the national parks are hours apart, and a trip from Dreams Las Mareas to Arenal Volcano is at least 3 hours long. It can be really worth your while spending a couple of days in each part of the country. This way you save your day trip travel time and you get more time to enjoy each excursion. Two weeks will give you enough time to really discover Costa Rica and its “Pura Vida”.
In summary, with a bit of preparation and planning before traveling to Costa Rica, you’ll really enhance your time here. Take a minute to plan your day trips to enjoy the country’s sustainable tourism, and get the most out of guided tours. Keep your wits about you and an open mind, and you’ll have a truly memorable experience in Costa Rica.