Costa Rica is an extremely traveler-friendly place, which is why 2 million visitors come here every year to experience its lush jungles and gorgeous coastline (not to mention the incredible wildlife, food, and adventure).
But regardless of how easy to navigate a place is, it’s always good to at least have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into when traveling to a new place. These Costa Rica travel tips should help with that.
TIP #1: Pick a hotel that best suits your expectations and needs.
If you’re someone who can’t live without air conditioning, hair dryers, and other modern conveniences, it’s probably in your best interest to book a mainstream, chain hotel. That way, you’ll be able to rest assured knowing that even though you’re in a new country, you still won’t be traveling too far outside of your comfort zone.
But if you’re the adventurous type who doesn’t mind seeing the occasional frog in your bathroom or using a mosquito net around your bed at night, you’ll probably have the most fun staying at a unique and exotic hotel that will give you the full Costa Rica experience!
TIP #2: Research restaurant options.
Similar to Tip #1, food choices also play a huge role in determining your comfort level while traveling. In order to get the most out of your meals, take some time to scope out the restaurant options in whatever area you choose to stay.
Costa Rica’s bigger cities offer a wide variety of mainstream, “Americanized” types of restaurants for safe/picky diners. But if you want to experience Costa Rica’s culture through the country’s fresh local cuisine, we recommend traveling to a more remote area (such as the Osa Peninsula) where you’ll find plenty of flavorful local food options.
TIP #3: Rent a car (or don’t rent a car).
Either way, it’s a good idea to do some research in order to figure out the best transportation choice for your trip.
If you do decide to rent a car, know that driving in Costa Rica probably isn’t anything like driving in your hometown. The roads may not be as well marked and they usually aren’t in great condition. If you know that and are okay with it, you’re probably a good candidate for renting a car in Costa Rica.
But if you have no need or desire to rent a car on your trip, it may be a good idea to do a bit of pre-planning to figure out how you’re going to get around once you arrive.
TIP #4: Bring a map!
Most of us are heavily reliant on our phones for directions and all sorts of basic information. But since your cell phone will not work in Costa Rica, you’re going to need a backup plan. And a good ol’ fashioned map is probably your best bet.
A waterproof road and travel map like this one will not only provide you with directions, but also with activity ideas and tips! And since the chances of you finding a legit map once you’re in Costa Rica are slim, it’s a good idea to order one ahead of time.
TIP #5: Pack the right stuff
Sunscreen, a swimsuit, comfortable shoes, and bug spray are must-have items in Costa Rica. Those are obvious.
But depending on the sorts of activities you plan on doing while you’re there, there are some not-so-obvious items that you’d be wise to bring. Click here for more information on what to pack and why.
And leave the valuable diamonds and watches at home – why worry about losing them?
TIP #6: Be prepared financially
Most establishments throughout the country will accept credit cards, which is why it’s always a good idea to notify your bank before you travel out of the country (reversing an account hold is more of a hassle than calling ahead – just do it).
You won’t need colones (the Costa Rican currrency), as almost everyone happily accepts US dollars. If you do want to get some, avoid exchanging money at the airport – as the exchange rates are not good.
TIP #7: Know your surroundings
Costa Rica is very safe. But just like anywhere else, careless behavior can lead to problems. And tourists are especially vulnerable.
In the bigger cities, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of petty theft. That’s why it’s best to keep valuables out of site, avoid going out alone after dark, and steer clear of engaging in conversations or activities with suspicious individuals.
With a bit of common sense and awareness, chances are you’ll be completely safe during your trip to Costa Rica.
TIP #8: Stay Healthy
Your chances of contracting any sort of infectious disease while traveling in Costa Rica are narrow. And no vaccinations are required unless you’re coming from Columbia or a country where yellow fever is a major risk.
Though it does occur, your risk for contracting Malaria in Costa Rica is extremely low. Dengue fever (a flu-like sickness that causes extreme aching of the bones and joints, fever, and dizziness) is more of a risk, though still not something to be overly concerned with. Wear mosquito repellant and pants/long-sleeve shirts in mosquito-infested areas to dramatically reduce your chances of catching either of these sicknesses.
TIP #9: Internet is widely available.
Cell phone service, not so much. Most hotels and hostels in Costa Rica are equipped with Wi-Fi. And most towns have at least one internet café (most of which are extremely inexpensive).
When it comes to making phone calls out of the country, your best bet is to purchase a phonecard (available at most grocery stores) to use at payphones. Don’t plan on using your cell phone, as Costa Rica doesn’t have agreements with North American or European providers.
TIP #10: Relax and have fun!
Costa Rica is an incredible place with a ton of activities to do and things to experience. Not everything will go just as you planned it, and that’s okay! If you’re able to roll with the punches and enjoy every moment, you might just have the time of your life!