What to avoid when visiting Costa Rica
First and foremost, I’d like to say these tips don’t just pertain to Costa Rica but most countries. We at Relocate CR love Costa Rica with our hearts and have chosen to live here for many great reasons. With that being said, here is a list of what to avoid when visiting Costa Rica in 2022.
1. Don’t wait to book
Do not wait to reserve your rental vehicle, flight, or hotel if you are traveling during the peak season (December to March). In the busy season, things fill up quite quickly, and you risk going without or wasting too much time scrambling to complete tasks that should have been completed months in advance.
2. Carry what you need
Leave your passport in your hotel room’s safe; all you need is photos on your phone of the ID portion and your tourist visa stamp for any officials that want to see some identification. Even better yet, you could have these printed out and kept on your person to make it even easier to present something to the authorities in the rare case it’s needed.
Remember you are only 10 degrees from the equator, and even on a deceivingly cloudy day or under the shade periodically, you can get burnt to a crisp without the proper sunblocked applied to all areas exposed to the sun! You may get a better deal on sunblock if you buy from home, for if you want until the very last minute and get it on the beach, there may be a surcharge attached based on the need-to-have basis. Sunstroke is a possible outcome if you don’t stay hydrated with enough high SP level sunblock applied at all times for those of us with less melatonin in our skin!
Your time is valuable; sometimes, you get a little gungho about trying to squeeze every last drop of fun possible out of your trip. Costa Rica may be small compared to other countries, but it still takes time to get from one side to the other via car. You’re better off taking time to “smell the roses” than to be constantly traveling and only experiencing Costa Rica from a car window. If you wish to see a good portion of the country, I’d advise taking the majority of your 90-day tourist visa to do so, as there is so much to see.
5. Hotel location
Places in Costa Rica can be umbrellaed under the same name and be massive, resulting in you not realizing that the hotel you booked that seems close to the attraction you want to see is, in reality, half an hour to forty-five minutes away by car. If you want to be secluded and enjoy your time away from it all, all the power to you, but double-check quickly on google maps or Waze to ensure there are no surprises.
6. Nighttime driving
Driving at night in Costa Rica is more suited for the locals than you think at first glance. Fog, rain, and flash floods can roll in at an instant and catch you off guard in unfamiliar territory, which can spell disaster. Because Costa Rica is a tropical rainforest nation, heavy rainstorms frequently damage the country’s highways. The roadways may have significant water damage, resulting in potholes that must be avoided and are harder to notice at night, mainly if they are filled with water.
7. The bell of the ball
If you usually aren’t the type to be approached by the best-looking person at the nightclub and start to get danced on, there may be an alternative motive behind this. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is, so be aware they may be looking to pinch your wallet or passport to make a quick buck.
Sidenote: keep your wallet in your front pocket; it’s old-fashioned and harmful for your posture to keep an oversized wallet in your back pocket ripe for the picking.
8. Phone for emergency
Make sure your phone is always on you, locked and loaded with a high battery and data in case of an emergency. Nothing can get you out of a jam quicker than a quick call to the authorities when it’s required. Compared to the latest and greatest iPhone, a cheap smartphone can do the same job in a pinch, so there is no need to bring something you can’t afford to lose when on a hike or relaxing on the beach where it has a chance to be damaged or lost.
9. “Propina para mi?”
Tips are already included in your restaurant bill at 10% and will appear as “Propina” on your final cheque total, so don’t be deceived into believing you owe more than you do. Adding an additional 10% on top of that might push you well over the 20% mark.
If you choose to rent a vehicle, you will notice that popular tourist attractions such as the beach parking areas will most likely have parking guys that will watch your vehicle and help you maneuver out or into your parking space. Please don’t rely on them to save you from thieves; keep your valuables out of sight and, better yet, in your hotel room, and don’t try the age-old “leave your keys on the tire trick;” everyone knows that one by now. Protecting you from potential thieves or not, when you’re leaving, they will always expect a tip, so if you carry some change somewhere out of sight, like your glove compartment box, you can pass them some coins as you go.
Depending on various circumstances, such as what beach you are visiting and what time of the day it is, the ocean can be a powerful unforgiving place. Don’t swim alone, as you can quickly be swept off your feet if you aren’t paying attention and dragged out further than you’d like at a moment’s notice. I’d suggest taking a quick read here for further information on adequately identifying and avoiding Riptides in Costa Rica.
There’s no need to bring tons of cash to Costa Rica to take with you everywhere you go, as most places will accept your credit card. When prompted during a card transaction, always select the colones option, as your bank will give you a far better exchange rate than their machine offers. You can quickly check for yourself if you wish by memorizing the USD figure shown as an option and going through your online bank statement to compare.
Tell your bank that you’ll be using your cards in a foreign country. Some banks will block your card when they notice something out of the norm, such as a charge coming from a country you’ve never visited.
If you are going somewhere remote and want to bring some cash, the casino can be an excellent place to exchange your currency for colones at a decent rate.
12. Sticky fingers
Thieves are aware of the prime season (December to March) and are attracted to the high-volume tourist areas as that’s where they have room to “work.” Avoid putting a bullseye on your back by leaving your jewelry at home; nobody here will be impressed by your bling except the wrong crowd.
13. Find your Waze
The Waze application trumps google maps here as it’s what the locals use and the number 1 app to get around by car while avoiding traffic and accidents simultaneously. You can set your “home” button to your hotel, so as long as you have battery on your phone, you can make it home no matter how lost you may be.
Uber and Uber Eats are the highest used ride and food delivery options and provide the correct rate. If you plan a long-distance trip with a private driver, you can get a quote with Uber first to compare prices. Taxis are always red cars here with a decal on the sides and can be expensive compared to Uber and Didi (cheaper alternative app to uber but with lower standards), and I never find myself inside of a “red taxi” because of this.
14. 90 days
When you pass airport immigration, you will notice they put a stamp on your passport with a specific written number of days (usually up to 90) you’re legally allowed to be in the country. The number 1 mistake is people think this is 3 months and miscalculate your exit date. It’s always a good idea to leave a little wiggle room if you intend on staying the majority of that time and leave at least a few days before to give yourself time for any unexpected delays.
15. The power of two
Traveling alone can be safe in Costa Rica, and you won’t likely encounter any problems, especially during the day. If you can help it, we advise going on any trip to a new country with a companion since your risk of being taken advantage of is far less.
The best souvenir
Instead of just bringing home a refrigerator magnet, consider taking some coffee with you. On your trip, if you’re a coffee drinker, I’m sure you will fall in love with what Costa Rica offers at first sip. Your friends and family will thank you if you are inclined to be so generous as to share your precious, fastly depleting stash.
Follow these tips and tricks and you’ll find you have had the time of your life experiencing what Costa Rica has to offer. You may even find yourself unwilling to go home as this is such a magical place full of adventure and positive vibes! Pura Vida Mae!
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