Whether packing too much or all the wrong stuff, not bothering to check weather reports or ignoring local’s advice about road conditions and doing no research at all, some visitors to Costa Rica fall victim to some quite basic ‘travel mistakes’.
Let’s be clear: nothing in Costa Rica is ever a disaster, even with no forward planning at all, but if you do want to make the most of your time here, and (more importantly) experience the best this country has to offer, you may want to take heed of some advice…straight from the sloth’s mouth!
Here are some essential do’s and don’ts, for an unforgettable Costa Rica experience.
-Learn a few basic phrases in Spanish before you go, and it will help you interact with Ticos outside major cities, where English is not as widely spoken. Take a phrasebook with you or use an off-line translation app for those spontaneous chats with newfound friends.
-Pack enough sunscreen and insect repellent to last you through to Armageddon. Seriously! Hard to find outside cities and quite expensive, these products are a godsend and absolutely essential at ANY time of year!
-It’s quite imperative to do some research and discover what your chosen destination is like at the time you wish to visit. Seasonal changes can be quite drastic in Costa Rica, and what is blissful at one time may be not so perfect at another. If you are limited to a specific month, then we suggest you search for the best part of the country in THAT month, and plan your trip accordingly.
-Want to make a good first impression? Be the first to smile and greet when meeting locals, entering shops etc and you’ll be 10 steps ahead of most other foreign travellers. Ticos are lovely and hospitable people and genuinely appreciate an effort. If you want to score double-brownie points, then start all conversations by stating how beautiful their country is…they love that too!
-Be somewhat conservative in attire and remember that no matter how hot it gets, beachwear is only appropriate on the beach in Costa Rica. Especially on the countryside, Ticos are still quite reserved.
-Remember that rains are still possible during the dry months, so either pack a wet-weather jacket or buy a poncho as soon as you arrive.
-Don’t pack your most valuable designer top, glamorous high heels or jewellery for a Costa Rica vacation. IF you end up wearing them, it will be once (for a couple of hours) and the rest of the time, you’ll be lugging them around for no reason at all. Moreover, although dry cleaners and laundry ladies do their utmost to take care of your washing, mini-disasters can happen, so don’t pack that expensive top you love. Valuables should be left at home when you travel anywhere, so keep up that same credo when visiting Costa Rica.
-Being so close to home (for US residents) Costa Rica is a very popular destination for short getaways. To this end, DON’T FORGET to pack a change of clothes and all your documents and any prescription medication in your carry-on luggage. Should your checked in luggage go AWOL for a few days, at least you won’t panic and can simply start your adventure while your suitcase catches up. Hard to do when your most-needed items are in said suitcase.
-By and large, we’d advice to not plan on visiting more than 3 places for every 12 days of travel. That’s 1 place for every 4, travel time included. Costa Rica may seem small to you, when looking at a map, but it’ll exponentially grow in size as you start driving around. Don’t overfill your to-see list and you’ll remove a lot of stress from your trip.
-Whatever you do, don’t overpack. You’ll end up washing and wearing the same three pieces of clothing (tops, underwear, shorts etc) because lugging around smelly clothing is just not fun. Pack in the essentials first (that’s only one bikini, one pair of flip-flops and one sarong for the beach, for example) and only add a second IF you have space and the weight of your bag is manageable by you. By the way, you’re the only one who’ll ever notice you’re wearing the same swimsuit for two days in a row. Trust us on this.