Costa Rica is a gorgeous country in Central America with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific. Though all the cultural institutions are located in its capital, San Jose, Costa Rica is best known for its beaches, rainforests, volcanoes, and biodiversity. From the moment we landed, you immediately take in the fresh air and start to plan a future life there. I like to do research prior to traveling somewhere new to see if there is something we should know beforehand, so I decided to give you 5 of my own tips to make your time in Costa Rica, an amazing experience!
1) USING COLONES COMES OUT CHEAPER THAN USING DOLLARS
As soon as we landed, I headed to the currency exchange and decided to change $45 U.S. Dollars into Costa Rican colones. At the exchange rate of 499.81 per Dollar, I received ¢22,491.58 Colón Costarricense. When we arrived somewhere to buy something, I noticed that paying in Costa Rican currency actually saved me some money since they don’t use quarters, dimes, nickels, or pennies like we do. Since they aren’t used, you don’t get accurate change back and when they calculate the exchange it’s rounded up. Another thing is that if you decide to use your credit or debit card, make sure you ask them to charge you in Colones… When charged in American Dollars, my friend actually noticed that they would charge us $1- $5 more on our bank statement! You live and you learn, right?
P.S. : DO NOT USE THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE SERVICES INSIDE THE AIRPORT! I realized that a bit later on when I saw that the actual exchange rates in the country were between ¢560 and ¢582.
2) BUG SPRAY AND SUNSCREEN IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
Those bugs are a nuisance in any tropical climate. Our dear friend was pretty much eaten alive whereas Gabs and I only had 1-3 bites each. The biggest struggle that I’ve come across when traveling with only a carryon is finding a bug spray that is within the travel ounce limit. I did see a few on Amazon, but I didn’t have time to order it before we left. Sometimes you don’t even want to purchase any more when you have an 8oz bottle already sitting on your shelf. In that case, just buy a travel spray bottle or a refillable perfume atomizer and fill it yourself. Also, be sure to pack some sheer sunscreen to put on each day. Even in the rainy seasons, the sun beams through those clouds. Speaking of the rainy season…
3) RAINY SEASON VISITS DO NOT STOP THE FUN
Unlike here in NYC where we have the 4 (or what feels like 9 🙄) seasons, Costa Rica remains really warm due to its close proximity to the equator. The only difference in weather that you see is the daily rain during the Costa Rican rainy season (or “green season”) which occurs from May to mid-November. This is the time that Costa Ricans consider Winter. On many of our 8 days in Costa Rica, we did encounter rain, but it would mostly start in the late afternoon and end a few minutes or hours later. It didn’t stop our Water park visit, Beach day, or peaceful sleep. However, It DID stop our river tubing due to the possibility of rain waters causing the rivers to rise quickly at any moment.
4) KNOWING THE SPANISH LANGUAGE WILL HELP YOU
My family is from the Dominican Republic, born and raised. I was the only one born here in the U.S., but my parents made sure that I knew the language of my parent’s country. When I had questions, it was great to speak to everyone in Spanish because they could help me easier. It was very funny to see the look on their faces when they heard me as they thought my Spanish was excellent for “an American”. I would then tell them a little about where my family is from and we’d laugh about their initial thoughts. Though knowing Spanish does help a lot, Costa Rican Spanish uses completely different words and phrases so when it came to ordering food or buy specific stuff, I had to use my trusty Google translator or a quick game of charades to get my point across.
5) YOU’LL BE DISCONNECTED FROM YOUR CYBER LIFE
You’re probably thinking duh, who needs to be connected on vacation? But if you’re on a Press Trip (like we were) or you want to post pictures of your vacation, It’ll be really hard for you to do since the service is nearly nonexistent in the rainforest and many hotels in the rainforest do not have wifi that extends past the reception offices or areas. Many times, it was great to not worry about looking at my phone for messages or calls and it allowed me to truly embrace this mother-daughter trip. I was able to really see this country through my daughter’s eyes and I can’t wait to do it again.
When planning your trip to Costa Rica, be sure to remember this post as it’ll help you have an amazing time… Do you have any tips of your own to share?