Here are Ten things you should know about Costa Rica which will make your trip a success. Most of these suggestions take into consideration that you are staying at or near our condo in the Guanacaste area.
1. Can I speak English in Costa Rica?
Yes, many of the locals in our area speak English. They of course prefer to speak in Spanish and will give you more attention if you attempt their language. If you can't speak a work of Spanish ... don't worry. Just learn these few words ... Gracias, Por Favor and Bano.
2. Can I use credit cards and US dollars in Costa Rica?
Certainly, most stores in our area (Tamarindo, Flamingo, Brasillito) will take US dollars and most credit cards. However, we recommend that you exchange some of your dollars for colones, and keep it handy just in case. Do this at a bank (have some patience however as this could take some time) or even better - use a cash machine. There are ATMs in Tamarindo and Flamingo that work well and give you a good exchange rate.
to get the latest conversion ... Google offers a free currency conversion. Right now the conversion is 1 U.S. dollars = 583 Costa Rican colones.
3. Can I drink the water in Costa Rica?
Yes, the water in Costa Rica is still clean and safe to drink. Feel free to drink tap water from the fridge spigot and faucet. However, drinking bottled water is not a bad idea. You can purchase bottled water at all of the local stores near our condo.
4. Is the food good in Costa Rica?
Yes, the typical Costa Rican food is simple and good. We're talking about rice and beans, fish, chicken, fruit and vegetables. Eat up and enjoy. Don't be afraid to try the local Soda's. These small restaurants are normally cheap and have great food. The tourist restaurants will be more expensive and offer more imported items. The typical Costa Rican meal that is offered for lunch or dinner is called the casado. It normally includes rice, black beans, fried plantain (large banana), some type of meat or fish and a type of vegetable. You really can't go wrong with a Casado and you'll find them to be inexpensive and tasty. Costa Rican desserts are a special treat. Try the flan (traditional dessert) and the dulce de leche if you really have a sweet tooth. Breakfasts of all kinds are common ... from eggs, french toast to rice and beans. Of course try the Costa Rican coffee!!
5. Will I get Malaria while travelling in Costa Rica?
No, very unlikely. There are a few cases reported in Costa Rica every year, however most of them are on the Caribbean side of the country. Dengue fever outbreaks do occur mostly in very rural areas where people sleep without screened windows or doors. These mosquito born illnesses can be prevented by simply using a bug spray, in the early mornings and evenings. You will not even notice mosquitos around our area in the dry season, However it's still a good idea to put on a little bug spray when going out to dinner (most restaurants are open air) or walking the beach. If you forget bug spray, don't worry. We normally have some in a closet. Help yourself.
6. Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?
Yes, renting a car in Costa Rica offers up endless exploring and flexibility, and allows you to discover the beautify this country has to offer. Keep in mind the roads are dark and often feature pedestrians walking and biking, right down the middle. They wear dark clothes with no reflective strips or lights and really don't comprehend the fact that they are difficult to see. Horses, cows, snakes and lizards all share the roadway as well. The moral of the story is to drive slowly, keep a watchful eye and be prepared for something in the roadway. Once you get the hang of it ... you'll enjoy touring around the area. We can assist you in getting a discount on your car rental. Give us an email or call.
7. Will I get lost driving around Costa Rica?
Yes you will get lost while in Costa Rica. This is a given, even for Costa Ricans' who are travelling around their own county. Roads are not marked well, especially off the main highways. Many streets aren't named, and virtually none have signs. Many houses don't have numbers. Not even mapquest or a high-end GPS will help find a location in Costa Rica, as the country doesn't use anything close to "123 Main Street" for an address. Basically, just pretend you're on a scavenger hunt picking up little clues on the way. The locals around our area are very helpful and are used to gringos getting lost. They are always happy to help you and will do everything possible to get you moving the correct direction. Have fun with it. Keep smiling and be friendly.
8. Will I get robbed in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica, like most Central American countries suffers from petty crime. Let's call it an inconvenience crime ... one that won't kill you but will certainly irritate you and put a major damper on your otherwise perfect Costa Rican experience. Protect yourself like this ....
A) Never leave any valuables in your car, unattended. Never!!
B) Don't carry your passports with you. Make a photocopy of your passports and carry these copies with you at all times. Take your original passports and lock them in our wall safe.
C) Keep one credit card and a little emergency cash separate from your purse or wallet. If the unthinkable happens, you can fall back on that.
D) Be alert of your surroundings. You WILL stand out ... and those who prey on tourists will see you coming. Keep an eye on your belongings and the people around you. Let them know you're on guard!!
Note: San Jose is the crime capital of Costa Rica, and should be avoided. In Guanacaste, near our condo, you don't have much to worry about. The biggest issue would be the beaches. Don't leave your valuables unattended and once again, don't leave anything of value in your car, while at the beach.
9. What should I pack for my trip to Costa Rica?
Keep it very simple, and light. There is no need for fancy dress in Costa Rica. Shorts and sandals will be your everyday (and evening) attire. Restaurants are very casual as well. Even better, we have a nice washer and dryer in the condo for your use - so don't overpack.
Bring a book, snorkel gear if you have room, camera, suntan lotion, hat, shoes (for hiking or walking the tidal pools at the beach), swim suit, shorts, t-shirts, bug juice, iPod with favorite music (we have a docking station), binoculars if you like to watch the monkeys and birds, sunglasses, a photocopy of your passports, medications, dramamine (if you plan on fishing), a small travel umbrella and a small flashlight (Costa Rica power can go off unexpectedly).
10. How much time do I need for my Costa Rica Vacation?
A 7 day trip to our condo is nice. You'll have time to explore many exotic beaches, snorkel, fish, zip line, horseback ride, river raft, ATV, hang out at the pool and visit nearby restaurants. You won't have time to go to the cloud forrest, however. If you would like to go there as well, I would recommend at least a 10 day trip, with 2 weeks being best. We can offer up some suggestions on where to stay in Arenal when you visit the cloud forrest. See our Costa Rica Vacation itinerary page for suggestions.