Have you ever wondered why so many people travel to Costa Rica each year? Well, it surely has its own little secrets when it comes to allure but we are here to shed a little light on the more direct need-to-knows. So without further ado, let us see what this Central American paradise has to offer us!
This is the most striking aspect of Costa Rica without any trace of a doubt. Why? Well, let us put it this way: because it is located only 8 to 12 degrees above the equator. What this means is that it has a hot yet pleasurable tropical climate all year long. There is a winter season (at least that is what the locals call winter) but it is nothing to be afraid of – it only means a little more rain and by no means a drop in terms of temperatures. Think of the most distant palm-tree-riddled paradise that you can imagine and that is what Costa Rica is: fine beaches, scintillating flora and beautiful people. Keep track of the mosquitos, though, because they do tend to be a bit pesky (especially at dusk).
Like many Central American paradises, crime tends to be a problem in Costa Rica as well. Petty theft is so rampant that it is outright counterproductive to walk around with more than 200 USD. Always make copies of your documents and leave them in your hotel’s safes. Being safe is especially important if you are planning on hitting the road and getting out of San Jose (the capital). San Jose’s bus terminal is located within the bounds of an area called “Zona Roja” and that would translate into something like a Red Light District. Petty theft, mugging and identity theft is a serious problem there and we recommend that you NEVER, in any case, wait for a bus there at night. If you can, take a shuttle from somewhere else, or be there exactly when your bus leaves. Women in revealing clothes should also think twice before waiting for buses there alone. We know that it is a tropical country and that one should not be covered head to toe, but safety comes first and you will not regret our advice in the long run.
Ok, so before you come to scrutinise the cultural undertones, understand that Costa Rica’s restaurants are required by law to add an extra 13% tax to their bills and another 10% for tips. What this means is that, by definition, tipping is not widely practiced in the country. Extra tips will be taken if offered but their absence will not affect the service you get in any negative way. Hotel staff can be tipped if you want because their manifestations usually depend on the type of person that you are dealing with. Cabs, on the other hand, are usually not tipped if they do not offer extra services such as carrying your bags somewhere. If you do put them through some extra trouble, give them some credit (wink)!
4. Language barriers:
We are happy to tell you that in Costa Rica, language barriers are practically non-existent. In fact, English is so widely-spoken that you can go just about anywhere and do just about anything as if it were the first language spoken there. Even if you do find people that do not speak English, they will be eager to stay patient while you practice your broken Spanish. Of course, locals will appreciate your efforts if you are trying to please them with a few words in their mother-tongue – they are so friendly and open that bursting into massive smiles while you babble will be almost inevitable. The younger generation is far more versed in English than the older one and they will love tourists and travellers. Talk to them and enjoy your stay with some of the most heart-warming people in the world.
5. Getting around and traffic:
As you may have seen on a map, Costa Rica is not exactly a large country. Well, if you compare it to Monaco, then it is, but that is not what we are trying to get at here (wink). Technically, you should be able to explore its nooks and crannies in about a few weeks. But here’s the bump: roads are thin and traffic is as congested as it can get. The best thing to do as a traveller is to lay back and stay relaxed – never be in a hurry to get anywhere because that is a sure-fire way of never getting disappointed or stressed out. Thus, you will learn to admire the landscape and the beauty of the tropical road-side flora (double wink).
Yes, Nicaragua (a neighbouring country) may be cheap and you might even think that Honduras (a more distant neighbour) is the same but let us tell you that Costa Rica isn’t so. Car fuel is extremely pricey and some restaurants can also rid you of your cash pretty fast. Oh, and yes, you should carry cash around all the time because cards are not very useful. Budget travellers are advised to make friends and to try and strike deals with locals instead of sticking to tourist-frequented locations (because they can get pretty expensive).
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Costa Rica and what lasting memories have they left you with? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and be sure to check back for some updates from time to time!