Costa Rica is a beautiful country. I would travel there again in a heartbeat. We actually met many North American people who own real estate there and go back every year.
When travelling anywhere it’s always good to read a few a “know before you go” lists. Costa Rica is still a third-world country and it’s important to be prepared.
Unfortunately when we went we were not prepared and we all got sick. Getting sick during travel is nothing unusual but if I had read a few “know before you go” lists I may have been more prepared…lesson learned.
- First thing you should buy are sanitizer wipes! This may not be as necessary if you are staying in a hotel but for the small cost and amount of time this takes, just do it anyways. Buy sanitizer wipes and wipe down the main surfaces as well as the most important, yet overlooked, commonly touched places: door handles, light switches, fridge door, toilet flusher…anything that people touch multiple times per day. When my little one was sick the doctor said that many people contract rotavirus in Costa Rica because the cleanliness is less than what we are used to.
- Use Uber! We had never used Uber in Canada before we travelled to Costa Rica. We had a layover in Dallas where we used Uber for the first time and appreciated it’s ease of use. When we got to Costa Rica there were people everywhere trying to sell you on their best deal to take you wherever you were headed. A nice man offered us a ride to our hotel the El Rodeo, approximately 10 minutes from the airport, for $20 USD. We ended up using Uber and it cost $7!!! We continued using Uber whenever we needed for the rest of trip and based on our experience I would highly recommend it.
- Kids get free medical. Although I would recommend travel insurance ALWAYS, it’s nice to know that there will be no hassles when you take your child to the doctor. Not only do they get seen by the doctor without cost, any pharmaceutical items that you need to purchase after you’ve seen the doctor are free! I’m not talking about prescriptions, although those are free also, but anything you need, pedialite, gravol, tylenol, and your prescriptions, it’s all free for children, amazing! I wouldn’t travel anywhere again without gravol.
- Snorkeling is not as common as you think. We toted our snorkeling gear in a suitcase of it’s own all the way from Canada and back and didn’t even open it. I read about many snorkeling spots but we didn’t make it to any, most were in parks that had an entrance fee or you really have to plan and follow the right path to find them. The beaches are sand for glorious miles, there are not reefs right off the beach like you can find in other locations around the world. For the little cost it would be to rent the gear, just rent it if you find a snorkel spot. Carrying the gear back and forth is not worth it.
- Car Insurance does not cover tires or windshield. There is a lot of controversy around car insurance when you are planning to go to Costa Rica. It seems like everyone has had a terrible experience. We had an exceptional experience with Service Car Rental. Not only were they accommodating with pick-up and drop off at our hotel in San Jose, Fransisco, who delivered the car gave us all kinds of advice about our travels in Costa Rica. When we left Montezuma on our way to Lake Arenal, which was a long trek, we stopped at a service station for gas and our car wouldn’t start. Luckily there was a mechanical area attached to this particular service station. Our rental company ended up on the phone with the mechanic who changed our battery and charged the rental company directly and we were on our way. The rental company rep was a little concerned and asked my husband to ensure they were checking things correctly. We must have stopped at the right service station because as far as we could tell they did everything they could to help get us back on the road. We even ran into a local who drives hours out of the way to get his car serviced as this particular service station. So although we had a great experience overall it is worth noting that tires and windshields are not covered by your insurance on a rental car. The importance of this becomes very relevant when you see what the roads are like in Costa Rica. I can’t even count how many times I looked back at a road we had traveled and said “I can’t believe we didn’t blow a tire”. We were lucky, but be prepared to be paying for a replacement tire along the way, if you don’t have to, count yourself lucky, those roads are built to pop tires!
- Pick the right time of year. We went in March, which happened to correspond with spring break in Canada, and the weather here is still wintery. When we arrived in Jaco it was 33 degrees, 39 on the hottest day. It was dry heat, almost too hot. The locals tell us the best time to visit is November/December, which for Canadians is the perfect time to leave Canada. So depending on what kind of heat you’d like in your vacation, it is important to understand Costa Rica weather and the difference between the temperature and the dry vs. humid warmth.
Regardless of all of the above, if you have the opportunity to visit Costa Rica you will not be disappointed. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments, I will do my best to give you an honest answer.