Recommended Tips to Travel
International travel becomes easier with practice, but some basic tips are always welcome. If you are visiting Costa Rica, packing, safety and security issues may be slightly different from other destinations, so please read on: Here are a few simple hints and tips on traveling to Costa Rica:
Dress in layers: temperatures can vary a lot throughout the day, so being able to add or remove layers will increase your comfort.
Wear sunscreen! Because Costa Rica is closer to the equator the sun burns skin a lot faster than you may be used to. Use higher protection than 15 SPF, and water proof if possible. If traveling with children, use at least a 45 SPF on their skin. Carry a foldable umbrella or rain poncho with you: rain showers can be unexpected and sudden. If you find yourself without rain gear when on the streets, do as locals do and go for a cup of coffee while the worst of the rain passes. If you wish to travel to Monteverde or other mountain areas, bring warm clothing. Although this is a tropical country, temperatures can drop quite a bit in the mountain areas. It has even snowed at the tip of Mount Chirripó, so be prepared! Most hotels don’t have any sort of heating either, so when the weather turns cold, bundling up is the smartest thing to do. In restaurants, the tip and taxes should be included in the bill by law. Sales tax is 13%, the tip is called “servicio” and is 10% that is generally split among all the employees: cooks, dishwashers and waiters. If the service was particularly great, it is customary to leave a gratuity for the waiter, as a personal thanks for the attention, or appreciation for good recommendations.
Tips are expected in all other areas of the service industry. Amounts are not pre established; bellboys and housekeepers could receive the equivalent to $.50 - $2.00 depending on the service, tip front desk clerks for friendliness and outstanding service. Drivers and guides hired through third parties should always be tipped, those hired independently you may or may not tip, depending on the service level as well. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips, so when you get outstanding attention from a taxi driver, tipping is a great way to reward their labor.
Tico Time: punctuality is not something Costa Ricans are good at or expect from others. Keep it in mind if you’re invited to a party, meeting or event. However, the travel industry tries their best to be on time, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Internet cafes and connection is available in most large cities: in rural areas dial up may be the only way to connect yourself if you bring your laptop. RACSA, the telecommunications monopoly sells prepaid internet cards, but they don’t include cost of the phonecall.
Recommended packing list:
• Binoculars, Camera and Film, and a Costa Rica Guide Book (we recommend “Costa Rica Handbook” by Christopher P. Baker).
• Sunscreen and insect repellent
• Light cool clothing—cotton or light synthetic. At least one pair of pants for insect protection and dressier occasions.
• Light jacket or sweater
• Footwear- waterproof lightweight hiking boots, river sandals (Teva-type sandals) and comfortable walking shoes
• Hat for sun protection
• Plastic water bottle for hikes
• Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb for night hikes
• Medication and travel sickness medication if necessary
• Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes
• Plastic garbage bags for wet items
• Car seat for small children
• Please pack as light as possible (limit 2 bags per person)
• Small bag or backpack for day trips
If you plan to air-dry clothing keep in mind that the climate is very humid, and depending on the area you are visiting things may not dry out and start to smell funky.
Sometimes your baggage will be checked specifically for souvenirs at the airport: make sure you don’t buy anything made from an endangered species.