Helpful Costa Rica Vacation Planning Tips
Planning a romantic escape or family vacation to Costa Rica and need a bit of help from those in the know? Avoid common traveler pitfalls with these pointers so you can enjoy a smooth and stress-free holiday without any surprises.
Don’t forget to budget in the airport exit tax
For travelers departing via the SJO airport in Alajuela or Guanacaste’s LIR international terminal, don’t forget that each passenger must pay a $29 exit tax. This fee is never included in your airline ticket, and is mandatory before checking in for your flight. You can pay with a debit or credit card, or with cash (either U.S. dollars or Costa Rica colones).
Do bring your ATM card, don’t depend on traveler’s checks
Your best bet for getting a competitive exchange rate is by using your ATM card in one of Costa Rica’s many private and public banks. You can withdraw either Costa Rican colones (CRC) or U.S. dollars any time night or day, just be sure to alert your bank that you ‘ll be traveling abroad before your vacation. Most facilities charge a commission for cashing traveler’s checks, which are rarely accepted other than all-inclusive resorts. As of November 2014, the dollar converts to 530 CRC.
Get the best exchange rates at the bank, avoid the airport
You’ve just landed and want some local currency in your pocket for small items, taxis and the like. Think twice before heading to the airport exchange booths, as their rates are 20 percent lower than at the bank. Keep in mind that official airport taxis and buses will accept U.S. dollars, as long as the bill denominations are less than $50.
Most Costa Rican pharmacies have English speaking personnel
Before over packing your bags with first aid kits, pain relievers and other sundries, consider that local pharmacies are well-stocked with just about every item you’d find back home. In addition, English-speaking pharmacists are often on hand to diagnose and prescribe treatment for minor ailments.
Guided tours are generally worth the extra money
Unless you want to relax at your beach vacation rental or resort for the duration of your trip, planning a few adventure and Eco tours is highly recommended. For those on the fence about shelling out extra money, the value of a guided tour should not be underestimated, as local guides will help you understand and appreciate much more. This is especially true for wildlife or bird watching tours, where their expertise really pays off!
Brush up on your basic Spanish skills before arriving
Costa Rica’s travel professionals do speak English very well, especially in popular tourist destinations like Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Jaco and Tortuguero. However, some basic Spanish vocabulary can go a long way if you plan to explore some of the country’s lesser known areas. You’ll be better prepared to read road signs and ask questions when the need arises.