Costa Rica is a wildly popular country to visit in Central America and it is easy to understand why. The well-kept nature is what makes Costa Rica a well-visited destination.
1. Getting into Costa Rica
It is most likely that you will fly to Costa Rica like I did at the San José international airport. The entry requirements for most nationalities like British passport holders is rather simple as you are able to be in Costa Rica for a maximum of 90 days as a tourist. The process of getting through the airport once I arrived was very simple and it did not feel like it took more than 30 minutes.
2. Costa Rica is INSANELY Expensive
While nearby countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador are very affordable places, Costa Rica is the polar opposite. Costa Rica has a high cost of living and it’s expensive if you’re wanting to some of the places especially in La Fortuna. For example, it costs £15 to visit the waterfall in La Fortuna, a Cadbury chocolate bar costs £1.50 and fish and chips from a street food market cost a tenner. If you’re travelling on a budget, I recommend steering clear of Costa Rica as everything costs a lot in contrast to its neighbouring countries.
3. Transport is a Serious Pain
You should seriously consider renting a car during your time here as without this option getting around is a serious pain. To get from San José to La Fortuna, a possibly popular route for tourists, I had to get 2 buses which took about 7 hours, doing this on 2 hours of sleep was a serious test of character. Another thing is that Tamarindo is incredibly poorly connected as it took 12 hours to get there on 2 buses from La Fortuna. Not only that, it took a domestic flight and a 3 hour bus from San José to get from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio.
4. US Dollars are Used Along With the Local Currency
In Costa Rica, they use the colourful colones and at the same time also use US dollars. The day I arrived, I needed to get a bus to get to La Fortuna and used $3 to pay for it. For most transactions that are over the value of $10, US dollars will be used in tourist places.
5. Pura Vida is the Tico Mentality
When in Costa Rica, you will often hear the phrase “pura vida” which is Spanish for pure life. It more or less means to just chill and be free of one’s worries. Ticos seem to be very welcoming to tourists and are easy to get on with. No matter where you go, you will be greeted with a smile and people seemed to be very interested in that I was from Scotland and visiting their country.
6. English is Spoken by Most People
From my experience, most people I met could speak a very decent level of English. As La Fortuna heavily caters to American tourists, it’s a given that almost everyone there could speak it. Tamarindo even earns the nickname “Tamagringo” as it is full of Americans, there were a lot of people with American accents working in the restaurants there.
7. The Nature is Extraordinary
Although taking the bus takes prolonged periods of time, you will enjoy looking outside of the window. Once you get out of the city, you will see some incredible green landscapes which you may never have seen before. Costa Rica has awe-inspiring rainforests and volcanoes which is the main reason to visit this country, despite the name of the country being rich coast.
8. It is a Remarkably Peaceful Country
Costa Rica has been regarded as a model in terms of creating a culture of peace and this is because it does not have a military. While other countries in Latin America have military and robust looking armed police as a common sight, this is not common at all in Costa Rica. The police as well seemed quite trustworthy here as they helped me out when I was lost.
As well in comparison to other Central American countries, Costa Rica seemed rather safe in most places. I recommend taking normal precautions to prevent yourself from getting into trouble.
9. The Seasons
I was there in June meaning that I spent my time during the rainy season which lasts from May to December. This meant that almost everyday there was rain which would last for hours. However this also meant that it was low season meaning that there were less tourists and lower prices. It is said to be the better time to visit from January to April which has the best warm weather.
10. San José is a Little Dull
Despite being the capital, San José is nowhere near the best part of the country and you should only really spend not much more than a day there. It has the national museum and not much else. It has a bit of a grey and run down feel to it in some places. Sitting on a bench in the main square seemed like an invitation to be constantly panhandled as well.