Central America Tips of the Trade

Things To Know Before You Go – Costa Rica

Traveling is a great education. I learned many different things while traveling to Costa Rica. Here are things to know before you go to Costa Rica from my own experience.

Things To Know Before You Go- Costa Rica ©2016 HollyDayz

Rent A Car. A great way to get around is by renting a car. It allows you the freedom to go and do what you want. Not to mention, although the public transportation buses looked nice, I didn’t see many of them. I mostly saw people waiting out on the side of the road for one to come.  If you know how to drive a manual, your rental will be cheaper. A 4×4 is your best bet for those unpaved roads. Also the security deposit is most likely going to be $500.

Have A GPS. Unless you know your way around or have opted to get a driver, you better have a GPS! The GPS needs to be updated for Costa Rican roads. There are no addresses. The only time I ever saw street signs was in Centro San Jose. The GPS we rented was awesome! It told us when a school zone was coming, potential falling rocks, speed bumps, and more. It also let us know when we were turning onto an unpaved road.

Have A Flashlight. Even if it is the flashlight on your phone, have one with you. I saw people walking on the side of the road to get to the store or a restaurant. Driving you can’t really see them in the dark. If you are walking you can’t see much. Especially when you are away from the city area, there aren’t street lights. Also the power went out at the house we stayed at. Luckily we had our phones for light.

You Don’t Have To Change Your Currency. Costa Rica’s currency is the Colon, but you can use USD there as well. So changing your currency isn’t a necessity. However you will get more bang for your buck if you change some of your money. It also comes in handy when going to stores, sodas, and paying the road tolls.

Inside one of the Sodas I went to ©2016 HollyDayz
Inside one of the Sodas I went to ©2016 HollyDayz

Eat At Sodas. The local places to eat are called Sodas. I thought it was going to be hard to figure exactly which place was a Soda. It was extremely easy to pick out. Most of them say Soda..and then the name of the establishment. It becomes pretty obvious. Sodas have great food and are inexpensive.

Don’t Worry About A Converter or Adapter. If you are from the US you are in luck! No convertor or adapter needed. Your plugs fit into the outlets with no issues.

Bring A Car Charger. Even if you don’t use your phone to make calls while there, you may use it for other things like using listening to music, a camera, a flashlight, etc. We all realized we forgot a car charger when the power went out. That would have been the best way to charge our phones.

Be Cautious While Driving. Most roads do not have a barrier to separate you from on coming traffic. The roads also have huge drainage holes in the ground. Would be horrible to accidentally get stuck in one of those if you were veer too far to the right. Also if you are driving too slow for the person behind you, as soon as there is no on coming traffic they will speed up and go around you. This is also OK for you to do, just be very careful that you are able to skip the cars before the on coming traffic comes close.

No Liquids. At the SJO airport you can go through security with liquids, but boarding the plane is another story. Make sure you have travel sized liquids. Also don’t bother buying water or anything to drink in the airport thinking you are going to take it on the plane. You will have to throw it away. Prior to boarding you will get completely searched by security and they go through everything.

Hopefully these tips help you on your visit to Costa Rica.

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? How was your experience?

56 Comments

  • Nancy Laws (@SheMeets)

    I have yet to visit Costa Rica, but reading your blog always allows me to add a new destination to my bucket list

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Oh I am so glad and I hope you start crossing some things off your bucket list.

      Reply
  • Nayrha

    I’m from Panama so I can relate to all of the pointers you listed. I didn’t know you didn’t have to convert to Costa Rican currency. Panama uses American currency also!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I would love to visit Panama soon as well. Not having to switch currency if you don’t have to is great.

      Reply
  • Relaxed Thairapy

    Does the plane serve water, drinks and food? I can’t be without water. I like the idea of being searched because folks crazy and I need to know no one is sneaking anything on the plane that can cause harm.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Yes the plane does. Well in the United States that happens before you even get to the gate. I personally think they need to switch up their security procedures.

      Reply
  • Kibibi Hair (@KibibiHair)

    Great tips! I haven’t been here yet but I’ve heard great things about it being an affordable destination.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thank you. It is affordable, but it is the most expensive of the countries in Central America.

      Reply
  • Arnitris

    Costa Rica is definitely on my list to visit in the next year or so. Thanks for sharing these tips. Beautiful pictures.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thanks. I hope you get there very soon then.

      Reply
  • Allison Jones

    When I went to Costa Rica a few years ago, I wasn’t a huge fan. It was a little too rural for my tastes and now that I’m reading your post, I’m wondering if I would’ve enjoyed it more if we had rented a car.

    LiveLifeWell,
    Allison

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I enjoyed it. My friends and I felt like we had the country to ourselves. We got to see much more because we had a car.It may have made the difference in your trip.

      Reply
  • Tami

    Good tips to share. I have found that having a car charger comes in handy a lot while traveling. I even use it to charge my camera batteries!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      It really does for anything with a usb port.

      Reply
  • Mimi Green

    Messing around with you my vacation list is going to be page and pages long. Adding this one to the list.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      That is awesome lol…mine is pretty long too.

      Reply
  • Valerie Robinson

    Omg one of my friends was recently asking around for advice on Costa Rica! Will send her to this post! And after reading, now I want to go :-/. Every time I visit your blog I want to go somewhere new! Lol! Job well done!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Oh awesome, right on time! You should go I think you would enjoy yourself. And thank you so much!

      Reply
  • Girl, Unspotted

    This is a very information piece. Let’s hope that I get to utilize it soon because Costa Rica sounds like an amazing country to visit!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I am sure you will sooner than later. It is a great place to visit, I would happily go back.

      Reply
  • Vik

    When I do get to visit Costa Rica I will definitely visit your blog again. So many useful tips. Even the tip about buying water inside airport is something we never think of here. Great resource and thanks for sharing ! Also this reminds me of my trip to India

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Awesome! Glad you could find them helpful. Yea that was interesting to find out about the water.

      Reply
  • The Traveling Fool (@thetravelfool)

    I have got to visit Costa Rica some day. With all the westerners moving there and visiting I may have missed the boat when it comes to truly enjoying the country.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      No I don’t think that is true. I enjoyed it and it felt like we had it to ourselves.

      Reply
  • London-Unattached.com

    Great tips. I’d love to visit Costa Rica sometime and this kind of check list is invaluable

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thank you. I am glad it will be helpful to you when you do go.

      Reply
  • Sabrina Barbante

    I wish I’ll go there soon. I’ve read amazing things about CostaRIca and I DO LOVE the local national policies. This is in my list!! Thank you for this post!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Very welcome. It is a great place I would go back to

      Reply
  • Karla (Karla Around The World)

    I haven’t really been to Costa Rica but I have heard plenty of stories about it. I would definitely keep in mind to bring flashlights!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Yes the flashlights came in handy!

      Reply
  • Anne | Girl Chasing Sunshine

    Good tip on carrying a flashlight!! Safety first, always. 🙂 Can’t wait to visit Costa Rica!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Yes, safety is always important.

      Reply
  • Liesbeth

    Great tips! I always have a flashlight in my luggage, I’ve been to waaaaay to many places with regular current breakdowns 🙂

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      That is great that you always keep one. You just never know.

      Reply
  • Angela Anderson (@angelatravels11)

    Some great tips. Costa Rica is on my list of places to go and I learned some helpful things. I definitely would rent a car as I want to see the tropical mountains outside of the city. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thanks. The car came in handy to cover a good amount of ground.

      Reply
  • Rosemary

    Great tips about Costa Rica!! Never been, but plan to visit soon. So interesting that the restaurants are called “sodas.” Will save this for our future trip. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Yea I thought that was interesting too. The food at the sodas are good too.

      Reply
  • Mags

    I visited Central America for the first time when I went to Panama last year, and I loved it! I would love to explore Costa Rica as well.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I would like to visit Panama.

      Reply
  • Megan Claire (@mappingmegan)

    Great tips! I would also add that if you have an apartment or somewhere with an outdoor section, make sure you bring your shoes inside each night. We were staying in Bungalows a few years back and ended up finding scorpions in our shoes the next morning!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I didn’t see any scorpions. Just frogs and little geicos swimming. We left tons of stuff outside. Sorry you had that experience.

      Reply
  • Kathrin

    Haven’t been to Costa Rica yet but it seems like a great place to visit. Like your list of hints&tips, very helpful!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thank you. It is a great place to visit.

      Reply
  • Lesh @ NOMADasaurus

    Cheers for the tips. We can’t wait to explore all those national parks in Costa Rico. So much hiking.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      There are a ton of places to hike for sure.

      Reply
  • Alice Teacake

    How interesting that there are no street signs! Never knew that so good advice on the GPS! I loooooove food too so thanks for the heads up about Sodas

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      That seems to be typical in many latin countries.

      Reply
  • Paula Morgan

    Wow so much here I had no idea of. Costa Rica is not generally on Australian traveller’s radars as it’s quite a journey but I really like the look of it and I hope one day I can go eat at a Soda and spend some colons.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      That is understandable. I hope you can experience Costa Rica one day soon.

      Reply
  • Susan Aksu

    Great post and def useful! I love Costa Rica and have been back a few times. While you don’t have to exchange your money because they accept dollars, you do lost money by using dollars because your getting a bad exchange rate and you’re also paying the fee the vendor or restaurant would have to pay to exchange dollars to colones so you’re better off exchanging or withdrawing colones.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thanks. Yes you are right, that is why I said you will get more bang for your buck if you do change it. But if you were to run out and that is all you had at the moment it is good to know you can use it if you had to.

      Reply
  • sheenatatum

    Bringing a flashlight or reflectors is something I wouldn’t think to bring. Thanks for the tip! I’m here for eating at Sodas. Delicious and affordable eats = yass.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      No problem, glad they are helpful. Yes, delicious and affordable are a great combo.

      Reply
  • wanderingwagarschristina

    Went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon and fell in love with the country. I definitely second renting a car. We were able to explore so much more and for much cheaper compared to joining a tour group because we rented a car.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      It is a beautiful country. There is so much to see and do there I would happily go back. A car allows you to do so much more.

      Reply

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