Researching a country before heading there is definitely a good idea. However, there are some things you aren’t going to be prepared for until you get there. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before visiting Costa Rica.
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Things to Know Before you Go to Costa Rica
Prices are comparable to U.S
If you’re looking to travel to Central America because you think your dollar will bring an advantageous currency exchange, think again. Sure, $1 will amount to something like 500 colones, but a loaf of bread from the grocery will cost about 2,000 colones, or $4–yikes! You can find a one bedroom furnished apartment for about $600 in the capital city. Further out can be a bit cheaper, like Kansas.
Though a small country, Costa Rica is a pretty tough place to get around. Mostly due to the protected national parks and reserves, getting from East to West forces you to go around North. A lack of infrastructure also affects overland travel. However, that said, it is one of the best countries in Latin America to get around by public transportation. If you’re on a budget, you´ll love the public transport system which can get you to almost all regions for an average $10. The buses are fairly comfortable, and reliable. Some mix-ups in the schedule do happen, so just make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your departure. If you´re going to a highly-sought destination, purchase a ticket in advance and confirm the departure time. Traveling by public transport is simple and safe in Costa Rica.
English is widely spoken
Costa Rica’s commitment for economic and social development has encouraged the diversification of more advanced specialized industries. With English being considered the global language of business, it is common for students to begin English lessons at a very young age. At least 10% of the population is fluent in both English and Spanish, with many more being conversational English speakers. Therefore, if you’re considering traveling to a Latin American country, but are intimidated by a possible language barrier, Costa Rica might be a good choice.
Spanish Institutes Galore
Although most people speak English, you will definitely benefit from learning Spanish. Learning the national language shows that you are dedicated to understanding the people, and that you appreciate and respect the culture. Ticos warm to those who put as much effort into speaking the Spanish language as possible. Even if it´s only ¨como estas?¨, you’ll immediate see a softer side of a Tico. Whether you’re visiting for a week, or on an extended stay, check out one of the local language institutes, and pick up some lessons.
Usted, not Tu
Ticos use the pronoun ¨usted¨, and never ¨tu¨. Grandma, nieces, nephews, cousins, teachers, children, pets, everyone you speak directly to should be referred to by the formal pronoun usted. That´s just the Costa Rican way of it.
Large Expat Community
Costa Rica is a beautiful country with advanced social, economic, healthcare, and environmental policies. It’s no wonder so many internationals fall so madly in love with the country, they stay! You can find a large diversity of expats living among the locals. Some stay for longer periods than others as they travel, work, study, volunteer, or intern abroad.
The Caribbean Coast is another World
Unlike any other place in the country, the Caribbean coast stands unique. Brightly painted houses, reggae music, and coconut everything surrounds you. Spanish is spoken with a Caribbean accent, and a variation of Jamaican Patois and English are also spoken. The Caribbean is home to the clearest water, the Sloth Sanctuary, and Jaguar Rescue Center. The presumed danger of this area, though, draws less visitors, though Puerto Viejo has become a popular destination in recent years.
Costa Rica has two distinct seasons–Summer and Winter. Summer months run from December-April with predictable sunny, warm and dry days. Prices for flights and hotels are highest during this time. Winter runs from April-November when temperatures drop slightly, and rain is present almost every day. The amount of rain, and the time of day showers typically occur depends on the region, making it a great time to score on travel sales. The North West tends to stay dryer than any other region during the rainy season, while the Caribbean coast rains almost entirely throughout the year, with the driest months in September and October–completely opposite from the majority of the country.
Throw your immediate satisfaction needs out of the window when you land in Costa Rica, because that doesn’t exist in this country. In Costa Rica, the time to do anything is dependent on the desire of when to do it. Expect relaxed service at restaurants and on tours. This doesn’t deflect the professional service you’ll receive, just perhaps the time of when you’ll receive it. Tranquilo, amigo, enjoy Costa Rica at its pace–tico time.