Hoping you will have a memorable experience we would love to share some recommendations with you
General Tips when traveling to Costa Rica:
- Area: Costa Rica is a small country located between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America. It comprises 19,653 square miles or 51,100 square km making it only about 1/5 the size of Colorado, USA. With a population of a little less than 5 million people.
- Language: Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. Many Costa Ricans that work in tourism, whether as a guide, receptionist, or waiter, typically speak at least some English.
- Currency: The currency in Costa Rica is called colones. To compare with the US dollar you will need to check the current exchange rate as this fluctuates daily. Right now (first week of Jan, 2018) the exchange rate is around 560 colones to the dollar. US dollars are widely accepted throughout Costa Rica at a fair rate. Larger bills such as 50′s and 100′s are typically not accepted in souvenir or stores so if you want to bring some it is best to bring $20 bills or less. ATM’s accept major credit cards and are available in the cities and larger towns. For some airlines the airport departure tax must be paid before the flight in cash ($US28), either in US dollars or colones. You have to check your flight as it may be also included in your flight thicket.
- Electricity: For chargers, electrical outlets are the same as the USA although 3 prong outlets are not as prevalent. Voltage is also the same as the US, 110 Voltage AC at 60 Hertz.
- Health Issues: There are no vaccination requirements in order to enter Costa Rica although some are recommended. Malaria is an extremely low risk disease here and not worth the side affects of the harsh medicine.
Dengue Fever is also spread by mosquitoes and sometimes occurs after floods in certain areas. Hepatitis A and B are listed on most websites though I have not heard of any one of our guests acquiring this on their visit to Costa Rica. A tetanus booster may be the most worthwhile vaccination you can get.
Having said that, you should know that Costa Rica has one of the highest standards of health care and hygiene in Latin America and the vast majority of people visiting Costa Rica do not experience any problems at all.
- Chiggers: These are small mites that burrow into your skin and cause redness and itching. They are frequently encountered in the Southern US. They are relatively harmless but can be a real nuisance and are abundant in the cattle pastures of Costa Rica, especially in the lowlands. Spraying your trousers, socks, shoes, and waste line with repellant such as Deep Woods Off containing Deet (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is a good deterrent. Anti-itch cream is about all you can do for them once the redness and itching begins.
- Safety and Theft: Common sense will go a long way in Costa Rica regarding safety and theft. Make sure that you lock your rooms when leaving, do not leave valuables exposed while you go into the field, do not leave your camera and binoculars at the lunch table unattended, keep an eye on your luggage in exposed areas such as at the airport, etc. Many hotels provide a lockable safe in the room or at the front desk, usually at an added expense, where you can store valuables safely. It is probably wise to carry your important documents and money with you, even into the field.
- While in the field, remember that though rarely encountered there are poisonous snakes, not to mention the more numerous ants, wasps, and the like. Do not walk in sandals into the forest or secondary growth, especially at night, and take a flashlight along at night if you cannot see where you are stepping.
- Water: Most of the lodges that I recommend have safe tap water you can drink. If unsure, just ask at the reception of the lodge or to the guide upon arrival and they will tell you if it is safe to drink. Giardia is the most often encountered intestinal parasite. The local pharmacy, (farmacia), can supply you with the necessary medicine if you explain your symptoms.
In general the the smallest bill of one thousand colones is two dollars
Recommended items to bring to your adventure
- Passport: To enter Costa Rica you will need a valid passport that will not expire after 90 days upon arrival to Costa Rica. However, some International flights require a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from your departure to Costa Rica. It would be best to follow the latter to be on the safe side.
It is always a good idea to make a copy of your passport and put somewhere separate than you actual passport.
- Binoculars: Waterproof types are best. The most common use in the tropics is 8x32 or 10x42. Your guide will supply his own spotting scope for you to use.
- Bird Book: “The Birds of Costa Rica – A Field Guide” by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean is the most recommended bird book for the field when birding Costa Rica because is compact and easy to use.
- Camera and film: Compact zoom cameras are usually more comfortable for a birding trip as they are more versatile and not so heavy. But if you are into DSLR photography (big cameras) I recommend for birds your longest range telephoto lens for the walks (at least 400mm or more). Also, cel phone camera can be useful to take pictures through the spotting scope of your guide. Especially with the new smartphones.
If you are thinking on taken a photography trip and want specific details on the gear please write directly for more specific information.
- Clothing: Long pants and long sleeve shirts are best to deter any insects and minor scratches from the vegetation. The new, lightweight outdoor variety is very comfortable and dries quickly. Shorts and T-shirts can also be useful. A lightweight jacket will be welcomed in the middle elevations, a fleece or medium weight jacket for visiting the highlands (Paraiso del Quetzal Lodge). Laundry can be done at most of the lodges for those wanting to travel light.
- Shoes: Light weight hiking boots will be invaluable, preferably waterproof Gortex boots. Sandals are useful around the lodges and beach but should not be worn on the forest trails.
- Raingear: Umbrella or Poncho, whichever you feel is more practical; rain suits can be quite uncomfortable in the lowlands. I personally prefer umbrella.
- Sun Protection: Sunscreen, Hat, and Sunglasses.
- Mosquito Repellent: Although mosquitoes will not be a problem in most of the areas you visit in Costa Rica it is still nice to have your own supply on hand when they are encountered. Repellent containing “Deet” works best such as Deep Woods Off. Deet is mildly poisonous but if used modestly poses no threat. It is not necessary to spray profuse amounts before going into the field unless you are hiking in chigger-infested areas like cattle pastures in some hot humid lowlands.
Mosquitoes are normally not a problem at your hotel room as all hotels have screens in the windows to prevent mosquitoes to get inside. Is good to always keep the door and windows closed (especially at night) as the mosquitoes might get in and cause some problem at night.
- Toiletries: Best to bring these with you but supermarkets in CR do carry a wide variety.
- Medications: Mainly prescription items, pharmacies and supermarkets have a wide variety of over-the-counter medicines that are quite effective.
Tan, green or brown colors are best. Better avoid bright colors as might attract more insects and might disturb some sensitive birds.
Hope you find this useful. And please let us know if you have questions. Best regards from the tropics!