Featured Author: Mary Clark Rardin (visit the Mary C. Writes Blog)
If you haven’t been to Costa Rica yet, this bio-diverse paradise better be on your bucket list. If you’re a repeat visitor, you know just how addicting this country can be. And you’ve probably realized traveling here isn’t as cheap as many initially think. The great thing about Costa Rica is you can soak it all up as a budget traveler or live it up in luxury resorts. Since I’m more into exploring the natural side of the rich coast, I’ve taught myself a few money saving tricks along the way. Some I learned the hard way but you don’t have to! Whether you’re here for a week long vacation, months of volunteering or perhaps long term, the following advice is sure to keep your wallet fat and your heart content.
- TRAVEL DURING THE GREEN SEASON. Some folks call it the rainy season but green better describes just how beautiful this country becomes when the clouds open up. The green season generally lasts from May to November. You can expect showers in the afternoon, ranging from pelo de gato (sprinkling rain) to aguacero (downpours). The idea of a little rain scares some travelers so the tourism industry does everything they can to get you down here in these “off months.” Hotels are cheaper by as much as 50%. Tour guides may offer special rates and places are less crowded.* I recommend September and October only to Costa Rica veterans or adventure lovers. Things can get pretty wet! Try heading to the Caribbean cost if you must plan your vacation in those two months.
- TAKE THE BUS. I’ve seen a couple travel books say to avoid Costa Rica buses, that they’re dangerous and hard to navigate. No way! For people without a ton of luggage or money to burn, buses can save you tenfold. I recently took a bus from Manuel Antonio to San Jose for about $8. A taxi driver offered something like $120 to bring myself and 2 other people to Chepe (that’s San Jose’s nickname, remember it). While the taxi ride would have been a bit faster and more comfortable, the price difference was not worth it! For that amount of money, you could spend a couple extra days at the beach. I recommend the site the bus schedule to see time tables. You can always ask your hotel for information as well or hit up tripadvisor.
- THAT BRINGS ME TO: ASK QUESTIONS. You’re in a foreign country. Even if your Spanish is great, you don’t know everything. Costa Ricans, generally, like to help and take pride in their country. Showing a little humility will go a long way. Just remember when it comes to directions, it’s best to ask a few people to get a consensus. Or try the walk a block and ask again approach. Many Ticos don’t like to tell you no, fearing they will come across unhelpful.
- KNOW THE CURRENCY. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone order food in Costa Rica and not know how much money was owed. This is a fabulous way to get ripped off. I’ve even seen a man slap down a 10 mil colones bill (about $20) for a $2 smoothie and not know how much change he should receive back. To keep things simple, know that 500 colones (quinientos) is about $1. 1,000 colones is around $2. $2,000 bill is about $4 and so on. Familiarize yourself with the current bills before taking off to CR. You might hear people say pesos from time to time but the currency is colones. Download a currency converter app or do the math in your head. No matter what country you are, there will always be people looking to take advantage of the naive.
- SPEAKING OF NAIVE, WATCH OUT FOR TAXIS. I want to preface this point by saying I’ve had great taxi drivers in Costa Rica especially in Frailes. Most are hardworking people just doing their job. However, ripping off tourists does seem to be a past time for certain taxistas. That’s why I recommend taking taxis cautiously. When leaving the airport, go in an official orange taxi and make sure they put on the meter (you can say, “ponga la maria, por favor”). Avoid taxis that offer a rate instead of using a meter. Why? Because it always works in their favor. When leaving a major bus terminal, walk out a bit before taking up the first taxi offer. Some of those guys have rigged meters and prey on loaded down, tired travelers. If you ever feel uncomfortable, get out! Or better yet, take the bus. Remember to make sure you receive correct change and always have coins and/or small bills to be polite.
Stayed tuned for my part 2 installment! Hope you learned something new. Please share any tips of your own in the comments.
*Note that students have 2 weeks of summer vacation referred to as Quince Dias during the end of June/beginning of July. You may find hotels, buses, parks and beaches more crowded during this time.
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About Mary Clark Rardin:
Writer, adventurer and girl wonder in Costa Rica. Pura Vida and welcome! I’m Mary Clark or Mary C for short. I run Mary C Writes and blog all about my adventures or mis-adventures as a freelance writer and teacher in Costa Rica. In my spare time, I like to hang out with baby crocodiles.
*post photos are owned by the feature author (not http://www.CostaRicaBlogNetwork.com). Please contact the featured author directly for permission of use.
Blog editor’s note: For additional blog posts discussing ways to save money while traveling in Costa Rica, visit the Costa Rica Budget Travel section of Costa Rica Travel Blog or see Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated for over 2000 free discounts for Costa Rica vacation items.