When I was deciding on where to go, I resorted to the option of spinning a globe and then just doing a Google search on it. This was how I decided that I was going to spend a month and a half in Costa Rica. I’d heard a little bit about the country before, like how there were sloths there and the diverse natural phenomena this tiny country offers (volcanos, rainforests, beaches, mountains etc. etc.). Months later, I am still thinking back to my time there. I have never fallen for a country so hard, and I honestly believe that everyone should visit this country at least once in their lives. But, like any trip, there is a number of things I wish I was told before going there:
1)This country rains a lot.
I knew that Costa Rica was a tropical country, so I made an educated guess that it would have dry and wet seasons. What I didn’t think was going to happen was that even though I was there in dry season, it still rained almost everyday in most of the places I went to.
2) If you’re going to make day trips or half-day trips, leave as early in the morning as possible.
This leads on from the previous point. I was expecting rain in the afternoons, but what I didn’t quite realise was that when it rains, it rains hard. Hard, to the point where you can’t really do or see anything.
3) Get used to eating rice and beans.
Costa Ricans eat rice and beans with every meal, which I personally believe is one of the greatest marriages there is. However, if you don’t like either of these two things, you will find that your meals will be very empty. Ticos (Costa Ricans) aren’t kidding when they say they eat it all the time.
4) Their flushing system is terrible.
Basically, anything that is not liquid is very possibly going to get clogged up. For some reason, nowhere I went to had a good flushing system, which is why there would always be a plunger next to the toilet seat. You’ll notice that lots of public toilets will even have signs that tell you to please throw toilet paper in the rubbish bin. Bins are ALWAYS provided, no matter how remote you are.
5) Don’t expect things to be on time.
There’s a saying that everything in Costa Rica runs on Tico time, and they mean it. You have a meeting at 7am? It’ll probably start at 7.20 at the earliest. The bus is scheduled to arrive at 6pm? It’ll probably arrive at 6.30. At first, it stressed me out that everything was delayed, but then I learned to embrace the relaxed Tico vibe. For them, things will happen, so it doesn’t really matter when. Pura Vida.
6) Don’t expect to use English throughout your trip.
I presumed that because I was going to touristy places, people would speak to me in English. Basically, my Spanish level ended at: “I don’t speak Spanish” and “Do you speak English?” What a rookie error that was! Even in San Jose (the capital city), there were many times where I had to mime my way through. Even in the touristy places like Manuel Antonio and Monteverde Cloud Forest, people still didn’t speak English. I think as English speakers we often assume that because most countries force kids to learn English as a second language, they must be good. What about yourself? Do you actually remember everything from high school? I certainly do not remember much German despite learning it for three years at school.
7) It’s not as cheap as you’d expect it to be.
Everything had told me that Costa Rica was more expensive than a lot of other Central American countries, but I thought: “Well… I don’t think it could be more expensive than Australia.” I was wrong. A lot of places, whether they were touristy or not, were about the same price as Australia. Some were even more expensive than home. Goodbye, money.
8) It takes forever to get anywhere.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Costa Rica is a small country. Public transport exists, but everything is slow because of bumpy roads and pot holes. Get ready for bum massages! Hiring a car would save you time, but the roads are hard to navigate if you don’t know them. I guess this just gives you an excuse to go there for a little longer, though.
9) Public buses are the way to get around for most tourists.
Like I said, cars are great, but only if you know the way. While there are flights around, these are EXTREMELY expensive, but if money is not an issue, then go for it. Like they always say: “The view is better from above.” For most travellers though, buses are the easiest way to get around.
10) The sunsets are insane.
Having always lived in a harbour city, I thought I had experienced my fair amount beautiful sunsets already. However, Costa Rican sunsets still blew me away. Every day could have had a sunset of a different colour. Every day could have had different amounts of reflections on the water. Every day, I could add onto my mental list of ‘favourite sunsets in the world’.