Planning your first trip to Costa Rica can be daunting. You’ve been waiting on your dream vacation to Costa Rica for quite some time! Your friends at Gecko Trail have already helped you create an awesome itinerary that is tailored to your vacation style and preferences. Now, your trip is getting closer and you are starting to stress about the details. What things do you need to know or do before your trip?
Where to Start
Let’s start from the beginning. If this is your first trip outside of your home country, make sure you have your passport ready. Depending on your home country, the process to obtain your first passport can take several months. Be sure to plan ahead! If you already have your passport, verify that the expiration date is not within 6 months of your trip. Carrying photocopies of your passport is extremely important. This way you won’t need to take your physical passport on all of your excursions and outings.
Costa Rica does not require a tourist visa for visitors coming from many countries. However, there are some countries which will require a visa to visit Costa Rica. Be sure to check with your home country’s travel information for Costa Rica to see if you will need a tourist visa. The visa process can also take several months. If your country is one that requires a tourist visa for your trip to Costa Rica, be sure to begin this process with plenty of time.
Another consideration before your trip is vaccinations. Costa Rica does not require that visitors from North America and Europe obtain any vaccinations. Your home country, however, may still list recommended vaccinations. It is best to check your home country’s recommendations for vaccinations before visiting Costa Rica. Many visitors do not get any vaccinations before visiting and generally do not have issues. That being said, it’s always a good idea to carry a list of any vaccinations you have received and the date on which you received them.
Should you have any specific/serious medical issues, don’t forget to carry any necessary documentation/medications that pertain to your condition.
While it is not a requirement to purchase travel insurance, we think it’s a good idea. It’s doesn’t hurt to have the assurance that if something goes wrong, you are covered. Flights get cancelled all the time and emergencies spring up when you are least expecting them. Having insurance can help to decrease some of the stress of these type of situations.
Proof of Onward Travel
Aside from your plane ticket, you will also be required to show proof of onward travel within 90 days of your arrival in Costa Rica. This means that if you do not have a return plane ticket for within 90 days of your arrival, you will need to show some form of proof that you will be leaving the country within the 90 days. This could be a plane ticket to another country, a bus ticket to another country, etc. It is important to note that it is the discretion of the airline to determine if your proof of onward travel is sufficient to satisfy Costa Rica n law. If you arrive at the airport with a round-trip plane ticket, you will not likely have any issues boarding the plane.
Brush Up on Spanish
Muy importante! Don’t forget to brush up on your Spanish before your trip. While English is the second language of Costa Rica and there are many people that speak some English here, it is extremely helpful to learn at least some basic words and phrases in Spanish. Nowadays the internet is full of language resources (even some free courses on YouTube), so take advantage of modern-day internet access. Also, do not be scared or embarrassed to practice your Spanish while here. Costa Ricans are very friendly, helpful, and conversational, so they will be happy to hear you practicing your español.
What to Pack
Now that you have purchased your flights, prepared all of your travel documents, and practiced your Spanish, your vacation is becoming more real. Your trip to paradise is getting even closer! So, what do you need to pack? For packing suggestions, take a look at our website’s Travel Guide, which includes a comprehensive Packing List: https://geckotrail.com/travelguide/general-travel-information-costa-rica/#packing list
Remember that most things can be purchased in stores here should you forget something. Two items that are important to pack are sunblock/sunscreen and insect repellent. These items are very expensive in Costa Rica and since you will definitely make use of them during your visit, it is best to pack these in your luggage.
Bringing an Open Mind
A few of the most important and intangible things to bring on your trip to Costa Rica are an open mind, your sense of adventure, and patience. Vacationing in Costa Rica is unique and is certainly not like staying at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or other countries. What’s great about Costa Rica is that the country is safe enough that you do not need to stay on your hotel’s property the whole time; so don’t! Although Costa Rica is a small country, there is no shortage of places to explore. Some of the best advice we can give when visiting Costa Rica is to stay in more than one area of the country and to explore your surroundings. You never know when you might stumble upon wildlife, neat shops, a waterfall…anything, really! The things you see and experience when exploring often lead to the best memories of your trip. Costa Rica is the perfect place to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.
As things in Costa Rica, and Latin America in general, tend to move at a slower pace, it is also important to be patient. Things don’t always move at the speed that they do in other parts of the world, but that is part of the appeal of vacationing in Costa Rica. It will give you an opportunity to “stop and smell the roses”, figuratively speaking. (Literally speaking, the flowers DO smell amazing here). Things in Costa Rica move along in “Tico Time” and Costa Ricans live one day at a time. This is a great way to stop and breathe and to truly enjoy and appreciate each and every day.
On a similar note, one instance in Costa Rica where you will definitely require patience is sitting in San Jose/Central Valley traffic. At certain hours of the day, the traffic in the San Jose/Heredia/Alajuela/Cartago region can look more like a highway-wide parking lot than moving vehicles. This can be very frustrating at times, but once you reach your destination and your next amazing adventure, that nasty traffic jam will soon be forgotten. Vale la pena (it’s worth it), as they say in Spanish.
These are just a few tips to mentally and logistically prepare you for your first trip to Costa Rica. For more in-depth information, don’t forget to peruse our website’s Travel Guide, which is packed full of useful information for visiting our little Central American paradise: https://geckotrail.com/travelguide/
We are excited for you to visit Costa Rica and experience a glorious combination of adventure, excitement, new experiences, unparalleled natural beauty, and ultimate relaxation. One thing is for certain, you will leave Costa Rica with incredible memories and a story to tell!