Hopefully up to now, you have gotten a pretty good idea about Costa Rica and what I am doing down here for the time being. And even further, I hope that you are strongly considering a trip to this beautiful paradise I have been blessed to call home for the last year. Whatever your situation, I hope to provide you with some honest information regarding travel in Costa Rica and experiences with the Tico culture.
First of all, Costa Rica isn’t necessarily cheap. Yes, some things such as fresh produce are much cheaper, but the luxuries are not. Gas is quite expensive and clothes and beauty products are comparable, if not more, than you would pay in the States. For accommodation, you can generally stay somewhere as cheap as $10 per night (depending on where you are) or as expensive as $300+ per night. My suggestion is that if you plan on doing excursions and having cultural experiences just get a cheap room or stay at a hostel because, let’s be honest, you won’t be spending that much time in your room. All you really need is a bed to sleep in and a safe place to store your things. Staying in hostels, for me, has been one of the best ways to meet new people and experience a very raw side of tourism in Costa Rica.
As for transportation, public transportation in Costa Rica is pretty amazing. You can get pretty much anywhere you want to go by taking a bus and the best part is it won’t cost you much at all. Plus you will get to see how the locals travel because many people here do not own a car (again, gas is pretty expensive). They get around by way of bike or bus or their own two feet. Another little tidbit on the buses, try to get Directo or Expreso buses as they are nonstop. The Collectivo buses will stop at every single bus stop and pick up more and more people, sometimes until you can no longer even fit people standing. Collectivo buses are better for short, quick trips.
If you are travelling a very long distance, though, and have lots of luggage, I would recommend springing for one of the shuttles. Transportation companies such as Interbus and Caribe Shuttle offer shuttle services from the airport to many popular destinations around the country. They will be a little more expensive, but you will not have to hastle with bus stops, taxis, or worry about the safety of your luggage.
Now, on to the issue of safety. Lots of tourists are curious about safety in Costa Rica. Well, my best words of advice are to remember not just that you are in Costa Rica, but that you are in Central America. There is danger everywhere, but not necessarily more here than in other Central American countries. Be cautious, but not an annoyingly nervous tourist. Most people who say hi to you are really just friendly Ticos.
Now, to set the records straight, what everyone says is absolutely true. The Costa Rican people are truly incredible. They will happily welcome you into their home for a meal or offer you a ride as you walk in the rain. If you have children, they will fawn over them. Just to call them friendly would be a severe understatement. Their culture is extremely welcoming, relaxed, and loving and you can't help but love them back.