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Costa Rica things you should know

 8 things you should know before visiting Costa Rica: A travel guide

Welcome to the tropical paradise of Costa Rica! With its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and vibrant culture, this Central American gem is a must-visit destination. This is where I’m from, and I find that many tourists usually don’t know these things before visiting. To ensure you make the most of your trip, here are 8 crucial things you should know before visiting Costa Rica. 

Proof of Onward Travel

Before boarding your flight to Costa Rica, make sure you have proof of onward travel. The country requires visitors to show a return ticket or another form of exit from the country. This regulation is strictly enforced. You might find the check-in counter at your country of departure asking you to have proof that you will be leaving at a specific date.

If you know how long you’re staying then this shouldn’t be a problem. If you want more flexibility, or are a backpacker, things get a bit more complicated. If you are flying with a US airline, you can cancel your flight within 24 hours of booking it. No questions asked. No charges whatsoever. If not, just use a website like this one to generate a fake flight ticket. I travel full-time and I’m very spontaneous. This is what I use whenever I’m asked for proof of onward travel.

Sodas for Affordable, Local Meals

Costa Rica is extremely expensive. Go to any local supermarket and you’ll find that the goods are comparable to US and EU prices. To keep your expenses low, experience the true flavors of Costa Rica by dining at “sodas.” These are small, local eateries that offer delicious and affordable meals. Sodas are the perfect places to savor authentic Costa Rican cuisine, from hearty casados to flavorful gallo pinto. Just ask around because this is where you’ll usually find locals eating.



Csta Rica things you should know
Avoid Feeding Wild Animals

While encountering Costa Rica’s wildlife is undoubtedly a thrilling experience, it’s crucial to remember that feeding wild animals is illegal. Respect the local laws and refrain from offering food to the creatures you encounter. Feeding disrupts their natural behaviors and can have severe consequences for their health. No matter how cute or hungry they look, do not feed them. If it’s a stray dog or cat, that’s a different story.

Take Rain Seriously

Costa Rica’s lush landscapes are a result of its abundant rainfall. Don’t underestimate the power of the rain, as it can be intense and unpredictable. Tourists have unfortunately lost their lives by not taking the rain seriously. Pack waterproof gear if you’re traveling during the rainy season and plan activities accordingly.

Regarding the activities, if a tour operator cancels because of the rain, listen to them. They know best. Ask to be rescheduled or for a refund. Rainy season usually lasts from May to November. Anything that involves water like rafting is usually very risky. There are plenty of other activities you can get involved in. If you need some Costa Rica travel inspiration on cool things to do, make sure to check out this article.


Costa Rica things you should know
Don’t Flush Toilet Paper

Unlike in many Western countries, it’s common in Costa Rica not to flush toilet paper down the toilet. Most plumbing systems are not equipped to handle paper waste, so be sure to dispose of used toilet paper in the designated bins provided in bathrooms. Adhering to this practice helps maintain proper sanitation and avoid plumbing issues. You might find that some sites, like the airport and international hotel chains, can withstand flushing toilet paper. For the most part, most places cannot.

Ubers Are Illegal

Ride-sharing services like Uber may be common in many places. However, Uber is considered illegal in Costa Rica. The policies behind it are absolutely ridiculous. That doesn’t mean you cannot use Uber. It is the driver that will get in trouble for offering their services – not you. Uber is safe, and extremely affordable in Costa Rica. I don’t drive and it’s my go-to mode of transportation in the country in the evening. During the day I rely on buses.

How to use Uber in Costa Rica? Simply sit in the front passenger’s seat next to the driver. If you are not alone, make sure one of you always sits up front. Memorize your driver’s name in case they get stopped. They will in turn memorize yours. They will lie and say you’re related or are a neighbor. Like I said before, it’s been operating for practically a decade but there is a feud going on between Uber and the local taxi companies. If an officer stops your driver then they’ll pay a fine. Not you. This does not affect you as a tourist in any way.

Costa Rica things you should know
Tap Water Is Drinkable and Delicious

Good news for travelers – tap water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink and deliciously refreshing. If you’re in a very rural area please ask beforehand. Take advantage of this and reduce your environmental impact by carrying a reusable water bottle. It gets tested regularly, and it is actually healthier than bottled water because it keeps minerals needed for the body that usually get flushed away in the bottling process.

Please keep in mind that while the water is safe to drink, your body might not be used to new environments. I cannot guarantee that you will or will not have stomach problems because this depends entirely on every individual. I am just here letting you know that it IS safe, and you don’t have to worry about eating salads or having ice in your drinks.

Learn How to Say Pura Vida

Last but not least, you need to learn the phrase “Pura Vida”. It is more than just a saying in Costa Rica; it’s a way of life. Translating to “pure life,” this phrase encapsulates the country’s positive and laid-back attitude. Embrace the local culture by learning how to say “Pura Vida” and use it as a greeting, an expression of gratitude, or simply to share good vibes with the friendly locals. Think of this as the Costa Rican equivalent of Hakuna Matata – I am not joking!

As you embark on your Costa Rican adventure, keep these essential tips in mind to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience. By respecting local customs, staying informed, and embracing the Pura Vida spirit, you’ll create lasting memories in this beautiful destination. Safe travels!

a woman posing in the water

Hey there, and welcome to Go Global with Sibu! I’m a global citizen that has been living and traveling around the world since 2005 – all through budget travel, scholarships, study/work and living abroad opportunities.  I share everything I’ve learned over the years here – to prove to you that you don’t need money or privilege to enjoy everything that this world has to offer. 

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