Costa Rica Travel Tips

 

How to Get There

Flying

Costa Rica can be reached from the following US gateway cities:

We usually book our tickets through Travelocity.

Ticket prices have been pretty good lately - $350-$450 from most cities in the US.

Driving

It is possible to drive to Costa Rica. The advantages are obvious - when you get there you have your own car, and all your gear. The disadvantages may not be as obvious.

To drive from the US to Costa Rica, you have to cross as many as six borders depending on your route - US, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica. Each of the border crossings has its own requirements, especially when you are traveling with your car. Most countries stamp your passport with a car stamp - showing that you entered the country with a car. If your car gets stolen, you may have to pay the value of the car (plus taxes and duties) to leave the country. Some countries may also ask you to post a cash bond for your car.

Mexico and some other places in Central America have something of a reputation for stopping cars for no reason and demanding payment for bogus infractions. Don't be intimidated - it's really no big deal. The best thing to do is just to pay $20 on the spot and move on. Trying to argue or going to the police station is rarely worth the hassle.

Obviously, it is a real adventure to drive. The roads are a challenge in places, and you should try not to drive at night if at all possible. Driving from the US will take about two weeks at a reasonable pace. People have certainly done it - but none of our staff would choose this as our first option due to the significant border hassles involved.

Ship your Car

Another option that is somewhat more interesting is shipping your car to Costa Rica. Costa Rica has two main ports, Calderon on the Pacific side and Limon on the Atlantic side. Shipping your car to either of these ports should cost around $750. You are not allowed to leave belongings in your car or trunk when you ship it due to insurance liability.

One shipping company that seems to have a good reputation is the Puerto Limon Agency - info@limonagency.com

Puerto Limon is definitely the biggest port in Costa RIca, and the most direct shipping point from the US to Limon is Tampa, Florida.

Bus

It is quite possible to travel from the US to Costa Rica via bus. Bus prices begin to drop dramatically when you leave the US and enter Mexico. It's also a great way to meet a lot of friendly local people. Disadvantages are that buses can be quite crowded (especiallly if you are over 6' tall), schedules can be somewhat erratic, and some drivers are rather macho in their driving habits.

Train

The train is a really cool way to go. Although written quite a few years ago, Paul Theroux's Patagonia Express is a great book on riding trains through Latin America. I note that the reviews on the Amazon website point out that Theroux is a cranky traveler - I liked the book anyway.

Hitchhiking

Although challenging, it can be done. I hitchhiked from Alaska to Peru when I got out of high school. The usual cavets apply - this is only for the very adventurous, and is not recommmended for women traveling alone.

Hotels

Melia Cariari (Near the airport, $75-$250) - Well known tourist hotel near the airport. Nice pool (note: check and see if it is open, they are remodeling), nice rooms, near shopping center. Shop on Travelocity or other sites - I have paid as little as $75 a night, at the same time others were paying $150.

Hotel Martino (Near the airport/Alajeula, $90-$175) - One of my favorite hotels near the airport. Across the street from the zoo. Awesome pool, nice restaurant. Keep an eye on your food and drink bill - it adds up fast. Again, check Travelocity or other online booking sites for discount prices.

Hampton Inn (Closest to Airport, $99) - Very close to the airport and rental cars. If I was not trying to save money and needed to spend the night near the airport and catch a flight in the morning, I'd probably stay here. Seems like it's always $99 - hard to get a discount.

Hotel Hemingway (San Jose, $37) - Inexpensive, friendly. No A/C.

Hotel Del Rey (San Jose, $55) - Good location close to downtown, good security, reasonable rates, free parking. Free Internet access. I was able to log on their WiFi network from my room last time I was there as well! Fishermen's hangout, not for those seeking solitude.

Hotel Don Carlos (San Jose, $55-$65) - One of my favorite hotels in San Jose. Great gift shop, good security, free parking. Recommended for couples and people who want a quieter place off the main drag. Free Internet access. Run by a family of attorneys - free legal consultation.

Hotel California (Quepos/Manual Antonio, $70-$120) - Nice hotel just before Manual Antonio park. Pool, air conditioning, restaurant. You can sometimes bargain at the desk for lower rates, especially in the off season.

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