Costa Rica is a great place for a vacation and well over 2 million people visit this small country every year. But please note that Costa Rica is a developing country and not a fully developed country. This means among many things, things will not be the same as in North America or Europe. So, expect things like bad roads, lack of signs, crazy drivers etc etc.
Another reality of traveling in developing countries (some more than others) is crime. Costa Rica has its share of crime against tourists (almost all non-violent). I do not say this to scare you, but only to be realistic and take certain precautions so you will limit yourself to the possibility of being a victim. Here are just a few general tips while traveling in Costa Rica.
- Be weary of people offering to carry your stuff for money. This always happens when you get off busses. If they do handle your bags, they expect a tip. 500 colones (almost $1 is plenty)
- Careful of people (especially locals), that are overly friendly and start recommending other hotels etc. They do not usually do this out of the goodness of their heart. They usually get a commission.
- Do not leave bags unattended in your car. Also always make sure your car is not parked out on street overnight unless you feel it is secure with a guard.
- When parking in city areas on street, there is usually a person on the street (they wear orange vests) that will watch your car. They are worth every colone. I will usually give them 500 colones when I park and another 500colones when I return (total almost $2). This is usually double what locals pay, but I can have never had anyone take anything out of my car, and the guy will many times even stop traffic to allow me to pull out safely
- Do not flash money around. Also note that many places do not accept US $50 or $100 bills
- Try and pay with local currency where possible. Paying with dollars is a sure way to get short-changed on exchange and shows other people you are “green” at traveling in CR.