General Travel Tips in Costa Rica

This list may be long, but it can and will save you a lot of time not being wasted on having to take care of a unpleasant situation.

Taking away from your fun on a your vacation.

These tips come from years of people living and traveling in Costa Rica and throughout North America.

This tips are not only for Costa Rica, but any country you may be traveling in.

Enjoy and have a awesome vacation


The most important thing to remember is use common sense.
Carry a photocopy of your Passport and driver license, in case is lost or stolen. This can and will save from spending time and worrying about replacing it. MAKE SURE YOU COPY THE STAMP ON YOUR PASSPORT AS WELL!
Most restaurants include a 10% service tax to your bill, which means that tipping in these cases would not be necessary. Check you bill to see if this was done. Adding more is always nice if the service was very good.

When traveling in a taxi in Costa Rica, please make sure they are legitimate and not pirate taxis and that they have a Maria (a counter).

Protect cameras, batteries and other electronic devices in plastic bags. The weather depending where you are can be damp or muggy.

It is best to leave a copy of your itinerary, a photo copy of airline tickets, passport identification page, driver’s license, credit cards, traveler’s cheques, prescriptions medical history, and important business documents with a family member and /or friend in case of emergency.

Don’t put all of your money in one place to protect yourself in the case of a theft or loss.

You may want to carry money in two different pockets. Depending where you are at there may be pick pockets. Button down pockets are nice and will deter this.

Making sure your health insurance covers medical emergencies away from home is a good idea. If it doesn’t, purchasing travel insurance. Is a good idea.

Always pay attention crossing the street. As we teach our children look both ways. Costa Ricans don’t always pay attention to you when driving.

Hopefully this will never happen but if you’re ever in a traffic accident in Costa Rica, no matter how minor the the accident may be, you must not move your vehicle, no matter how much traffic there is and wait for the police to arrive. Otherwise your insurance will not cover the accident, no matter who is at fault.

Wear sunscreen! Because Costa Rica is closer to the equator the sun burns skin a lot faster than you may be used to. Use higher protection than 15 SPF, and water proof if possible. If traveling with children, use at least a 45 SPF on their skin. Carry a foldable umbrella or rain poncho with you: rain showers can be unexpected and sudden. If you find yourself without rain gear when on the streets, do as locals do and go for a cup of coffee  while the worst of the rain passes. If you wish to travel to Monteverde or other mountain areas, bring warm clothing. Although this is a tropical country, temperatures can drop quite a bit in the mountain areas. It has even snowed at the tip of Mount Chirripó, so be prepared! Most hotels don’t have any sort of heating either, so when the weather turns cold, bundling up is the smartest thing to do.

In restaurants, the tip and taxes should be included in the bill by law. Sales tax is 13%, the tip is called “servicio” and is 10%  that is generally split among all the employees: cooks, dishwashers and waiters. If the service was particularly great, it is customary to leave a gratuity for the waiter, as a personal thanks for the attention, or appreciation for good recommendations.

Recommended packing list:
Binoculars, Camera and Film, and a Costa Rica Guide Book (we recommend “Costa Rica Handbook” by Christopher P. Baker).

Sunscreen and insect repellent

Light cool clothing—cotton or light synthetic. At least one pair of pants for insect protection and dressier occasions.

Light jacket or sweater

Footwear- waterproof lightweight hiking boots, river sandals (Teva-type sandals) and comfortable walking shoes


Hat for sun protection

Plastic water bottle for hikes

Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb for night hikes

Medication and travel sickness medication if necessary

Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes

Plastic garbage bags for wet items

Car seat for small children

Please pack as light as possible (limit 2 bags per person)

Small bag or backpack for day trips

Bug repellent, Anti itch spray

They even make anti bug soap. Check for it at you local camping store

Shower shoes for in the shower, depending on where you are stay. Inexpensive ones are perfect

Be aware of your surroundings.


Do not leave valuables in plain site in your car.

If someone suspicious approaches your vehicle while you are stopped at a traffic light or sign, sound the car horn.

Do not pull over for flashing headlights. A police vehicle and an authorized

 If you become lost, try to find a public place, like a service station, in order to read your map or ask for directions.

 If you are told that something is wrong with your vehicle, do not stop immediately. Drive to the nearest service station (bomba) or to another well lighted public area.

 If you get a flat tire immediately after picking up your rented car, be on the lookout for friendly people who wish to help you. I have know this to happen.

 Keep doors locked and windows shut up when driving, and always when the vehicle is parked.

 Do not keep valuables on the seat next to you or in the back seat when driving if the windows are open.

Goods and valuables should be kept in the trunk, locked glove compartment, or out of sight.

Always park in well-lit areas.

Check the interior of your vehicle and surrounding areas before getting into your vehicle.

Do not pick up hitchhikers. Young people who may wish to relieve you of your valuables.

 If using an automatic cashier (ATM), be sure the area is well lit. Return to you car, hotel or home to count your money.  If in the car, roll the windows up.  I seldom use ATM’s at night.

 Do not leave the keys in your vehicle or your car engine running when using an automatic cashier or public telephone even for a moment.

 If you suspect that you are being followed, head immediately to the nearest well lit public area and call the police.


When dining out, do not leave your purse, bags, cell phone or ANY valuable on the table.

If you must carry a purse or bag, hold it in front of you close to your body. Be sure it is closed.

Keep large hand bags or bags under your table, out of reach. Never hang your purse on the back of a chair.

Don’t wear flashy jewelry, real or not.  Dress down when walking around, especially in heavy tourist areas.

When encountering a threatening or hostile individual, do not put up any resistance. If all that person wants is your belongings so give them up.  NOTHING you carry is worth your life or serious injury. In case of emergency call 911 from any telephone.  Do not expect the operator to know English.

If you feel comfortable carry maze or some kind of spray then do. This can be hidden in your hand and out of site as you are walking.

Costa Rica is not a violent country, but at all times be on the lookout for pickpockets or crowds of young people who may wish to relieve you of your valuables.

Here’s a tip most places won’t mention.

Using a bathroom/Bano. Depending where you are in Costa Rica the toilet septic systems are not designed to take paper products. Next to the toilet is a reciprocal to place these products into.

Please keep this in mind. This is also through out parts of Europe.