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    Currency ~ Past and Present

    by starship Updated Aug 30, 2013

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    Favorite thing: The basic unit of Costa Rican currency is the Colón (colones = plural) . It may be a little confusing as Costa Rican banknotes and coins are both referred to as colons; coins are marked as colones, although 1/100 of a colon coin is called a centimo.

    As most seasoned travelers are acutely aware, an airport cambio is not the best place to change currency. However, we find that it's worth a couple of dollars extra to have some currency in hand when we land in foreign countries. For this particular trip, that is what we did at our home airport and it worked out well for a small amount of money.

    We twice exchanged American dollars for Costa Rican colones at our hotel in San Jose because the exchange rate was excellent so we did not bother with banks or trying to find an ATM. Costa Rica does have ATMs, but I am not sure they would be considered as ubiquitous as they might be in other countries.

    NOTE: As with some other countries, you may find that certain Costa Rican currency will be "out of date." For example, once when we were given Costa Rican coins as change after a purchase, we tried to use the coins on another purchase at a different store. But when it came time to use them, the vendor rejected a coin we gave him because it was "old." This apparently is also the case with some Costa Rican paper currency. If this happens, you may try exchanging it for newer money perhaps at a bank. However, there is probably no way to tell whether someone is giving you unacceptable currency or not.

    For Collectors: travelers who collect country currencies as souvenirs may be interested in finding the old Costa Rican 5 colones paper bank note because it depicts a famous painting, the "Alegoría al café y el banano", from the ceiling in the Teatro Nacional in San Jose (the painting is depicted on the 3rd piece of currency at the bottom of the photo). This bank note has been pulled from circulation, and it is also likely that no vendor will accept it. However, these notes are considered by some to be collector's items. I actually bought several of these notes from a man selling them outside of the Teatro Nacional because of the famous painting it depicts, and there will eventually be none left -- also because, as with a few other Costa Rican bank notes, they are quite beautiful and the colors are vivid.

    As I have a small collection of foreign currencies, I always try to keep a banknote or two from our travels.

    Beautiful colones banknotes

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    Malaria Prevention and Other Medications

    by starship Updated Aug 30, 2013

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    Favorite thing: While not all areas of Costa Rica may be known to have a malaria risk (transmitted by mosquito bites), depending on what areas of the country you plan to visit, it might be wise to begin a course of malaria prevention medication. As we were visiting Tortuguero in Limon province and this is one of the areas considered to have a malaria risk, we began a course of Chloroquine 2 weeks prior to our trip and I felt safer doing this rather than taking a chance. The Chloroquine presented no problems for either of us -- such as headache, nausea, etc.

    You might consider visiting the website of the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/), or WebMD to view maps for places considered to be a malaria risk in Costa Rica, and for information about choices of medication.

    We were able to get a Chloroquine prescription from our family doctor. BUT, the pharmacy we use had to order the medicine. Please allow time for these types of occurrences prior to your trip. Also, while we saw pharmacies in San Jose, and La Fortuna, the other places which we visited in Costa Rica had no pharmacies -- something to be considered! Bring all prescription medications as well as over-the-counter medications with you!

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    The Pacific Coast

    by BLewJay Written Mar 20, 2013

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    Favorite thing: After spending a few days in the mountains and rainforest, we headed north/west to Sámara in Guanacaste Province on the Pacific Coast. It's the least populated part of Costa Rica but the beaches...Oh My!!! The great thing about this area is that it's not overrun with commercialization (although we did see a Burger King), there's lots of open land, the temperature will tend to be warmer and there is a good mix of locals and visitors. Its a great place to just kickback and relax...which is exactly what we did.

    Related to:
    • Beaches
    • Adventure Travel

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    Northern highlands of Costa Rica

    by BLewJay Updated Mar 18, 2013

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    Favorite thing: As part of our fly/drive vacation, we got to visit different areas of Costa Rica. So after leaving San José, we headed northwest towards the northern highlands, Volcán Arenal and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. As we got higher in elevation, there were more clouds, fog and drizzle. But this was very exciting to us because now we were in the rainforest. Had always heard about it, but never got to experience it until this trip. We now were visiting an area which is very diverse in plants (over 2000 species), birds (300 species which include hummingbirds, woodpeckers, kingfishers & toucans) & mammals (120 species to include jaguars, tapirs & quetzal).

    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Adventure Travel

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    San José - The Capital

    by BLewJay Written Mar 17, 2013

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    Favorite thing: Our introduction to Costa Rica was landing at the Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose; a very modern, clean and user friendly place to land. After getting through customs and picking up our luggage, we headed out to the car rental place to get our SUV. The scenery along the way is very nice...a city in the Central Valley surrounded by the Cordillera Central (a volcanic mountain range).

    Fondest memory: The people...they are very warm, welcoming, friendly and helpful. We came to admire these traits because we got lost many times getting from the airport to our hotel and asked the locals for directions and assistance.

    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Photography
    • Family Travel

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    Eat where the locals eat...try a Soda

    by BLewJay Written Mar 15, 2013

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    Favorite thing: When we first arrived in Costa Rica, we kept hearing about "sodas." Ok, so they are talking about the soft drinks we are used to, right? Coke, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, 7Up, etc.? Nope, not at all!!!

    Sodas are the places where the locals (and now, people in the know) frequent and are simply small restaurants that have limited menu options and have affordable prices. If you really want to experience the food of Costa Rica, eat at a soda. We loved them so much, we ate at three of them on our trip (San Jose, La Fortuna de San Carlos and on our way to Liberia).

    The menu usually consists of casados (comida tipico...rice and beans, lettuce, plantains, and some sort of meat with the meat being either chicken, beef, or fish). It's also a great way to stretch the budget as well as use your Spanish skills.

    Related to:
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    • Food and Dining

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    Solo female travel options

    by blueskyjohn Written Jan 28, 2013

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    Favorite thing: My safety tip would have been don't travel alone. But since you're already going, my advice is to spend as little time in San Jose as possible if you are alone. The evening and night is no place for a solo female traveling, IMHO. Fly in, rent a car and experience the country. With such a short amount of time, I recommend the beach, specifically the Pacific Coast so you can enjoy the sunsets. I'm partial to Samara. Easy to get to and a small beach town. If you go that route, look into Casa del Mar hotel. Carolina is the manager and she is awesome. Traveling alone, she can make great recommendations. I was just here a few weeks ago and updated my travel page: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/be2b7/192965/
    Better than typing it all out here.

    If you want to check out more would be a push with taking travel between locations into consideration. You may enjoy yourself more focusing on one area. If not, La Fortuna is nice to experience some of the hot springs from Arenal Volcano. But four days is a bit much there.

    None of the above can be a day trip from San Jose. You will not get a true sense of the country if you stay in San Jose, never mind the fact that it would not be that safe alone.

    Safe travels and Good luck!

    Related to:
    • Adventure Travel
    • Beaches

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    Wildlife!

    by blueskyjohn Written Jan 20, 2013

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    Favorite thing: One of my favorite things to do in Costa Rica is to seek out wildlife. I've always had success. Maybe because wildlife is everywhere if all forms. Monkey's, Crocodiles, lizards, butterflies, Coati's, Raccoons, exotic birds and sloths. When I come across these animals I can stay and watch them all day. So fascinating!

    Fondest memory: Hiking in Manuel Antonio with a group of my students when a troop of white-face monkey's came upon use and didn't leave. It was unique because they didn't leave and it wasn't on the beach where you usually will spot them. They key is to start hiking early in the morning. Great experience.

    White-face Monkey in Manuel Antonio Boa Constrictor in Manuel Antonio Howler Monkey in La Fortuna Sloth outside El Avion restaurant
    Related to:
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    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • National/State Park

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    mosquito issues

    by blueskyjohn Written Jan 19, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: I just returned from Costa Rica and have been there many times. You are going during the dry season so mosquitos are not as bad as you may think. I used insect reppellant in the evening during dinner as many places have open air dinning. During the day received a few bites but I've experienced must worse right around my house in north jersey!

    Insect reppellant with 23%the DEET is sufficient. Apply as needed and you'll be fine.

    Related to:
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Beaches

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  • Tortuguero and Arenal

    by jaybareilles Written Dec 11, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Hi there!

    Have no doubt you can combine Tortuguero with Arenal, its not complicated at all..

    My girlfriend and I went on a Costa Rica 10 days/9 nights tour package and it was amazing!

    This was our schedule:

    1 night: Naranjo (30 minutes from the airport), here we took the Coffee Tour and then we visited Sarchi town on the way to Sarapiqui

    2 night: Sarapiqui rainforest -halfway between the Central Valley (Naranjo, San Jose) and Tortuguero-
    On the 3day we just got in Tortuguero hotel private bus (35 min away from Sarapiquis hotel), the bus drives us to the dock for a 1:20 min boat ride on the canals. Awesome!

    We spent nights 3 and 4 in Tortuguero.

    On day 5 we left Tortuguero in the morning and by the afternoon we were enjoying the hot springs in Fortuna (Arenal). We didnt have to go all the way to San Jose, we just got off our bus (same place we got in on 2nd day) and our tour operator shuttle car was right there..

    Nights 5 and 6 in Arenal. Dont miss the zip line tour!

    Day 7: We went to Canas, Guanacaste for a thrilling white water rafting experience!! Canas is only 1hr:30min from Arenal
    we stayed overnight in Canas.

    On day 8 we departed for Punta Leona, we found it really nice, a beautiful natural reserve and 2 stunning private beaches, (gold and white sand).
    Here we spent nights 8 and 9.

    Day 10:Our transfer to the airport took only 1h:30min

    We really enjoyed our trip in Costa Rica, the overall experience was outstanding!

    We recommend you contact Cooltour, they treated us excellent and dindn't try to rip us off. Their email is info@cooltour.cr

    I hope this makes it easier for you, good luck!

    Pura Vida! as Costa Rican People say!
    Jay

    Related to:
    • Adventure Travel
    • Budget Travel
    • Family Travel

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    a good travel itinerary

    by blueskyjohn Written Sep 21, 2012

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    Favorite thing: It is easy to drive around Costa Rica. Just pay extra close attention to speed limits to avoid being stopped by police, which can be a hassle these days.

    I think some good hiking and the best ziplines are in monteverde cloud forest near the town of Santa Elana. Good guided night hikes are available. La Fortunate is also good for hiking and possible views of Arenas Volcano.

    I prefer La Fortunate. As mention there are a number if resorts that have hot springs heated by the volcano. Great to relax in after a day of adventure. Los Lagos hotel has ziplines and hot spring at a more affordable rate.

    From here a drive around lake arenas and then to the Nicola peninsula. My favorite little beach town is Samara.

    Manuel Antonio is nice for the beach and thethe whitedriver face monkey's but there's ALOT of people there and i've never spent more than a day.

    Have alot of detail on my Samara and La Fortunate page.

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    Do not forget the Exit Tax

    by theo1006 Updated Aug 27, 2012

    Favorite thing: When leaving Costa Rica you have to pay an Exit Tax or Impuesto de Salida. At the time we left, March 20, 2012, the amount to pay was USD 28, see the receipt (comprobante).
    You can pay at the airport. We paid beforehand at the bank. Not just any bank, in Alajuala we were referred to the Banco Crédito Agrícola.

    Costa Rica Exit Tax receipt
    Related to:
    • Budget Travel

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  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

    Car rental, Insurance and traffic tickets, oh my!

    by blueskyjohn Written Aug 8, 2012

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    Favorite thing: I have rented cars often in CR. It seems nearly every year they are changing some rule. One thing that never changes is the mandatory insurance. This IS NOT provided on any quote you receive if you reserve online before your arrival (at least from the US). Figure on about 35-50% more than the quoted price online. Have done this many times and I still never get use to it. I rent for work and have special coverage for travel. They do not care in CR. You have to have there insurance. When I went in March 2012 they now have a few options to choose from.

    They also now give a little talk about what to do if you are stopped by the police. I was stopped once for not wearing a seat belt and they would not let me leave until I paid $80 usd. I talked them down to $20usd and I was on my way. A co-worker of mine was stopped for speeding and that was a real issue.

    Basicly, do not give the police money! If they say you must, request a supervisor or, as I did, volunteer to go back to their headquarters. They know they should not collect any "on the spot" fines. You can also reprot them to this phone number, 227-2188 within Costa Rica. BTW, I speak little spanish so don't think I pulled some magic by speak the local language. The Police know the deal. You just have to be as smart and hold your ground.

    The rental company will tell you a speeding ticket now is about $600usd (that may have changed since March)

    I've rented from advantage, Thrifty and Budget. Always a good experience.

    Related to:
    • Adventure Travel
    • Road Trip

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    tips for travel

    by blueskyjohn Written Jun 5, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Hi,
    Typically in September you will get the late afternoon thunder shower. The coast tends to be cloudier this time of year while the highlands are generally clearer (opposite during the high season).

    Day trips from a central location is difficult. If you are in Arenal, it is a 3-4 drive to the coast. There is nothing you can really consider a multi-lane highway. As the crow flies the distance does not seem much but the delay is in being behind the multitude of tractor trailor trucks/ deliver trucks going through the mountainous areas. Very few passing lanes.

    For fishing of course its best to be on the pacific coast. With two weeks you may consider splitting your time between two locations. One week in the Arenal area and one week on the coast. Less driving and you can relax. The are some great some communities on the pacific coast and the Nicoya Pennisula. Tamarindo is good or my favorite, Samara.

    A long day trip from San Jose is Manuel Antonio nationals park. Easy to get to with some well marked hiking trails and plenty of wildlife if you like white-faced monkeys. Closer to Manuel Antonio is Jaco. Great for fishing but can be a bit seedy. Not too family friendly at night.

    With the two year old, a good supply of child friendly insect reppelant would be a good idea. Do not relay on trying to find something in Costa Rica.

    Hope this helps and if I think of something else I'll post. Have a great time!

    Related to:
    • Jungle and Rain Forest
    • Eco-Tourism

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    Touring around Costa Rica with Amerikaventure

    by Jefie Written Mar 25, 2012

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    Favorite thing: There are several ecotours offered in Costa Rica, and shopping for the right one can be a bit of an overwhelming experience. I think going with Amerikaventure turned out to be a good decision, especially thanks to our wonderful guide Eric Braipson. Eric was born in Africa, grew up in Belgium, and moved to Costa Rica in 1997. He speaks French, English and Spanish, and he has been leading groups around the country since 2001. During the 9 days we spent with him, he always made sure to do everything he could to make our trip as pleasant and memorable as possible, and it truly wouldn't have been the same without him.

    Before we left for Costa Rica, we received a detailed itinerary and information package from Amerikaventure. The entire trip went without a hitch, from the time they picked us up at the airport to the time they dropped us off - all the hotels we stayed at were top notch, the minivan we used to get around was very comfortable and our driver was excellent, and the size of the group (14 in total) was perfect. My main criticism is that the information posted on their website had led me to believe the tour would be slightly more challenging physically, but as it turns out most activities were rather tame (though still enjoyable); so in general it felt more like a typical organized trip than a backpacking adventure. Also, most of the optional activities mentioned were not available and the itinerary had been slightly modified. That being said, I still think going on this tour turned out to be a good way of discovering the country and getting my bearings for my next visit to Costa Rica!

    For more information on this ecotour company, you can visit their website at www.amerikaventure.com.

    Eric guiding us through a cloud forest
    Related to:
    • Luxury Travel
    • Eco-Tourism

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