FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What about flights?
We do not handle flight coordination for groups under 10 people (you will get the best rates booking directly online). However, purchasing flights is an important part of the planning and reservation process, so please be in close communication with your trip planner in regards to these logistics. Also note that you MUST arrive by early afternoon if you are heading to any destination other than San Jose on your arrival day.
What about travel insurance?
Whenever you plan a trip there is always a chance something in your life can come up to make travel impossible. Cancellation insurance covers pre-departure cancellations, post-departure interruption, trip delay (12 hours or more), medical expense/emergency assistance, accidental death and baggage/ travel documents. The fee for this coverage ranges on the price of your trip. The fee is generally $70-$100 per traveler. We recommend contacting Allianz Travel Insurance where you can purchase insurance easily online.
Do we need any shots?
The Health Department of Costa Rica does not require any immunizations to enter the country. However, we view health as a very personal issue and encourage people to consult with a trusted physician, health service organization or other medical professional in making any decisions about vaccinations. Many people have been fine to travel without vaccinations. However, several US governmental organizations recommend, among other things, Hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid and yellow fever vaccinations. The Center for Disease Control takes a conservative stand and recommends several vaccinations. You may consult their website for more information concerning travel precautions to Central America: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/camerica.htm
Malaria prophylaxis is also recommended by the CDC but not required. There have been scattered cases of malaria over the past few years, but none that we have had direct contact with. Some of our travelers choose to take the anti-malaria medication under the care of their physician, while others have chosen not to take anything. Again, we strongly suggest you consult a trusted physician who is knowledgeable on the most current and effective malaria prevention medications.
Do we need to know Spanish?
Though it can only add to your experience and help you to get to know the people better, it is not essential that you speak any Spanish. Our guide/drivers are all bilingual and will help you with any communication issues.
How about spending money?
You will need money for any food or activities that are not included in your itinerary, and the $29 airport departure tax, gratuities and any alcoholic beverages and/or souvenirs that you may want to buy. We recommend you bring cash in bills $20 and under, as it can be hard to change travelers’ checks outside of San Jose. Most hotels, shops and restaurants accept US Dollars and will give you change in Costa Rican colones. There will also be opportunities to change dollars in banks and make withdrawals from ATMs in either dollars or colones. Many shops and restaurants accept major credit cards. ($1USD= 500 colones)
Travelers checks are not easily exchanged within the country and are not recommended for spending purposes or tipping. Some hotels will exchange them at an exchange rate they decide, and otherwise you would need to visit a bank (where you will often see long lines).
How should we pack?
As lightly as possible! While you will never have to carry your bags very far, many smaller hotels do not have porters. Don’t forget to bring a backpack as your carry-on/daypack. Depending upon your itinerary, you may or may not have the opportunity to do laundry directly through your lodge. Please see the Packing List for more information on packing and traveling with us.
Should I bring my laptop or tablet?
This is up to you! Many people who travel with us appreciate the opportunity to be away from their technology and shut it off for a bit. You do risk damage due to weather, or of course theft – though the chances of either of these are slim if you take the proper precautions.
Where do we stay?
We most often book with local eco-hotels and lodges. They are small, low-impact lodges that allow easy access to beautiful natural surroundings. There is a range of amenities available depending on your needs. In planning your trip we will ask what type of accommodations you desire and find lodging to suit. All of the hotels have comfortable rooms with private bathrooms and hot water, and fans when necessary.
What do we eat?
We view food as an obvious (and delicious!) connection to both the land and to the people who live in the region. Many meals are taken at local restaurants where regional specialties are served. We encourage you to try the tropical fruits and vegetables that are not readily or sustainably available in North America. Be prepared for a lot of rice and beans (gallo pinto) cooked with a special Costa Rican flavor. This is a staple of the Costa Rican diet and many people eat it three times a day. Although you will often find American-style food available, we like to offer the opportunity to go to authentic Costa Rican restaurants where you can enjoy the local cuisine. Please do not expect a wide variety of food like we have here in the United States! Part of the thrill of travel is immersing yourself in the local lifestyle and enjoying local flavors!
How do we get around?
When you are not hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, or white water rafting, you travel from activity to activity in a van with your own personal bilingual guide/driver. Sit back and enjoy the scenery! Some groups choose to have a few days where they are not with a guide/driver. During this portion of the trip, we may or may not have taxis already coordinated to take you to and from activities and restaurants. You will work out these details with your trip planner, and they can answer questions about taxi costs and tipping.
How long are the drives?
As the crow flies, getting from one destination to another within the small country of Costa Rica is not significant. However, the reality of the mountains, the road conditions and the weather often make for some long drives. Most of the destinations you will travel to will be between 3-5 hours apart. This is often a welcome time for relaxation as you don’t have to worry about driving or directions, but can rather spend time looking out the window, reading, and talking with your travel companions. Our guide/drivers are also fabulous at showing you all the best spots to stop along the way for a delicious lunch or an impromptu activity. They are also famous for spotting wildlife and stopping to venture off the beaten path in search of sloth or scarlet macaws!
What are the hikes like?
What better way to get to know the rainforest than through your feet! Walking slowly through the forest affords you the opportunity to witness its natural wonders including all kinds of wildlife. None of the hikes are too difficult for anyone in reasonably good health and moderate physical shape. You and your guide will stop often to observe the amazing plant and animal life along the way. We encourage you to experience the beauty and wonder of the places we visit rather than hiking to get from Point A to Point B. True to its name, there is often rain in the rainforest, and therefore mud. When hiking, we recommend good walking shoes and clothing that can get messy (more clothing guidelines can be found on the Packing List).
Who will be our guide?
When you arrive you will be met by one of our local, bilingual guide-drivers who will escort you throughout your trip and will be able to point out interesting places and amazing flora and fauna of the country. This is an incredible opportunity to have a window into the Costa Rican culture, while also being able to relax and not be concerned with driving or trip details. Our guide-drivers are hand-picked due to their expert driving skills as well as their knowledge and passion for their country. They know when to be present and helpful, and when to allow you personal space. You will be given a cell phone to use while in the country so that you can call your guide-driver to pick you up from dinners, activities, etc. (Please see our gratuity guidelines for questions about tipping your guide-driver as well as local activity guides).
How do we call home?
We will provide you with a cell phone to use while you are in the country. Calls within Costa Rica will be included. If you would like to call the US, you can do so from this phone for about $0.30 per minute. You can also text a US cell phone for a nominal charge. When you arrive, your phone will have about US$20 on it; if you need more than that, you are responsible for adding more minutes onto it, which can be done in most corner stores (your guide/driver can help with this). Another great way to call home is via Skype, should you bring your laptop or phone, or use internet at your lodge or internet café. You can also purchase a Kolbi SIM card at the San Jose airport if you would like to use your own cell phone (only if your phone is “unlocked”). Finally, some cell phone service providers have special rates on international calls, so you can contact your provider directly if this interests you.
Can we drink the water?
While it is okay for North Americans to drink the water in many parts of Costa Rica (not including the Southern Caribbean Coast), we don’t like to take any chances. You will need at least one 1-½-liter bottle everyday. We ask that you please bring a refillable water bottle or CamelBak type water system to reduce waste and avoid more disposable plastic bottles piling up in Costa Rica, where very few recycling facilities exist. Your guide-driver will have a five gallon water bottle in your vehicle which you can use to refill your bottles. If you are on the southern Caribbean coast (Puerto Viejo area) without a guide-driver, you will need to purchase bottled water for drinking.
What about tips?
It is customary in Costa Rica, as in many other places, for guides to receive tips in accordance to the quality of service they provide. We understand that this is a personal decision, but we often find that people would appreciate a little guidance along the way. Below are a few guidelines we’ve found to make the process a little easier:
There is one person who will likely be an integral part of your group for parts of or the entirety of your journey: your guide/driver. Generally speaking, a nice tip for a guide/driver would be about $200 for an 8-day trip. If he is only with you on certain days, $25/day would be a suggestion.
If your group is going white water rafting, (horseback riding, caving, hiking in a refuge, etc.) it is also recommended to tip these local guides. White water rafting guides generally get between $10-$15 per person, horseback riding, caving, and zipline guides are generally tipped between $5-$7 per person.
If you feel you had a great time and your guide/driver or local guides were particularly outstanding, then more is always welcome.
What about bugs?
The rainforest does have bugs…lots of them. Most of them, however, do not have any interest in you. It is the mosquitoes that may “bug” you the most. Please remember to bring (and use) insect repellent. You may want to bring lightweight and breathable pants for hiking as extra protection against the bugs. They are also good to wear at dawn and dusk, when the mosquitoes are most active. Socks at those times of day also work wonders!
Do we have free time?
Each expedition is customized to suit your desires and needs. We build in as much or little free time as you like, and can make adjustments as you see fit.
Will our lodges have WiFi?
Most of the lodges we use do offer free wifi in the lobby area, and a few also have wifi in the room- some offer it for free, some for a small fee. If this is important to you, just ask your trip coordinator to give you information about WiFi availability after your lodges have been reserved.
What should I do with my valuables while on expedition?
Most lodges offer a lock-box, either in the rooms or through the front desk. This is the most secure way to keep track of your valuables. Often, your guide/driver will be staying with the vehicle and you can leave valuables in there under his care. In Costa Rica, as anywhere in the world, petty thievery can occasionally occur. Please use common sense- we recommend that you do not leave valuables lying around in plain sight.