Costa Rica Trip Planning

So, four days until I fly out to Costa Rica.

In this post I’ll be talking about what I’ve been doing to prepare. None of this should be taken as expert advice because the facts are, this is my first such trip and I’m learning it all as I go. Consider this more a recording for posterity, and later we can all look back at this and rate how well it went, haha.

Overall, I find myself doing much less planning than I did for preparing to go RVing. Which on the one hand seems absurd because I’m going to be farther from the comfortable and familiar than I’ve ever been, and if I forget some important detail, it may not be easy to fix in a foreign country.

But on the other hand, I feel like it is easier, because six years of full-time RVing have taught me a lot about extended travel, and perhaps most importantly โ€“ that I’m resourceful enough that if something unexpected occurs (which it is bound to happen being gone 12 weeks doing something I’ve never done before), that I’ll be able to figure it out. When I was preparing to go full-time I didn’t have that confidence in myself yet, so the extra planning made up the difference in my level of comfort with the situation.

Here are the major points of my checklist I’ve been working on, not in great detail but as an overview:

Passport/Visa

I applied for my passport a couple years ago in preparation for crossing into Mexico for dental care, so no problems there. Rules for visiting Costa Rica state your passport has to have an expiration date 30 days beyond when you’re scheduled to leave the country. If you’ve never had a passport before, it does take numerous weeks from submitting the paperwork to receiving it, so give yourself plenty of time to get one! You can pay extra money for a rush delivery, but that still takes a couple weeks at least.

If the USA is your home, no visa is required for stays in Costa Rica up to 90 days. My volunteer program lasts 12 weeks, or 84 days. Coincidence? I think not. If you’re flying into the country, you do need to present a return ticket out of the country upon arrival (so basically, you have to book your flight out of Costa Rica before you arrive within that 90 day limit). And on that note…

Plane Tickets

There’s a whole world of โ€œtravel hackingโ€ out there, a community of people who scour for ways to fly for cheap (the biggest component seems to be strategically signing up for credit cards that offer airline miles for rewards). If I decide to get more into international travel I’ll probably dive into this, but it was not a huge concern for this trip.

I’d read some time ago that the more times you search for tickets for a specific flight on the same computer (over the course of days, weeks, months), the higher the prices get. I’d also read that the sweet spot for purchasing tickets for the best price is 3-4 months out. I’d also read that Sundays are the best days to buy. But there’s conflicting reports on all this info so it’s hard to say how true any of it is or how big of a difference it really makes.

I used one of those websites that compares the the costs of multiple airlines at once, of which there are several (Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc…. I honestly can’t remember which one I went with in the end). I bought my tickets about three months and a week out from my flight. And I only searched for flights twice โ€“ the first day the website anticipated that tickets would get cheaper and to hold off on buying. The second time I looked a few days later the site said buy now because they’d be getting more expensive… or, maybe it was all a ploy, who knows. Because once I bought my tickets, I never looked at prices again, it’s better for your sanity that way! (Delta ended up having the best deal for the dates/times/luggage options I wanted.)

Total cost round trip from Phoenix, to Los Angeles, to San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica), and then back: $522… plus the cost of trip insurance.

Trip Insurance

Trip insurance serves three purposes, it covers your loss in case you need to cancel a flight, covers your luggage in case something happens to it, and covers emergency medical care in case something happens to you. When I was booking my flight with Delta, they gave me the choice to add trip insurance on for a mere $39.17 through a company called Allianz Global Assistance, which seemed too…. I don’t know, cheap and easy. But I researched the company and looked at reviews and they seem legit and have a fairy high approval rating, so I bought it. (You can also buy trip insurance on your own through a third party.)

Besides the $522 flight, mine covers luggage up to $300 in value (which isn’t much considering I’m bringing my smartphone and laptop), a baggage delay fee of $75, emergency transportation up to $30,000, and emergency health/dental coverage up to 20,000 with a 1-time deductable of $50.

Immunizations

When traveling to a foreign country, always check to see if there are required vaccinations to get into that country. Then, check the official CDC website for the latest vaccine recommendations (different from requirements), and talk with your doctor to see what they think based on your unique situation. You’ll want to get vaccinations 4-6 weeks before flying out as some have a 30 day period to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Currently, there are no required immunizations for getting into Costa Rica from the USA (not the case if you’re coming from other countries though). The CDC says all travelers should be up to date on the basic ones recommended in the US (Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Tetanus, Diphtheria, the current year’s flu shot, etc.), and that most travelers should get Hepatitis A and Typhoid immunizations. There are some additional ones they recommend to some travelers depending on where you plan on going and what you plan on doing, none of which applied to me (no malaria pills for where I’m going, phew).

Being nomadic, this was the part of international travel that concerned me most going in, because I did not want to go up to South Dakota (my residency state) in the middle of winter just to get vaccinations from an in-network doctor. But it turned out to be a non-issue. I planned my travel route and contacted a clinic in Blythe, CA a week before I was going to be in the area and it was easy to make an appointment to get what I needed there. Vaccines can be pricey, the flu shot was only a couple dollars because of some program, but Hep A costs over $100. Luckily you don’t need boosters often.

Local Transport

$522 is not my bottom line for transport costs, because from San Jose I need to get to the west coast where Wild Sun is. Once I get through customs at the international airport, I collect my baggage and hop a regional plane (Sansa Air) to a city called Tambor, and from there I get on a 45 minute shuttle that should take me to Cabuya…. the tiny town where Wild Sun is located. Total cost for all that? $145.75.

I’ll be flying out of Phoenix at 7:30 pm on Saturday, and arriving at Wild Sun around noon on Sunday if everything goes well. Which is still less time and hassle than my trip from Wisconsin to Lasqueti Island in British Columbia was two summers ago!

Luggage

I want to travel light, which is made easier by Costa Rica’s tropical climate that stays at a steady temperature pretty much all year round and varies primarily by elevation. It’s also made easier by the fact that a lot of basics like soap, sunscreen, etc. I’ll be able to buy in Costa Rica after I arrive. My flights with Delta allow for a carry-on, with the first checked bag costing $30. Sansa Air charges extra beyond 30 lbs of luggage per person.

I have a preliminary packing list made up, which is likely too much stuff. Tomorrow I’ll have a test pack to see what I can actually fit in my bags and prune the list then. If people are interested, I can release a final pack list sometime after that.

Actually, if anyone wants more detail about any part of my planning process, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. I just wanted to make sure I covered all the basics in this post before flying out on Saturday!

Goodbye desert, hello jungle!

Other Articles You Might Enjoy

Far From Home

February 20, 2019 | 22

This blog post chronicles my trip to Costa Rica ,where I’m volunteering for 12 weeks at Wild Sun Rescue Center on the Nicoya Peninsula. Feb 9, Saturday I’m awake before my alarm, which is a shame. I’m pretty much guaranteed to get no or very little sleep tonight and it would have been nice to…

Read More

Week One at Wild Sun

April 14, 2019 | 8

Last blog post was information about Wild Sun Rescue Center, and what I do as a volunteer here. Today, we’re back to travelogues, starting shortly after my arrival. The way the work schedules go at Wild Sun, we get one day off a week. Which sounds bad until you know how our days work. A…

Read More

Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve

April 26, 2019 | 5

Wild Sun sits right on the border of Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, the oldest of Costa Rica’s protected nature areas. At its founding in October of 1963, it was farm land used to raise crops and graze cattle. Fifty plus years later, it’s come a long way towards being reclaimed by nature, now being…

Read More

Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

33 Comments

  1. Cinn on February 9, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Looking forward to seeing your photos of the beautiful Macaws!



    • Becky on February 17, 2019 at 8:48 am

      They’re gorgeous Cinn! All bright primary colors and quite large. I’ll include photos in a future blog post.



  2. Chey (WA coast) on February 7, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    I have been entertaining a trip to CR and look forward to your blog. Would you please take note of transportation for wheelchair access to the smaller planes and public busses?



    • Becky on February 17, 2019 at 8:48 am

      I’ll keep an eye out Chey and make notes for a future blog post!



  3. Rosemarie Reade on February 6, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Have a great trip Becky! Love you articles & Pictures! They bring out the adventure in our souls! :+)



    • Becky on February 17, 2019 at 8:46 am

      Thanks Rosemarie! And I’m glad you’re enjoying IO. ๐Ÿ™‚



  4. Anne Coffaro on February 6, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Becky, Hope you have a fun trip. I give travel immunizations and I thought I might clear up a couple of points that you made in that section as I am an RN and do travel medicine. The CDC is a good resource but they usually list everything that may be needed. An MD or RN that does travel medicine has access to another website that gives more specific information. Everyone going to Costa Rica should get Hepatitis A and I am glad that you did. It is a 2 shot series and you should get a booster a minimum of 6 months after the first one. The first one however will give you the majority of your immunity so you are good to go. The second one will give you lifetime immunity so you never need to repeat this vaccine if you travel outside the US. again. All vaccines take 2 weeks to become effective. Bring some Immodium which is over the counter for traveler’s diarrhea and consider getting an RX for Azithromycin to take with you for the same problem. Even though there isn’t any malaria where you are, you should also pack some insect repellent with 25% DEET because of Dengue fever. Typhoid is usually given for a long stay or an adventurous eater.
    Like everyone else I look forward to hearing about your adventures and some fun pictures.



    • Becky on February 17, 2019 at 8:45 am

      Thanks for all the great insider information Anne!



  5. Lisa on February 6, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    You probably already know this, but packing cubes are life changing! If you aren’t worried about weight as much as room, they almost double the capacity of your suitcase. They alone don’t weigh anything, they just compress your clothes so you can fit more, and they keep everything organized and in place. Best of luck to you!



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      I’ve heard about those Lisa! I won’t have anything like that for this trip, but maybe the next one… Thanks!



  6. Denise on February 6, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Happy Travels! I would like to learn more about your packing list and the process you used to arranging storage for your rig while you are away. Are you going to post while in Costa Rica? Love to read your blog. Safe Travels!



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks Denise! Yep I’ll be blogging/videoing from Costa Rica, Wild Sun has good WiFi. ๐Ÿ™‚



  7. Larry Parnell on February 6, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Have a great time!



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks Larry!



  8. Dawn in Michigan on February 6, 2019 at 10:39 am

    Safe travels. Enjoy and savor the experience.



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      Thanks Dawn!



  9. Jeff Strong on February 6, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Good luck on your trip. I was in Costa Rica for 2 months last year. I spent two weeks in Montezuma and loved it. Sunscreen, etc. will cost more on the Nicoya Peninsula because it’s a little out of the way so, you may want to take a little extra or buy some before you get to Cabuya. I took a rain jacket on my trip but I think a light poncho or umbrella would probably be a better choice because of the humidity. Be safe!



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      Thanks Jeff! I’ll actually be quite close to Montezuma, I’m sure I’ll visit it while I’m there. Your packing recommendations are pretty much an exact match for what the people at Wild Sun said about packing, haha!



      • Jeff Strong on February 6, 2019 at 2:29 pm

        Montezuma is a nice little town. A little touristy, but not as bad as the area on the Southwest side of the peninsula (MalPais, Santa Teresa, etc.). That area is a big surfer destination and is quite busy. I overpacked on my last trip there. I have a much better idea for how to pack less for my next trip there, but I’d like to see your packing list, if you don’t mind. Always good to get other opinions and ideas.



        • Becky on February 17, 2019 at 8:43 am

          As several people have asked I’ll include it with the next post Jeff!



  10. Mary on February 6, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Wow. It sounds like such a fun trip!. Have fun, be safe, and please share your experience. I love reading your posts!!



    • safaritravelplus on February 6, 2019 at 10:10 am

      Yeah take lots of photos and keep us updated on your trip.



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      Yep! As stated in the original announcement last month, I’ll be continuing to blog while I’m there. Yay technology and connectivity. ๐Ÿ™‚



  11. Laura on February 6, 2019 at 8:32 am

    I canโ€™t wait to see photos. I hear it is great there.



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      I can’t wait to share photos!



  12. Flyingslanted on February 6, 2019 at 8:03 am

    A suggestion regarding immunization that might seem rather like over-kill but getting a pre-exposure rabies vaccine is a good precautionary measure, especially when working with animals. Lately the question is whether rabies is on the rise, or is it just being reported more. Again, probably over-kill for your adventure, but being one who was bitten by a bat while rock climbing, the window of time to start treatment is small. Having a buffer to help get you home is critical. Clearly, I am sensitive about this ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have a wonderful trip. Costa Rica is a beautiful place. Cannot wait to read about your trip.



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      Ah yes, I didn’t mention this in the article. Rabies was brought up in the little handbook all volunteers at Wild Sun are given when they sign up because it’s something that is asked about frequently. The staff at Wild Sun hasn’t seen rabies in their area and they themselves have not had the pre-exposure, but they say volunteers can get it if they want. Having been a vet tech who worked with wildlife in the past, I’ve skirted this issue for years. I have not gotten it because the price tag is so high for a chance so slim, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea.



  13. Elliot on February 6, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Safe travels and enjoy the experience.



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      Thanks Elliot!



  14. Frank Booth on February 6, 2019 at 12:25 am

    Excellent job planning Becky! A couple of comments: When you are ready to buy your tickets, delete your cookies and use a VPN (vpn.ac works very well) to give yourself a different IPA. I have seen some some small to large price drops over previous offers when I do this. On other occasions the magic does not work. As for VPN, it will also be very useful when doing banking and other online activities that you wish to have encrypted. The insurance you purchased should be fine. I always buy it for peace of mind, especially when it comes to medical evacuation. Fortunately, I have never needed to make a make a claim, but surprises can happen. I am in Ethiopia at the moment (my 125th country/territory); earlier in this trip, I slipped knee-deep into a dry drainage ditch in Ghana while avoiding an oncoming vehicle . My left leg was damaged and while dragging my self out of the ditch, my first though was about contacting my travel insurance company. Fortunately my leg began to heal without any intervention. If you need any help with insurance or anything else, contact consumer advocate Christopher Elliot (https://www.elliott.org/). His group has extensive self help information, forums, and direct advocacy. Someone I know had her expensive phone stolen in Mexico and was having a difficult time being reimbursed by her travel insurance company. Elliot advocated for her and she was quickly reimbursed. Her case appeared in his daily newsletter. Have a great trip–I am very much looking forward to your photos and blog posts!



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      Thanks for sharing Frank, and I’m glad your leg is healing well! That must have been scary, having to dodge out of the way of a vehicle. Enjoy Ethiopia! I’m looking forward to sharing Costa Rica with everyone. ๐Ÿ™‚



  15. Ron on February 5, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Enjoy your great adventure and thank you for volunteering.



    • Becky on February 6, 2019 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks Ron! Volunteering always gives me the warm fuzzies, it’s a good feeling.



Enjoy what you just read? Have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox!

Your email is safe with me and you can unsubscribe anytime. :)

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.