The Costa Rica Guide: Dos and Don’ts

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With mere weeks to go until my one year annivers- wait.

With mere weeks to go until the biggest adventure of your life (probably), the time is ripe for an info dump.

If you’re going on the trip, you’ve probably seen Austen’s detailed and informative guide on Moodle, and if you haven’t that’s definitely worth a read. Here, I’ve gathered the thoughts of my fellow tico travellers from last year and compiled a list of the things worth considering when you’re away.

THANK YOU to Lauren, Ethan, Ellie, Ella, Becca, Jack, Adam, Rosie, Alyssa and Tom for their ideas and thoughts- they have been invaluable.

PART ONE: PREPARATION

Don’t overpack. Massive cases will make your life very difficult, especially since you have to cart them around with you. You will need more than one pair of shorts, but you don’t need an entire bedroom’s worth of stuff.

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I miss my tan.

Don’t take hair products, you won’t need them. (hairdryer straighteners etc)

Don’t bother with that much makeup either, you do go on some nights out, but the weather is so humid it’s not always worth it.

Don’t bother getting your nails done but do get a haircut before you go.

Do look at your contract to see if you can get roaming outside the EU or look into getting a second SIM Card. (There’s a little store at the airport where you can get a Costa Rican SIM if you wish, however most people managed without one.)

Do get a portable charger and make sure you have enough adapters, 2 or 3 will be sufficient.

Do remember to take all the appropriate clothes like the black clothes for Ostional etc. (Side note: take clothes that you won’t mind getting destroyed, because you will be getting dirty and grubby)

Do take a pack of cards. There will be many bus journeys. Make a really long playlist, or take some books. (Austen and I took tablets with e-books on them and it was so much easier than carting physical books around!)

Do get a Revolut Card, it is a lot easier to keep track of money, but make sure you have cash for Ostional and Laguna del Lagarto as they are a lot more basic. You can use a Revolut in most places.

Do remember allergy medication if you’re allergic to dogs because they are literally everywhere. Speaking of that, remember to take any other medication and first aid kits too.

PART TWO: NICOYA, OSTIONAL AND LAGUNA DEL LAGARTO

You will get opportunities to drink and go on nights out, but do have the same amount of vigilance, if not more, that you would have in any other place.

Do prioritise food and snacks over extra clothes when you go to Ostional because you won’t be doing anywhere near as much while you’re volunteering, and the food is much more basic.

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This is typical Costa Rican grub. Rice, beans and fried bananas will crop up a lot.

Do eat the fruit! It’s so much sweeter and tastier, and it’s a break from rice and beans. I’m not even joking.

Do be careful with your belongings and don’t leave things unattended where people can steal them. It happened. #adax

Do be careful when around animals. However, the dogs look more vicious than they actually are. The majority of host families will have dogs.

Do remember to do all your research for your report before you go to the lodge. You will have next to no Wi-Fi at Laguna del Lagarto.

Do get snacks for the lodge, as only meals are included.

Do remember to keep money aside. You don’t pay for your additional drinks and snacks at the lodge until the end of your stay and the card machine was… difficult.

Do go on the extra boat trip if you want to. The village is nice and it’s worth it if you need to escape the lodge, but it is expensive. It’s very similar to the first boat trip you go on though so if you decide not to go it’s not the end of the world.

PART THREE: GENERAL ADVICE

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My legs were RIDDLED with bites. Literally hundreds. 

Don’t be afraid to talk to teachers or your companions if you’re ill or anxious, it’s perfectly normal.

Don’t expect luxury because it is a developing country, but do have an open mind, it won’t be what you’re used to.

Do be prepared to be bitten A LOT. Get a mosquito net for Ostional and bring cream and then everything will be dandy.

Do take a water bottle with you. You’ll need it more than you think. It sounds silly but it’s so warm it is more crucial than ever to stay hydrated.

Do bear in mind that it’s normal to get ill at some point. The food may not agree with you, your body may not adjust to the new climate and it can get stressful.

Do leave extra room in your luggage for coffee because it is great, and if you don’t like coffee there will definitely be someone you know that will appreciate a souvenir.

and last but not least, do make the most of every opportunity. It will be five weeks of your life that you will never forget, and like everything in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

THINGS TO CHECK OUT:

  • Austen’s guide on moodle, which should be somewhere on your module page.
  • I wrote about my time in Costa Rica last year while I was there: The Costa Rica Diaries
  • YOUR HANDBOOK. You will have been given a beefy guide which not only covers Costa Rica, but also your year abroad. It’s available online too.

If you have any questions, feel free to send me a message on my facebook page, Bronwyn and Books, or leave a comment here.

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