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Monday, August 29, 2005

Words of Advice to Costa Rica Tourist

I've recently been hosting a number of new visitors to Costa Rica and have heard a great many questions and suggestions from them. So I thought I'd pass along some information that might be useful to new visitors.

Although Costa Rica is very close to the equator and is, therefore, considered to be a tropical country, it is also a country blessed by beautiful high mountain ranges. With altitude comes cooling. A visitor to Costa Rica, therefore, who plans to visit a beach area or an area of lowland rainforest and ALSO plans to visit a volcano or a cloudforest or other higher altitude area needs to be prepared for both HOT and COLD temperatures. Even if the days at a mid level forest like mine are warm, the afternoons and nights (especially during the "green" season) can get very chilly.

Another thought along the line of clothing is that even in the so-called dry season, a visit to the cloud forest will be wet. You will need a rain parka or umbrella or other rain gear.

Shoes are an important consideration. You can cheat on other clothing to keep costs down, but you should be sure to have the most comfortable shoes you can buy. If you will be doing any hiking or walking through wooded areas, you'll need good walking shoes that completely enclose your feet. This is not only a matter of comfort, but of avoiding biting ants, prickly plants, barbed wire that has been hidden by overgrowth of plant life, and the like. On the beaches and in town you can wear comfortable sandals. Good ones will help you do any hiking along the beaches that you may want to do. If you come during the rainy season, you'll probably want to have high rubber boots for hiking through forests. The mud here can be VERY slippery and sucking. The boots will also protect you from the rare possibility of a snake bite. Most of the very poisonous snakes that you might alarm as you hike will strike at the area between the foot and the knee. They say it is also best not to be the third person in line during a group hike. The first person passing by alerts the snake. The second person gets it angry. The third person gets the bite. Since big rubber boots take up a lot of space in a suitcase and can be a bother to pack, most people just plan on buying a pair of boots when they get here and giving them away to a deserving farm worker before you leave. They're fairly cheap. (the boots - not the farm workers)

You'll also need a sun hat. You can buy one on your first day in San Jose or bring one with you. And don't forget to bring a small tube of sunblock for your first day or two until you can buy a larger supply to be used up or left behind again when you leave. Packing light has many advantages.

Depending on the time of year, you'll want to get a supply of a good insect repellent. Aside from mosquitos (called "zancudos" here) there are small biting flies that hang around low plant growth and especially coffee plantations. Gringos call them "coffee flies." Some of the Ticos I know call them "bocones" which means big mouths. I guess that's because the fly is so tiny, but it leaves a hole in your skin bigger than it is. Avoiding certain mosquitos is also a health concern. There is one species of mosquito that carries Dengue Fever (also referred to as "bone break fever".) Nothing like having the worst case of the flu you've ever experienced to ruin a vacation!

When hiking in wooded areas it is wise to wear socks, long pants, and a long sleeved shirt - even if it's really hot and humid. They will provide you with both sun and insect protection to a large extent.

If you are planning to spend your whole time at some luxurious resort, you won't have to be concerned about ruining your clothes. But if you are like most tourists, planning to do "the nature thing," you should consider bringing old clothes with you - not your best shirts and designer jeans.

If you will be traveling on a tight budget, consider the wonders of bus travel. You can check out a website called www.costaricabybus.com. If you do your planning early enough, you can even buy the book with all the most important bus connections and schedules listed in it along with many helpful hints. Personally, I think bus travel is a lot safer and easier than renting a car and trying to find your way around. (A recent newspaper article claimed that two cars and hour were stolen in Costa Rica!)

Well, that's about enough for this section. I'll have more in another post.

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About Me

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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