Costa Rica Budget Travel Tips and Advice

Costa Rica is not cheap, the prices there can seem on par with the United States, in some of the more touristy parts of the country. It is not the same as going to other nearby Latin American countries as Costa Rica is considerably more expensive for a tourist than Nicaragua or Panama, for example. Americans who have traveled to Mexico and are accustomed to much lower prices may be a bit shocked as Costa Rica will not seem like being in Mexico from a budget perspective. Food and groceries in Costa Rica can seem about the same as in the United States, the main costs that are cheaper are travel expenses within the country and accommodations. Getting cheap accommodations can feel like a bit of a roll of the dice, however, if you leave things to the last minute. Diversity of Costa Rica The captivating aspect of Costa Rica is that it has a lot of varied regions that can be traveled between relatively quickly, so you experience different environments to see what you prefer and where you want to spend time. If you haven't been to Costa Rica before, it is difficult to know where you are going to want to spend your time in advance, so you may want to leave flexibility to explore a few different areas. For example, there is a distinct experience to being in the highland rainforests as compared to the much hotter beach environments. Taking the public buses around the country is very cheap, usually something like $5, or less, to go a long distance of 3-4 hours. The buses are modern, similar to a tour bus you would expect to ride in the United States. These are not anything like city buses. The buses can get crowded and avoid the colectivo buses if at all possible, as they make very frequent stops and will pickup people at non-designated stops also. If you are just trying to get around an area, these buses can be a good option, as they will likely pick you up if you are just standing on the road when it passes, however, they are not good for long distance trips as they will make a trip that could have been an hour take almost half your day. Accommodations If you aren't careful, you can end up spending much more than you would want to on hotel rooms. As a Latin American country, the crime rate can be a bit high and law enforcement fairly lax, so it is best advised that you always stay in your own room, avoiding any kind of hostel situation where you would be sleeping in the same room as other people you don't know. Once you have traveled around Costa Rica a bit, you will quickly have come to understand that people here value security, almost every house has bars on the windows, even in smaller cities. Keeping aware of your surroundings at all times is best and not appearing to have much money is the best approach as a budget traveler to avoid being the target of theft. It's best to start checking online a bit a few days before you go to a new part of Costa Rica. Different parts of the country can have very different situations in terms of the cost of rooms and supply and demand. An area like Manuel Antonio has a limited number of rooms nearby the beach areas, for example, so you will probably end up paying more than you would in another part of the country. Because each area can have different costs and availability of rooms, it's best to start checking online for the room rates in an area a few days before you head for there. It's best to figure out if rooms need to be reserved in advance in order to get a good rate or whether you can wait until you get there. If supply seems high and prices seem low, then you are probably better off waiting to reserve a room until you arrive there. This will give you the chance to walk around and look at places and you may see some rooms advertised cheaper than online. Also, you may find that some places are more preferable to others. A motel that looks great online may be in a run down part of down that seems sketchy. It's best to check a few sources online and also AirBnB is very good for Costa Rica, you can find deals on apartments there that can be rented by the night in some areas, this can be a great way to get a nicer place cheaply.