Planning a Trip to Costa Rica on a Budget
Are you looking to get away to an exotic destination, but don't have exotic amounts of cash?
Do you deserve to plan a trip to beautiful Costa Rica, but you're on a budget?
Costa Rica made the Travel and Leisure.com list for the 31 Best Beaches on Earth, and after reading this article, about planning a trip to Costa Rica on a budget, you will find out what all the fuss is about!
I will tell you about my trip to Costa Rica, and also share tips so you can plan your own trip to Costa Rica for less than $2,000. How do I know? I did it just this past October. I had an amazing experience without busting my piggy bank, and you can too.
Read on, and you'll soon be dipping your own toes in the crystal clear waters of Costa Rica during your own cheap vacation!
First, of course you will need an active Passport, because no international travel is possible without one. Go to your local Post Office to pick up an application. Be sure to give yourself six weeks in advance of your departure date, because getting a Passport may take a while. I was able to get mine in four weeks, but its better to be safe, than sorry. So do plan your trip to Costa Rica in advance.
The best way to travel to Costa Rica on a budget is to live like the locals, and buy your own food, do your own laundry and things like that. Vacationing in this manner is going to save you tons of money! A great way to save is to search online for a cheap vacation rental in Costa Rica. All-inclusive resorts or hotels cost more money. For example, I stayed a week in a beach-side two story fully furnished home for $350. The house was beautiful and I found it on VRBO.com.This website is full of rental properties that cost less than traditional hotels and resorts.When booking this way, be sure to ask lots of questions, because its best to be sure of exactly what you're getting. The home I rented didn't have any bottled water or condiments in the kitchen, or beach towels. I assumed it would have those things. So, be sure to ask questions, especially regarding amenities.
Book your vacation on Costa Rica's Caribbean side of the country. The Pacific side is a larger tourist attraction, so if you want to save money, stay away from the tourist areas!
Renting a car is the best way to save money and you'll definitely need a vehicle to travel from the airport to your destination. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica can be as far as five hours away from the capital city of San Jose. I stayed in Limon, Cocles. It was a five-hour drive and only an hour from Panama. (Which by the way would be a great excursion if you had time)
Another important tip for Planning a tip to Costa Rica on a budget -- Do not try to book a rental car online. It will be a waste of money. I initially booked a car online before my trip, but was told, once I arrived, that I could not use my own car insurance. The Costa Rican government demands that you use their country's insurance. It is expensive, but you get the money back upon returning the rental. I had to put $900 on a credit card. So be prepared for that. Lucky for me, I happened to have a credit card with that much money freed up, but if I hadn't, I don't know what I would have done for transportation. The actual cost of the rental car was cheap. The insurance wasn't. But there isn't any way around that.
Getting around was a bit difficult in the city of San Jose as far as finding the highway. There are virtually no street signs, although there are highway signs. It would be wise to have a universal GPS to use on your trip to Costa Rica. I had a Garmin, and before I left, I got this map for the unit, and it worked well.
Once you get on the highway, it's a straight shot to Limon, and the views are breathtaking. I drove through the rainforest and snapped pictures all along the way. The local people are friendly and willing to help. Many do not speak English, so be sure when planning a trip to Costa Rica, you brush up on basic Spanish. Learn how to ask for directions in Spanish, and be sure to bring along a dictionary.
The restaurants are mostly quaint, but the food is delicious everywhere. I think the best cooked dish I had was a simple homemade empanada from a bodega near the house I rented. It was owned by an Argentine expatriate. I learned that a lot of people from Argentina settle in Costa Rica, as do many Americans. The cost of living is low, healthcare is affordable and excellent, and of course, Costa Rica is a beautiful destination!
When planning a trip to Costa Rica, on a budget, and you decide to visit Cocles, Limon, like I did, be sure to go to Puerto Viejo. It has a wonderful locals' run marketplace that is perfect to pick up souvenirs. Scarves, knickknacks and handmade jewelry booths everywhere! And by the way, speaking of shopping... Food is CHEAP! The meat is of great quality, but inexpensive, and the fruit is huge and delicious. Very sweet. Mangoes the size of my head were only a quarter! Coconuts, breadfruit, guava, all ripe and ready to eat. American imports, such as apples were a bit pricey. But for the most part, food was inexpensive, and fresh. I think we spent about $150 on food for the week. We ate out twice, but cooked our own meals most of the week.
When planning a trip to Costa Rica be sure to hit the beaches. The beach I enjoyed most was at Punta Uva. It was free, as are all the beaches in Cocles, Limon. It was pretty secluded, as were all the beaches I visited in Cocles, and was very pristine. The background scene was of mountains that jutted out into the water. It was breathtaking. Be mindful of the current though. There are no lifeguards and the waters get deep, fast. Also, there are plenty of sea urchins around so wear water shoes. There was lots of sea life around to see and photograph. We liked to play in the small pools that formed around coral formations too. It was a great time for everyone.
Upon leaving, be aware that there is a departure tax of $29 per person, children included, so don't spend all your money before you get to the airport. Security is extremely high in the airport as well, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to catch your flight back home.
There is no local phone carrier in Costa Rica, so even to use a land line, you must purchase a phone card. They are relatively inexpensive. But may be a necessity. I left my cell phone in my rental car and it took a miracle from above to get it back. But thanks to Airport Security, I did get it back. But please check that you have everything before you get to the airport, because once you are in, you will not be allowed to leave except of course, to board the plane home.
My overall experience in Costa Rica was wonderful. The home I rented was spacious and beautiful. The weather was sunny and humid. There were monkeys in the trees near our rental and toucans flying around. We even visited a local animal sanctuary that housed all types of Costa Rican animals, including a sloth. My son enjoyed meeting the local howler monkeys. They are small and cute! Very friendly.
I guess the only downside were the bugs. They grow them big in the rainforest! Grasshoppers are huge, and purple! Also wear insect repellent because mosquitoes are plenty too.
I know I waited until the end to mention airfare, but that's because it's always fluctuating. I was lucky and found cheap roundtrip airfare to Costa Rica for $295, but I booked two months in advance. To save money, you may have to plan your trip to Costa Rica a bit far ahead!
In conclusion, it isn't difficult planning a trip to Costa Rica on a budget. Just follow the above mentioned money-saving tips.
Here's a summary for planning a trip to Costa Rica on a budget: Book a rental home, not a hotel; Buy and cook your own food and meals instead of going to restaurants; Book flights to Costa Rica in advance to save money on airfare; Have a GPS navigator to find your way, and brush up on basic Spanish.
That's it! Now what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Costa Rica on a budget, today!
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Costa Rica Trip
Reviewed by Shaahn Williams on Oct 19 2013
Reviewed by Shaahn Williams on Oct 19 2013