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20 replies
Just back from Costa Rica
segacs
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I just got home from a great 16-day trip to Costa Rica. I did a tour with Gap Adventures, and got to see a lot of the country.

Just a few highlights: I went nature hiking and kayaking in Puerto Viejo/Manzanillo, didn’t see any turtles in Tortuguero, went swimming in a waterfall in Rara Avis, went whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and volcano hiking in Fortuna/Arenal, on a zipline canopy tour in Monteverde, snorkelling and dolphin watching in Manuel Antonio, and got mugged in San Jose.

Well, okay, that last one was a lowlight, not a highlight. But the rest of the trip was fantastic.

Anyone who wants more info, let me know.

redkat
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If you have a longer trip report with pics, please post!
And glad to hear that you didn’t lose too much in the mugging. Its a good point about leaving unnecessary items in a hotel safe.

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Redkat, my photos are still being developed, and I should be getting them back this weekend. When I post a trip report with photos, I’ll be sure to post up the link here.

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Hey i did a gap tour there in 2004. I didnt think the snorkelling was good in manuel antonio but the park had a ton of monkeys. how did u get mugged in SJ?

which tour did you do? I did the Costa rica explorer 15 day.

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I did the 16-day Costa Rica Adventure. It’s the only tour that goes to Rara Avis, which was awesome (no road access, 4-hour tractor ride each way).

I know it’s practically sacrilegious to say this on this board, but I like tour travel. GAP is a great company – small groups, lots of independence, a wide age range and it attracts interesting people. But I enjoy the convenience of having a lot of the hassles and arrangements taken care of, and being able to truly enjoy a trip. I like having someone who can translate into Spanish, deal with problems if they arise, give advice on good restaurants, activities, options, arrange to get the best guides, etc. And I like having a group of people to travel with. The people on my tour were extremely nice, and they even pitched in to buy us dinner and give us some emergency cash when we got robbed on the last night.

Anyway, if you have an independent spirit but also enjoy the advantages of a tour, I highly recommend GAP for a good balance.

keppiezbt
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I enjoyed GAP too. I meet some great people there that I still stay in contact with. Great tour also.

I think tour travel depends on where your going. I wouldnt take a tour of europe but I’d take one of morroco or down the amazon.

GAP style tours are good but tours depends on the place. I think when people take this whirwind tours of europe they lose out on everything but taking a guided tour through the jungles of amazon is still good. especially since gap offers "backpacker" style travel.

On my tour we went to Manuel, Torteguero, monteverde, and arenal. I think the one you went on is new because they didnt offer any trip to rara avis when I went b/c I would have gone! I looked the tour up- its better than the one i went on- less time in San Jose!

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I also did Contiki through Europe – though I’ve been to various places in Europe on my own as well. I liked Contiki too – very different from GAP, more partying, but I discovered I’m well-suited to tour travel. It’s not for everyone but it was for me, is what I’m trying to say I guess.

Did you see any turtles in Tortuguero? We were off-season unfortunately.

redkat
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Can’t wait to see the pics!

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I have some photos up at http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/segacs2/album?.dir=c513&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/segacs2/my_photos

Working on the detailed trip report and journal. Will let you know when it’s ready.

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Hi!

Wow your photos are beautiful and they brought back wonderful memories! I went with my family a few years ago and did pretty much the same things you did. In fact about four of you photos look exactly the same as the ones we took. Especially the crocs and the one you have of the crane on the river. I did the Fortuna horse back trip, stayed at the blue Monkey and did the zip line and the serpentatium. Anyways keep going on these travel tours, if you enjoy them than great!

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Thanks. Yeah, the ziplines were great, weren’t they?

I have the first few days of my trip journal posted at http://www.geocities.com/segacs2/costarica/. The rest will follow shortly.

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Update: the rest of my travelogue is now posted.

The only thing missing is a few photos that I’m hoping to fill in from my friend’s photos, cause mine were on the stolen roll of film. Otherwise, the journal is now all up.

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The rest of the photos are now up in the journal.

keppiezbt
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o i am a space cadet we already talked about this

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your pictures bring back some memories.

i loved the trails by arenal. the rocks over by the lake were amazing. me and my friend wandered off the trail down some old lava runs which was pretty cool.

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Hey Segacs, did you get any shots or innoculations before you left? I’m planning a very last minute trip to Costa Rica and just thought of this. Thanks.

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Most of the basics are recommended, though no shots are required in that nobody will check your papers. Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, etc. are all pretty standard precautions and it’s good to be up to date when you travel.

The only thing I specifically did for Costa Rica was get a prescription for antimalarial pills before I left, because some regions of the country are risk zones for malaria, depending on where you go. I went to Limon province and the Caribbean coast, so I was told it was probably a good idea. Of course when I got there I found that most of the people I met weren’t taking them and thought it was silly, but I know someone who got malaria once and it wasn’t fun, so I figured better safe than sorry.

Stop into a travel health clinic if you’re concerned. Most likely you’re okay, though. Take bugspray with DEET.

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Thanks a bunch, Segacs, I probably will be asking more questions before I go. But if you’re anything like me, you love to talk about your trips to help others. Actually, how’s the ATM situation there. I read that if your card "CIRRUS" you won’t have a problem. How did you handle money while you were there?

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If you have a 4-digit PIN, your ATM card will probably work at most banks. I say &quotrobably" and "most" because it won’t work everywhere. I found I had better luck with some of the newer banks than with the national bank. A note to Canadians or Americans who have accounts with ScotiaBank or Bank of America: the ScotiaBanks in Costa Rica are not included in those that you can use for free if you’re a member of the Global ATM Alliance. You will be charged a fee for using those, just as you will for using any other bank machine in CR.

Ticos have not yet caught onto the convenience of ATMs it seems, and they like to line up for hours at banks even when there’s an ATM standing empty 5 feet away. I’m not sure why. But what that means is, often ATMs are out of order or – more likely – out of money. Especially in smaller towns or on weekends.

So yes, you can use an ATM card as your main source of funds, but I’d suggest having some backup options.

Traveller’s cheques can be a bit of a hassle; because of a rise in TC fraud, you may only be able to cash them at a bank, and that involves standing in line for an awfully long time (banks run on Tico-time like everything else). If you’re cashing US-dollar TCs, you can usually get colones commission-free, just with an exchange rate. But if you want US dollars in cash, they’ll charge about 3% commission. Still, having some traveller’s cheques is not necessarily a bad idea, because theft is common in CR and at least you’re protected.

Credit cards are not all that convenient in CR, because most places charge you a surcharge (on top of what your bank will charge you to use it). Visa is by far the most accepted card, but I’d suggest using it as a backup option only. I also don’t recommend using the credit card for cash advances, because you’ll probably pay a fortune in interest.

Cash is far and away the most convenient option; Colones are the most useful for small amounts and in the less touristed areas, such as the Caribbean coast. US dollars are accepted in the "tourist track" areas like Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, but mostly you’ll get change in Colones if you pay in dollars. Cash is the most convenient but also the most susceptable to theft, so split it up and lock up the cash you don’t need that day in a hotel safe.

I found the best option to be a mix of US dollar cash, ATM card, traveller’s cheques in US dollars, and a credit card as a backup.

I hope this answers your question.

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By the way, if you’re a member of CAA, you can buy US-dollar traveller’s cheques commission-free.

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Thanks for all the info. I guess I’ll just start off with a bunch of US cash and then when I find an ATM that works I’ll scoop some colones and use them. I’ll skip the traveller’s cheques and just a have credit card as backup.