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as seen from
links to the
for each of
the days of
updated as the
|San Diego, CA to Arenal,
Bridges to Lake Arenal
||La Rana Arenal
||Playa Hermosa to
||Nosara to Santa
||Santa Teresa to
and Rain Maker
Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean
to Volcan Poas
Paz Waterfall Park, Part 1
Paz Waterfall Park, Part 2
||Volcan Poas to
This was a great trip by any standard. We had a time
but there were some things that were not expected.
First, we planned on purchasing a SIM card for our WiFi
hotspot and the plan was to use that hotspot as our network
access point when we were rolling. That was a fine plan
but the execution was flawed for several reasons. First,
it was a true pain to get the account working.
Purchasing the card was easy (it did require a passport) and
cheap (about $2) for the card. But we failed to note
several critical items along the way, the biggest being our
phone number. It was clearly printed on our receipt (in
Spanish) along with a bunch of other numbers so we missed
it. Second the network name was never provided.
Kathleen did figure it out, but it took days and plenty of
effort to finally both my global phone and the hotspot
working. Due to lack of knowledge of the phone number,
we graciously added minutes to several stranger's accounts
until we figured it out. Our mistakes cost about $100
but in the end it did work as advertised. I have a
saying that "there is no learning without money or
pain". In this case, we are both much, MUCH
smarter. The hotspot did have excellent coverage and
once we figured out how the system worked it was easy to add
money to the account, one month at a time.
We were surprised by the level of cell phone coverage in the
country. It is much higher than expected and there were
few, if any, places that we did not get a strong signal.
There were towers everywhere and multiple vendors to choose
from. Due to the roughness of the terrain and the
remoteness of many places, landlines never had a chance and
were supplanted by cell phones before the lines ever existed.
We were also surprised by the availability of WiFi at
hotels. Every place we stayed had WiFi. Except for
the time in our vehicle, the hotspot was not required.
Some of the WiFi access points in hotels were MANY TIMES
faster than our cable modem service at home. Photo
uploads took seconds, not minutes or hours.
Planning ahead on things is required when it involves travel
or money. We called our banks before we arrived and told
them of our travel plans. We had no trouble whatsoever
using our credit cards, but that seemed to be the exception
for some folks. On our exit from the country, there were
several people who were sweating it out at the rental car
counter because they had not told the bank of the travel and
the cards were blocked on the first attempt at a charge.
To the bank, it looked like a fraudulent transaction.
They spent a lot of time on the phone to get the issue
There were plenty of ATM machines but we only used BCR -
Banco Costa Rica. Their system worked with our debit
card (we did call ahead) and their machines had English as an
option and would dispense both Colones and Dollars.
There is a fee of course, but they did work. We were
surprised that dollars were accepted everywhere. The
rate is 500 Colones to 1 dollar, which may or may not be the
actual exchange rate. We switched to local currency on
arrival using the ATM and change from dollar-based
transactions as the currency exchange method.
You must pay an exit fee to get out of the country and the
fee is priced in dollars, so don't spend all your money before
you leave. They will take plastic for the exitt
fee. The statistics we saw showed that 40% of the
country's tourist traffic is from the U.S. so I guess it is
not all that surprising that the fee would be dollar based.
We were very careful about security of our stuff and never
put ourselves in a position where we were at risk. Petty
theft is a real issue in the country and we were warned time
and again about it. Our rental 4x4 came equipped with a
special hardened lock on the shift lever and we were
instructed to use it anytime we were not physically in the
vehicle. Every hotel we stayed at, with one exception,
had a locked, guarded parking area with roving guards around
the perimeter of the place. We never had any issues, but
due to our choices, we never provided the opportunity to be
With only one exception, we did not put ourselves in a
position where we were driving after dark. In Costa
Rica, driving is a contact sport and we saw more crazy antics
in one afternoon than I have seen in 45 years of driving
everywhere else. We had several very close calls
including with full-size oncoming 18 wheelers. The
narrow roads and tropical gutters instead of a shoulder
provide a "unique" driving experience.
I did get a touch of food poisoning once, but the exact cause
was not fully clear. It passed quickly and did not have
a lasting impact. The tap water is safe to drink and it
generally tasted OK. We chose to purchase bottled water
due to taste, not safety and drank it almost exclusively
except at meals when we drank "agua de la casa".
Prices in CR are comparable to the U.S. We jokingly
called it "Costy Rica" and that is pretty close. The
northwest district is a state called Guanacoste which has nice
resorts, some with nightly room prices exceeding $4000.
We renamed it "Gonnacostya" and that seemed appropriate.
I don't think your expectations will be met coming to CR
looking for bargain deals relative to U.S. prices. That
said, there are cheap rooms around, but usually you get what
you pay for. Our minimum room price was abut $60 and the
max was about $200/night. Food prices were comparable to
the U.S. Fuel was more expensive at around $6/gallon but
priced by the liter.
All told, CR is a very tourist friendly place with well
developed infrastructure. It still has a third-world
feel to it when you get into the back country areas. But
that feeling quickly dissipates when everyone you see is
texting on their phone.
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