Pura Vida

Travel tips and tricks

More stories from Alanna Huggett

Pura vida
May 1, 2019

I have officially been back in Wisconsin for four days now, and I am already starting to miss my host family and the warm sandy beaches and mountains of Costa Rica. It was nice to see my friends and family again, but I still have that itch to travel to more countries in Latin America and beyond.

During my time living in Heredia, (with a population almost 140,000 — about twice the size of Eau Claire,) I got to experience lots of new and exciting adventures. I tried new foods, figured out how to get around on campus and bonded with my host family. I also collected some useful tips and tricks for anyone who may decide to visit Costa Rica and experience the pura vida lifestyle for themselves.

  • Bring your own sunscreen. It’s expensive in Costa Rica, as bottles cost approximately twice as much as they do in the U.S.
  • Use the ATM for cash. Waiting in line at the bank to exchange U.S. dollars for Costa Rican colones can take a while even if you show up right when it opens. Using ATMs, while they often have a withdrawal fee, will save time.
  • Take the bus. When traveling to different parts of the country use one of many Coach buses (MEPE station, Tracopa station and 7-11 station) available. However, make sure to set aside time to pick up tickets. For some stations one needs to go into San Jose to purchase them in advance.
  • Bring peanut butter. For peanut butter fans like myself, I highly recommend purchasing it ahead of time. Just like sunscreen, it’s expensive and worth the extra weight in a suitcase
  • Order an Uber away from the official taxis. Uber drivers don’t pay taxes and are slightly frowned upon so order them away from the red taxis (official taxis are always red) to avoid problems. Personally I’ve never had problems.
  • Try both kinds of gallo pinto. There’s the classic version made with Lizano sauce and the Caribbean kind a person can find on the coast made with coconut oil. They have different flavors but both are worth a try.
  • Look both ways before crossing the road. A simple common sense kind of thing most people already know but in Costa Rica the cars always have the right of way. They won’t slow down for a person if they decide to cross earlier than they should.
  • Expect to hear catcalls from time to time. It’s pretty common here.
  • Drink some coffee. The coffee here is delicious and Ticos make it differently than in the U.S. I wasn’t a coffee drinker when I left, but I returned a firm believer in the power of a cup of coffee.
  • Enjoy the pura vida lifestyle and talk with some local Ticos. They are all friendly and willing to strike up a conversation. They are excited to help a person practicing their Spanish and are often looking to practice their English skills too.

Huggett can be reached at [email protected].