How to travel cheap in Costa Rica!
I already tell you that Costa Rica is expensive. I toured that country trying to continue my travels around the world with 20 euros a day and here it was very difficult for me. Prices do not reach those of the most developed Europe, but they do have a much higher standard of living than their neighbors. But after several trips around the country, I discovered some tricks for cheap travel in Costa Rica that I want to share with you in this travel guide.
First of all, clarify that doing daily life in Costa Rica is affordable for the pocket and you can perfectly cover your food and accommodation needs with 20 euros a day. However, the main problem is to do tourism, and that is that 95% of the tourist places in the country require the payment of an entry ticket that for foreigners never drops below $ 15. But aside from that inevitable expense, here I leave you a series of tips and tricks that will help you make a cheap trip through Costa Rica.
Tips to save on your trip to Costa Rica
1) Use the colon, the local currency
Anywhere in Costa Rica you can pay with American dollars, and there are many who live daily with this currency. However, I recommend using the colón, the local currency, because with it you are much less likely to be scammed or to be treated as just another tourist. In addition, the dollar has more value, so rounding is always on the rise. However, with the colon you can make much more controlled and accurate payments. With this trick you will not save a lot of money but everything helps in a country with such high prices.
2) Pay in cash better than by card
If anything caught my attention in Costa Rica, it is that almost anywhere you can pay by card. However, if you carry a visa from another country it is very likely that every payment you make will get a commission and in the long term you will end up leaving a peak of money in commissions. So I recommend running on cash. Important, whenever you go to withdraw money, look for an ATM where they do not charge you commission and use a credit card for the trip that does not charge you fees for using it abroad. For example, the Evo Banco card . On our first trip around the world we left about 30 euros in commissions to pay by card in all the places we could. In Costa Rica, with the lesson more than learned, I did not spend more than 5 euros on this game.
3) Buy a local SIM (chip) card for your phone
If something is cheap in Costa Rica it is telephony and having a SIM (chip) with a local number can get you out of a lot of trouble. Upon arriving in Costa Rica, I made myself a prepaid mobile card (from the Kolbi company) and I put in 3 euros, of which I did not spend even half after a month of travel. And believe you, I sent a lot of messages and made more than one call.
4) Sodas, the cheapest option to eat
Fundamental. Eating in sodas is much cheaper than eating in restaurants. So that we understand each other, soda is a type of restaurant in a basic plan, without too many luxuries but homemade and freshly made food. It is a good place to eat dishes of the day (the equivalent of the Spanish menu) or casado, which is a dish made up of rice, beans, ripe plantain and other ingredients to choose from. Ideal to fill your stomach a lot for little money. I never spent more than 5 euros eating on soda and I always came out perfectly satisfied. Eating in sodas is a great help to travel cheaply in Costa Rica.
5) Buy from supermarkets
This rule works for Costa Rica or for any other country in the world. The cheapest option to eat is always to buy your food in a supermarket and prepare it yourself. Hostels generally have kitchens available to the tenant. Now, I also tell you that the savings of eating from supermarkets in Costa Rica are minimal (the shopping basket is quite expensive), so many times it pays you more to eat in a soda and save you the effort of cooking. Buying at the supermarket is a very good option if you travel in large groups since you can cook for several for a little price, but if you travel alone it does not come out so well unless you want to carry the extra food in your backpack.
6) Sleep in hostels and cabins
If you want to travel cheaply in Costa Rica, the best accommodation option is to use hostels or cabins instead of hotels. For those of you who have never been to this country, tell you that cabins are a frequent type of accommodation in Costa Rica that have been a simple room, with its own bathroom and few other luxuries. In other words, don’t expect room service, a hot tub … and that kind of thing. However, despite its simplicity, it is easy to find charming cabins. The difference between the hostel – youth hostel and the cabin is the one that usually includes common spaces, multi-bed rooms … and other elements that promote interaction between members. Cabins tend to have more privacy.
7) Stay in Costa Rican houses
Of course there is nothing cheaper … than free, so of course I invite you to look for accommodation in local houses. For me it is still the best way to travel and there are some websites that facilitate this search such as Couchsurfing. It is true that in Costa Rica, despite traveling alone, it was not particularly easy for me to find a bed this way. And it is that beyond San José and other Costa Rican cities, the Couchsurfing community is small, inactive and dispersed. But this is not the only way to open the doors for you, and that is that honesty, friendliness and a good attitude are sometimes the best key. And if not, you will always have AirBnb. Although it is not free, with this platform you will sleep in local houses and, generally, at a good price. Here I leave you 25 euros as a gift in case you want to register on the platform.
8) Buses for locals, the cheapest transportation in Costa Rica
As tourists we usually find the most comfortable way to the places and it is much easier for us to get from one destination to another by a private minibus, a taxi or a car. However, in Costa Rica the price difference between private and public transport is huge, so here you go with the right budget, you will have no choice but to abandon comfort. The public bus in Costa Rica is very cheap, so if you are interested in this option, in the post about bus transportation in Costa Rica you will find all the keys to travel by bus in this country. Now, if your problem is more time than money, then it is best to rent a car. The distances are small and your own vehicle will give you a lot of freedom.
9) hitchhiking in Costa Rica
In reality, hitchhiking is not a very common practice in Costa Rica, and even less in the main cities. However, the lifestyle of some coastal towns such as Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Montezuma and Santa Teresa share a lot with this practice, so there you will not spend more than 5 minutes with your finger raised before someone picks you up. To optimize your results “pulling your finger” I recommend that you read our guide to hitchhiking .
10) Always with a taximeter (La María)
Although I particularly like spending money on taxis very little, in Costa Rica the prices of this means of transport are not very high so at any given time it can always be an option. Of course, if you want to avoid cheating, make sure that the taxi driver has started La María (that’s what they call the meter) and if not, insist on it. Don’t be taken for any tourist.
11) Visit free places in Costa Rica
If something is going to wear down your pocket during your trip to Costa Rica, these are the entrance tickets to most of the tourist attractions. 15 dollars cost the average entrance for the tourist although I got to see some that exceeded 40 dollars. At these prices any backpacker salary ends up shaking sooner or later. However, in Costa Rica there is beauty in almost any corner and there are many places that you can enjoy without paying a single euro for admission. Here are my recommendations on what to see in Costa Rica for free .
Closely related to the previous point, if you travel on a tight budget it will be impossible for you to visit everything that Costa Rica offers so you will have no choice but to choose between the enormous tourist offer in the country. To help you in that choice I have prepared a publication with the essential places to see and another with activities to do in Costa Rica .
13) impersonate tico
Ok, this advice that I give you is a bit “alegal” but there is a huge difference between the prices of tickets for tourists with those of locals ($ 13 more per average ticket). So for my part I recommend you put a little face on it and enter the places as if you were just another Tico. If you can. I tried, but my height of 1.90, my white skin and my large camera are hardly hidden. Of course, being a local is the best way to travel cheaply in Costa Rica.
14) be nice and mix
This advice is applicable to Costa Rica, to any country in the world … and to life. If you take off your tourist capes, put on your best face and try to mix with the local people as much as possible, be prepared for a lot of good things to happen to you. This is what I did throughout my trip and I never lacked for anything. Ticos are wonderful people how you can read in our post about Costa Ricans .
15) Better to prevent than… to pay
I cannot dismiss this post without recommending you to take out travel insurance to accompany you on your adventure. Although the ethical health system works perfectly, you already know that any health or logistics problem abroad can have a very complex or very expensive solution, or both. With good insurance you can protect yourself from unexpected expenses.
Until here I can write. If you apply all these tips it is easy for you to get to travel cheaply in Costa Rica. Now, as I have already explained, Costa Rica is a fairly expensive country for tourists, so even if you control, you travel on a budget. Of course, do not forget that, whatever the cost, Costa Rica is a wonderful country and every euro, dollar or colon you invest will be worth it. If any of our readers have any other advice to give us to save in Costa Rica, the comments are open to you.