I am now writing for the first time from Costa Rica. I am writing for the Foreign Office as a Global Brand Ambassador about my experiences in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. A week has flown by and I am now in Montezuma on the Pacific coast. We landed in the airport near San Jose at 9 pm on the 15th June, and were instantly thankful that we had pre booked a hostel. Trying to find somewhere to stay at that time of night would have been extremely daunting but also nearly impossible as most places would be shut. We quickly got in a taxi at the airport which we recognised as an official taxi from the description on the Foreign Office website. I can not stress the importance of using only official taxis strongly enough. A couple of days ago we met an English couple who had been completely ripped off and strung along by an unlicensed taxi driver who told them that there were no buses running to the destination they needed and he would have to drive them there. Luckily they thought this advice was suspicious and went to the bus station anyway, where sure enough there were hourly buses available as their guide book had told them.
We have had great experiences with official taxis drivers so far. They are incredibly friendly and love to chat, although the language barrier is an issue. In fact we have discovered that knowing Spanish would be a huge advantage all over this country. Even in places where they are certain to come in contact with tourists, like hostels and restaraunts, the people who work there often speak little to no English. We have got by with the small amount I learnt on my course this year, a small phrasebook, and gesturing.
Our first hostel in Alajuela was a big success thanks to tripadvisor reviews, and the owner’s advice has so far been invaluable. He told us how was best to get to Volcan Poas, and said very honestly that the tours he offered were an expensive way of doing things for budget travellers. He put us in touch with a lovely taxi driver who stuck to the prices we agread upon when setting off on our journeys. He also recommended a hostel in our next stop, Tortuguero, which turned out to be great, far better than the cheap option recommended by our guide book. Listening to local advice is worth it.
Buses here have generally been an OK experience. A couple have been extremely hot and busy, but for the low prices you can hardly complain. We keep a fierce eye on our bags when travelling. In bus terminals theft is common, and a bus driver told me quietly in limited English to keep my hand luggage with my purse, passport, camera etc on my lap rather than in the overhead lugguge racks on the bus. Travel here is not as cheap as in places like South East Asia…in fact nothing is. Eating out is positively expensive, sometimes more so than in England, and expecting to pay less than 10 dollars a night for accomodation is setting yourself up for disappointment. Costa Eica isn’t a poor country, which is visable in the quality of the buses used for long journeys but also in the prices. It is however a very friendly and pretty place, full of incredible wildlife and luscious scenery, which we saw in abundance in the national park at Tortuguero. For now though the scenery is coastal, and the viewpoint is from a hammock listening to cicadas and a hummingbird’s buzzing around a pretty flowered bush.