Navigating Costa Rica (Part II: Traveling to the Provinces)

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One of the things that I have appreciated the most about living in Costa Rica is the ease of access to all the surrounding provinces. I personally find myself located in the province of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, in the Zapote district which is not too far from downtown. San Jose itself is located almost snap-dab in the center of Costa Rica. That, alongside the small size of the country itself (which I have found to be around the same size as Lake Michigan back home – insane!) has made traveling and getting to know Costa Rica a whole lot easier, which I believe has truly allowed me to enrich my experience as I have gotten to know not only the bustling city life of the capital, but also the calm and peaceful livelihood in the mountains of places like Monteverde and La Fortuna, and the warm paced days on beach regions like Jaco and Montezuma.

Having this proximity has also heightened my traveling experience and prepared me as a traveler, something that I had never really had the opportunity to do before. Prior to coming her, the only true places I had ever consciously traveled to were only nearby states like Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Maryland via land travel by bus and car. I had never been in charge of planning these as they were family or school visits, and for the most parts, these visits were never more than five days. That being said, I was very thrilled to hear about the travel opportunity within my oversea borders travel experience. I never anticipated having to plan and navigate my own trips, but with the help of friends and my host family, I can say it has been much easier and less intimidating than I foresaw.

Traveling to the surrounding provinces in Costa Rica is fortunately also made easier by the fact that you can find a direct bus to almost anywhere in the country for a cheap price that is usually never more than fifteen dollars. You can usually buy these bus tickets online, and if not, you can find information online on where to go in person (some buses you can only buy in person, such as for La Fortuna at Terminal 7-10 in downtown San Jose, a popular bus terminal where most travel buses depart from). Another great resource that was available to me and will more than likely be available to you were my program directors and the school I am studying abroad through. For instance, during my first month, AIFS (my program provider) had an excursion planned for us every weekend, which made getting to know the surrounding areas a little bit easier. Within Universidad Veritas, where I am currently studying, there were also always listed offerings of excursions that the school themself planned at the beginning and made available to students who didn’t have excursions through their programs or simply those who were interested. This made it easier to navigate and have questions answered.

Ultimately however, eventually I built up my own travel knowledge and am now more comfortable planning them. Now I know that the main things to plan for include:

1. Acquiring bus tickets (& knowing where the bus stops are)

—– Make sure you ASK locals too to verify times, like officers or bus stations since sometimes the bus shows up earlier than anticipated

2. Booking stays (Hostels and Airbnb’s are cheaper than hotels typically)

3. Food budget

4. Adequate packing

5. Phone, wallet, mask, keys on you at all times (except the beach – leave your phone unless you have a waterproof holder)

6. Know what transportation within your location looks like

—– There aren’t ubers in every region so you may have to take a hike for lunch or find a taxi driver number (usually the hotels, airbnbs, or hostels can provide one)

These are the basic things to keep in mind when traveling locally to the provinces. Most importantly however, is staying calm when things don’t go as planned and staying proactive about it. Communication is key when traveling with a group, so never hesitate to reach out for help. At the end of the day, the point is also to enjoy the journey as best possible.

Image 1: La Fortuna airbnb

Image 2: Terminal 7-10 mural