1. Bring pants, sunscreen, and a water container.
Even though you know Costa Rica always has beautiful weather, when the sun sets it can get cool outside. Bring a pair of jeans or two for the chilly nights. Sunscreen is like gold in Costa Rica. Bring plenty of it because if you forget it, be ready to pay $20 or more for a small bottle. With the heat, bring a nice reusable water bottle. I used mine every single day.
2. Remember that imported things are more expensive in Costa Rica.
Most things that you’re used to buying in stores in the United States are going to be quite a bit more once you arrive. So either come prepared to pay a little extra, or bring what you need.
3. Only bring what you plan to use.
Bring all the toiletries that you think you might use for the few months you’re there so that you will have plenty of space for when you come home with souvenirs.
4. Don’t keep your phone out when walking around.
You’re not in the United States anymore. It is important to keep all valuables at home, or at the very least out of sight.
5. Check out the cute coffee shops all around the city.
There are many great little coffee shops around San José! Costa Rica is known for its coffee, so give Starbucks a break. Try something smaller and more local.
6. Explore San Pedro
San Pedro is a great little neighborhood that is only about a 20-minute walk from the university. There are some great restaurants in that area, too!
7. Make sure to have a good playlist for the long bus rides to the beach.
There are countless breathtaking beaches in Costa Rica, but not without a bus ride. With all of the trips to the beach you will be making, it would certainly be smart to be prepared with some music for entertainment.
8. Download a Spanish dictionary to your phone.
There will be times that you find yourself without WiFi and in need of a translation. Something as small as downloading an app on your phone can make a big difference.
9. Check out the French Bakery for lunch.
Less than a three minute walk from the university, the French Bakery is a great place to eat if you’re looking for a tasty, quick lunch from a friendly staff. It was one of my favorite places.
10. See a kids movie in the movie theater.
Doing this can be much cuter and a fun way to learn some Spanish. I saw Coco in theaters with Spanish subtitles, and before the movie started there was a short film of the new Frozen movie. It was fun being able to understand most of what was going on by using what I learned in my Spanish classes.
11. Be prepared to have all meals with some kind of beans and rice.
Rice and beans will likely be served with almost every meal that you eat in Costa Rica. Even if you don’t like rice and beans before you leave the US, you will probably leave Costa Rica with a new appreciation for the signature dish.
12. Have the Uber app download before you land.
Uber is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get around the city. Consider downloading it before getting to the airport.
13. You don’t need a cell phone plan.
WiFi is available at nearly all restaurants and many larger stores. I would recommend not getting a phone plan — depending on what carrier you have, and how often you use the phone, it can get pricey. It was kind of nice not being able to use my phone anytime, anywhere. It was nice to disconnect a little bit each day.