Discover Costa Rica - 12/04/08

Hi - I'm Gavin on my first visit to Central America and first trip with

      exodus.  I would like to make contact with anyone else booked on

      this trip.

chestnut

Thanks Sarah for all the tips!  We are looking forward to it all!  However my husband has been reading reports from people who have recently been on the trip and they say it is a nightmare making the connections at Houston! Not enough time allowed!  Let's hope Exodus have taken this on board - or perhaps it is too late!  I am sure the holiday more than makes up for it.

chestnut

Hi Gavin - We are Alan and Melanie.  This is also our first trip with exodus and first visit to Central America! It seems there are 11 of us.  That is a good sized group (I think!?) because the maximum is 16 so we should get more attention/information etc.?!!!!!!!! Maybe!  Do you speak any Spanish?

SarahP72

Hi Everyone

Having looked at your trip itinerary, I already know you're going to have a great time, and I thought I would drop a note on some things I picked up when I was in Costa Rica.  Firstly, you are starting at Tortugero which my sister (who lives in Jaco coincidentally! - see day 6 of your tour) says is absolutely magical.  She has visited there a number of times and also assisted on a voluntary project with the turtles, so knows the area very well.  She has said that the Caribbean coast is very different from the Pacific - apparently the locals are more "chilled out" on the Caribe - quite a few hippy communities set up there, so there is a more laid-back feel there to the rest of Costa Rica.

That said, Costa Rica is a place where you need to be sensible.  In general, crime is centred around San Jose although I never felt threatened.  You do however need to take some sensible precautions.  As a tourist, you will undoubtedly stick out a mile from Ticos (local Costa Ricans), so, you should really consider the following:

Try not to have cameras and other gadgets (ie. phones, ipods etc) out in the open for too long.  If you have a camera bag, perfect!  Use it as often as possible.  Oh, and don't bother with jewellery, watches etc.Smile!  Ticos are a friendly lot, and before you know it they will be telling you their life story.  Try to interact with the locals - it makes such a difference and even a tiny bit of Spanish will be appreciated.  As in most languages, por favor and gracias are universal!Women should be prepared for frequent male attention, even if you are with a husband, boyfriend etc.  Wolf whistles and shouts in your direction are common place and if you aren't interested, just avoid eye contact!!  Even the hint of a smile is all it takes!Mosquitos tend to be an issue year-round in Costa Rica because of the tropical climate, so I would strongly recommend buying the preventative spray.  Use all the time and don't miss a bit; the little blighters will find that 1cm patch that you didn't spray.  Oh, and in case they get you, definitely take a bite stick!Bus journeys and transfers - now, how to describe them!?  Given the size of your group, I would suggest you will be going by air-conditioned mini-bus ... phew!  Local buses are an experience in themselves but you will have enough of an adventure on the roads - be ready for hair-raising overtaking, a snake of lorries (there is no rail network in Costa Rica, so all haulage has to go via road transport) and potholes the size of small meteor craters!!  It all adds to the fun, and to be honest, you probably won't notice as you are looking out of the windows at some of the most breathtaking views you can imagine.Prepare to get wet!  You will notice many different micro-climates as you travel across the country.  The coast will be humid and baking hot, whereas in land is slightly cooler and more likely to rain.  In the rainforest it does rain, every day, but that's part of the experience; you just need to pack accordingly.For the one and only time in your life, socks and sandals in the rainforest could be forgiven!  If you are wearing boots and long trousers, my advice would be tuck your trousers in!!  I've never seen so many varieties of ants, and they aren't the ones you find at home in the back garden.  You can see the jaws on these boys!!!If you get the chance, try the abseil in the Cloud Forest.  My sister did this and said it was amazing.  You will probably have a tree-tops canopy tour anyway which gives you a whole different perspective of the rainforest.  My sister's boyfriend is a tour leader and often visits the Cloud Forest.  Look out for him, his name is Rhyan Cruz.  :-)Do ask questions, and use the guides.  They are all very experienced, and many of them have been to university to study ecology and eco-tourism.  If you've had a good day, don't be shy to tip them.  They will be very appreciative, and that goes for drivers too!On the Pacific coast, if you fancy a dip in the sea at night time, just be a little bit careful.  Sting rays are known to come into the beach to feed at night and are often found in the shallows, so you don't want to be treading on their spiny back.  To be on the safe side, wear shoes.

These are just a few tips that I picked up while I was there and might prove helpful on your trip.  You will have a terrific trip.  Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with friendly and hospitable people.  The wildlife is truly amazing .. I never thought I would see so many monkeys, birds, turtles, ANTS, spiders, frogs etc etc, and the views and sunsets are stunning.  It will be the experience of a lifetime!

Buen viaje a todos,

Sarah

SarahP72

Hi

I didn't mention this because it wasn't directly about Costa Rica, but flights via the US are a complete and utter nightmare!!!!  I missed two flight connections on the way back flying with American Airlines all the way ie.  they were the ones who decided how much time I needed between flights.  This wasn't booked with Exodus, I went independently, but the principle is the same.

The issue is customs, not really delays on the flight.  This is what held me up on the way back.  My advice ... you need to speak to someone in customs very nicely (they are all full of their own self-importance, so grovelling helps!) and tell them that you are a connecting passenger.  They might let you go through the US customs queue which is usually shorter!  I won't fly via the US again for this precise reason, but I'm sure Exodus are tried and tested, and you are travelling via a different airport.  If in doubt, RUN!

Whatever happens, when you get there, you are going to forget all about it.  I promise!!

Sarah

Gavroche

Hi Guys

Look forward to sharing the experience with you, thanks to Sarah for her input, she is off to Finland so you can have a look at her thread to seee how she got involved.

I have already been on the Continental web site and reserved my seat, as we are all on the same Locator the system then seated everyone else quite near me automatically.  Please feel free to change your seating if you like, it's not complicated - well, not very!!

As for my Spanish it is non existant, was hoping you spoke it like a true local!

Regards Gavin

chestnut

Yes we had decided that was probably the obvious solution!  Exodus say that it is the appropriate connection and fortunately I can grovel vocally whilst thinking what I'd really like to be saying.  enjoy your trip to Finland.

Alan and Mel

Gavroche

Hi Sarah

On behalf of us all a big thank you for your time and effort in giving us the benefit of your experience and proficiency at Spanish!  Do you really want to go to Finland - it's very coooold and there are wild polar bears, wolves and other beasties in the forests.  I think you should come to Costa Rica with us instead!!

Have a super trip and maybe we will be on an adventure together sometime in the future, who knows.

Regards Gavin

chestnut

Well Gavin I just hope it's in 1st class! Sounds as if you have more ITskills than us so well done for that. Look forward to meeting you and I assume others will be joining us - they obviously haven't opted to join the forum!
Alan and Mel

Dancockburn

Hello!

Glad to see that you're excited for this trip. Costa Rica is a beautiful country and the wildlife is truly spectacular.

I saw that you're a little concerned about the connection and I just wanted to assure you a little. We routed this trip through Houston as it tends to be much quieter and easier to connect through than the New York airports (the other main hub for Continental). I've flown through it a few times and always made my connection (and this was with 90 minutes). You have 2.5 hours so, fingers crossed, you should have plenty of time. If you are worried and the clock is ticking down, as the previous advice states, it is worth mentioning the time of your flight to one of the immigration or security staff and if you smile nicely, they'll often help you out to make sure you catch your onward flight.

Ultimately, the airlines state what are viable connections, but we try and choose ones that look the most feasible!

Have a fantastic trip, I'm confident you will.

Dan (from Exodus)

Gavroche

Hi Alan and Mel

I too am surprised that some of the others have not joined us yet!

Have had the jabs as recommended by the trip notes but was uncertain about precautions against malaria, have you had thoughts about this??

It might be a good idea if we can meet up in T4 (glad it's not T5!) prior to checking in do either of you know a suitable meeting point otherwise I will suggest somewhere.

Regards Gavin

chestnut

Don't worry if I am on the trip you are probably safe as I am usually their number one target!  Seriously though we are taking the weekly tablets (chloroquine) starting on the 5th and then continuing after we get back. As I said I get bitten at the drop of a hat so we are perhaps being over cautious.  In any case you buy them over the counter in Boots so you can decide. You choose a place to meet.  We avoid Heathrow as much as possible so you are perhaps more familiar.  However I feel I should warn you we are probably nearer your parents age than yours - but fit and young at heart!

A and M

Gavroche

Thanks for your advice, I will also take lots of insect repellent!

I will get back to you with a suitable RV in T4 once I have spoken to someone who knows it better than myself.  I am certain age will have no bearing on your enjoyment of our trip, as one born in 1950 I am probably catching you up fast anyway!

Gavin

Gavroche

Alan and Mel

 Could we meet on the ground floor (arrivals hall) at Starbucks, we can then go up together to 'check in' on the first floor?  I will be arriving early so will meet you at a time you suggest, the joining instructions suggest an arrival 3 hours prior to departre.   Look out for a bloke with glasses, light coloured trousers and a purple jumper! 

Gavin

chestnut

Hi Linda

See message to Gavin re boots!  Walking trainers are probably perfect.  I am also taking a pair of tough sandals as the thought of wearing boots all the time is too much.  I assume whilst travelling in the bus and in lodge grounds we will be OK in lighter gear.  I am not a very wise packer. I usually discover the things I dismissed and left at home are just what I needed!  See you Saturday.  Glad to hear about the Spanish!!!!!!!!!!

Best wishes Alan and Mel

Lindah

Hello Gavin, Mel and Alan,

I'm Linda and a bit of a late arrival to your e-mail discussions - have only just found the forum.  It's also my first trip with Exodus and my first to Central America. I'm very much looking forward to it and to meeting you and the rest of the group.

I also decided to play safe and am taking malarial tablets as mosquitos and sand flies go straight for me and have a feast.

I'm undecided about taking my ancient walking boots as they are bulky and heavy. Hopefully tough walking trainers will be adequate - any thoughts on this?

 I have just started learning Spanish at evening classes but my knowledge is extremely basic at the moment - and I do mean basic!

Would it be OK if I joined you at Starbucks in arrivals at T4? The flight looks like it is leaving at 11.15am (although I haven't checked on-line this week) so I intend to be at T4 by 8am. Let me know if this is OK.

Best regards

Linda

 

chestnut

Sounds good to me!  We are travelling up from Somerset the day before and staying near the airport.  We are also taking our boots but according to space may take trainers as well!  I am a poor packer in-as-much as I am indecisive so may endup with a variety of footwear!

Mel and Alan

Gavroche

Hi Linda

Glad you could join us, better late than never!

I do plan to take my walking boots as I have nothing else suitable for heavy duty work,  hope there is not too much of that!

By all means join us at Starbucks at 08:00, with any luck we might have rounded up a few more strays by then!

Look forward to meeting you all.

Gavin

Lindah

Dear Gavin, Mel and Alan,

Thank you all for your replies. I think the boots vs trainers will become boots and trainers! Will start to pack the suitcase tonight - not long now. Have a good few days and I look forward to seeing you all on Saturday.

Regards

Linda

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