WHAT TO BRING


Costa Ricans tend to dress on the conservative side, but they are becoming accustomed to the flavors of dress introduced by international visitors. In San Jose , it's common now to see local women wearing pants or jeans. Shorts worn by men or women are beginning to be seen, though much more on tourists than local folks. In coastal areas or for sports, shorts are common.

In the evening at a nice restaurant in San Jose environs, local men may wear a coat and tie or at least a dress shirt; women, a dress or nice pants outfit. In most other places, dress for dining out is casual.

For hikes in the forest, long pants give more protection from insects and plants than shorts. Throw in some cotton pants, especially in rainy season, since it takes forever and a day for jeans to dry. A long-sleeved shirt or two is wise for protection from the sun-remember, its rays are direct at 10 degrees from the equator-and from insects and scratches on narrow trails. Bring your bathing suit; nudity on public beaches is not acceptable in this culture.

Tuck in a sweater or light jacket for chilly evenings or wet, windy weather. Light clothes that can be layered will serve you well.

If you will be staying at hotels or nature reserves that have shared baths, consider a lightweight sweat suit for trips to the shower. It can double as sleeping attire if the night is chillier than expected or as something comfortable to change into after a day of sight seeing or travel.

A comfortable pair of walking shoes is paramount. Some prefer tennis shoes to hiking boots for forays into the tropical world. Whichever, they probably will get wet at some point, even in the dry season if a trail leads through small streams, so have a backup. In rainy times, locally available rubber boots are handy. You can buy them in markets and shoe stores, especially in rural towns; they are standard footwear for campesinos. Some lodging places have rubber boots available to guests. (You probably won't find any for extra-large feet.)

Rain poncho or umbrella? I pack both, but make sure the poncho is lightweight and hooded. The poncho gives better protection to backpacks, fanny packs, binoculars, and cameras, and can be useful for boat rides or trips on horseback. The umbrella is great for town time and for when you're not carrying 20 other things on the trail. In warmer areas, I suggest you try simply getting wet one time, especially on a forest walk. Experience the elements, just protect your camera or binoculars (plastic bags) and go for it.

Leave expensive jewelry at home. Much to Costa Ricans' dismay, thievery is on the upswing, especially in San Jose . I had a chain snatched from my neck on a downtown street at midday .

Though the electric current is 110 volts, same as in the United States and Canada , some outlets do not accommodate the larger grounding plugs on new appliances. So if you're bringing your computer on vacation (heaven forbid), bring an adapter without the larger prong. When packing electric razors, hair dryers, and such, be aware that travel in the boonies may put you in a room without an electric outlet.

Pack light. Travel to a remote spot by small plane, boat, or jeep may limit what you can take. Some domestic airlines limit luggage to 26 pounds per person. Bring a smaller bag, with enough room to carry a change, and store your larger bag at the hotel until you return.

A day pack also comes in handy, even for city sight seeing. You can stick in a jacket, camera, umbrella, and guidebook. Be sure it closes securely. To further foil the light-fingered in heavy street traffic or on crowded buses, wear your fanny pack to the front or move your day pack to your shoulder where you can control access to it. A water-resistant pack helps.

One item you should not bring along is impatience. Leave it at home. Who knows? After a time in Costa Rica without it, you may find you don't need to lug it around anywhere anymore.

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