Costa Rica & Panama Experience
Nature's bounty is at your fingertips in this adventure through the lush, rugged landscaped of Costa Rica. Spend time exploring the cloud forests, jungles and marine environments of the nation's national parks and you’ll be rewarded with incredible wildlife-spotting. It won’t take long before you start recognising different sorts of monkeys, unusual Baird’s tapirs, and the bright crimson and green coat of the elusive resplendent quetzal. From the verdant hills and misty mountains of San Gerardo de Dota and Boquete, to the beachside town of Santa Catalina, the incredible landscape is an adventure-seekers dream. Hike, bike, surf, zipline, rock climb or simply chill out on a hammock–the choice is yours. Then journey to energetic Panama City for a different sort of thrill.
Start: San Jose
Finish: Panama City
Ages: 15 - 99
Accommodation: Hotel (12 nights), Homestay (1 night), Lodge (2 nights)
Destination: Panama City
Hola! Welcome to Costa Rica! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. With over half the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. If you arrive with time to spare, a good place to start exploring is the main plaza, a fantastic place to get comfy and do some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Have a look at the Gold Museum which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Travel by private minibus to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (around three hours) where we spend the night in a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama agricultural community, where you have the opportunity to get to know the locals, help with farm chores, or take a cooking lesson. Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes, and you will stay in one of them this evening. Please note that these rooms use shared facilities. In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language signals. The reward for your efforts? An authentic slice of life in the Costa Rican countryside.
Continue by private minibus to La Fortuna (about two hours). La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano – the majestic Arenal. Besides the panoramic views the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and water-based activities on the lake. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been sculpted into a number of pools and waterfalls, making them the ideal place to relax. Spend the rest of the day as you please in this exciting town, perhaps getting active on a stand-up paddleboard or looking for monkeys and caimans during a boat tour of the Cano Negro area.
Today take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately four hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which we'll cross by boat. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to our destination. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small, privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. Perhaps start your exploration with a tour of the suspension bridges that hang in the trees, or head to the Serpentarium to see some crawly critters. More than 2000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home.
Choose how you'd like to spend today in this beautiful area. Watch butterflies at play in the specially created garden, hire a local guide to show you around the area, visit a community cooperative or zip-line through the lush canopy! Whatever you do, be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Travel through the mountains to Quepos by private minibus (around 5 hours). Located close to the beautiful Pacific beaches and exotic wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a laidback town with a vibrant nightlife. Perhaps get into the spirit with a sunset sail around the glorious coast, looking out for dolphins and whales which sometimes swim close by. Once the sun goes down, why not grab a spot at a waterfront restaurant and sink your teeth into some fresh seafood.
Spend your time enjoying all that Manuel Antonio NP has to offer. Perhaps head out for a hike along one fo the many trails on offer, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white-sand beaches, perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing and fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.
Take a local bus back to San Jose (around four hours). The buses in this region of the country are a little more basic than youo may be used to, but this is a great opportunity to mix with Costa Ricans and get a feel for local life. Arrive back in time for you to pick up some last minute souvenirs at the city's colourful and vibrant markets. Then, head out for an optional dinner and a final night on the town, sampling the huge variety of nightlife on offer.
Today is a free day for you to explore. San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Mercado Central (Central Market), where you can buy anything from kitschy souvenirs and handicrafts to authentic local cuisine.
Depart around 8 am for the sleepy town of San Gerardo de Dota (this three hour journey will be by private vehicle), where crisp mountain air, lush cloud forests and some of the best bird watching in the country await. Nestled in the Savegre River Valley beneath the remote Talamanca Mountain Range, not many tourists venture to this hidden slice of paradise. On top of being a bird watchers haven – spot roughly 200 species of birds including hummingbirds, woodpeckers and the elusive resplendent quetzal – San Gerardo de Dota boasts pristine hiking trails and fantastic trout fishing. Take an orientation walk with your leader to get your bearings.
Spend time at Los Quetzales National Park for a chance to see the cloud forest and the park’s namesake bird, the resplendent quetzal. The park contains eight trails of varying length and difficulty, and is usually blanketed in a cloudy haze. The crimson and green resplendent quetzal is notoriously shy, so if you’re really keen on spotting one, consider hiring a local guide. The park is also home to big jungle cats like pumas and jaguars, monkeys, Baird’s tapirs and a slew of other bird species. After some time in the park, travel to Corcovado. It’s a seven-hour journey to this reserve on Costa Rica’s south-west peninsula; spend this time brushing up on your Spanish via an informal lesson from your tour leader, taking in the passing scenery or simply catching some shut-eye.
Visit the Corcovado National Park, the second largest national park in Costa Rica and one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. It has 13 different ecosystems within its boundaries including highland cloud forests, lagoons, mangrove swamps and marine habitats to name just a few. The day is yours to explore the park as you choose.
Cross the border and journey to Boquete (about 6 hours). A picturesque town in Panama’s verdant highlands, Boquete is surrounded by mountains, rivers, forest reserves and colourful wildflowers, as well as coffee plantations and orange groves. Acquaint yourself with its breathtaking scenery on an orientation walk with your leader, followed by dinner in town with the group. Your accommodation is a rustic Tree Trek lodge five kilometres outside of town. Located in the hills at the edge of the forest, enjoy glorious views over the valley from the property.
Enjoy a free day to explore Boquete. The area surrounding the town is famous for its coffee. Consider a visit to a local coffee plantation for an insight into coffee production, or perhaps kick back in town with a cup of local brew. Get active on a guided bike tour or hike through the mini canyons and hidden waterfalls outside of town. Boquete’s stunning scenery makes it a fantastic location for ziplining. Or for a more relaxing pursuit, soak your muscles at the Calderas hot springs.
Travel to Panama City, Central America's glitziest capital. Depart at 9 am for this eight to nine-hour journey by public bus, changing bus in David and continuing on to the capital. Arrive late afternoon and explore the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town) on a leader-led orientation walk. The cobbled centre is an alluring mix of crumbling architecture and hip bars and boutiques. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. You may choose to treat your taste buds to an evening food tour and sample local specialties like Panamanian coffee, craft beer and ceviche.
There are no planned activities today, though we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. You may want to visit the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal or go wildlife-spotting at Soberania National Park.
- Panama City - Leader-led walk along part of the Cinta Costera (Causeway) including a visit to the Fish Market
Exe Hotel San Jose Center
Edificio Cristal, Avenida 1, Calles 1 y 3
Phone: +506 40805280
#8-18 On the corner of Calle 8 and Calle Boquete
Phone: +507 202 0872
None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. Cobblestones and uneven roads are common and you may be required to walk in hot and humid conditions. If you are in any doubt, please share these concerns or issues with your sales consultant so that your leader is aware prior and can pre-empt your needs.
Exe Hotel San Jose Center
Edificio Cristal, Avenida 1, Calles 1 y 3
Phone: +506 40805280
Continuing point description
Located in the heart of the financial district, the Exe San Jose Center offers you the opportunity to stay in the centre of San Jose. Its modern architecture and new facilities provide the freshness you need for a pleasant stay.
Continuing point instructions
Intrepid offers a pre-arranged arrival transfer service from San Jose International Airport [SJO] at an additional fee. If you have pre-booked this service, please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. If you plan to arrive earlier, this transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
If you have pre-booked this service; you will be met after exiting the terminal building to the outside. As you exit please look for the Intrepid sign with your name on it. There is no designated area for transfer drivers to wait inside the building so please take your time to look around after exiting to the outside through the last glass automatic door.
If you have any problems and cannot locate your driver on arrival, please call our Intrepid Emergency number listed under the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your Essential Trip Information document. If you don’t have a device or mobile coverage, San Jose Airport has a free Wi-Fi connection so you can call that same number via an online application such as Skype. There are also several information desks and tourist information desks around if you require further assistance.
Otherwise, you can travel from the San Jose Airport to the hotel by taxi. We recommend you use either the authorised taxi services organised from inside the terminal, or the authorised orange taxis outside the terminal building. They will charge you approximately USD$30 for a trip to downtown. The drive to where the hotel is located is approximately 35-45 minutes depending on traffic.
1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. To have a private room on this trip, a single supplement is bookable; subject to availability.
3. Please be careful when booking flights to/from San Jose; make sure you fly into/out of Juan Santamaría International Airport [SJO]. Please do NOT book flights to/from Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport [SJC] as this is located in California, United States.
4. Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
MONEY WITHDRAWAL: In order to avoid fraud and theft, it is advisable that you withdraw money from ATMs located inside banks or guarded shops during business hours only.
LOCAL LODGINGS: On this trip you will be staying in some restored houses and local lodges - these are one of the charms of this journey, but their staircases, balconies and passages etc may not always comply with western safety standards. Please do not expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved to their original state.
FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
WATER SAFETY: Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
LIFE JACKETS: While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
ACTIVE VOLCANOES: This tour passes through volcanic areas. In the instance that a volcano becomes potentially dangerous and authorities declare nearby towns unsafe for travel, the itinerary will be re-routed. Where possible, Intrepid will provide advance notice of such changes. At short notice, when this is not possible, your tour leader will provide up to date information on behalf of Intrepid.
WhatsApp is a popular way to communicate in Latin America. We recommended downloading WhatsApp prior to departure to communicate with by text with your leader and group members during the tour. Once downloaded, please validate your phone number before leaving home as you will not be able to do this once you arrive, unless you have international roaming enabled. Connections for making phone calls through WhatsApp are not reliable, so please do not use this app to make calls to our emergency phone line.
If you receive an immigration card upon entry, please ensure you keep this safe as it may be requested at point of exit. For further information regarding country entry and exit fees, please refer to the 'Money Matters' section of this document.
Costa Rica - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Some nationalities will require a visa but be aware that you cannot get it at the border. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Costa Rica for the most up to date information. To enter the country visitors are required to have a return or onward travel ticket. Visitors generally get a 90-day stamp in their passport upon entering Costa Rica.
Panama - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Some Nationalities are required to purchase a Tourist Card upon arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Panama for the most up to date information. To enter the country visitors are required to have the equivalent of USD500 or a credit card, as well as a return or onward travel ticket. Visitors generally get a 90-day stamp in their passport upon entering Panama.
USA Visa Waiver - Applicable if arriving via the United States of America.
Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program, meaning a visa isn't required, however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html
All travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14 fee to paid by card. Apply for ESTA no later than 72 hours (we recommend 1 week prior to travel) before departing for the USA. Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding. If there are any discrepancies between the name on your ESTA, your passport, your tickets or even your frequent flyer membership, you may be detained at Immigration and subject to a secondary inspection which could take a few hours. If you have recently changed your name, please check that your details have been updated everywhere.
If you are from a country eligible for the visa waiver program but are a dual citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or if you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 01 March 2011, you will not longer be eligible for the visa waiver program and will instead need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Please see the Department of State website for more information: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html
Why we love it
A trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its famous cloud forests. Visit Los Quetzales National Park for a chance to see the cloud forest and the park’s namesake bird, the resplendent quetzal.
Costa Rica boasts some of the most biologically diverse places on earth–Corcovado National Park being one of them. Spend time exploring its jungles, lagoons and swamps and be rewarded with incredible wildlife-spotting (including monkeys, sloths and Baird’s tapirs, to name a few).
Waterfalls, wildflowers, hot springs and mountains - beautiful Boquete has it all. Tour a coffee plantation, ride a bike along a river or take a relaxing walk through the forest, keeping an eye out for tricky monkeys and tropical birds.
Get off the beaten track and ride the waves in surfy Santa Catalina. If you'd prefer to stay dry, there's a beachside hammock with your name on it.
Explore the eclectic streets of Panama City and admire the engineering masterpiece of the Panama Canal.
Is this trip right for you
This trip involves some travel by local transport, which can be basic and challenging, but is also a fantastic way to rub shoulders with the locals and get under the skin of a place.
While the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama is usually straightforward, sometimes it can take a while, so please prepare to be patient. You're on Central American time now!
The Costa Rican and Panamanian climate is sultry and tropical, so it can get really hot and humid. Wear loose clothing and make sure stay hydrated, especially while out on walking tours.
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
There have been reports of transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in this region and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, we recommend all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip.
There is no commercially available vaccination against malaria, which is transmitted by mosquito bites and is a risk in many less-developed tropical areas in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Protection against mosquito bites is essential and where the risk is considered high, anti-malarial medications are recommended. Anti-malarial medications should be discussed with experts as there are different medications available and not all medications suit all people or all destinations. Where malaria is considered prevalent in mountainous regions we prefer that trekkers to altitude try to avoid the use of mefloquine (Lariam) if possible.
Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home. It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
Food and dietary requirements
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in this region. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat dinner together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Please let us know your diet requirements before your trip starts.
Generally speaking, in bigger cities/towns vegetarians can expect a reasonable range of vegetarian venues and/or vegetarian options within tourist restaurant menus. However, vegetarianism is not the norm in this part of the world so options can be limited when eating at homestays, small local restaurants, street stalls, markets, etc.
More restrictive diet requirements (vegans, coeliac, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, lactose intolerance etc.) can also be accommodated along this trip but you should expect a lesser variety than what you can expect at home. We recommend that, if possible, to bring your own supply of snacks with you.
For those on strict Kosher or Halal diets we understand your dietary requirements are important, however, sometimes due to cultural and language differences these are not always easy to convey when you are travelling. Your guide will do their best to assist you in translating your needs when eating out, but please be aware that these diets are almost unheard of in much of the continent and the best they may be able to accommodate is no pork and shellfish. If this will be a concern for you you may need to consider opting for vegetarian or vegan meals for the included meals in your itinerary. We recommend researching kosher or halal options in your destination country prior to travel to see if you are able to buy snacks once there, otherwise consider bringing some from home.
When it comes to money matters on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping and laundry. It’s always better to bring a little more than you think you’ll need. Also make sure you’ve read your trip details thoroughly so you know what’s included in the trip price and what isn’t. This should make budgeting a little easier. You’ll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that’s this document).
The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to the equivalent of an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.
MEALS NOT INCLUDED:
For this trip we recommend between USD 25 to 50 per day. How do we work this out?
Breakfast - If breakfast is not included, you can expect to pay between USD5 to USD10 at a local café.
Lunch - If you are happy with a quick snack on the go, you may get away with as little as USD5 to USD10 for a set menu at a local eatery or a sandwich and a drink at a café. On the other hand, a lunch meal at a more tourist restaurant can cost between USD10 to USD15.
Dinner - At dinner time, your leader will normally recommend restaurants where you can safely try the local specialties of the region. Expect meals to cost between USD12 to USD25 for a main.
These are indicative prices only. If you are in a tight budget, are happy to eat just local food and are not afraid of an upset tummy every now and then, you can eat cheaper than this. If you want to try just the finest food at the finest restaurants, then you can expect meals to cost as much as in western countries.
CREDIT CARDS & ATMs:
ATMs are widely available in major towns and cities across Latin America. Credit cards are generally available in tourist shops and restaurants. Visa and Mastercard are generally preferred over American Express, Diners, etc. Smaller venues take cash only.
Check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to and what their fees and charges are. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions. Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to USD100 per day. If bringing over cash, please note USD100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other USD bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.
Costa Rica currency information - The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw colones from ATMs and over the counter at banks. US dollars are widely accepted except for taxi fares (so if you arrive by plane please ensure you get some local currency at the airport before taking a taxi).
Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America, particularly compared with its neighbouring countries Nicaragua and Panama. Expect meals, souvenirs and optional activities to cost as much as they would in western countries. That said, Costa Rica has done a great job of looking after its natural wonders yet maximising their potential as tourist attractions. So, while optional activities are pricey, you can expect a high standard of service, well maintained gear, clear paths and signalling and well trained local guides that allow you to make the most of every activity.
Panama currency information - The official currencies of Panama are the Panamanian Balboa (PAB) and the US dollar (USD). The US dollar is the paper currency of Panama; however, Panama mints its own coins. You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw dollars from ATMs and over the counter at banks. Travellers should be aware that counterfeit currency, particularly US$50 and US$100 notes, exist in Panama.
ENTRY AND EXIT FEES:
The below country specific information was correct at time of writing, however please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information.
Costa Rica – There is no entry fee. If you exit Costa Rica overland, there is a US$7 departure tax. If you exit Costa Rica by air, a departure tax of US$29 is normally included in the cost of your ticket. Check with your airline.
A departure tax of US$45 is usually included in your international airfare. If travelling by land, a US$3 tax is payable both on entry and exit from the country.
If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The recommended tipping amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers. We do however recommend that you tip in the local currency - Hold on to your smaller notes and coins to make tipping easier. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
- Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$5. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% of your bill.
- Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide. We suggest US$3-5 per passenger per day.
- Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We suggest US$3-6 per day for drivers.
- Local guides: There might be times during the trip where you’ll have a specialist local guide alongside your trip leader. We suggest tipping these guides about USD$2-3 per day.
- Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline USD$2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx USD$5-10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
What to take
Most travellers prefer to take a small to medium wheeled suitcase, which is a great size for the packing capacity in our private vehicles. Whatever you take, be mindful that you will need to be able to carry your own luggage, handle it at airports, take in/out of accommodation and perhaps even walk short distances. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible. You'll also need a day pack/bag for activities and day trips. In terms of weight, airlines generally allow a maximum of 15-20kg for check in luggage and a maximum of 5kg for carry on.
Other than the items and clothing you always need on a trip, below we have listed packing suggestions specific for this trip:
- Warm as well as light clothing. Central America is often assumed to have hot weather, but it can get cold in the countryside, mountains and at night in the winter so we suggest you check the expected temperatures en route and bring clothing that you can layer
- Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings
- Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
- Soft and/or hard copies of all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, travel insurance etc. and keep the hard copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a copy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary
- Water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments
- Electrical adapter plug (view www.kropla.com)
- Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes and Band-Aids.
- Watch/Alarm clock or phone that can be used for both
- Travel beach towel
- Tissues &/or toilet paper &/or wet wipes
- Insect repellent
- Camera with spare memory card, charger &/or batteries
- Ear plugs to guard against a potential snoring room-mate
- Phrase book
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your safe if available. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
Laundry is available at many hotels and towns during this trip, although you might need to wait for a two-night stop in order to make sure you get it back in time. While laundry at hotels is usually charged by the item, laundromats usually charge by the kilo, which is generally inexpensive (about USD 2 per kilo).
Climate and seasonal
Please note that Hurricane season is June to October, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.
A couple of rules
Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips.
By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund.
If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.
Can’t stop thinking about your adventure? Tell us all about it! We read each piece of feedback carefully and use it to make improvements for travellers like you. Share your experience with us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/
GENERAL ISSUES ON YOUR TRIP
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES
For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at:
CRISIS AND EMERGENCIES
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office:
Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Costa Rica): +506 6022 4721
Travelling responsibly is all about making good choices. It's about ensuring you have an incredible trip while also having a positive impact on the local environment, community and economy you're travelling in. How can you be a Responsible Traveller? See our tips below:
- Choose to travel with a responsible travel company like us! We've already offset the main carbon emissions of your trip, so your footprint is already lighter.
- Consider offsetting your flights when you book your trip/flights with us or your travel agent.
- Bring a refillable water bottle and some water purification tablets (or a Steripen) to cut down on plastic bottle waste.
- Be an animal-friendly traveller. Only go to venues that respect animals by allowing them to live normally in their natural environment. Steer clear of venues that use animals for entertainment or abnormal activities and/or keep animals in poor and unnatural conditions.
- Eat at local restaurants, buy from regional artists and support social enterprises so you can contribute directly to locals and their economy.
- Always be respectful of local customs and ask permission if you want to take a photo of someone.
- Learn a few words of the local language and engage with the people around you.
- Carry a cloth or re-usable bag so you can avoid plastic bags.
- Give back by making a donation to a local project via The Intrepid Foundation.
Share your thoughts with us by completing your feedback form after your trip. This helps us to continue to improve our commitment to responsible travel.
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our lodgings prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour.
A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Hotel (12 nights),Homestay (1 night),Lodge (2 nights)