Costa Rica is a country that had been on my bucket-list for ages. Located at the bottom of Central America and repeatedly voted one of the happiest countries in the world, Costa Rica is known for its spectacular beaches, vast wildlife, yoga, surf culture and its ecotourism, so I just knew that I had to visit it.
However I knew very little about Costa Rica and I wasn’t sure how accommodating it was for younger backpackers like me which is why I ended up booking a group tour. I wasn’t sure how expensive it would be, how easy it would be to get around and more importantly, if it would be fun.
Doing a tour really eased me into the country but having spent a few weeks there I can vouch that Costa Rica is an ideal destination for younger travellers, and is a country that I’d feel very confident to travel in solo.
Is Costa Rica safe?
Central America and South America often get a bad reputation for safety but tell your mum and dad not to worry, overall Costa Rica is a really safe country to travel in. The country is very popular with travellers and US expats meaning that its well accommodated for tourism. Because of the higher cost of living, its less prone to social problems than some of the poorer countries nearby and crime is rare.
I found that Costa Rica felt like the most civilised country in the region and it was very straightforward to travel in. English was widely spoken and because of the strong emphasis on being eco-friendly, it was a very clean and beautiful place to visit. The motto of Costa Rica is ‘Pura Vida‘ meaning pure life and I think that sums up the general ethos of the country. Inevitably there are some issues with drugs so just exercise a little caution, particularly when on a night out.
Is Costa Rica fun?
I know that personally one my concerns when I’m planning a trip to a new country is, will it be fun? I’m not by any means wanting massive clubs and the chance to get wasted everyday but having a fun environment with good hostels, young backpackers and places to have a drink at night is important -Travel isn’t all about sight-seeing you know. Well anyone visiting Costa Rica needn’t worry, it’s a really fun country to be a backpacker in, with fantastic hostels, yoga, surf spots, bars and beaches. Make sure to stop by Santa Theresa on the Pacific coast and Puerto Veijo on the Caribbean side and stay in the Selina hostels. I guarantee you’ll have new friends before you can say ‘pura vida’.
So how expensive is Costa Rica?
The one thing that surprised me about Costa Rica were the prices. Being in Central America, I assumed that prices would be next to nothing but actually the cost of living is quite high compared to nearby countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua.
- Bed in a dorm: 10-15 USD a night
- Meal in a soda: 3-5 USD
- Meal in a restaurant: 10-15 USD
- Local bus: 2 USD
- Excursions: 20 USD with some adventure activities reaching 100 USD
How to save money in Costa Rica
You can drastically cut down your costs as a backpacker to maximise your time. Here’s some handy tips to save some cash.
- Workaway: Finding casual work abroad is the best way to save money while you travel. The easiest way to find this is by going on to workaway (www.workaway.info) and making an account. You can then find loads of jobs from hostels to conservation projects, usually exchanging a few hours work each day for free accommodation and food.
- Stay in the Caribbean side: Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is cheaper than the Pacific side so its worth basing yourself there if you want to save money. One of my favourite places was the beach town of Puerto Veijo.
- Travel in the low season: Travelling out of season, (May to December), means accommodation prices are lower. This does mean there’s more likelihood of rain though.
- Eat at Sodas: The sodas are cheap local restaurants that are all over Costa Rica. They are generally open for just breakfast and lunch and are half the price of other restaurants. The cheapest dish is casado, a plate of rice, beans, meat and vegetables.
- Book dorms on Hostelworld: I usually book accommodation via Booking.com but Hostelworld seems to have the cheapest options in Costa Rica. Just book one nights accommodation as its usually cheaper to extend in person.
If I had endless money and endless time then I would have stayed in Costa Rica a lot longer. Although it wasn’t my favourite country in Central America, (Guatemala has taken that place in my heart), I had a fantastic and memorable experience backpacking there and came home with some amazing memories.
I hope that this post has cleared up any doubts and answered any questions about backpacking in Costa Rica. If you have anything else you want to ask then just drop me a line in the contact page.