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-   -   Any final tips for first-timer? (https://www.fodors.com/community/mexico-and-central-america/any-final-tips-for-first-timer-685117/)

mmb23 Mar 5th, 2007 10:36 AM

Any final tips for first-timer?
 
Hello, all-
I head out on Sunday (finally!) and want to say thanks to everyone who helped out with the planning. The final itinerary is:

1 week CPI Heredia (stuyding Spanish)
1 night Hotel Buena Vista, Alajuela
4 nights Bosque del Cabo, Puerto Jimenez
2 nights Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota

Does anyone have any last-minute tips? Things that they couldn't live without, things they wished they'd had brought? Great gifts for a host family?

I'm open to any last-minute tips for the first timer!
Best,
Melissa

hopefulist Mar 5th, 2007 12:00 PM

Here's my CA packing list pasted from the FAQ on the Thorntree Forum. Have a great trip!

My answer to the question: WHAT SHOULD I PACK???

I can pack everything I need for an extended trip into a carry-on sized bag by choosing clothes that layer. I have a carry-on sized conversion pack (straps tuck away as needed) that has an attached day pack. I pack valuables and some personal items in the day pack and most of the clothes (that I'm not wearing) in the main compartment. Here's what I took to Honduras to accommodate 2-3 weeks inland with high altitude mountain hikes included and 2-3 weeks of beach time:

3-4 wicking-type shirts
1 light weight long sleeved shirt
2 pairs of light weight convertible (zip off to become shorts) long pants
1 sarong (skirt, swim wrap, doubles as towel or sleeping sheet)
1 bandana and one silicon-neck-cooler bandana
1 sunhat with strap
1 light weight sleeveless nightgown
2 swimsuits
1 light weight fleece jacket (liner type that can be worn alone)
1 light weight goretex rain coat
uns and socks (incl. 1 neoprene pair I wear under Keens for hiking and under fins for diving/snorkel’g)
flip flops for beach and showers
Keen water shoes for everything else, including lots of light hiking (they have great support and a rubber toe protector); if you're planning hardcore hiking, take boots

Cash, ATM and VISA cards, passport, etc.
Flight and lodging reservations, emails, receipts, etc.
Small medical kit and sewing kit
Cheap watch with alarm
Toiletries and prescription meds
Sunglasses, spare glasses, disposable contacts for diving/rainforests
Sunblock and bug stuff (Cactus Juice and Sawyer's Time Release Deet Formula, baby oil for sand flies)
Water purification pump (I'm a budget traveller)
Collapsible drinking cup
LCD headlamp
Compass
Earplugs
Camera, etc. (and underwater bag or 1-2 underwater disposables)
Smallish waterproof binoculars
Guidebook and copied map pages
Laminated plant and animal i.d. cards
Journal/writing materials
Reading material and Spanish/English dictionary
Small gifts for kids and hosts
Small dice and yahtzee papers
A small, flexible disc (like a frisbee)
Various ziplocks, cable ties, small bungie cords
3-4’ of duct tape wrapped around a waterproof marker
String and a few clothespins or 3-4 feet of braided surgical tubing - great clothesline
Half a roll of t.p. removed from core and flattened

I buy water and reuse the bottle and usually pick up an inexpensive pocket knife when I get there. I like having my own snorkel and mask, but my husband joined me two weeks into the trip and brought them with him; he has to check luggage anyway because of his fishing poles. :)

coolbluewater Mar 5th, 2007 01:19 PM

Scented lotions for the women--like from Victoria's Secret or Bath and Body Works. I work for one of these companies (full disclosure) and when I mentioned it to my guide, his eyes lit up. I was disappointed not to have brought small bottles of lotion for people as these brands are not available in Costa Rica (officially) and they are well-liked it seems.

gannetmusic Mar 5th, 2007 02:38 PM

For Savegre, long parts and jacket /fleece [morning temperatures in the 40's F.]

Also comfotable walking /light hiking shoes, binoculars and a sense of adventure. You are staying at wonderful places -please post a trip report.

Cheers

Jerry

shillmac Mar 5th, 2007 05:36 PM

Sounds great--good choices. I'll be studying at Heredia again this summer as well--great school. Have fun!
Try to book an a.m. birding tour with Melvin or Marino before you leave Sunday (Hotel Savegre). Whether or not you care to do any birding, it will be a nice experience for you. But it IS helpful to let them know ahead that you'd like to do it. Hooked me for life! :)

Pat_Hewitt Mar 5th, 2007 05:57 PM

Hi Melissa,

Thats a good itinerary, you will have fun. I have three little tips that I share with all of my clients.

1) Por favor and Gracious for everything. Costa Ricans place a very high value on good manners. So remember what your Mama taught you. This, along with a sincere smile on your face will take you a long way.

2) You will never get a restaurant check without asking for it. Many people mistake this simple kindness for poor service. But the truth is that this is just good manners (see rule #1). They feel that dropping the check on the table is the same as asking you to leave. That would be rude.

3) When you are not in your luggage, keep it closed. Scorpions and other little creepy crawlies love close dark spaces, like your folded jeans! It doesn't hurt to shake your shoes out either.

Have fun!

Warm Regards,

Pat Hewitt
Costa Rica Travel Exchange

Melissa5 Mar 6th, 2007 01:32 AM

R.E.I. sells some stuff that you put on your mosquito bite as soon as you are bitten...it makes the itch go away...ammonia is one of the ingredients. It really works! When the itch comes back, you reapply. It is a rub-on liquid that comes in a small packable container that could fit in your pocket or front pack. Can't find mine right now so can't tell you the brand. Ask someone who works there. Also, an antihistamine cream works for some people as well.

Did you remember to leave a xeroxed copy of your passport with a family member who has a FAX machine? In case your passport is lost or stolen.

Now, have a wonderful time, meet lots of great people, and practice your Spanish!

mmb23 Mar 6th, 2007 08:35 AM

Thanks for the great tips! I e-mailed Savegre about reserving a tour, and made sure I have enough warm layers for hiking there. Thanks also for the advice on critters--the bite cream and the suitcase trick. I'm one of those people who always leaves their pack open, so I'm glad you mentioned it!
And Shillmac, I'm glad to hear you had a good CPI experience. I can't wait to jump into the Spanish!
Thanks to you all!
Best,
Melissa

shillmac Mar 6th, 2007 06:05 PM

Say hello to Maya and Lorena for me at CPI. Also, if you meet Percy (does some tours), say hello from Jamie's mom. My daughter has done a total of 10 weeks there and they've been out dancing a few times.

Let me know who your homestay is with--just curious! If you know already; I guess you should. Have beau coups of fun! Oops, that's not Spanish! ;)

mmb23 Mar 7th, 2007 08:19 AM

Will do, Shillmac! The family hosting us is Virginia and Sergio Zamora Viquez; have you stayed with them? What a funny coincidence if you have!
Best,
Melissa

shillmac Mar 7th, 2007 09:21 PM

No, but it would be cool, wouldn't it? All of our stays have been with the Espinoza-Aguilar family. Their son and daughter in law host students also. Enjoy yourself! No speaking English that first week! ;)


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