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Costa Rica--book independently or use a travel agent?

Costa Rica--book independently or use a travel agent?

Oct 29th, 2006, 05:01 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 312
Costa Rica--book independently or use a travel agent?

We're in the earliest stages of planning for a trip to Costa Rica--probably in fall 2007. In the past we've booked all our travel independently and had no problems but this will be our first trip to a non-English-speaking country. Although we're not interested in doing a tour, I'm wondering if there still might be some benefit to using an agency for assistance with the arrangements. How have you typically handled your Costa Rica travel plans? Any thoughts on the pros and cons either way?

Thanks!
Julie304 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2006, 07:01 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,541
I've been to CR 3 times and booked all trips on my own. Except for a couple basics, and some dirty words that aren't very useful in booking anything, I don't speak Spanish and never had a problem. Many in CR speak English, I don't think you would have a problem at all.

I haven't used him but I see Pat Hewitt's name here a lot as very useful in making hotels & transfer arrangements, maybe someone here can give you his website.
tully is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 04:46 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,184
Pat Hewitt helped us with our first trip to CR. He's excellent, out of New Orleans, but maintains a base - and a home in Monteverde - in CR as well. Really knows CR. Many, many good experiences with him described on this and other boards. His website is lovecostarica.com
glover is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 04:52 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Do it yourself. Travel agents are worthless now that you have the internet. You have plenty of time to plan - just get yourself a book on costa rica and take a look at this web site and you'll know more then most travel agents. As far as I see it if a travel agent does it for you he will pick what he thinks you will like - if you do it yourself you can see all the options available and do what you want to do. I am going to CR for my second time. I can order a beer in spanish and a few other basics. It's easy to communicate. A lot of people in the hotel/tourism industry speak english.

Travel is easy in costa rica - if you don't want to drive the hotels can set up transportation for you. Other then that it depends what you want to do. Beaches, rainforest, volcano, hiking, etc.

I would start on this site with "where to go if you have 7 days" - and start taking a look at the different areas in CR. Some of the most popular places to go are:

1. Manuel Antonio
2. Arenal
3. Tamarindo and the Norhern Pacific Beaches
4. Monteverde (cloud forest)
5.Tortugeuro

Naplo999 is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 05:00 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I've done it both ways. I don't think we had a good travel agent for Costa Rica. Things worked out better the trip I did myself. However, I found a really great travel agent in Panama City when I started to plan my trip there. We did a lot of moving around and her help with transfers certainly made things easier. So, in the end, it depends on the individual travel agent. The ones I used to use here locally were fine for Disney and Hawaii, but are pretty worthless for non-package travel any where else.
JeanH is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 08:10 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 324
Agree with the other posts, do it yourself. You will be able to take any local tour through your hotel or a local agency within the town you are staying if you decide to do that. I personally love driving in CR and recommend renting a car and getting a decent map. Most roads over the past few years have been repaired and are in great shape, signs aren't the best, but are there. Alot of great books and information on the web so that will help you. This is a great area to post specific questions as well. Just ask.
ewesthoff is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 08:51 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 29
2 trips to CR and booked everything myself on the Internet. No need to speak Spanish, everyone will reply in English. Just research the areas & activities you're interested in, pick the hotel (tripadvisor.com has good info) and email them. Decide if you want to drive yourself, shuttle or private transfers all of this is also very easy to book (I recommend Costa Rica Shuttle). I have also booked white water rafting (Rios Tropicales),rappelling (Pure Trek)etc. on Internet. Every time I have used a travel agent there has been something I was not happy about. Booking a trip to CR is very easy.
kskc is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 01:07 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,212
I think the key to booking through a travel agent is to find an expert on Costa Rica, such as Pat Hewitt. I know that the travel agents in our area know way less about traveling around Costa Rica than I do--not bragging certainly--they just haven't had the experience. It is important to find someone who knows the country well and all aspects of getting around easily.

I agree that it is completely do-able by yourself, but takes quite a lot of time and research.

For many, it would be worth it to find the expert, tell them what you are interested in, answer a few questions to give them an even better idea of how to please you, then let them set it up.
shillmac is offline  
Oct 30th, 2006, 07:17 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 590
I totally disagree that travel agents are worthless. In addition to having one person do all your footwork for you and being able to pay one person ahead of time for almost all of your services, an agent who is inside Costa Rica can offer much more. Often, they can get better rates. They also know which tour operators are having safety problems, and if you have a driver, they radio ahead to warn them of landslides, washed-out bridges, heavy traffic etc. If your car breaks down, they can get you a new one pronto. They confirm your flights so you don't have to. They will track down all the places where you might have left your passport while you are enjoying your hike in the rainforest so you don't have to do it. If a hotel messes up a reservation or gives you bad service, the agency will fix it on the spot. Everyone gives you great service because they know there is a big agency behind you that will hear about it if you aren't happy. They supply fantastic guides, drivers, and other personnel to make your trip run smoothly. I could go on and on. I always use Swiss Travel, and I'm always impressed.
Sandy
sandyc is offline  
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