Warnings & Suggestions for CR

Old Apr 4th, 2004, 03:23 PM
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Warnings & Suggestions for CR

If you read the saga of our 2 week trip, you know we had a great time. There are things to know and consider when planning.
First,driving in Costa Rica is not for the faint of heart or nervous driver. Many of the roads are winding two laners and some potholed. The road in and out of Monteverde is in a class by itself so I am not even addressing that. Dangerous Curve and Slow are common road signs. There were many times when I had to describe the scenery because Don did not dare take his eyes off the road to appreciate the view. Second, you cannot leave anything in your car when you park it. The hotel owner in Zarcero confirmed that thieves follow tourists from Sarchi and wait for them to get out of their cars in Zarcero. In addition, a young America couple tapped on our window as we were leaving Dollar Rental to warn us. They said that they had a flat tire 5 minutes after picking up their car. Two men and a woman in the car behind them stopped to help him change his tire. When they were gone so was this couple's passports, drivers licenses, cash, credit cards, and cameras. The tire had been slashed. There are other options to renting a car that are only a few hundred dollars more and alleviate all the anxiety. At Orquedias Inn, there is a tour service that will pick you up, drive you, be your tour guide, and stay overnight to wait for you. I am away from home for a few weeks so I do not have the name but if you email Erich at Orquedias, he will put you in touch with them. I would trust any suggestions coming from Orquedias. If I had it to do over, that is what I would do.
If you do rent, check your tires every time you get back into your car.
For security of valuables when you travel,wear a money belt and keep everything you need in it with the exception of one credit card and some money. When you are at a hotel, keep them in the hotel safe. Wear your camera around your neck when you are travelling.
Whether you make reservations on your own or through a travel agent, get the local number for the hotels and other places you may want to contact. The 800 number means calling the US.
Calling cards (like Sam's) do not work in Costa Rica. For $10 you can buy a 199 card at a supermarket for long distance and local calls. You can buy lesser denominations as well.
Your high school Spanish will finally pay off. There were many places we went where no Enlish was spoken. I had travellers conversational book with me at all times and it surely helped when I had to talk to an auto mechanic. When I couldn't say it, I pointed to the line in the book and he read it. I used my Spanish many times for directions because the roads are not marked.
We had no trouble exchanging money and nothing took more than 5 minutes. We used our Visa card for hotels, better restaurants,acitivities (canopy, white water, etc.) and cashed traveller's checks in a bank in La Fortuna and Zarcero. That's another place the Spanish helped. You need colones for gas, small restaurants, and tourist shops.
Take a kit containing aspirin, eye drops, anti itch cream, etc. You can get that stuff in some places but it is easier to take it with you.
Most hotels (no matter where they are in CR)will arrange to pick you up at the airport for a fee. Even though we rented a car, it took the pressure off when we arrived at the airport. The rental companies will sometimes pick you up at your hotel later in the day. That worked out well for us because our flight left at 6PM so we did not have to return the car until we were ready to go to the airport.
We brought Deet and only used it once but we didn't need to. I would bring it but we saw very few bugs, much fewer than in Florida.
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Old Apr 4th, 2004, 06:39 PM
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marion2

I read your other comments and enjoyed them very much.
You are not the first person to comment about the driving in Costa Rica.
I had a private tour guide for the nine days I was there last November.
The cost to me was less than the vehicle rental and the cost of the gas.

I know a lot of people drive and have a good time, that is why we all have our own little quirks about holidays and what they mean to us.

But as you mentioned ,your husband could not take his eyes off the road in many places.
With the guide I had, I just sat in the front seat with him all the time and enjoyed the scenery and sites.

I even enjoyed downtown San Jose and all their tourist attractions because I did not have to drive or watch for certain street signs.

I me I had a very informative and relaxing holiday and it sure felt could being chauffered around and having everything explained to you right on the spot.

Nothing against those that drive, they are just better than Iam
Percy
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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 06:06 AM
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Just returned from one week trip to CR, drove 4x4 Nissan Terranio, enjoyed the driving immmensely, and feel that the warnings I have read here and elsewhere were overblown. Yes, Ticos pass on blind curves, and pass two cars wide at times, and yes the roads are poor, but with a bit of defensive driving, it is no more dangerous than going 80 mph in traffic on I-4 to Disney World. Probably safer.
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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 09:45 AM
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We just returned from nine days of driving around northern Costa Rica. We rented a Diahatsu Terios. We never needed the 4 wheel drive but maybe the slight gain in ground clearance helped. It's not a very rugged vehicle and I think a pick-up would have done the trick.

We had no problem with theives or tire slashers but we were certainly aware of the possibility and were warned by the rental company. At several of our hotels, there was an armed guard on the premises including the lodge in Rincon de la Vieja which is within the National Park.

We did not go to Montverde so I can't comment on those roads. We did drive from La Fortuna to Liberia along the north side of Lake Arenal. That was the worst road (because of potholes) we encountered but they are working on it.

We did not find the Ticos to drive any faster than drivers anywhere else. In fact, we found almost without exception that the local drivers were very courteous and generally drove very safely. The only problem we had was with underpowered trucks going up long grades without any passing lanes. But, this just slowed us down, it did not present any dangerous situations. And compared to Mexico, there are far more passing lanes available.

We spent a lot of time on dirt roads driving out to Rincon de la Vieja, Nosara, Montezuma, etc. and generally found these roads in good shape and almost always well signed. We never got lost. In rural areas, there is no traffic but you do have to watch out for animals especially iguanas.

We enjoyed having our car but we also realized that you do not really need one in Costa Rica. You can get anywhere by taxi, bus, or boat. In fact, if we go back to Montezuma we will not drive. You don't need a car there. Ours was parked for two days. And if you want to go to Jaco from Montezuma, it's only an hour by boat instead of hours in a car.

However, we really did enjoy our drive from Samara to Montezuma. We read about it in the National Geographic guidebook and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Imagine driving from Carmel to Big Sur before Hwy 1 was paved and then imagine that the area was still settled only by the Californos and still part of Mexico. Then, imagine that global warming has increased the temperature of the ocean by 25 degrees. That's the coast south of Samara. Beautiful!
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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 11:11 AM
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Otis, it sounds like you drove the coastal road between Samara and Montezuma. We were very strongly advised against it last summer when we were thinking about driving from Malpais to Nosara. We were told there were 3 rivers to be crossed. I am really curious about the details of your drive! Please post how it was.
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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 02:36 PM
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Otis,
I read in your posting that you stayed at a lodge in Rincon De La Vieja. Where did you stay? How did you like it (the lodge and Rincon De La Vieja)?

Thanks!
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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 03:32 PM
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Iza: We did drive from Samara to Montezuma. It's about a four hour trip but very scenic. In March, the rivers are no problem. The only problem we had was just after we drove along the beach from Rio Bongo to Playa Manzanillo (which was thrilling). There was a big festival going on which blocked the road going south for us to Malpais, so we just headed inland over to Montezuma.
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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 03:46 PM
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rjd24: We stayed at the Mountain Lodge just inside the park at Rincon de la Vieja. It was uncomfortably windy both days we were there so we cut short our stay to just one night.

Also, the quality of the service there was not up to our expectations. The meals were just basic and the one girl who spoke English was extremely busy.

The place is popular with tour groups (German and French) and can get fairly crowded. The newer cabins around the lake are much nicer than the older lodge rooms and are just $10 more per night. There was no hot water and because of the elevation, the showers were fairly brisk. There's a nice bar, small pool, and monkeys in the forest behind. Oh, and there were bats in some of the rooms.

Supposedly, the place is under new management but seemed pretty disorganized. There's plenty of help there but no one to help with your bags if you need it.

We tried calling the place a couple of times but no one ever answered who spoke any English. Other couples told us that responses to their email enquiries were either late or non-existant. We had the folks at the Best Western in Liberia call up for us to reserve the room. They also do not take any credit cards.

The best thing about the lodge is the hiking trail that leads from cabin 32 up to the hot springs. It's about 3k each way but very nice. Since you're staying at the lodge there is no Park entrance fee required to hike the trails unless you go in the main entrance. We hiked up to the hot springs and then did the loop trail through the park to the main entrance. It was very beautiful with some wildlife spotted. The wind did not bother us in the forest. The entire hike was about 11k and we did it after we checked out.
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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 08:16 PM
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Otis,
Thanks for the info---especially the bat warning! That's enough to keep me away especially with 2 little girls!

Which Best Western did you stay in in Liberia? We have a reservation our last night at El Sitio.

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Old Apr 6th, 2004, 09:49 PM
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rjd24: We didn't stay in Liberia. We just went into the Best Western south of town and asked them to call the Mountain Lodge for us. They were very helpful.
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Old Apr 7th, 2004, 07:45 AM
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I'm one of those who contacted the Mountain Lodge over and over with no response. They did send a brief response weeks after I gave up and booked other accommodations. Now I'm glad that I didn't book with them.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 10:13 AM
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Topping for shillmac
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