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Published: December 19th 2015
Back home again! We had a great time, saw some beautiful scenery—the rain forest, the mountains, the seashore—and enjoyed some good Costa Rican seafood. But it is always good to be home, even though it is a few degrees colder here! Happy Holidays to all.
This is Margie’s blog but I get to add my comments.The people were very nice and very helpful when we had a question. There were a lot of smiles and we had a wonderful time.
On the negative side, Costa Rica is very good at sticking it to the tourists.
When we first arrive in a country, I find an ATM and get a few hundred dollars worth of the local currency. In the San Jose airport I tried to use the ATM in the baggage area and was unsuccessful. I later found I had a $3.81 BCR (Bank of Costa Rica) charge for using their equipment and not getting any money. There was an official looking currency exchange booth there and when I asked their exchange rate they said 470 colones per dollar. The official exchange rate was 532 colones per dollar. Welcome to Costa Rica.
There used to be a tax when you exited Costa Rica that was up to $29 per person and we heard horror stories of people having to go through lines more than once and almost missing their flights and sometimes people not having enough money. The Tico Times said that a few months earlier a couple of airlines included the tax in the airfare price (our airline American Airlines was one of them).
The second day I tried to use a BCR ATM and after many unsuccessful attempts I determined the most I could get out at one time was a little less that the equivalent of $95. The only reason I could come up with for this limit was that they can charge for more transaction fees. This later presented a problem when we went to Tortuguero where there was no ATM and no credit cards could be used. In the previous hotel we were a taxi ride away from the nearest ATM and needed multiple trips.
There is a 13% tax (sometimes 16%) added to restaurant and hotel bills and sometimes an additional 10% service fee is added to restaurant bills. Often access to beaches and waterfalls are private property so a charge is accessed.
There are over 20 national parks in Costa Rica and if one starts to go to many I think they would become blurred together. I think they are over-hyped and over-priced. I am sure there are people who will not agree with me. The entrance fee to Monteverde was $20 per person. We spent 5 hours getting wet and saw one coati and a half dozen non-descript birds. The entrance fee to Manuel Antonio was $16 per person for tourists (up from $10 the previous year) while the fee for locals was $3. We were the first ones into the park at 7 AM and had to wait a few minutes. There was a local guide who insisted that we pay him $65 for a two hour trip. We didn’t use guides and in talking to other people we didn’t miss much. I hate being in a group of a dozen tourists. We found that the best places to view wildlife was by following suggestions from locals and walking.
The last taxi ride was from the bus stop to the hotel. We had taken this short ride before and paid about $4. This time we were watching the meter and it slowly went up to about $4. When we stopped it jumped to over $10. I know it was just a few dollars but it p****s me off when it is accepted practice to rip people off.
We will be going to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for three weeks starting January 6. Margie will probably be blogging again but we have been there many times so it probably won’t be as much.
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