Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Costa Rica costs

The first day back after vacation is always rough. I just wanted to be at the beach or the pool....all day I kept looking at the clock and thinking, Oh, it's 10:30 in Costa Rica. I would be at the pool, or playing with the kitties, or anything other than shivering at my computer desk listening to the pouring rain. And then Peanut found out that his department got cut in half while we were gone. Luckily they didn't fire him in absentia, and his job seems safe for now but ugh.


Here are the costs we incurred on our fabulous sunny beach vacation:
Airfare: $1366.16
Other transportation costs: $90
Departure tax: $52.58
Postcards and stamps: $4
Food: $133

Total: $1645.74

Airfare was the killer--nearly $700 a ticket. I'd been watching the ticket prices for nearly three months and saw no variation at all. I really wanted to go when the weather here was bad and before their rainy season starts, so finally we just picked a date and bought tickets.

Other transportation was also a little more expensive than I expected. We took very early morning flights both ways, so we took a car service from our apartment to the airport. Then in Costa Rica we took a shuttle from the airport to the town my brother lives in, which is $18 per person each way. We didn't really have another choice though. We were also surprised that you have to pay a departure tax of about $26 per person to leave the country (you pay it at a bank and show your receipt at the airport).

I don't buy souvenirs, so I just got a couple of postcards and some stamps to send them to people who like stuff like that. I later found out that there is no post office in my brother's town, despite a sign for one, and no mailboxes anywhere and no box at the airport either. So I brought the postcards home with me and will mail them from here I guess.

Food was our only other expense. We stayed at my brother's condo and for fun, we went to the pool or beach or watched the condo kittens attack each other. We went out for about half our meals and cooked the other half. Grocery prices are roughly equivalent, except for peanut butter which is about $7 for a tiny jar. Restaurant prices were about the same as New York, too, although drinks were a bit cheaper.

We had saved about $1800 for our sunny beach vacation, so we came in under budget, and will keep saving for another trip in a year or so.

Other thoughts
Costa Rica is a stunningly beautiful country--volcanos, jungle/forest, beaches. My brother lives in a tourist town, so I didn't see a whole lot of stark poverty, although I'm sure it's there. Everything seemed a lot simpler--one thing that stuck out was that when a billboard expired but no one had purchased the space for the next time period, someone just painted over any logos or phone numbers, but otherwise left the images up. I guess that's a way to save money. Also, aside from tourist shopping like surf and souvenir shops and a few supermercados (which I found equivalent to a convenience store in the states, only with more staple food products), there wasn't a lot of commerce in this town. My brother and his girlfriend complained about the difficulty when they moved there of finding basics like a garbage can. There's really nothing like a Target or even a general housewares store that I saw.

Another example of the simplicity is that the airport doesn't have walls on all sides. A lot of the churches didn't either, and the restaurants were all open to the beach or the sky, so people just went barefoot or shirtless and it was awesome. I like things not being all top-collar-buttoned and sterile.

All the places we went took American dollars, and I finally figure out the conversion the day before we left. The colones money system is similar to ours in that there's a base unit: the colone. It's just that where we have cents and dollars, they just have colones, so you wind up with common things costing thousands of colones. 1000 colones (the smallest bill) is two bucks. Many people spoke English as well, although I tried to speak in Spanish whenever possible. I noticed an improvement, and I even dreamed in Spanish one night.

My other parting vacation thoughts are that I suck at taking pictures. I didn't take nearly enough, I didn't take any of our hosts, and I didn't take any of their apartment or their fabulous pool. I got lots of the condo kitties, which we were trying to socialize so that they can find homes. I'm so glad we got our engagement photos done, because otherwise I'd have almost nothing of the fun times we had there. I guess that's good though--I spent the entire vacation really in the moment enjoying the now instead of trying to document for later enjoyment.

In short, I loved this trip. I hope to go back again. And because I have to, here are the gatitos.


  1. Wow, I didn't know about the departure tax either. Thanks for letting me know. I also didn't know that traveling by car within CR was that cheap.

    I've heard that nearly everywhere takes colones. I really want to transfer all my money into colones, but maybe it's ok to have dollars?

  2. Well, it wasn't really travelling by car--it was a shuttle bus to and from the airport, $18 per person regardless of how many people they picked up (there were eight of us one way and maybe five the other). I don't know about taxis.

    I think the American/colones situation depends on where you are. We were in a tourist town in the northern part of the country, and we would pay with dollars and get colones back as change. That may not be true of everywhere.

  3. That's not too bad for a vacation, and that's awesome that you were able to stay under budget.

  4. The expenses you made for your traveling to the beach look good. Just look a bit expensive on the airfare and food. For how many meal?

  5. Let's see, that'd be meals from breakfast Thursday to lunch on Sunday--so l18 meals (9 meals times two people).


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