Backpacking in Costa Rica: The Necessities
You’ve booked your flights, your passport’s ready and you’ve got your backpack down from the attic. You’re about to pack everything you need for your trip to Costa Rica, but just hold on a sec, though.
There’s a very high chance that whatever you’ve got in your hand right now, about to be packed, is something you won’t need or use and will only serve to be a pain in the ass the whole time you’re away. I’m certainly guilty of it myself, and so is pretty much everyone else I’ve spoken to who’s passed through the hostel. Unless you’re a really seasoned backpacker and have got travelling lightly down to a fine art, I’ll bet you’re lugging around some extra, super unnecessary weight.
Let’s go through it step-by-step
You’re coming to Costa Rica. Even in rainy season, it’s going to be hot and humid. Guys and girls alike, you’ll be living in shorts or very lightweight trousers. If you’ve got the weight allowance, you might want a pair of jeans, but mine haven’t seen the light of day since I left England. The same goes for T-shirts – you want them to be light, thin and quick-drying. If you’re planning on travelling a lot around Costa Rica, then a thin raincoat or splash jacket is always useful, as is a waterproof cover which can go around your backpack. Guys: If you’re into shirts then one or two can be good, but I’ve seen enough converts who said they’d never be caught dead in a tank top to know that comfort beats style every day. Girls: One or two light sundresses can be good, especially for relaxing in beachier areas like Playa Jacó, but as soon as you head to the mountains of Monteverde or the jungles of Limón the more practical clothing will take over. Wherever you are you’ll probably spend a lot of time in flip-flops or sandals, but it’s a good idea to have some trainers or tennis shoes with you for any more active pursuits. It’s common sense – if you’re going to head into wilder terrain, have a think about whether you want frogs or insects crawling over your toes. If not, pack some hiking boots or something with grip that comes higher up the ankle.
You won’t be finding a Topman or a Forever21 whilst shopping in Jacó, but our tiendas do sell everything from socks to sandals to swimwear, so not to worry if you have forgotten anything, and if you’re searching for Oakley or Roxy beachwear, look no further!
I know. It’s really tempting to bring every single one of the lotions and potions you use back home with you on your trip. If you’ve got one magic item which you really can’t live without, then sure, bring it along. For the most part, though, you’ll find either something very similar if not the same in the supermarkets out here. It might be a little more expensive than you’re used to, but if it means saving even up to 2kg in weight, a few hundred colones won’t go amiss. Despite being in a totally different country, you will recognize a lot of your normal brands: Gillette, Pantene, Garnier, Herbal Essences, Nivea, Olay – they’re all here. The bug spray you can buy here is generally pretty effective too, and I find the ‘OFF’ range of products works best for me. Girls: If you use make-up wipes, these do tend to be quite a lot more expensive (at least compared to what I know), coming in at around ȼ5000 (£5.70 / $9.23 / 7.20 euro), so keep that in mind.
When we’re travelling, we’ve all got little things that we like to have with us. For some people it’s a journal, for some it’s a piece of jewellery, for others it’s a cuddly toy (mine is a furry miniature wild boar, thanks for asking!). If you’ve got the weight allowance, this is great. When you’re hostel-hopping in what might be a totally new place for you, it’s important to feel like you’ve still got a little piece of home. We had a guy here the other day who brought a kilt and sporran with him; maybe a little extreme, but whatever floats your boat – at least it’s a well-travelled kilt! Seriously, make yourself as comfortable as possible and you’ll get so much more out of your trip.
Whether it’s your phone, iPad, a little disposable or a huge SLR with interchangeable lenses, you really want to have some sort of camera with you. The wildlife and scenery you’ll find here is incredible – and you’re sure to make a whole load of new friends on your Central American travels so it’s great to have some mementos you can look back at when you return to the real world.
Moral of the story:
Go through your things and decide if you really need everything you’ve got laid out. I promise you, you won’t be alone if you choose to live the life of a gringo in Costa Rica, wearing the standard uniform of shorts, t-shirt and sandals. We hope you’ll start your adventure, backpacking in Costa Rica at Room2Board!