I have to admit it, I am a list enthusiast when it comes down to packing my bags for traveling. I write down the things that I definitely shouldn't leave at home and the ones, I'd like to bring for convenience and when it's finally time to get out the suitcase and start packing, I'm gathering all things on said list and the fun as well as the stuffing begins.
Yes, I know, that is a very German habit but I don't mind packing bags as longs as it's not right before my homeward journey but again, who likes packing when the holidays are about to end?
But there are also people like my best friend, which usually also has to serve as my traveling companion, who hate packing from scratch. Doesn't matter if it's right before leaving for a trip or just before traveling back home. And since she's probably not the only one, I came to the conclusion of creating a packing list for packing-phobic people just like her, with all the essentials you should bring for traveling to a tropical country like Costa Rica, so you don't have to ponder excessively on what your bag should contain.
Well, besides the usual things like shorts, sunglasses, t-shirts, flip-flops and obviously a bikini or boardshorts, it depends on where exactly in Costa Rica you want to go wether to bring long clothes or not.
If you planning on visiting areas like Monteverde, Ricon de la Vieja or Volcano Arenal National Park, you should definitely bring long pants, not less than one Hoodie, a rain jacket and trekking shoes or at least sturdy shoes, especially when you're planning on traveling during green season (also known as rainy season) from Mai to November. Temperatures in those areas are a bit lower than the usual 35°C / 95°F.
Side note: I, personally, think that June, July or August are the best months to visit the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Not too crowded since it's out of season but not as rainy as it is during September and October.
Besides long clothing, you should bring a protective housing for your camera (if present), if you're touring national parks like the Cloud Forest in Monteverde. Massive humidity typically prevails the Cloud Forest during green season and as fascinating as it is to see, your camera equipment will probably surrender due to that dampness if not in a protective housing. During dry season, you won't need one but there's also no fog inside the Cloud Forest.
A further, very important point on my list is mosquito repellent. It doesn't matter if you don't like that stuff, I know it smells awful and I don't like it either, but you will definitely want it. There are less mosquitos during dry season but if you're traveling during green season, mosquito repellent will become your best friend. Autan Tropical Mosquito repellent works just fine and recently discovered Anti Brumm Forte, which works absolutely perfect towards mosquitos. Nevertheless, you should bring something to treat mosquito bites and reduce the itching. Some of you might already heard of Ballistol, an oil that is usually used for lubricating, cleaning or protecting firearms, leather gear, wood or similar but Ballistol also produces a product called Neo-Ballistol Home Remedy (Neo-Ballistol Hausmittel), which works just fine for treating mosquito bites, if you don't want to use an antihistamine containing drug. If you tend to react allergic to mosquito bites, like I do, Neo-Ballistol won't work and you should bring a product, containing a minimum amount of cortisone, with you.
Even if it's cloudy, the sun is very strong in Costa Rica and you should definitely not forget your waterproof sunscreen and if you get sunburned anyway, a sunburn lotion after a long day on the beach will do the trick.
Next up would be adapters. You will need them, if you're visiting from outside of the United States or Japan. Costa Rica has A/B as its socket type. Same type as in whole North America and parts of the Caribbean, South America and Asia. Line voltage in Costa Rica is at 120V.
Official currency is the Costa Rican Colón, also known as colones. You can also in dollars as well. Usually, every place around Costa Rica accepts them but you will receive your change in colones and at a very bad exchange rate, especially at gas stations. So best is to enter with dollars and change your money at a local bank or – even better – bring a credit card and withdraw your colones on-site. Current trading rate is 1 USD = 552 CRC.
If you're choosing to rent a car, don't forget to bring a map or just use Google maps on your smartphone. It works perfectly fine and since Google has now introduced offline maps, you don't even need to exhaust your mobile internet connection. Only thing to be aware of is, neither Google nor a simple map will show you if you there's a bridge built across a river or not. If you're not sure, always ask someone who knows the route your taking.
Talking about using a smartphone brings me to one thing, you can't bring from home but you should buy locally, if planning on staying longer. A pay-as-you-go SIM card by kolbi ICE, local telephone company.
Little shops are selling those SIM cards around Costa Rica or you could buy one right away at the international airport of San José, which has an ICE desk. Mobile data as well as calls are very cheap in Costa Rica, so you won't have charge much on your SIM card.
And that would be it. My packing essentials for Costa Rica. There is only one thing left, you should bring with you, if you want to unwind besides all the hiking and exploring and that would be a good book for your hammock-afternoon.
Until then, happy traveling