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Transport… getting from A to B… wait what about C to D???

The moment has arrived… your flight has landed… What’s that I hear you saying? “The turbulence shook me up a little”, don’t worry, some flights can be a little bumpy, but you’re here, you’ve arrived, and you’re ready to dive into your next adventure… after a little snooze.

So your first challenge on your trip… get out of the obstacle course known as “The Airport” and make your way to your hotel.

Yes yes, you want to know how, I’m getting to that bit…

Ok, our options in general are airport transfer, cab, train, or bus.

Let me go through these one by one…

Airport transfer – Potentially one of the more expensive options, although this relies on you being organised and booking ahead of your arrival. With this option you need to book your airport transfer with your hotel before you start your journey, although, this assumes you’re staying in a hotel, you may have chosen to go for something a little more rural. So thinking about this option? Do you want to walk out of your flight to see a driver holding up a piece of paper with your name on it? Sounds fancy I know.

Cab from the airport – There are a lot of cabs “hanging around” outside the airport, and many companies in all shapes and sizes having set up shop within the airport. These cabs can be both official and unofficial and depending on the destination, there are specific characteristics that official cabs have, this is where I am going to say one thing… do your research. I always say go for the official cabs, it may be a little more expensive, but it is the safer option. This option is often cheaper than doing an airport transfer but I have one question for you about this option and all other options below… Do you have local currency to pay for the cab? Oops… go and check if the company will take whatever currency you have? If not then go get some currency converted… quick…

Train – This option depends on where you are in the world. If there is a train that goes from the airport to near your hotel, woohoo, that is an ideal scenario for quick and easy transfer but this option is not always available.

Bus – Perhaps the cheapest of all these option, and is truly the best option if you are travelling on a shoestring, is this you? A bus has never been my favourite mode of transport but hey, sometimes it is the best option, so I say again, do your research. You do have an advantage with the bus in that it will often stop at several places, but just make sure it is going in the direction of your hotel.

On your first day, my suggestion would be pick the option that is the easiest and gets you to your hotel the quickest. Once at the hotel, have a short (or long) break, and then think of onward travel, when there may be even more options.

For onward travel, I’ve found using a shuttle/minibus is often a good option, and there are many reputable companies that you can find in many destinations, but if there are atleast 3-4 of you, and if you are travelling a long distance, go for a private shuttle, its just more comfortable.

What do you think???

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Flights Part 2… How to book???

You’re sat there, scratching your head, making your decisions with the following results:

  • Destination… Check
  • Dates… Check
  • Budget… Check
  • Comfort… Check
  • Airline… Check… Sort of… You’ll have an inkling…

Now I’m sure you want to get the deed done, you want to find flights to your next adventure, ok we are getting to that bit now…

Tell me something, how do you normally book your flights? I have a few ways that you can find a flight… keep reading…

1 – The “old fashioned” way via a Travel Agent – You may already be aware of this method, you go to a travel agent on your local high street, tell them where, when, for how long, and you’ll be given the cheapest flight for those dates. In this scenario you can either accept this flight or ask further questions, sometimes this really is the best option as travel agents sometimes have special deals with some airlines so make sure you at least enquiry through this route. 

2 – The “modern” way, in other words using a price comparison website – This is similar to what a travel agents do for you but the “power” is now in your hands. When you go to such websites, you need to enter your travel destination(s) and dates, and you are shown a long list of airlines, departure/arrival dates, and most importantly for some, a range of prices. There are a couple of advantages to this method as follows:

  • As with travel agents price comparison websites sometimes have special deals.
  • You can choose multiple destinations, flying in and out from different places.
  • You can select only airlines that you are willing to use and screen out those that you don’t line.

Here are a few price comparison websites that I use and that you may find useful:

3 – “Go direct” to the airline(s) of your choice – Sometimes it really is about going direct. Your next option is go to your airline of choice’s website site and compare these separately to the price comparison websites. I find this varies from region to region, for example, for travelling to Asia, I prefer using Qatar or Emirates, this is just me, you may have different preferences, but I would always check their websites separately as well as going through price comparison websites. Of course if your preference is budget airlines, Easyjet to many destinations and are worth looking at as well.

Finding flights is not the easiest of tasks but I hope the information that I have given you helps to find your perfect set of flights.

On a final note, food for thought, if you are going travelling and will be going to multiple destinations, you don’t have to book a muti-destination flight. I feel your eye opening wider and your attention peaking. Yes you don’t have to do this multi-destination business, why not try to book multiple individual single flights, you may find this a cheaper option giving you exactly the same flight as you would have via the multi-destination option. Think about it, try it, book it, and let me know how your booking experience was….

Today’s traveller, signing out….

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Flights Part 1… What to do???

Having decided on where to go on your next adventure, are you going to fly like an eagle??? Well maybe not like an eagle, hopefully inside a plane? 

If you do then your next challenge will be getting the best value for money on your flight as there are a near infinite number of flights that you can choose from… Where on earth do you begin??? I don’t mean where on earth literally, that would be your home city, you know what I mean…

Now as always, I am going to ask you to make a decision. There are four questions that I am now going to throw at you:

1 – How much are you willing to spend on your flights? If you have a money tree growing in your back garden, then by all means, first class will give you the most luxurious time in flight. If however you feel more like you have a black hole in your pockets and your money doesn’t seem to hang around for very long, then you are more likely to vote for the economy cabin. Ok, we’ll say you’ve chosen economy, you still need to set yourself a budget for how much you are willing to spend. Do you know this figure?

2 – Are you taking a long haul or short haul flight? In other words is it going to be a 200 hour (yes I know a slight exaggeration) marathon flight, or a two hour flight to that place just down there.

3 – Are you more concerned with price or comfort? Is it value for money that you are looking for ? i.e. the cheapest flight available to your destination of choice, or are you looking for a journey where the economy cabin will give you a good nights sleep, FOOOOD, and a tonne of entertainment?

4 – How much baggage do you want to take – Are you a backpacker? Are you a fan of the traditional suitcase, or are you the extreme minimalist. This makes a big difference as if you are a budget flyer you often will only be able to take a small backpack/bag in the cabin without an extra charge, meanwhile. Backpack or suitcase makes a big difference as well with suitcases often being heavier than backpacks (because you can take more) and baggage allowance in general often being 20-30kg, varying between airlines, this is something you will need to consider.

It is essential for you to answer these four questions before booking your flight. All four questions don’t have a fixed answer but there is in fact a spectrum, how much money do you want to spend on travel? How far do you want to go? How important is the cost of the flight to you? How important is comfort to you in-flight? How many “essentials” do you want to take with you?

If you really want to do detailed research then I would suggest going to a website that I have recommended once before. This website will show you data on the airlines, seats, and feedback on various elements of these airlines… https://www.airlinequality.com.

No before you as I am not sponsored by this website, I just feel it gives you good information to help make your journey as comfortable as possible, yes comfort is something that I value…

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Money, money, money… oh and travel too…

Money… Ok now that I have your attention…

Let me guess, you’ve booked your next adventure, it’s approaching quickly, next month… next week… tomorrow?

If your adventure starts tomorrow what are you doing reading this blog? Your backpack is still half empty, hurry up and finish packing!!!

On a serious note picture this… your next holiday is booked and you are thinking “What should I do about keeping money with me on holiday?” This is where I can give you some tips… Have you had your caffeine fix? Ready to pay attention?

Now when money is involved there have historically been two different options… can you guess what they are? Yes you’re right, its cash and travellers cheques. These two have been around for donkey’s years so you could be forgiven for thinking this is where the buck stops… 

Oh but there are many more options… with the advent of the modern age and digitisation of the economy we were introduced to card based transactions, these cards are not just for use at home, they can be used abroad during your many many adventures as well…

To simplify things these are the options that you have, all of which I will be talking about:

1 – Cash

2 – Travellers cheques

3 – Cards 

To start with there is and will always be (possibly), the all mighty cash. I will always recommend someone to keep 3 different types of cash on them:

1 – Your home currency – This one is purely a backup of a backup and hide it so temptation doesn’t find it. The reason I say take some of this with you is because you don’t want to end up in the situation where you have run out of cash, as you typically do on your journey back home, and you don’t have any way of getting a cab. You want your journey back to be as stress free as possible.

2 – Destination local currency – This one is so in particular on arrival at your destination airport, you don’t have to stress about trying to find somewhere to convert your money to local currency and at the very least you can grab a cab and get to your first true destination. Now this format of currency is one that you may want to bring more of but it is dependant on exchange rate. If the exchange rate is greatly variable at the time of your holiday, you may not want to take a lot of local currency with you. In addition if you are going to a small country with more rural than urban areas, their local currency may not be available in your home country readily and as a result it may prove difficult to obtain a large amount or any amount of this currency. I personally say you should have some of this, I would try and source enough to cover at least half of my holiday in local currency.

3 – US Dollar $ – Now this one is the saviour (sort of). As I said above your destination’s home currency may not be available in your home country, but the US Dollar will almost certainly be available as it is one of the few currencies that almost all countries will accept, at least in the larger institutions. With the US Dollar you have two options, the first of which is to use this as an intermediary currency that you can exchange into your destination’s local currency at your destination, this depends on how readily your home currency is available as an exchange currency across the world. The second option is to use the US Dollar as your currency of choice whilst on holiday, which is accepted practice in a number of countries as I have seen in Cambodia and Costa Rica. You have to be aware of one thing though, if you use the US Dollar as your currency of choice, at least in the smaller institutions at your destination i.e. markets, the exchange rate that they give you may mean that the product/service that you purchase would work out to be a lot more expensive than it would in the local currency. The most savvy way to pay whilst abroad is to use the local currency.

Does this give you an idea how the value of having cash? Do bear in mind that in the more rural countries, the facility may not be available to use any other means of payment other than cash. This is true at least in a proportion of the destinations, and in particular those that are off the beaten path…

Travellers cheques… You may be fond if this if you remember a time before the world was conquered but the all powerful card!!! Millennials may be stumped with confusion here…. Ok listen up millennials, time for a history lesson… Travellers cheques are essentially like buying a Love2Shop voucher in your home currency, that is backed by the issuing bank because you’ve already paid for it. You would take it to a bank or other institution abroad where it would be converted to local currency cash but ID would need to be provided as it would be in a set person’s name. The benefit was that if the traveller’s cheques were stollen, they could be cancelled meaning you don’t lose you money, where as if you had cash it would be lost.

All joking aside, travellers cheques were once a gold standard method of taking money with you on your travels, but now like with all other forms of cheque, their use has declined. If you are comfortable with these, you can still use them but these may not be accepted in many places aside from large institutions such as major banks at your destination.

Now we step forth into the modern era… And again… Multiple options… Decisions decisions, where does it end? Don’t worry this is the last option that I will be talking about so here goes…

With cards now there are three different options; credit card, debit card and a pre-paid travel card. Here you can also include options like ApplePay, although used widely in the developed economies, may not be so readily used in other countries. With these options there a millions of different cards you can choose depending on your home country so this is where I will have to leave the research in your hand.

Here is a link for those of you who are in the UK, this is a site that I use a fair bit and you may find useful as well https://travelmoney.moneysavingexpert.com/

One thing that I can say however, is that VISA and Mastercard are generally accepted in most countries and although you may get a better deal on some less well known card companies, VISA and Mastercard are usually a safe bet.

Oh don’t forget, before you take your card with you, let your bank know where you are going, you don’t want to find you’re on holiday trying to use your card and turns out it’s declined.

There are two things that you want to check, regardless of whether the card the you chose to use is a credit, debit or prepaid card.

1 – Fees on use – Make sure the card you use has no fees on purchases and withdrawals as this would be throwing money away, quite literally. Do however bear in mind that in a lot of countries ATM machines do apply a small charge to withdrawals regardless of which card you use.

2 – Exchange rate – This one will require a fair bit of research. Using comparison websites will help you with this but it may still be a tricky one to get your head around. Many websites do quote their exchange rates regardless of the type of card and you’ll soon start to see a trend so try to shop around. This will also impact you whilst withdrawing money from an ATM so try to withdraw in local currency as your card provider will work out the exchange rate that way.

I hope this has helped and if you need any more information please to let me know.

Here is a curveball for you now, particularly for those of who living in the post modern futuristic era… You know what I mean… Yes Cryptocurrency… I know I know, this is a controversial topic and this would start up a debate in itself, but there are countries across the world where Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ripple are being used at ATM machines, this could be an idea for those of you who like to try new things and are not afraid to take risks. Maybe you have already tried this, let me know of your experiences…

I’d love to hear what options you have decided to go with.

You're all excited, you've booked your holiday, you've got time off work, but wait, what about money??? No no, your local currency won't do, well not for the most of us, this post will tell you what you should know about travel money, what are the options? how much do you know? I want to hear from you!
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Why must that seat recline?

Last September I went on holiday and yes you could be forgiven for thinking “What’s the big deal about going on holiday?”. This holiday was in fact my first solo trip… eeek! Today’s post isn’t about the holiday, you’ll hear about that shortly. Instead this post is related to the journey leading up to the first destination… Hope you agree with what you read…

My holiday involved going halfway across the world, taking two flights, and more than 18 hours to complete… Why oh why can planes not go any faster?? I do have a habit of going off on a tangent, but back to the point.

Seats and reclining! Don’t be that person… This is not a post for those of you in front, but for those of you behind, my sympathies…

Yes I know what you’re thinking… “What on earth is this guy talking about…”.

Give me a moment, you will soon know what I am talking about.

With flights being one of the most common forms of long haul travel, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you used one airline or another during your last holiday. Tell me something… Are you a celebrity having booked a luxurious first class seat? Did you go on a work trip and have quite comfy business seats? Or are you like me and did you book economy seats in one of the many millions of airlines that are available today?

I’ll keep the focus of this post on economy seats. There is a lot to think about when booking your flight in relation to the seats alone; width, pitch, and even the number of seats in each row. Tell me, how many of you actually looked at this stuff when you last booked a flight. The reality is, when most people book a flight, they look at the price of the ticket and nothing else. I would recommend doing this research before your next flight, in particular seat width, pitch, and airline rating, I always check out https://www.airlinequality.com, try doing the same, you’ll find a tonne of useful information on that website.

Now… Seats…

Let me tell you a story… As you already know I went on holiday last September. I took a flight. I did my research and ended up choosing Qatar as the airline that I travelled with, and of course, an economy seat. Anyone who has flown with any airline knows that there is a foldable mini table and a small LCD screen integrated into the back of the seat in front of you… Oh and the main topic of this post… these seats can recline.

I’m predicting two different responses from people who read this post. 

The first response will be “What’s the big deal?”, which will be from the following people:

1 – The recliners

2 – Those who don’t fly economy

3 – Those who don’t fly

The second response will be “OH HOW I HATE THOSE RECLINERS”, and this will be from:

1 – Everyone else in the economy cabin

You may be wondering whose perspective I’ll be coming from next, rest assured I belong to the “Everyone else in the economy cabin” group and I cannot stand reclined seats.

So back to last September… I generally opt for window seats as I enjoy looking outside the window and seeing the clouds go by, I don’t know I guess it appeals to the little kid in me.

All is fine and dandy until the guy in front of me decides to recline his seat… The only question I have here is “Why?”, I can not see why anyone would need to recline such seats. Imagine this scenario, you’re at work, sitting on a standard seat for hours on end, do you recline those seats? No, you wouldn’t, but you do on an aeroplane, purely because you can, and you want an experience that’s above the basic economy experience. You might think “Why shouldn’t I recline my seat? I want to be comfortable”, but I think you’ve forgotten something… There is someone sitting behind you!!!

Now back to my story… There I was sitting at my window seat, and a few hours in, I believe it was dark outside now, the person sitting in front of me decided to recline his seat. The first thought that went through my head was “Woah!!”. Within the “recliners there are a subset, those people who recline their seat slightly, and those who go all the way. I must admit I don’t mind those who recline their seat slightly, its tolerable. Those people who want to go all the way down are the people who I find very hard to tolerate. 

There are two main reasons why people behind don’t like reclined seats. The first reason is if the seat comes all the way down, the seat gets quite close to your face, into your personal space, and it can feel quite claustrophobic in this scenario. The second reason will affect the taller passengers more, but may have an impact on everyone, when the seat comes down you may find your knees feel the squeeze. For me both of these reasons had an equally large impact and it led to some drastic action on my part. Before I carry on, I have to say don’t judge, I’m sure you all have done something like this at some stage. So here I go, as the seat went beyond a tolerable level, I intentionally used my knees to stop it going any further. I know this may be controversial for some of you, and especially for the recliners themselves, but the recliners need to understand that they need to be considerate to the people behind them as they may face the same inconvenience from in front of them at some stage in the future.

So what has been the effect of this on me… I have stopped selecting window seats and have been opting for aisle seats going forward. I feel the advantage of this is that if the person in front of me does decide to fully recline, at least I can stick my head out into the aisle, thereby preventing that sense of claustrophobia and invasion of personal space.

Recliners…I tell you this, think of your fellow man and woman, don’t be that person… don’t recline!!!

If you’re a traveller you must have flown on at least some of your travels. Along the way I’m sure you  have used economy seats on the flight at some stage. Did you have anyone sitting in front of you? Did  that person recline their seat when you were trying to get comfortable in your seat? This is what my post is  about. Which group do you fall into???

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Wait… Stop… Who pays how much???

Have you ever found yourself asking this question “Who pays how much?”

Ok so picture this… You are on holiday with your friends, you pay for a cab to the hotel, one friend pays for snacks, while another pays for an activity that you do later in the day. You decide to “sort it out” later and when later comes you all end up faffing about with your calculators out trying to figure out who owes what to whom.

Let me tell you a story… On my last trip I found myself in a the following scenario. I was on holiday with two friends. We started off splitting costs evenly but found ourselves in the scenario where one person would cover the cost of an entire activity and then we would put our heads together at the end of the day to pay that person back. Now one day, we were at Soda Viquez, an unmissable restaurant in La Fortuna, and we were seated next to another small group having the same dilemma of how to split their costs. Thats when I heard one of them talk about Splitwise.

For those of you who have never heard of Splitwise, it’s an app that you can download to your phone. Once downloaded and set up, you can connect with friends, add expenses in various/multiple currencies, and Splitwise will do all the calculations for you saving that headache of doing the sums. The good thing about this app is not just that this app will do the maths, you can also tell it that only two out of three people contributed to a cost, then it’ll work out what the third person owes, quite handy if you ask me.

For all those accountants out there, yes you know who I mean, Splitwise also gives you a spreadsheet with a running tally of expenses, feel free to print and file this for your records….

I’m a fan of Splitwise and I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t have to wait until you go on holiday use this app, you can use it for any group activity… Are you planning to go to an escape room tomorrow? Are you due to go for drinks over the weekend? Have you bought a present and you need to share the cost with colleagues? Theres an endless number of uses to this app, how do you plan to make use of it? Let me know…

On that thought, I’m Today’s traveller and I’ll be back with another strange and entertaining post soon…

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“To backpack or not to backpack?” That really is the question

It’s that age old question isn’t it? Should you backpack or take a suitcase with you?

Some hail backpacking as the next big thing since sliced bread, ok maybe that’s taking it a bit too far, but you know what I mean, backpacking is very popular today, not just amongst avid travellers but also with the average joe of travellers. What would you do?

Don’t judge me, but I gave into the hype, and bought a backpack… I did this just before my last holiday thinking “let’s give this a go”. You know what… I actually enjoyed having a backpack instead of having a suitcase.

I did a fair bit of research before buying my backpack and decided to go for an Osprey backpack. Yes, I know some of you will say “I don’t want to spend that much money on a backpack”, sure there are a lot of different backpacks available in various sizes and dimensions but here’s why I bought this specific backpack. I know you’re probably thinking, “If I get a backpack, all my clothes will get creased up and everything will be everywhere” but there is one thing that I have to tell you… Not all backpacks were created equal!

When you think of a backpack, you probably think of one big sack that you fill in from the top. When I did my research I found two major types of backpack, first there is the kind that opens at the top (and also at the bottom), secondly there is the kind of backpack that I have where a zip allows the backpack to open the whole way around. A lot of backpacks also come with a mini day-bag attachment to help you in your daytime exploration.

Below I’m putting one link for one of each type of backpack to aid you in your research.

Why does a backpack appeal to me?

            A backpack is easier to transport being strapped to my back and therefore easier to move from place to place.

            There is a limited amount of space in the backpack, which means I also limit the amount of “essentials” that with me.

The fact that the entire backpack will go onto my back, I will only take as much as I can carry thereby guaranteeing I don’t go over the airline’s weight limit (No I don’t mean me, I mean the luggage!).

Why do I feel a backpack may not be right for you?

            A backpack is definitely heavy, if you aren’t keen on carrying a tonne on your back, this may not be the option for you.

            If you plan to stay at one resort throughout your trip, a backpack may not be ideal.

            Are you going to travel mainly on flat terrain? (i.e. on roads when moving from cab to hotel) then a suitcase may be a better idea as a lot of suitcases have wheels these days.

            Do you like to have a slightly larger amount of “essentials” with you on holiday? Then a suitcase may be better than a backpack for you.

The time has come for me to leave the decision in your hands, good luck…

Let me know if you decide to take a backpack with you on your next adventure 😉

To backpack? or not to backpack? That really is the question.
Today's modern traveller is either a solo or group traveller, but either way will be looking for an adventure, does this sound like you?
If it does, you will want to know if a backpack is right for you, and that's what you'll read about in this post.
Tell me if you agree, looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

https://amzn.to/2Htoe3U

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B014EBKYDS/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B014EBKYDS&linkCode=as2&tag=todaystravell-21&linkId=743e5f0e5e65bc22886e127f49b1bc8b

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B06WLLRJ73/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B06WLLRJ73&linkCode=as2&tag=todaystravell-21&linkId=e1abe0e19f6b94f8628eabe56b0d43ba

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N4GX5BR/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B01N4GX5BR&linkCode=as2&tag=todaystravell-21&linkId=cf091975679664ac9c9f22562a52bf92

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I might bring a book with me…

I’m going to stop you right here.

Flights can be very boring, especially if you don’t enjoy any of the movies that are playing on the in-flight entertainment system…. “Hmm… I wonder if the latest Marvel movie will be playing on my next flight?”… There he goes getting distracted again…

I’ts not just the flight that you may be getting concerned with, maybe you’re a solo traveller, maybe you have a significant amount of travel planned between destinations on your adventure, and yes you probably like to read, I myself quite enjoy a good book.

There is one thing that I want you to think about here, well two things. First you want to think about how much space you actually have, do you have enough space for one or more books, are you bringing hand luggage only or check-in luggage as well. The second factor is weight, books can be quite heavy so you want to think about whether you are both able and willing to carry the weight the the book(s) add to your remaining luggage.

We will come to the debate around backpacks and suitcases on the next entry of this blog…. I know this will be on your mind at this stage.

If you read my last post then you may have seen the attachment, and from that also the fact that I have got a Kindle (Disclaimer: other brands of e-reader are also available). I don’t use the Kindle very much, I prefer reading physical books but while travelling, I just can’t justify bringing a big book when a small e-reader is available….

The links below will show you all the information you need to decide whether you want a Kindle or not….

https://amzn.to/2Htoe3U

Shhh, dont tell anyone, I’m also adding links for a couple of books that I like, just in case…

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Pura Vida – An Idea Of How To Spend 12 Days In Costa Rica

A big hello from Today’s Traveller, hope you find what you’re looking for in this blog.

I’ve heard a rumour, whispers in the wind, the message says you are looking to go on an adventure to a land in the west, somewhere in Central America, a place where they speak Spanish and Pura Vida is their way of life, a place called Costa Rica!!!

So first thing’s first, the essentials of what to know before travelling.

The national currency of Costa Rica is the Colon (CRC), also referred to as Colones. You may be thinking, “ok, so I need to convert some money to Colones”, yes you’re right but there’s a twist to the story, another currency is widely accepted almost anywhere that you go in Costa Rica, the US Dollar. Now if you’re from the US then you have an advantage here, but don’t worry everyone else, that’s not the whole story. Although US Dollars (USD) are widely accepted, the conversion rates vary significantly between businesses. When I travelled to Costa Rica the exchange rate between USD and CRC was a little over 600CRC to 1USD. Now when spending USD, the highest rate that I’d received was 600, whilst the lowest was 500, as you see a significant difference. My advice is take some USD and some CRC, if necessary you can always convert USD to CRC at local banks, who will give you a decent rate.

Food is the next thing that you’ll want to know about. A typical meal in Costa Rica consists of rice and beans, which tends to be very tasty indeed, although depending on your tastebuds, tabasco sauce is readily available to add a bit of fire to your meal. Restaurants can vary in price but quite often tend to be expensive with big city prices catering for the large numbers of tourists. An alternate option is to try out Sodas, which are cheaper and a good source of local foods with massive portions in many cases. Even Sodas do vary from place to place but once you start exploring, you’ll soon discover those worth going to.

When setting up an itinerary you should first think about what you want to do on your holiday? Are you a sun worshipper, living for the beach? Are you an explorer at heart, looking for an adventure? For me it was about the adventure so during the early parts of my trip I was on the go a fair bit, but don’t worry, the last few days were spent chilling at the beach.

One last general point to be aware of, this is a country of early risers, don’t lie in or you’ll miss out of valuable time to explore. In all but the towns known for their nightlife, you will see everything close by 10pm, so plan your time wisely.

When in Costa Rica if you are referred to as a Tico or Tica, then they think your a local (latino), take it as a compliment 😉

Location 1 – San Jose – Day 1

San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica. I arrived at San Jose airport and the flight was a fairly late arrival so it was straight to the hotel. I personally am not a big fan of city stays so exploring San Jose really wasn’t on the cards, meaning it was just a stop over on the way to the next destination, but if this is your cup of tea, then check out the museum, national theatre and markets.

Being my first day, I opted to go for a cab on my journey to Manuel Antonio. In hindsight I should have taken a minibus as the roads tend to be bumpy in this area and a cab is not necessarily the most comfortable method of transportation. Also bear in mind that not all cabbies will be willing to do the on average 4 hour travel between locations.

Location 2 – Manuel Antonio – Days 2 and 3

My first real destination was Manuel Antonio, an ideal location if you are looking for a mix of a national park and beaches. At this destination I stayed at Milennium hostel, which has an amazing vibe to it. This hostel is right on the doorstep of the national park and is a good shout for private rooms.

Manuel Antonio national park entrance is around $16pp and is open from 7am to 4pm but closed on Mondays. I would recommend getting here early in the day if you want to spend time at the beach within the national park, but beware the monkeys and racoons, yes I saw some at the beach. There are two beaches within the national park, Playa Espadilla Sur

and Playa Manuel Antonio, you can take your pick here but it is definitely worth going to at least one of these. While walking through the national park you can go solo or hire a guide but keep an eye out for various animals, with monkeys perhaps being the most common and the sloth being ever elusive.

Night time walking tour is something that you can try for $19pp, this is something that a nature enthusiast will appreciate 

as you do get to take pictures through a telescope, although beware, there is a lot of walking involved.

In Costa Rica where ever you go you’ll see they love “happy hour”, which quite often starts from about 4pm.

The local beer in Costa Rica is Imperial, ask for Michelado, which means they give you a glass one quarter filled with lemon juice and a bottle of beer on the side. Another option is to make it a Mexichelado, only available in certain places but has additional chilli tomato juice and definitely gets my vote.

Manuel Antonio is a very small place with one street leading to the national park and various beaches, You are sure to see your fill of monkeys here even when you think you’re just sitting down for a meal at somewhere like Marlins Restaurant, the monkeys don’t shy away, keep one hand on your camera and the other hand on your food….

There are a number of ways to travel from one place to the next in Costa Rica, although for long distances, a minibus/shuttle service such as Interbus is a good option to use. I used a shared shuttle from Manuel Antonio to get to my next destination La Fortuna costing $45pp. Bear in mind if you’re savy, you can get a private shuttle and if there are 3-4 of you, this may work out cheaper (and a lot more comfortable) than a shared shuttle, which would have 7-8 people in it.

Location 3 – La Fortuna – Days 4, 5 and 6

This destination is truly one that must be built into your itinerary.

When you arrive, you see the marvel that is the Arenal volcano. If you had your heart set on climbing to the top of this volcano, you will be disappointed as you can only go up to the base of it. All is not lost though, there is much more to see in La Fortuna.

If taking amazing pictures is your thing then the hanging bridges are not to be missed. The Mistico hanging bridges park is the name of this unmissable location. It contains a 2 mile trail over 16 hanging bridges, it’s a bit of a walk and it’s likely to take around an hour and half to get through the entire trail, but it is worth it and some of the bridges have views that are truly spectacular, get ready to pose…

Another great activity is white water rafting. I did rafting with the company Arenal rafting at level III/IV on Balsa river. As a first time rafter this is terrifying but also a lot of fun. Now if you’re thinking “I can’t swim, let’s skip this activity” I will say don’t worry, you have a life jacket on you and there is a guide with you in the raft, for those times when you “accidentally” fall out of the raft.

Lastly, for me anyway, there was the Baldi hot springs. There are a few hot springs in La Fortuna, the three main ones are Paradise, Baldi, and Tabacon. Baldi is one that I had heard good things about and it’s midrange in price too, when in doubt go for the middle option, and Baldi did not disappoint. Baldi has a variety of springs, hot, cold, a variety in between, and even cold pools within the very hot ones. Keep a couple of things in mind, you’ll need a towel, which you can get for a $10 refundable deposit, and it is best to start a tab at the main bar so you can put your valuables in the lockers.

Now picture this… you’re in a hot spring and you fancy a drink… you may think you’ll have to go outside to the bar, is that so? Not here, you actually have a couple of hot springs with a bar right in the middle, yes yes a crazy thought, but worth experiencing, and while you’re there, why not try a Pura Vida cocktail. When in Costa Rica….

Booking the tours can be a daunting task with stories of lots of scams out there. Jungle tours is one that proved reliable  for me and at a good price too. I managed to get rafting, entrance at Baldi along with dinner for a total of $88pp, quite a good price compared to others selling the same activities (remember a degree of haggling is almost expected).

I mentioned earlier that you should try a Soda, where better than Soda Viquez, its a great local restaurant and the portions are ginormous.

You’ve found yourself want to go for a few drinks in the evening, not sure where you should go, definitely give this place a try, its called Restaurante Nanku. Now this is the place where you really have to try a chilli guaro shot, it is literally rocket fuel, (Beware – you must be able to handle chilli, don’t say you weren’t warned…). I know your next question is going to be “what is a chilli guaro shot?”, good question. Guaro is a local spirit and this shot has chilli (tabasco) and tomato juice added to it. Oh and one more thing…. drink sensibly.

Now we leave for the next location Monteverde. The fastest route for transport between La Fortuna and Monteverde is the water taxi, which you can book for $25pp through your hotel. This journey starts with you getting picked up by a bus near your hotel or booking agent. The bus will take you to Lake Arenal, where a water taxi is will take you across to the other side of the lake. Lastly another bus will take you the rest of the way through a scenic rural route into Monteverde. 

Location 4 – Monteverde – Day 7

Monteverde is a small town with a homely feel to it.

If you’re coming to Monteverde, you’ll probably want to stay at a hostel, there are a very large number of these in Monteverde and the main area where these are located is Santa Elena.

This town is quite high up and my main reason for coming here was to enjoy the zip line experience. There are a few zip line courses in Monteverde and if you want to experience the longest zip line in Latin America, then choose Aventura with its 11 zip lines.

I opted to go for the Extremo zip line course, which I booked for $50pp last minute, literally an hour before I was due to go on the course (I don’t recommend doing this). This course consists of 14 zip lines and amongst these are the option to do two of these as Supermaaaaan!!!! or in other words, its the zip line attached to your back. One of these two goes through a long tunnel quite close to the ground, this one is quite the sensory experience. The more impressive one is the 1km zip line that is in the region of 180m high, soaring above the treetops.

If you’re exceptionally brave you can do a bungee jump here, or even a Tarzan swing, which is like a bungee but with quite a significant swing to it (imagine Tarzan swinging between trees).

There is one thing that you need to prepare for if you’re going to the Extremo course, prepare for a rollercoaster of a ride in the car that takes you there, calling the roads in that region bumpy is an understatement.

After having having an adrenaline packed afternoon, you will most likely want to grab some food and drinks.

Stop off in the town centre on your way back from zip lining and you’ll find small area of shops and a couple of restaurants. I found Amigos bar to have a great atmosphere especially if you go with a couple of friends.

Lastly for dinner Taco Taco is a restaurant I tried and enjoyed. Beware of one thing, as this location is quite high up, standing at around 1,440m above sea level, it can get a little chilli here, especially in the evening.

The next morning it’s time to leave Monteverde en route to Tamarindo.

As you have probably come to know that each of these regions are a significant distance from the next and so transfer is something that needs to be carefully considered. You can use shared shuttles as with Interbus but for this area a company called Casabatsu is a good alternative, providing a minibus transfer $180, and if there are 3-4 of you, this is a relatively inexpensive option that adds a little more comfort to your journey.

If you use this private transfer option, have a word with your driver about San Rafael. This location is part-way in between Monteverde and Tamarindo and has an area where you can stop to see breathtaking views of a picturesque landscape. This is a good place to take some amazing pictures.

Location 5 – Tamarindo – Days 8, 9, 10 and 11

Tamarindo is a beach town, where you come to relax, lay on the beach, swim in the water or even go surfing.

If you want to buy souvenirs, you’ll find plenty here, ranging from t-shirts to painted wooden plaques, various animal figurines or even coffee, pay with cash and you’ll in most cases get $1-2 off the price.

Tamarindo food market El Mercadito has great variety of food, like a food court, with pizza, burgers, Peruvian, and much more. 

This town has a small number of beachfront restaurants/bars, one of which is Jonny Tamarindo, which has an amazing chilled out vibe. If you’re lucky you will see Costa Man playing his songs Pura-vida-ville and Chilli Guaro there, definitely a site worth seeing.

If night-life is what you’re looking for, then Tamarindo is definitely a place for you to visit. There is always something going on in Tamarindo, just follow your ears and let the music guide you. Usually you will see one bar having their night when you get everything flocking in that direction. An example of this is Crazy Monkey on Fridays, you won’t see many people going to any other place Friday nights. Sharkey’s, Pacifico and Lizards are other bars that you may want to check out but I won’t give away too much…

Day 12 had only one thing on the agenda, transport to Liberia airport and on my way home. You can book airport transfer from several places in Tamarindo and the options are shared or private transfer. I opted for private transfer again largely due to the convenience of leave at the time that I wanted to as opposed to having a fixed departure based time. If there are a fair number of you then private doesn’t work out expensive either at $70 for the shuttle.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this blog and you’ve picked up some great ideas for your own itinerary, hope you have a trip that was just as amazing as my own, let me know how your trip went… and oh, one last thing….

Pura Vida!!!

Pura Vida!!!
Yes, you will also be truly pura vida by the time you return from your adventure in Costa Rica.
Tell me this... Do you want to go to Costa Rica? Do you think that a lot of the itineraries out there are too good to be true? Well this is the one for you.
Is 12 day itinerary is what I used on my travels through Costa Rica earlier this year, and I had an absolutely amazing time. Have a read and let me know what you think...