Costa Rica | What to Bring

Suggested Packing Tips!

PACK LIGHT! United Airline is now charging for all checked bags to Central America. You can get by with just a smallish roller bag or duffle bag as your carry on and a laptop bag, messenger bag or smallish backpack as your personal item. We will be traveling by very full minibus in Costa Rica. We will all make that trek more comfortably if no one over-packs! Laundry is provided, so all your lightweight summer clothes should fit in a carry on (wear your jacket and your sturdy footwear). All valuables (money, jewelry, prescriptions, etc.) should be in your carry on!

  • Liquids in a carry-on need to be under 3 oz. and together in a one quart ziploc bag.
  • Your passport should be safely on your person along with any cash or valuables.
  • Weather is always unpredictable; expect it to be quite warm to hot (80s-90s) during the day with lots of sunshine. Cooler at night. A rare tropical storm parked off the coast could give a longer spell of rain. It may be significant cooler up in the high country around Monteverde than down on the Nicoya peninsula; have a light jacket for chill or rain. Plan accordingly with a lightweight jacket.
  • Plan on summertime casual clothes, and that laundry is provided as need. Almost all dress is very casual. US styles are very popular, so wear whatever you would wear to IUSB in July. Shorts are fine, may plan on slacks or jeans for evening outings.
  • Comfortable shoes are essential. Sandals are OK around town if that’s your summer preference, but for outings (except the beach) consider walking shoes or light boots accordingly.
  • Options include snorkeling, swimming and hot springs so bring a swimsuit.
  • The tropical dry forest can be hot and very sunny so bring your favorite sombrero and sunscreen. Don’t forget that this is as close to the equator as your Indiana body has probably been in a while, so take care with the sun. Insect repellant is a good idea for some settings.
  • How much cash to bring depends on your spending habits, especially how much you budget for nightlife and gifts (including for yourself!). Almost every thing is already included except for the two free weekends and some optional activities. You will need to occasionally buy lunch. For some $100 a week is good guideline. You can change money at the banks and several stores in town. Many stores and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard (Visa is best, American Express not so good). ATMs are widely available but check their hours. Travelers checks are OK for back up but tend to be inconvenient, they are very strict on signatures, etc. Many places accept dollars, although stores may not give the best exchange rates, and the US dollars cannot be torn or marked in any way.
  • Appliances: electrical current is the same as the United States; but houses are often short on outlets
  • Camera: as you like. Stores have batteries and SD cards, but plan ahead
  • Electronics: you can decide if you want to bring a laptop or not, lighter is always better. A smartphone or a tablet can be useful as long as you don’t leave it lying around and have it forgotten or stolen.
  • Prescription medications in original bottles (we don’t want you locked up on drug charges). Bring regular meds and any emergency meds you might need for asthma, anxiety, blood sugar problems, etc.
  • Student ID: good identification and may get you a discount in a few places.
  • You must have a passport. Have it safe but handy for the airports. Once in Nicoya, store it safely with your luggage in your home or in the safe at the school. Do not carry it with you on excursions. A good suggestion is to make two copies of the first pages with photo and passport number. Give one copy to a family member here in the US, and have one with you in Costa Rica.
  • Calling card with international access may work but some claim to work, then don’t. You can get cell phone coverage but again, this has been unreliable. The simplest for calls are prepaid phone
    cards that can be purchased there. Stores around the central park sell them, and there is a line of public phones on the edge of the park. Still, it’s easier and cheaper if people call you (international access is 011, country code for Costa Rica is 506). Cheapest and most reliable communication is email and the like (Facebook, Twitter, Skype). The institute has wireless if you have a laptop. There are also convenient internet cafes.