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Costa Rica Guide

San Jose

We hadn't heard much to recommend San Jose before going, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. We stayed at Hotel Otoya de Costa Rica (Ph 506-221-7017, email ). A large double room was US$10 with shared clean bath. Run by a friendly older man (speaks good English) who is a good source of info, this place also does cheap laundry, has free phone calls around Costa Rica, cheap internet, free purified water and a kitchen. This is NOT a party hostel, unlike some of the others that look like they are promoting 24/7/365 Spring Break.

The covered market near the bus station is worth exploring. There is an AMAZING food stall called Punta Arenas with superb pastries, rice puddings and empanadas. We ate a load, had some drinks and ended up paying a bit over US$2 for both of us. Just next to Hotel Otoya is a chicken rotisserie that does good, big meals. San Jose is predictably infested with fast food chains, but finding good, cheap local food is still easy.

Costa Rica to Panama

Tracopa buses go from San Jose (Ph 222-2666) to David (Ph 775-0585), Panama for ¢3750. This is a much cheaper option that one of the longer-distance buses, yet is still a quality bus. At the border we had to pay US$10 for a tourist card (why any country does this is beyond me - surely tourism brings in big revenue and should be encouraged!), plus US$1 for a stamp (this has to be a scam as everyone including Ticas had to buy it off a local tout). At the border they had a list of all passengers on the bus including passport details as we had filled them out in San Jose, so it was no surprise that we asked for an onward ticket out of Panama. We didn't have one as we bought one from Panama City to Quito when we got there, so we had to buy a return ticket on the bus for another ¢3750. While many countries have this as an official policy few ever bother to enforce it. Surely this is a scam between the border officials and the bus companies and certainly wasn't the best introduction to Panama.

Is Costa Rica more expensive?

In our experience, compared to the countries further North the answer is NO. Do you spend more money? Yes. Hotels, local meals and transport are all similarly priced and you can get by on around US$8-12 a day. The thing that makes CR more expensive is the parks, guides and other activies which Nicaragua and Honduras do not offer. However, most of these are really worth doing, so you will spend more money.