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Handy Hints

. Many North Americans come down to Costa Rica for cosmetic surgery and dental work, which costs about half as much as it does in the US.

. Never leave valuables in your parked car, even in your trunk, if you can help it. Don’t leave your purse on the seat with the window down while driving, as pickpockets have been known to run by and grab. Thieves have been known to poke long sticks through windows of ground-floor accommodations to hook valuables left in sight. It’s a drag. Be aware.

. On a hike in the rainforest or just in nature, it’s important to avoid snakebite. Ask your guide if he or she carries antivenom. While in the woods, always walk with your head down and eyes forward – especially at night. Stay on the path, wear high leather or rubber boots, and go with a guide. No sandals or canvas sneakers in the woods.

. To help keep unwelcome critters such as small scorpions at bay, do not leave your clothes or knapsack on the floor, Also, be sure to shake out your shoes before putting them on.

. Bring lots of one dollar bills to use for tips. Be generous to guides and service workers, as they depend on tips for a living.

. Be cautious about strangers too eager to help you find a taxi, a hotel, fix a flat tire, show you the way, or carry your bags, etc. If you’re in a rental car and have just visited an ATM, be suspicious if you get a flat tire. Thieves have been known to puncture tires and, when they stop to help, rob you. Keep driving until you get somewhere public, and ignore anyone who stops to help (except the police).

. The expression, pura vida, which translates as “pure life,” is Costa Rica’s unofficial motto. It is often used as a response to “what’s up?” and other greetings, as a greeting of its own, and as a farewell. You might yell it with exuberance after conquering whitewater rapids or whisper it with wonder as you watch a lumbering sea turtle come ashore to lay its eggs. If you stay long enough, you may also hear it used sardonically as an adjective to describe Tico tendencies to procrastinate. Or in response to a governmental proclivity to say one thing and do another, or to express frustration at slow progress or ignorant thinking. Throw up your hands and say pura vida, and it means, “That’s life in Costa Rica.”


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