PR Log - Aug 08, 2011 - Step 1: You've chosen your trip to Costa Rica. Now let's research the web to see what information we can learn about the nation's history, language, culture and weather. Why? Let’s say that during your planning you discovered that it is culturally insensitive for female travelers to be seen in public wearing shorts. In many countries wearing shorts means that you are single and looking for male companionship. A good resource for this information can be found at Central America Etiquette
Next, you check the websites of foreign ministries to see what travel planning tips and information are available on the crime and security situation within Costa Rica. A good resource can be found at State Dept. Info
Step 2: Let’s do some travel planning about what to pack. You should use the information you found on the web about culture and weather to choose the appropriate travel clothing. Also, don’t forget to pack extra medications that you need on a regular basis. This is especially important is you are a traveling with students. Some student are more concerned with appearance rather than clothing that is appropriate for varied weather conditions. Costa Rica has twelve different micro-climates from the cool mountains to the very warm coastal areas. Therefore, students will need to pack for both cool weather and tropical climates. Below you will also see an attached suggested packing list for your students. After you're all packed and have everything you need, be sure to secure your baggage with travel security locks. If students are carrying back packs, make sure they keep their valuables deep inside their pack. Pick pocketing is common in Costa Rica and many people lose their valuables because they leave them in easily accessible outer pockets of their bags.
Step 3: Make sure you arrive at your departure airport with at least three hours to spare. Going through security is time consuming and takes more time than usual when traveling with a group. However, you understand that these security precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of all travelers. Also, since you arrived early, you can avoid being rushed and therefore lessen the chance of theft of your laptop computer or other items while going through airport screening.
Step 4: While seated on the plane, think about situations which could occur. Many foreigners will work in partnership with people in Costa Rica. Make sure your students are vigilant about who they share information with. Have your students keep hotel information and other details of the trip private. This in turn will keep your group from being targeted. It is important to be aware that Costa Rica does not have an issue with violent crime, but theft is always a concern.
Step 5 : When deciding on a student tour company remember to find the right balance between budget and safety. The cheapest tour company is not always the safest. Many student tour companies do not offer full time hotel security or a full time guide. Some inexpensive companies offer a guided tour in the morning and then free time in the afternoon. While this may sound nice on its face value, knowing that your group will be left without a guide the rest of the day and evening can be precarious in a foreign country.
Step 6: Be wary of public transportation while in a foreign country. Often, criminals frequent public transportation hubs to victimize foreigners. If your tour company is picking your group up at the airport, make sure that you have contact information of your guide, bus driver, and hotel. Once you arrive to the San Jose airport, you will want to look for your guide. If you cannot find your guide, make sure you take your entire group to the right of the exit door near the pay phones. Have your group wait there while you make change for the public phones. If your guide and bus driver do not answer the phone, call the hotel and let them know your group is taking taxis’ to the hotel. Please note: Only take the red taxis’ that are authorized by the airport officials.
Step 7: Be vigilant over your group’s luggage. Put a chaperone in charge of monitoring the group’s luggage when loading and unloading your bus. A chaperone can follow the group from behind and watch over luggage as you exit the airport and hotels. This will ensure that people will not target your student’s luggage or valuables.
Step 8: Make sure that your tour company offers security at your hotel. In light of the tragedy that happened to a student last May in Costa Rica by another hotels security personnel, it is important that your tour group arranges private security specific to your group. Make sure that your tour company hires a security guard that enforces the curfew set by the trip leaders. Additionally, make sure that the tour company hires security guard that can communicates with your trip leaders about schedules, curfews and rules established by your school or trip leaders.
Step 9: Check on the tour company references. Have the tour company give you a list of references that have traveled with them previously. When contacting these references ask them about accommodations, security, does the company mix groups, and lastly, ask them if they would ever travel with this company again.
Step 10: Get a list of all the hotels and accommodations that the tour company is using. After getting the names of the hotels, research the hotels on Trip Advisor. This review site will give you up to date reviews from people who have stayed at these same hotels within the last six months.
Recommended packing list for your students:
• Binoculars, Camera and Film, and a Costa Rica Guide Book (we recommend “Costa Rica Handbook” by Christopher P. Baker).
• Sunscreen and insect repellent
• Light cool clothing—cotton or light synthetic. At least one pair of pants for insect protection and dressier occasions.
• Light jacket or sweater
• Footwear- waterproof lightweight hiking boots, river sandals (Teva-type sandals) and comfortable walking shoes
• Hat for sun protection
• Plastic water bottle for hikes
• Flashlight with spare batteries and bulb for night hikes
• Medication and travel sickness medication if necessary
• Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes
• Plastic garbage bags for wet items
Appleseed Expeditions provides educational trips for schools that incorporate learning, adventure and service. Students learn about fragile ecosystems, experience new cultures and volunteer at orphanages and wildlife rescue centers. Appleseed Expeditions (http://www.appleseedexpeditions.com/somepage.html)