Be a Good Tourist

When visiting another country, we become ambassadors of our own. How we behave, dress, and embrace the culture in which we find ourselves will define the local community’s perception of us as Americans. It is important to remember that we are guests.

Here are a few general tips to keep in mind while traveling abroad.

  • Be Respectful – This is someone else’s home and we are visitors. Costa Rica has a very welcoming culture and embraces tourists. Be aware of the things this community finds precious. For instance, please do not litter. Costa Rica takes very good care of its landscape and values green living.

  • Dress like a Local – In Costa Rica visitors find the environment extremely casual. Do not wear shorts to official offices (like the American Embassy) though! It is considered disrespectful and you could be turned away. Always do your research on the local dress customs prior to travel so you can pack accordingly.

  • Do Your Research – Before going to a new country research the local customs, currency conversions, and be sure to generally familiarize yourself as well as  you can before your plane lands.

  • Tell Your Bank About Your Plans to Travel – If your bank suddenly sees a charge in San Jose Costa Rica, they may shut down your card thinking that it is fraud! Better to let them know ahead of time.

  • Have Your Papers Ready – On the off chance you are asked for your papers, it is a good idea to have a photo copy of your passport that you carry in your wallet (or a picture on your phone). Consider leaving your precious original in a hotel safe.

  • Ask Before You Photograph – A camera can be very intimidating. Ask permission before you snap away at someone’s home or person.

  • Talk to the Locals – Costa Ricans are very friendly and will talk to almost anyone. Get to know some of the people staying at your aparthotel and try learning the language, at least a few phrases. Key phrases can really be helpful! We found that by trying to learn some Spanish, we were made to feel even more welcome.

  • Watch your Body Language – Customs vary wildly from place to place. A “thumbs up” may be a positive accolade in The States but mean something entirely different elsewhere. Know your surroundings.

San Jose Tips

While Destinations developed its dental network and partnerships, we spent time in San Jose. These are a few tips we learned about this fantastic city and its residents.

Time Tip

Costa Ricans are famous for observing Tico time, known locally as "la hora tica." Costa Ricans habitually arrive late, often by 30 minutes or more, to dinner appointments, and get-togethers – anything but the movies or the appointments at the public health clinics, for which they line up hours in advance. Many Costa Ricans do not view late arrivals as rude and their tardiness is not meant to offend.  Accept this as part of their culture, adjust your expectations and tell your friends to arrive earlier than you would like.

Saying Hello

It is common to say hello and goodbye to friends and acquaintances with a light kiss on the cheek or an air kiss accompanied by a kissing sound. Note that women kiss women and women kiss men, but men do not kiss men; instead, they either shake hands or give each other a one-armed hug. In formal or business settings, a firm handshake is the typical greeting.

Visiting Downtown

The Downtown San Jose area is somewhat small, but it is one of the most visited parts of the city both by locals and visitors. It is the heart of San Jose and you may want to check it out, but streets are usually bustling with pedestrians and heavy traffic with lots of congestion and noise. Walking might be the best way to explore this area.

Keep your feet down and other niceties

Costa Rican locals are very polite, so be sure not to put your feet on furniture; always say please and thank you, and try not to raise your voice in anger, at least in public.