Know Before You Go: New Year's in Costa Rica: Costa Rican Adventure | EF Ultimate Break
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New Year’s in Costa Rica: Costa Rica Adventure

Know Before You Go

For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.


Your health and safety will continue to be our top priority. Travel involves certain inherent risks related to the chance of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19. We want you to travel confidently, which is why we’re taking steps to make EF Ultimate Break the safest way to see the world. You can see all the steps we’re taking here:

Travel Documents & Tour Preparation

Travel Documents:

  • Passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date.
  • Visa: No visa is required for this trip if you are a U.S. Citizen. For citizens of other counties please check with the consulate in your area to verify the Visa entry requirements.

Travel Insurance:
Up until August 1st, all travelers are required to provide proof of insurance valid for the duration of your time in Costa Rica that includes a minimum coverage of 50,000 USD in COVID-19-related medical expenses and 2,000 USD for extended lodging expenses due to COVID-19 related illness or quarantine.

After August 1, 2021, Costa Rica will no longer require a health insurance policy for minors and adults who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. More details under the "Covid-19 section"

Tour Preparation:

  • Talk with your doctor: Although there are no health entry requirements for US citizens visiting Costa Rica, it is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
  • Travelling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals. To combat any language barriers, you may encounter while out on your free time, we recommend having cards in English and in Spanish stating what foods you must avoid. Always carry them with you should you run into any language barriers while out during your free time.
  • Get an international data plan: We recommend getting an international data plan so you can stay connected while on the road. While free Wi-Fi may be available it won’t be everywhere nor as strong as we are used to. Please talk with your phone provider for your best options.
  • Join the Facebook group: Your trips private Facebook group will open roughly 60 days prior to departure and is something you won’t want to miss. It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. You’ll receive an email inviting you to join. If you’re having trouble joining, give us a call at 800-766-2645.
  • Complete you pre-tour checklist: this can be found in your account!

Health & Safety

Staying Healthy while Traveling
Fact: Travel is exhilarating. And FOMO is real. So, we understand why you don’t want to miss a second of the action. But there’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:

  • Sleep: Flying across the globe, changing time zones, and being constantly on the move can take a toll on your body. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon siesta, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Stay hydrated: During this trip, you’ll be zip-lining, white water rafting, and spending a fair amount of time in the great outdoors. With Costa Rica’s tropical climate, it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. For all paces visited on this tour, the tap water is safe to drink, so don’t forget to pack that reusable water bottle and drink up.
  • Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
    • Insight Timer: Meditation apps are very in right now. This one is especially amazing because there are 80,000 free daily meditations to help with sleep, anxiety, and stress.
    • What’s Up: If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, What’s Up can help you manage these feelings with interactive games, forums, and a thought tracking diary.
    • Talkspace: No need to make appointments or commute to a therapist’s office. Talkspace gives you 24/7 access to real, licensed therapists. You can talk, text, or video chat with them right from your phone.

Safety while Abroad
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:

  • Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
  • Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
  • Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
  • Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
  • At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi or Uber, and always have cash on hand. In most areas of Costa Rica, you’ll find both marked (legal, by the book) taxis and private cabs. For your safety, only take marked taxis. Throughout most of the country these are easy to identify, as they are red and have a yellow triangle painted on the doors.
  • Save our 24/7 number in your phone:  +1–617–619–1411

Money & Tipping

We recommend budgeting $60-$80 per day for meals, gratuities, shopping, and free time activities. For this trip, that means roughly $600-$800 but you know your spending habits best. If you’re looking to #treatyourself to the max, you may want to budget a little more.

Managing Money:
U.S. dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica, so you are not required to exchange money before you depart. If using U.S. dollars, please be sure to only bring small bills. ATMs are also available to get money while in Costa Rica so make sure to talk with your bank and credit card companies to let them know where and when you are traveling and to go over any international transaction fees. It’s always smart to bring more than one form of payment while traveling and credit cards are widely accepted throughout the country.

Pro Tip: Do you have a credit card that offers zero international transaction fees? If so, bring that bad boy to save some money for purchases abroad.

Currencies used: Costa Rican Colón, CRC. US Dollar also accepted

When it comes to tipping, it’s standard to leave 10-15% tip in restaurants, and no tip for taxis. As it is also customary to tip for services provided, we recommend the following for this tour:

Local Guides: $1-$2

Bus Driver: $20-$30 given at the end of the trip

Tour Director: $40-$60 given at the end of the trip


Costa Rica is a tropical and sub-tropical climate. It has an average temperature of 70-80 F year-round and has a rainy season from May – November. There is no summer versus winter so bring plenty of layers including a rain jacket. They don’t call it the rainforest for nothing! It’s also important to prepare to encounter bugs in the air, beach, hotels, and more. Bring your bug spray to keep them at a friendly distance, and you’ll be golden. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Please note, your airline ticket  does not include a checked bag, but years of customer feedback tells us the lighter you pack, the better, so a carry-on should be all you need! See below for more packing tips to help you become a professional carry-on traveler.

Electronics: Costa Rica uses 110-volt, 60 cycle electricity, same as the US. Plugs are typically the 2-pronged flat type, so US travelers will not need a converter or adapter.

Packing list:

  • 1 light wind/rain jacket
  • A smaller backpack to keep your clothes and items in during active days or when you’re at the beach. We also recommend zip-lock bags to keep your phone and valuables dry
  • Comfortable walking/active shoes. Shoes you aren’t afraid to get dirty!
  • Waterproof shoes or sandals (NOT FLIP FLOPS) are required if you plan to participate in the white-water rafting
  • 2-3 pairs shorts
  • Longer active pants and long sleeve shirt for nature walks and evening hike
  • 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
  • 1 nicer outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
  • 2-3 bathing suits
  • Beach Towel– we love the Microfiber travel towel
  • Underwear and socks
  • Toiletries, medicine – motion-sickness medicine if you’re prone to it
  • Bug spray – in the tropics, you are guaranteed to encounter more than one bug
  • 1-2 bottles of travel-size sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Reusable water bottle
  • A bag to put your wet and/or dirty items in so that the rest of your clothes don’t get dirty when transferring to different cities
  • Phone or camera, waterproof phone/cases bags encouraged!
  • Passport. We also recommend that you make two color photocopies of your passport. Leave one copy at home with a friend or relative, and bring one copy with you, keeping it separate from the original documents.
  • Debit / Credit cards and cash

Arrival Information & Transportation

Flight Preparation

Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. Using your 6-digit reservation code, you can reserve your seat (this is typically available 30 days to 24 hours before departure) and check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport that’s okay, too. Regardless, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.

Note: All flight information is online (e-ticket) via your account and the airline’s website. You will not receive a physical paper ticket from us.

  • If your flight is cancelled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancellations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
  • If you sleep in and miss your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.

Arriving in San Jose
Pura Vida! Welcome to Costa Rica! Now that you have #landed, you will want to grab your luggage and pass through customs and immigration. (Yay! Passport stamps!)

Your Tour Director will communicate on Facebook, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is another reason you should join your Facebook group.

Note: If you have booked your own flight arrangements or have extended your travels before the tour dates, you will need to make your own way to the first hotel. Accommodation details will be available in your online account 30 days prior to departure.

Getting from A to B
All transfers between cities are via private bus and can take anywhere between 2-6 hours. You’ll see the tropical rainforest fly by as you make your way through almost the entire country of Costa Rica, but bring motion sickness medicine in case you’re prone to getting carsick; many of the roads in Costa Rica are winding and up/downhill.

Note: It’s a good idea to download a few movies or shows to watch sans Wi-Fi/ Cellular Data, bring a great book with you to read, or listen to music to pass the time. Download the Latino Vibes playlists on Spotify to get in the mood!


While you are in Costa Rica, accommodations will be a combination of standard hotels, rustic lodges, and family-owned bungalow-style hotels. Be aware that tropical conditions in Costa Rica make insects and other small animals (such as ants, mosquitoes, lizards, spiders, and frogs) more prevalent. This does not mean the accommodations are unclean; it is just a natural aspect of lodging across all of Costa Rica. Accommodation details will be posted in your online account 30 days prior to departure.

Unless you purchased a private room upgrade, standard rooming is 2-5 EF Ultimate Break travelers of the same gender per room. A few other things you can expect:

  • One private bathroom per room that you’ll share with your roommates
  • Limited Wi-Fi connection
  • Lower  water pressure and the amount of hot water can be limited, so be prepared for short showers.

If you have any questions about your rooming status or want to request a specific roommate you can do so in your online account up to 60 days prior to departure, by chatting in, or by giving us a call at 800-766-2645.

Language & Local Life

Speak the Language
The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, but most locals also speak English. Try your hand at some of the local language:

  • Hola: Hello
  • Adios: Goodbye
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • Buenos dias: Good morning
  • Buenas tardes: Good evening
  • Cómo estás?: How are you?
  • Estoy bien, Gracias!: I’m fine, thanks!
  • Lo siento, no entiendo: I’m sorry, I don’t understand
  • Donde esta ___: Where is ___

Note: Download Duolingo to practice your language skills, and use Google Translate to help you while on the road!

Live like a Local
Costa Rica is a country of waterfalls, jungle-lined beaches, and adventure. You won’t find big city experiences here. Instead, you’ll soar over the canopy of a rainforest, lounge on white-sand beaches, and encounter new wildlife at every corner. As you prepare to spend time in this new culture, here are some tips to help you understand the ins and outs of Costa Rica and help you live like a true Tico:

  • Pura Vida! Pura vida – pure life – is more than just a phrase. It’s a mantra that defines the Costa Rican way of life. It’s something you live by, and you’ll hear it as a greeting, an acknowledgement, and more as you make your way through Costa Rica.
  • Costa Rica is a democratic republic, with tourism as a major source of revenue for the country. Other major revenues come from the export of bananas, coffee, and pineapple. You’ll notice all of this as you journey through the country.
  • Wear sunscreen. You are not stronger than the Latin American sun.
  • Cash is king. But remember, use small bills only!
  • Bugs. Are. Everywhere. Bring your bug spray!

Food, Drink & Free Time

You’ll sample a variety of local dishes on your trip, but read on for tips, tricks, and delicacies you must try.

  • Rice and Beans: Commonly eaten for breakfast as gallo pinto, this combo is popular with scrambled eggs and fruit. For lunch, try Casado, which adds salad, plantains, and meat to the mix.
  • Ceviche: A marinated raw fish dish served chill. Best alongside a cold beer.
  • Plantains: They look like bananas, but plantains are starchier, savory, and served a variety of ways.
  • Tamales: Squares of cornmeal stuffed with chicken, pork, or beans and vegetables, THEN wrapped in plantain leaves, THEN steamed over open fire, THEN devoured by everyone.
  • Tres Leches Cake: This three-milk cake is a sweet ending to any traditional Costa Rican meal.
  • Refrescos: In the land of fresh fruit, you must try the fresh fruit juices! Try cas (sour guava), maracuyá (passion fruit), tamarindo (tamarind), guanabana (soursop), piña (pineapple), sandia (watermelon), mora (blackberry), fresa (strawberry), and more!

Optimize Your Free Time
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time. Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account here for available add-ons.

We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.

Bon voyage!

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