Know Before You Go: Costa Rican Adventure | EF Ultimate Break

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.

Getting There

Complete Your Checklist

Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 800-766-2645. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.


  • Verify your passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date. No visa is required for this trip if you are a U.S. Citizen
  • Join the Facebook group: Join your private Facebook group now! It’s how you can meet other travelers and see announcements from your Tour Director. Call us at 800-766-2645 if you’re having trouble joining.
  • Request a roommate:: Double check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
  • Personalize your trip: Travel Insurance is not available for purchase on tour, and the price of Optional Excursions increases after departure. We suggest logging in to your Online Account now to add these items.
  • Call your bank: Let your bank and credit card company know of your travel plans so you can withdraw cash and use your debit/credit cards abroad. Otherwise, you risk your account being blocked.

Pack like a Pro

Your airline ticket does not include a checked bag, but years of customer feedback tells us the lighter you pack, the better! A carry-on should be all you need! Especially when transferring to islands off the coast, you may be expected to carry your luggage where buses and cars cannot. See below for more packing tips to help you become a professional carry-on traveler:


  • 1 light wind/rain jacket
  • Comfortable walking/active shoes
  • Waterproof shoes or sandals
  • 1-2 pairs shorts
  • Longer active pants for walks and hikes
  • 3-4 shirts / t-shirts
  • 1 nicer outfit for Farewell Dinner or a night out
  • 1-2 bathing suits
  • Beach – we love the Microfiber travel towel ($5-$20, Amazon.com)
  • 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
  • Phone or camera
  • Passport
  • Debit / Credit cards and cash
  • Adapter / Converter – type “A”, “B, “G”, or universal

Note: 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.


Also Note: Bring 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.

Flight Preparation

Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. You can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.


  • 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 slept in and missed 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.

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.

Arriving in San Jose

Pura vida! Welcome to Costa Rica! Your Tour Director will communicate on Facebook or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is another reason you should join your Facebook group.

Meet Your Tour Director and Fellow Travelers

Your Tour Director will also tell you best way to communicate with them during the trip; they will be with your group from start to finish so if there is anything you need, connect with them. Concerned about international cellular data and staying in touch with your group? Check out “Phones and Electronics” further down in this guide.

Use Your Phone, Internet, and Electronics

We recommend you get an international data plan from your cell phone provider. The most common options are the Travel Pass with Verizon, or purchasing a personal hot spot with your carrier, but note that Wi-Fi and cellular service is not strong in Costa Rica regardless of the plan you choose. For your cell phone and any other electronics you bring abroad, you will need a converter/adapter.

Note: You should use a “A” , “B” , or “G” adapter / converter on this tour (typically with 2 flat prongs). A staff favorite is also the “Targus World Power Travel Adapter” ($20, Amazon.com)

On The Ground

Life in the Tropics

Costa Rica is a sub-tropical climate, which means the hot temps and humid air are a perfect recipe for wildlife and insects. Prepare to encounter bugs in the air, beach, hotels, and more, but don’t let this harsh your vacation vibe! Bring your bug spray to keep them at a friendly distance, and you’ll be golden.

Manage Your Money

The local currency in Costa Rica is the colón, but U.S. dollars are sometimes accepted in Costa Rica. We recommend you exchange your money to the local currency at your local bank or currency exchange, but if using U.S. dollars, note that you can only use small bills ($1, $5, $10). Budget $50-$60 per day for meals, shopping, and free time activities. When it comes to tipping, it’s standard to leave 10-15% tip in restaurants, and no tip for taxis. For your Tour Director, however, we recommend tipping $40 - $60 at the end of the trip if you feel inclined.


Currencies used:


  • Costa Rica: colón, CRC, ¢. US Dollar also accepted

Note: Let your bank and credit card companies know your travel plans ahead of time to avoid potential complications while abroad.

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 bring a great book with you for transfer days or listen to music to pass the time. Download the Latino Vibes, or Top Latin Tracks of 2018 playlists on Spotify to get in the mood!

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. Optionals on this tour may include (prices increase on tour):


  • Monteverde Night Hike: $25

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 exports of bananas, coffee, pineapple and. You’ll notice all of this as you journey through the country.
  • The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish, but most locals also speak English
  • 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!

Wine and Dine

Seafood, pineapple, rice, beans, coffee, and more. 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 have to 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!

Speak the Language

It’s fun and helpful to try your hand at the local language, Spanish! Try out some of these popular words and phrases:


  • Hola: Hello
  • Adios: Goodbye
  • Gracias: Thank you
  • Buenos dias: Good morning
  • Buenos 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 ___

Health and Safety

With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. But, it’s equally important for you to maintain your health and safety while abroad. From your first flight to all the way through to your farewell dinner, drink plenty of water, get sleep when you can, and 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1-617-619-1411

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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