Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Costa Rica As a High School Student
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Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Costa Rica As a High School Student

Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Costa Rica As a High School Student

Costa Rica is an incredible destination for student travel. The country offers thrilling adventures, rich cultural experiences and endless opportunities to learn. In a nation that contains six percent of the world’s biodiversity, you’ll find beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, and fascinating wildlife. Student travelers have the opportunity to explore the breathtaking scenery and immerse in the local culture.

If you’re interested in traveling to Costa Rica as a middle school or high school student, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are the most common ones, along with some travel tips:

What Do I Need to Know About Traveling to Costa Rica?

Tips for Finding a Program in Costa Rica

Tips for First-Time Travelers and Their Families

Can I Bring a Cell Phone and Will There Be Internet?

Can I Do Laundry?

How to Travel to Costa Rica As a High School Student

What Do I Need to Know About Traveling to Costa Rica?

There are many benefits of traveling to Costa Rica as a high school student. As you venture through tropical rainforests or connect with locals over a traditional meal, you’ll learn more about the world and how you play a part in it. To ensure you can make the most of your experience, it helps to learn about Costa Rica before you leave.

1. Is Costa Rica Safe for Students?

Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America, and more than two million travelers go there every year. It’s a great place for high school students and first-time travelers looking for enriching cultural experiences.

For students, it’s helpful to travel with a company like Rustic Pathways that has deep roots in the region and decades of travel experience. Our program leaders safeguard students by monitoring and guiding them throughout their journey.

With that said, it’s always important to take safety precautions when traveling anywhere in the world. Follow these tips for staying safe while traveling to and from Costa Rica:

Safety tips for traveling to Costa Rica

  • Limit valuables: Look out for petty theft while traveling. You can minimize the risk of losing belongings by leaving valuables such as jewelry or expensive electronics at home. If you want to bring something with you, like a camera, keep it safely locked up in your room when not using it. Also, keep cash in a zippered pouch close to your body. No matter where you travel, be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Prepare for the climate: Costa Rica is humid and tropical, which means it’s beautiful but also sunny and buggy. Make sure to pack items that will help protect you from the sun, insects, and humidity. Wear breathable, quick-drying clothing and comfortable slip-resistant shoes for outdoor adventures. Protect yourself from the sun with hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Bring bug spray to guard against insects when you explore the jungle.
  • Make copies of important documents: Keep copies of your passport and emergency contacts in a safe place. Take back-up documents just in case something gets lost.
  • Stay hydrated and eat well: You’ll need lots of water and healthy food to keep you energized throughout your journey. Make sure to take plenty of breaks throughout each day to rehydrate and fill up on nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables and proteins.

2. Is It Expensive to Travel in Costa Rica As a Student?

Many travelers wonder if it’s expensive in Costa Rica. Costa Rica may seem pricier than other Latin American countries, but it can be a very affordable place to visit if you avoid certain touristy restaurants and attractions.

Travelers can dine at small family restaurants rather than chain restaurants and save a lot of money on their meals. Travelers can plan to spend anywhere from $5 to $10 for a traditional meal which often includes a drink, fruit, vegetable, rice, beans, and protein.

Likewise, tourists can explore national parks for a small fee or pay more for guided tours. Just keep in mind that you may see more if you have a local program leader or guide with you. Animals like sloths are sometimes hard to see if you don’t know where to look for them.

When students travel to Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways, the in-country costs are covered with the program fee, including accommodations, transportation during the program, meals, and activities listed in the program itinerary.

3. What Do They Eat in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is known for delicious locally grown tropical fruit and fresh ingredients. Traditional meals in Costa Rica usually include rice and black beans. Here are a few popular Costa Rican dishes:

  • Gallo pinto: Gallo pinto is a combination of rice and beans and is typically served with eggs, cooked plantains and tortillas or toast for breakfast.
  • Casado: Casado describes a dish of many different foods. Order casado and you can expect a plate of beans, rice, tortillas, fried plantains, and meat or seafood. It usually comes with fresh fruit juice.
  • Sopa negra: Sopa negra is a satisfying black bean soup that may be served with a hard-boiled egg.
  • Ceviche: Ceviche is a popular coastal snack that usually consists of chopped shrimp or raw fish, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice. Ceviche is often served with fresh tortilla chips.
  • Arroz con leche: Arroz con leche is a sweet milk and rice dessert.
  • Flan: Flan is a yummy caramel custard.

Students traveling on a Rustic Pathways program to Costa Rica will have access to resident chefs

4. Can I Travel to Costa Rica If I Have Dietary Restrictions?

The short answer is yes, but it does help to know a few words and phrases in Spanish that relate to your dietary restriction. Many people in the tourist areas of Costa Rica speak English, but it’s still a good idea to come prepared.

For students traveling with Rustic, we accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diners, as well as those with food allergies and other common dietary needs.

5. Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Costa Rica?

Yes, it’s safe to drink the tap water in Costa Rica. Students are encouraged to pack a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic usage and stay hydrated while having fun.

6. What Do Locals Wear in Costa Rica?

Generally, people in Costa Rica dress modestly. We recommend wearing modest climate-appropriate clothing such as loose-fitting pants, basketball-style shorts, capris or long skirts. It’s also helpful to keep your shoulders covered. Long sleeves and long pants also can protect you from mosquito bites.

Tips for Finding a Program in Costa Rica

When choosing a program, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Your long-term goals: What do you hope to accomplish by traveling to Costa Rica, and how can the experience help you reach your goals? For example, animal lovers can gain hands-on experience through the Turtle Conservation Project.
  • The experience you want to have: What experience best fits your personality? Do you want adventure activities? That may include surfing and ziplining in Surf and Service or white water rafting and ziplining in Pura Vida Service.
  • How long you wish to travel: How long do you wish to explore Costa Rica? Our Costa Rica programs can be stacked so you can travel one week or more.
  • Your service preferences: Do you want to work on infrastructure projects or help endangered turtles? These are a variety of service options.

When traveling to Costa Rica, look for experiences that best fit your personality.

How to Prepare for a Visit to Costa Rica

Before you embark on a journey to Costa Rica, you’ll need to take a few steps to prepare. Here’s a brief overview to help you get started. If you travel with Rustic Pathways, your Personal Travel Advisor will guide you through the process and answer your questions along the way.

1. Do You Need a Visa to Travel to Costa Rica?

Americans do not need a visa to travel to Costa Rica if they plan to stay in the country for less than 180 days. However, travelers do need a return ticket showing they plan to leave Costa Rica within 180 days whether they’ll be flying back to the United States or connecting programs in another country.

2. Do You Need a Passport to Go to Costa Rica?

Yes, students need a passport to travel to Costa Rica. Students can renew an expired passport by mail in as little as two to three weeks. Otherwise, it typically takes six to eight weeks to get a passport.

3. Do You Need Vaccinations or Shots to Travel to Costa Rica?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting the following vaccines for a journey to Costa Rica at least a month ahead of time:

  • Hepatitis A vaccine to protect you from contaminated food or water while traveling
  • Typhoid vaccine, especially if you plan to visit rural areas or try many different foods
  • Malaria medicine depending on where you stay
  • Rabies for travelers planning to work with animals in remote areas
  • Yellow fever vaccine only if you come from a country where there is a risk of yellow fever transmission

To determine if you need shots to go to Costa Rica, meet with your doctor or visit a travel vaccination clinic like Passport Health to discuss your itinerary ahead of time. Learn more by visiting our travel vaccinations page.

4. Do You Need Medical or Travel Insurance for Costa Rica?

When contacting your insurance provider you’ll want to check if your policy covers:

  • Emergency and/or routine medical services for all locations in your itinerary and flight path
  • All activities listed in your program itinerary
  • Medical evacuation including transportation
  • Ensure there are no exclusion clauses that would limit the coverage for activities listed in your itinerary.

All students who travel with Rustic Pathways must have medical coverage and should consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance protects students, their belongings and their travel investment. We’ve partnered with Roam Right to offer our families an optional Travel Protection Plan which combines the required medical insurance and recommended travel insurance. 

5. How Much Money Should You Bring and in What Form?

Generally we recommend that students bring $250 in spending money per week for locally-made souvenirs and snacks.

United States dollars are commonly accepted throughout Costa Rica. However, students may want to carry a small amount of colónes on them just in case. Students can order the currency from their local bank before traveling or they can withdraw local money from ATMs in the country.

Credit cards such as Mastercard and Visa are also widely accepted throughout the country. However, you should be aware of fees before using a card. Generally, students may want to have some cash on them, and use a credit card for larger purchases.

6. What to Pack for a Visit to Costa Rica

What you pack depends on the time of year you choose to visit Costa Rica. The dry season runs from mid-December to April and is a popular time to visit. The rainy season goes from May to November, but this is also the time of year when forests burst with beautiful green foliage.

Weather also varies by region. For example, temperatures range between the 70s and high 80s year-round in the Northern Plains region, and students can expect high humidity. It’s less humid in the North Pacific region, but temperatures climb into the 90s during the dry season.

Costa Rica's dry season runs from mid-December to April and is a popular time for tourists.

You’ll also want to consider what activities you plan to do during your journey. These activities may prompt you to bring items such as swimsuits, a rain jacket, sunscreen, bug spray and water shoes.

If you’re taking part in a service program you may need service shorts or rubber boots that can get wet and dirty. Rustic students can find recommended packing lists on each program page.

Students should also consider what not to pack. You’ll want to pack as light as possible and avoid bringing items that aren’t required for the program. Some items student travelers will want to leave at home include:

  • Valuable electronics like laptops, tablets, and other expensive gadgets not needed for the journey
  • Valuable jewelry and accessories
  • Sentimental items you wouldn’t want to risk losing or leaving behind
  • “Just in case” items to avoid overpacking like nice shoes or formal clothing

Tips for First-Time Travelers and Their Families

First-time student travelers and their families may feel nervous about traveling. It’s understandable because traveling requires you to leave your comfort zone.

But traveling isn’t as scary as it seems. This life-changing experience helps students learn about the world and themselves. There are numerous benefits to traveling, and it makes a worthwhile investment. Here are a few tips to help make a first-time travel experience even better:

  • Be open to learning new things during your journey
  • Aim to learn language basics before your departure so you can chat with locals
  • Always be respectful of the local customs
  • Remember that stepping out of your comfort zone leads to growth
  • Be friendly and talk to locals
  • Leave a few copies of your itinerary, passport, and emergency contacts at home
  • Make sure your medical insurance covers you while you’re in Costa Rica
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport with you and leave the passport in a safe place
  • Have fun and enjoy the journey

Can I Bring a Cell Phone and Will There Be Internet?

We strongly encourage students to disconnect while exploring Costa Rica so they can immerse themselves in the experience free of distraction. Depending on where students stay, they may have limited access to the internet. For Rustic students, families will always have access to our 24 / 7 emergency number and will also receive updates from staff while their student is in the country.

Can I Do Laundry?

Depending on the program length and accommodations, students may or may not get a chance to do laundry. If you program is a week long, pack enough clothes to get through the program without doing laundry. If you plan to stay longer, you can reach out for information on places where you may be able to do laundry.

How to Travel to Costa Rica As a High School Student

Getting the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica is a magical experience for nature lovers, thrill seekers and curious explorers. Rustic Pathways takes students to unforgettable places off the beaten path so they can experience the natural and cultural treasures of Costa Rica comfortably and safely. We also emphasize community service and environmental conservation to promote sustainability and foster empathy and cultural sensitivity.

To learn more about our travel programs to Costa Rica, contact our team. Ready to enroll? Enroll in your chosen program and get ready for a transformative adventure.

About the Author

Jack Weinstein

Content Production Manager

Jack has spent his professional career as a writer and editor. Before joining Rustic, he worked as a journalist in Kansas and Colorado, taught English in Swaziland, and transitioned to marketing roles in the Boston and New York startup worlds. Jack is excited to channel his love of storytelling and his appreciation for education as Rustic’s Content Production Manager. When not working, Jack is either watching baseball or planning his next adventure. Jack and his wife, Blythe, live in Brooklyn.