[Tweeters] Intrepid Birders-Costa Rica Post 1: Travel In-Country.

Steve Krival stevekrival at live.com
Wed Jan 13 18:16:39 PST 2016

This is the first post summarizing what I've learned in preparation for
taking a birding vacation in Costa Rica, which as it turns out, I may not
take. This one deals primarily with simply how to get around in-country -
modes of travel, what travel is like, and how much it is likely to cost. My
sources of information are AAA; about ten emails from Tweeters birders who
have birded Costa Rica (CR) and kindly responded to my initial post of about
two weeks ago; GlobalPetrolPrices; Marta of Gecko Trails Travel, who I began
an email correspond with about a month ago, agreed to "fact check" my
information; a second travel website, which I have lost track of and
therefore can't name. When I use the phrase "travel website" I am referring
to that one. In return for Marta's input I offered to include her agency's
contact information in this post.

www.GeckoTrail.com <http://www.geckotrail.com/>

(e) info at geckotrail.com
(t) +506 2756-8159 <tel:%2B506%202756-8412> (Costa Rica)
(t) +1 415 230 0298 <tel:%2B1%20415%20230%200298> (USA Skype number)

A second (upcoming) post will address birding in CR, a topic in which a I
personally have no expertise, but having purchased "The Birds of Costa Rica"
A Field Guide, by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean, I have decided to
retire in CR and spend the remainder of my days attempting to locate in the
wild all 903 species illustrated therein, having spent many an evening
before falling asleep gazing at its bewildering and fantastic birds.

To those of you have been to CR, please feel free to comment, correct, or
advise. However, anyone asking me to elaborate on anything I say here is
likely to be out of luck, as these posts represent the sum total of what I
have learned.

There are four major modes of vehicular travel in Costa Rica. Buses, tourist
shuttle buses, rental cars and SUVs, and local air travel. The cheapest
vehicular travel is the bus system which is used by tourists and locals,
alike. I don't have much to say about local air travel because I haven't yet
explored it. Point-to-point shuttle buses area available to tourists and
ticos. Apparently, minibuses are bookable at most hotels, and they may
actually pick you up at your hotel.

Gecko Trails provided the following information:

"Maybe good to know that most of the public buses do not have air
conditioning and people have to be careful with their luggage. It is not
recommended to leave belongings in the upper storage space above the seats,
always keep your luggage with you. Bigger luggage can be stored in the lower
special storage space. Local buses I would say cost $7 to $15 per person
depending on travel distance. Shared shuttles range from $52 (general rate)
up to $87 per person for more remote areas like Rincon de la Vieja."

Automobiles are available to rent in major cities and airports. One website
I visited discusses the high variability in rental pricing, plus the high
cost of auto insurance, which is mandatory and may not be reimbursable. Last
week my AAA App told me the prices for the smallest cars begin at about $
140 a week and top out at about $ 350 week for luxury SUVs. However, I was
on the phone today with AAA and the picture is less rosy than that. For
March of 2016, which is the height of the season, a compact car rented from
Enterprise at the airport in Liberia starts at $ 284 per week. Theft and
CRW insurance are mandatory, and cannot be purchased in advance. AAA could
not quote an exact price but they said that it is reasonable to assume a
doubling of the weekly rate with mandatory insurance included. Gecko
Trails added that many birder destinations, such as Monte Verde, require
4WD, which can double the rate over a compact. My level of certainty about
vehicle rental costs is currently less than I would like. Perhaps, there are
birders out there who can clarify the situation.

It was also recommended booking rental vehicles well in advance of travel at
one travel website. Traditionally, Costa Rican gas prices are the highest in
Central America. However, the current price of gas in Costa Rica is 0.98
U.S. dollars per liter, which converts to $ 3.71 per gallon
(GlobalPetrolPrices.com), and not the $ 5.75 per gallon I had read about
elsewhere online. Coincidently, $ 0.98 per liter is the average price of gas
worldwide now. GlobalPetrolPrices.org does not say where in CR gas can be
purchased at this price. Marta of Gecko Trails assures me that gas is the
same price all over CR, which she said is a $ 1.04 per liter, but adds gas
stations may be difficult to locate outside of the major cities, and you may
find it necessary to purchase gas from Ticos who sell it in remote areas.
Those prices will be more expensive.

One thing to bear in mind, as pointed out to me in two Tweeters emails, is
that in-country travel moves at about 40 mph, which can increase gas

Birding and wildlife tours remove much of the worry and time-consuming
aspects of figuring out where you are going and how to get there. One birder
said that he went with a tour the first time he was there. This allowed him
to become familiar with locations and routes. The next birding vacation,
knowing where to go and how to get there, he rented a car.

Another birder email stated that she traveled by tourist minibuses, but
added that this limited their access to locations they wanted to hike and
bird because it left them without local transportation in some remote
places. They added that they guessed that the cost of renting a car to
access an isolated location in Costa Rica would have been about as
cost-effective as relying on a tourist minibus, and would have given them
the flexibility they had desired. She also stated that minibus travel was
fine for traveling to destinations that are well-known for nature travel.
There, guides provided transportation, or there were local modes of
transportation making accessibility non-problematic. Several other birders
said they utilized local buses and minibuses wherever they went without any
major problems. Several birders cautioned that traffic moves slowly all over
Costa Rica, and can be dangerous. Several emails stated that travel was
principally risky in San Jose. Several birders warned that San Jose is
difficult to navigate, and there isn't much in the San Jose area in terms of
wildlife that can't be seen elsewhere in Costa Rica. If possible, they also
said, book your flight to Liberia and avoid San Jose, altogether. Others
said that roads in remote areas could be harrowing. Gecko Trails added "San
Jose can be difficult to drive especially if you have to go to downtown San
Jose. So I always recommend people to stay at hotels closer to the airport
and only recommend hotels in downtown San Jose to people travelling by
shared buses or private transports. Liberia is a good option but not all the
airlines fly to this airport."

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