Before you go to any company, organization, or any middleman to buy your weekend trip to a beach, think about what study abroad was for. Not only is it to immerse ourselves into the culture and expand our knowledge of the language, but it is also to grow as a person and most importantly become independent in various ways. Rather than paying someone to plan everything for you, why don’t you start to research it and see if you can do it on your own.

The benefits of doing it independently are :

  1. You are most likely going to be saving yourself a lot of money.
  2. You build up your confidence when you plan your own trip and schedule
  3. The new experiences you take on or thee obstacles you go through will teach you on things you need to do for next time 

How would we start?

Well, first choose your destination. Say if its Puerto Viejo you wanted to go to. How would you start planning?

  1. First check out the hostels in Puerto Viejo. 

    Depending on how your personality is or even tolerance, each hostel can be themed differently. Some hostels are definitely party hostels while others are family style. Also some hostels can go fairly cheap to as $8 but it gets pretty down-right minimal to needs as in so no air-con, no private bathrooms, etc as the price gets lower. So have in mind the “ you get what you paid for” thinking.

  2. How much are the buses and when do they leave?

    Google is such a handy tool, type in from wherever you are, such as San Jose, to Puerto Viejo by bus. That’s it. There will be tons of links giving you the details of when they leave, and what station they leave from, the price, and etc. Image

  3. When you arrive to Puerto Viejo, figure out how to get back.

    Usually, you should buy your ticket back to San Jose at the final destination because sometimes they won’t let you buy round trip ticket in San Jose and also that constricts you of a time limit on return. Instead, when you arrive, ask your hostel how to get back to San Jose and what the time schedules are for the bus. 

  4. Have fun!

    Really this is all for the basic plan for your trip. Other activities you want to include such as snorkeling and such, the hostels are really a great place to get tons of information on these things so ask when you are there. 

Other tips

–       Make sure you give enough time to each of the places you go. For Puerto Viejo you want at least 3 days but 4 would be recommended because it takes about 6 hours to get there and 6 hours on return and depending on traffic as well. So really you lose about a day in just transportation round trip.

–       When you take the taxi to the bus station, tell him where you want to go as your overall destination. Sometimes the Internet is not always correct, as the bus for whichever destination might have changed to a different station. So tell the taxi driver where you and your group are heading to and he will most likely know which station to go to. 

–       Depending on if you are in tourist season or not, just in case buy your ticket in advance! Buy your ticket the day before, but if you are not in tourism season then you can buy it on the day of.

–       Figure out with your friends what your budgets are for food. There is usually a kitchen in hostels for the guests to use so sometimes you might want to go hit up the grocery or mini marts and have a cheap dinner. It also gives you the opportunity to make friends with the other guests in the hostel.

–       When lost or unsure, ask around! Really, there is no better way and time to challenge your Spanish. Ask around to make sure if this bus goes to the right destination.

–       When you buy your ticket, do not throw your ticket away after you get on the bus! Depending on where you go and the buses, they need that ticket for a midway checkpoint. So if you don’t have your ticket on you during the midpoint of the ride, you will have to buy another one. So… keep that ticket till you arrive your destination.

–       Also, buses do take rest stops but be in a timely manner. It usually gives about 10 minutes. Have one of your friends on the bus to watch over everyone’s stuff, while others go to the bathroom as well.

–       Depending on what time you arrive, you won’t usually need a taxi to get to your hostel even if you don’t know where it is. Unless its dark, explore and there are many signs to where everything is. Also, there will be a map there so go explore!

Don’t go for the convenience of having someone else planning the trip for you when you can easily do it yourself! My friends and I planned our trip to Puerto Viejo for the week of spring break ( 9 days) for $300, which included hostel, transportation, and $20 a day for food. My other friend who went with a third party organization paid around the same for a weekend’s trip!  It is very rewarding planning it on your own and saves you the money that you might need to spend it on other activities throughout your experience in Costa Rica.

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