When preparing for my study abroad experience one of the biggest questions I had was what to pack. I wasn’t sure what kind of clothes, how many outfits, and whether or not I should bring toiletries among other things. I was lucky to have a couple of friends who had studied in Costa Rica who provided some good advice. My program’s website also gave packing tips, but the most important tip came from my own habit of preparing for the worst. I packed one change of clothes in my carry-on bag just in case the airline lost my checked luggage. As luck -or rather bad luck- would have it, the airline did lose my bag. I was extremely thankful that I had clean clothes to wear the next day while waiting for the rest of my stuff to arrive!
It can get fairly warm in San Jose during the morning so light, loose fitting shorts, capris, or knee-length skirts and an airy t-shirt or tank-top are the kinds of clothes I felt the most comfortable in while exploring the city and sitting in class. It is most reasonable to bring a variety of clothes that you can mix and match throughout your stay. That way you don’t have to pack as much, but are still able to wear a variety of clothing. I recommend bringing at least 10 outfits. Your host mom will probably do your laundry once a week so that gives you a few “back up” outfits in case the laundry takes longer than you anticipated.
In the afternoons it often rains and cools off so a jacket and umbrella are necessary items to bring as well. I have been very thankful that I brought my Converse tennis shoes for walking around the city. There are a lot of pot-holes, uneven sidewalks, and the cement can be slippery when it rains so it is important to have a comfortable pair of shoes with good grip. However, to class I often wear a comfortable pair of flip-flops because they are cooler. I also brought a pair of dressy sandals for more formal occasions and a pair of tennis shoes for working out and hiking.
I highly recommend packing full size toiletries because they can be expensive to buy in Costa Rica, especially at the small stores that are within walking distance of most neighborhoods. Also, make sure to pack a sufficient amount of any prescription medications you take. Before I left my doctor wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic for traveler’s diarrhea and another one for nausea and vomiting. I have not had to use either one so far, but it is good to know I am prepared. I also brought Pepto-Bismol and cold medication. Both of my roommates have encountered weird temporary stomach bugs and have appreciated the Pepto. Sunscreen and bug spray are also critical things to bring. Another random item that would be handy is a small laundry bag or collapsible clothes hamper to collect your dirty laundry in. I did not pack one so I have been using plastic bags which work, but are not exactly convenient.
If you have room in your suitcase I also recommend packing some non-perishable snacks such as granola bars or protein bars. Sometimes if we have a large breakfast I find it sufficient to just eat a protein bar for lunch, which also saves money. There are plenty of places to buy snacks at a reasonable price, but they do not sell all of the same things as in the United States so if you are picky it is best to pack your own.
A backpack is handy to carry back and forth to school, as well as for going on short weekend excursions. For women, a small over the shoulder satchel or purse is best to use when going out or traveling the city. This was you can keep your phone and wallet attached to you and in front of you the entire time to deter pick-pocketers. Also, don’t forget to bring chargers for any electronics you bring such as your computer, phone or camera. They are only useful when they have battery power!
I was able to pack everything I needed in two suitcases and a backpack. I checked my large suitcase, took my small suitcase as a carry-on, and my backpack as my “purse” when flying. It worked out very well, anyway after my lost luggage arrived it did! It is important to pack all the necessities without over-packing. It doesn’t need to be complicated, it’s about finding a balance. I hope that my experience will help packing for your adventure go more smoothly!