When I began packing for my study abroad experience in San Jose, I was a little overwhelmed. I had no idea what to bring to Costa Rica, and what to leave at home. I often asked myself, “Should I bring this item, leaving less space in my suitcase, or should I go without what I couldn’t purchase in Costa Rica?” I packed fairly lightly, bringing only what I thought were absolutely essential. Now, I am kicking myself every time I am forced to buy a $5 deodorant that would cost less than half that price in the States. Here are some items I suggest you consider bringing as you begin packing for the journey.
1. Large Backpack (Hiking backpack is best)
On every single one of my excursions, I wish I had one of these. My small school backpack was bursting at the seams on my longer trips to the beaches. Last week, when I spent three nights in Santa Teresa, I took my suitcase on wheels. This was the worst decision I could have made. Maneuvering the dirt roads with a 30 pound suitcase was definitely an experience I do not want to repeat.
2. Sunscreen, Bug Spray
These are two essential items for Costa Rica. The UV rays on the beaches are extremely strong and diseases like Dengue and Zika are carried by mosquitoes. Therefore, they should be readily available at a reasonable price here, right? Wrong. Ticos and Ticas have darker skin and typically do not need to apply sunscreen as often as fair-skinned people. Sunscreen is almost double the price here as it is in the States. Insect repellent is not much cheaper. Definitely, bring a bottle or two of each.
3. A Wild Card Item like a Musical Instrument
I am a saxophonist. My roommate here is a guitarist. He brought his guitar. I left my saxophone at home. He is phenomenal and plays every night. Again, I am kicking myself for not bringing my instrument to jam with him. Since I have been here, I have met many other people with the same interests as me, especially music. I would have loved to share my musical talents with them, jamming in our spare time. Another example: one of my friends is a very talented hula-hoop dancer. She, somehow, fit her hoop in her suitcase and has taught many other students a few dance moves. She has made many friends simply by sharing her talents with others.
These are some of the items I wish I considered bringing. As you begin to pack your bag, be creative and be thorough. If you have any questions, ask a San Jose alumnus before getting on