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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Overtourism In Costa Rica: 10 Ways to Manage it

We are first introduced to these magical places when we are kids. We hear about them, we see them in movies and shows, and we read about them in our books and novels. When we grow up to be adults, we save our money for travel, plan a vacation, and finally visit our dream places. Only to be overwhelmed by the crowd of tourists at these iconic places!

According to UNWTO (World Tourism Organization), the number of international arrivals increased from 25 million in 1950 to over 1.3 billion in 2017. This number is expected to grow continuously by 3.3% until 2030 when 1.8 billion international tourists will cross borders.

Cities like Prague, Venice, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Paris, etc., suffer from the excessive number of tourists arriving every year. But countries have now started to push back. Some are imposing tourist taxes, day taxes, and pollution taxes, some are limiting the number of tourists allowed per day at a place, while others have stopped allowing the construction of new hotels and Airbnbs.

In my previous article, I mentioned some possible ways in which Costa Rica, as a country, can manage overtourism.

But, will these efforts be enough to combat overtourism? No!

We, as tourists, need to play our part too! Especially if we want to conserve the beauty and authenticity of Costa Rica.

10 Ways to Manage Overtourism in Costa Rica

Below are some small steps we all can take on an individual level.

1. Travel during off-peak seasons

When you visit a place during peak season, you not only face crowds but pay extra for everything, from flights to hotels. By doing a little research about the place, you may be able to find a ‘shoulder season’, a season where the weather is still nice, the crowds have gone and prices are back to normal.

2. Travel slow

Some travelers have a bucket list of places and they want to tick as many places as possible off the list in just one single trip. They stop at a city for a day or two and hop on to another.

Choose to travel slowly instead. Spend more days in one place. Take out time to interact with the local community, explore the city, and visit places beyond the popular ones. This way you focus more on quality than quantity.

3. Spread your travel around

This step goes hand in hand with the above one. When you travel slowly, you end up covering places beyond the popular ones.

When you visit a city, don’t just stick to the most popular spots. Go out of the town center. Explore offbeat places. This would mean fewer tourists at hotspots and higher benefits of tourism to the local communities around the city.

4. Use public transport

Many international tourists rent a car as soon as they land in Costa Rica. They then drive to every place on their list. Visiting a destination by private transport only adds to the problem of congestion and increased traffic.

Take public transport whenever you can. If not, take a shared shuttle. A shared shuttle can carry up to 12 tourists (sometimes even more) at one time, as against a car that will carry 4-5 tourists.

5. Be an informed traveler

A little research about the place you are visiting helps you to be aware of its culture, customs, values, rules & regulations. This way, you will be more knowledgeable and respectful of the place.

6. Be a responsible tourist

I once read a sign at Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica – ‘Don’t take more than photos, don’t leave more than footprints’! I think this perfectly sums up the idea of a responsible tourist.

Don’t leave a negative impact behind. Respect the local culture, and be sensitive towards the nature and environment of the place you are visiting. Bring your trash back with you.

7. Travel in smaller groups

When you travel in large groups, you add to the crowds in one place. You are also in a social bubble of your own, which gives you fewer opportunities to connect with your surroundings. Traveling in small groups would allow you to interact with the destination and the locals around you.

8. Eat at local restaurants

If you like to eat at McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, or Subway, even when you are traveling, you need to give your habit a thought. Often the money spent at these big MNCs is transferred out of the country, offering very little benefit to the locals.

Eat local! You not only get better quality food but help in boosting the local economy by spending on local businesses.

9. Stay at a local hotel, Airbnb, or B&B

The same is true for accommodation. When looking for a place to stay, try to opt for hotels, hostels, B&Bs, and Airbnbs run by locals. For many locals, this is their source of income. Not only do you help them, but you also get to experience local culture and taste the local cuisine.

10. Promote lesser-known places

If you are a YouTuber, social media influencer, a travel blogger (or even if you are not), post pictures and talk about offbeat places on your social media handles. This would bring people’s attention to places they have never heard of before. They might even add that place to their bucket list.

Every single step counts! You can start as little as you like. One day, all of this will come naturally to you. And, one day, we hope you can be the torch bearer and enlighten others!

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