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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

10 Common Tourist Scams in Costa Rica to Avoid

Costa Rica can be the ultimate paradise. A place people longingly dream of whether it be a vacation, part-time move, or retirement destination, it is desired by plenty.

So, when many arrive, they are laden with rose-colored glasses, living in the honeymoon phase of being in Costa Rica. Excitement, the sunshine, and coconuts of tropical days. Monkeys and rainforests, reconnecting with nature. 

However, as with most destinations around the globe, there are always a few tricks of the trade that some like to use on others to get ahead. Here are a few tips to be aware of throughout your travels and stay in Costa Rica.

1. Bus Strike

The bus strike story is one of the oldest in the books and stays alive since it works. When you arrive and seek out a taxi to take you to the bus terminal or even out waiting for the bus some drivers will share pertinent news with you. That there is a bus strike in the country but will gladly help you reach your hotel or destination.

This would be key information and top news in Costa Rica and easily found online. You would most definitely know about it since the public transportation system is so heavily relied upon across the country.

Save your dollars and dignity and continue with your plans by taking a ride to the terminal or waiting for the bus. There is likely no bus strike but only someone looking to make some extra money.

2. Property Rental Deposits

It is always in your best interest to rent first when deciding where to stay in Costa Rica if a long-time visit is in the plans. Getting to know if a town is right for you or best suited as a vacation destination is extremely important. Renting lets you get a feel for the land, the community, and the way of life.

Rental deposits are typically asked for as a security for any damages. Always take photos first as a backup. What can seem like a great relationship at the beginning can sometimes turn a bit sour, money tends to do that to people. This goes for any country you are renting in, not just Costa Rica.

There have been some wild stories of landlords coming up with ridiculous lists when it’s time to move out. Given long lists of what seems like more of a home renovation, makeover, or maintenance costs than any actual damages.

3. The Love Language

It is so easy for some to be swooned by the mi amor, mi vida, corazon, amorcito if it isn’t the language you are accustomed to. The words of love and adoration by both women and men can seem so adoring. Of course, it is beautiful and can come from the heart with good natural intentions.

But it is something to be mindful of when a first-time visitor. It is also said to the cashier when checking out, welcoming a random patron into the store, or a stray animal on the street. It is incorporated into everyday vocabulary regardless of who one is speaking to. Some can fall prey to the emotions that it can evoke if it is all new to you and not your vernacular.

4. Restaurant Bill Review

It goes without saying whenever you go out to eat, take a look at your bill. And if you are having a few cervezas try to keep tabs on the empties or the glasses on the table. Sometimes, a few might be added on thinking you might not notice.

Review your bill to make sure it doesn’t include an extra plate of food or drinks. High traffic and tourist locations can make for easy attempts and most often than not when questioned it is fixed.

5. Parking Lots

Parking lots such as Manuel Antonio are notorious for luring you into their unofficial spaces by what appears to be parking assistants. However, pulling in has you walking about a mile to just get to the park.

There is no official parking lot but there are private lots much closer to the park’s entrance. Don’t choose the first one you see and don’t believe that you cannot enter the park without their guidance or staying in their lot.

Remember to never leave anything in sight wherever you are parking, even if it is just for a few minutes.  It may not seem valuable to you but to someone else, it may be worth breaking in for.

6. Taxi Tricks

It almost becomes a right of passage when traveling to Costa Rica to share your taxi tales over a cold cerveza. You don’t need to be a foreigner to have one, locals and tourists alike.

The old faithful trick of the meter is broken. Let’s set an agreed-upon price so we get you on your way quickly is told time and time again. But don’t fall for it, the price will most likely not be what you agreed upon once you arrive and you are left to pay whatever they choose.

Meters aren’t reset, many somehow have been forgotten to be turned on or accidentally turned off. Be responsible and take note before the journey starts. Taking the long route is one of the oldest tricks in the book around the world. Follow along on your phone and keep an eye if it seems to be going further off track than what seems reasonable.

7. Investing in Something You Have Never Seen

So many have a dream of spending their future days in Costa Rica’s paradise that they get wrapped up in the potential of making their visions a reality. However, they make the mistake of not coming to Costa Rica and seeing it for themselves or speaking to the right people.  So often than not, you can find your deposit or purchase is for a place that does not even exist.

Things can appear to be legitimate with the powers of technology and methods of communication, but this can also serve as a detriment. When investing ensure you are fully aware and knowledgeable of your purchase and who you are working with. Property fraud is a very common occurrence across the globe.

You want to ensure what is being sold to you can actually be sold to you, developed on, and are in fact are the owners of the property, not someone well versed in the trickery. Do your research and don’t rush.  There are reputable and trustworthy professionals that can assist you.

8. Rainy Season Romance

Romance can suddenly shower down on you when the rainy season is approaching. It becomes a way of life for some needing a place to stay when the sunny days cloud over, especially in the tourist beach towns.

It’s so well known, that even the locals joke about it. However, many unsuspecting tourists or seasonal vacationers may not be privy to this.  They come to believe they have met their next romance or love of their life. Unfortunately, some find themselves without a few of their possessions, passports, and documents missing, or at least a good portion of their savings dwindled after the rains pass.

9. Car Rentals

Costa Rica has a good public transportation system, most are comfortable with big windows to see the country as you travel. However, it can take quite a while to get from one place to another. So many invest in a car rental getting them to where they need to go quickly and when they want.

But there are a few things to look out for. The online prices can grab your attention with what appears to be a great deal. Once you arrive for your vacation you can be at the mercy of the rental company. Finding yourself with no other options, coming in high season, everything is rented and you have no choice but to accept the expensive surprises.

At the end of the payment process what you thought you would be paying is nowhere near the actual amount with the additional fees. There is mandatory insurance that must be purchased, regardless of what company you use which is not cheap.

Simply inquire about all the additional fees and insurance that are required for your car rental booking so you aren’t left in sticker shock when it comes time to pay. Also, do a very thorough walk around the rental and even take some pictures. You don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s pothole adventures that the country’s roads are notorious for.

10. Gas Stations

Gas stations in Costa Rica are full service so everything is taken care of for you. You may need to use the restroom or use those down moments for something else, but save that for after you have filled up. Keep your presence at the pump and your eyes on what is going on before you.

Has the pump been reset? Is someone distracting you by trying to sell you something at your window? Are you using a credit card, if so, does your bill match the amount on the pump? Have there been extra charges put on, or were you charged twice? Not paying in the local currency? Be cognizant of what the actual exchange is if it isn’t posted on the pump or station.

All countries have someone waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting person or those that may be a bit too kind or naïve. It goes without saying to be weary if one is too friendly or befriends you quickly, always watch your credit card wherever it goes and have a good sense of awareness.

Of course, you are on vacation and simply want to focus on all the beautiful things around you which you should so rightfully do. Just have a good head on your shoulders when settling into the pura vida of things.

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