I chose Costa Rica to be my first choice for several reasons: the country had just opened, the virus numbers were low, Costa Rica has a good healthcare system, and the tropical climate lends itself to more outdoor activities. Costa Rica initially opened its borders requiring a negative test. When that failed to attract travelers, they dropped the test and moved to require insurance. The insurance provides up to $2000 to cover quarantine costs and $20,000 for medical treatment. With the current requirement for a negative test to re-enter the US, Costa Rica has made this process extremely easy for departing travelers.
In preparation for my trip my travel companion, another travel advisor, stayed close home in the 2 weeks before our trip and also took COVID tests. This was not required but something we both did to put each other at ease being in close quarters. In addition we both purchased Medjet policies. Medjet is not travel insurance, but a company that provides transportation to your preferred hospital. In the unlikely event of being hospitalized for COVID they have pods that are used to transport travellers to their home hospital. In addition to the Costa Rican insurance, I also had travel insurance. Good news is that I did not need to use any of the insurance options I had.
Ever wanted to repel through a waterfall?
My flight on United was uneventful and I did get an amazing price to upgrade last minute. Service even in business class is limited and on my flight they did serve alcohol in the business class cabin. Gone are the days of airlines selling food and alcohol until the pandemic has passed. United also served a tapas box and a cream cheese sandwich. I chose the tapas box and it was pretty good. Other than the short time I ate, I had my KN95 mask on for the entire flight.
Upon arrival I was met by my driver and travel companion and we were off to the races. Rodrigo, our driver, had us use hand sanitizer before entering the van. We asked him to stop for some beer as we had a 3 hour transfer ahead of us to Arenal. Rodrigo explained we were driving on the Pan American Highway, the highway that runs from Prudhoe Alaska, through the US and Mexico and down to Southern Chile. I joked with my travel companion that I have a history of my travel adventures going awry. She said not this trip. About 20 minutes later we got a flat tire and I got bit by Costa Rican fire ants while we drank our beers on the side of the Pan American Highway.
Fast food restaurants are rare outside of the San Jose area and the Soda is a type of local restaurant that is cheap and cheerful – or as the natives say “Bueno bonita and barrata”.
They usually serve Casadas which are a typical Costa Rican dish with beans, rice, salad or plantains and either beef, fish or chicken. Restaurants had QR codes for menus and cleaning protocols were clearly followed.