Valerie Bourdain: No Reservations

Three weeks ago, I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, for my first ever trip to Latin America. I’ve enjoyed my host family, the traveling I’ve been able to do, and the friends I’ve made during my time here so far. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for those looking to explore the land Down Under (North America):

1. Bring – and wear- the money belt you packed.
Sure, almost nothing will hide that bulk beneath your shirt unless you decide to tie a sweater around your waist. Hint: The money belt looks and feels stupid until you’re almost robbed in the park while searching through your purse!

2. Get used to different customs!
Rice and beans will be served at any and all times of the day. Also, one of the primary dishes – rice, beans, and meat mixed together – is called casado in Spanish, which means “married.” Hint: People are not asking if you would like to be married right before they serve you food. 

3. Play it by ear!
If you decide to undertake an exploration of your surroundings, congratulations! What will follow is a challenging journey, both mentally and physically, involving faltering taxis, shady directions, and otherwise unreliable means of travel. The result, albeit rewarding, will probably set you back at least $50 more than planned and frustrate you into silence with the friends you are traveling with. Hint: You will arrive at the national park at least 2 hours later than planned, so don’t worry about the morning rain forecast!

4. Did you say bus schedule?
Nope!

5. Immerse yourself…
In Spanish! Hint: You will be much more comfortable communicating in Spanish after three Imperials – the national beer of Costa Rica. 

6. Haggle!
This is an important part of travel many Americans neglect to take advantage of. By haggling, you cut down on all kinds of costs, including the peanut butter and tissues you are buying. Try out your local supermarket. Hint: They are a national chain and this will not work. They will also not understand your “haggling” gesture. Why didn’t you look it up in Spanish first?

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