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How do I get the most out of my budget during my Costa Rica trip?

One of the biggest fears when travelling is to have enough money for all our expenses. But don´t worry, because here I leave you some tips and recommendations for you to enjoy Costa Rica to the fullest and being efficient with your budget while still enjoying unique experiences in the country.

Let's get into it!

Where to sleep?

Regarding lodging alternatives, small hotels dominate the country's tourism offer. About 80% of the Costa Rican hotels have less than 30 rooms and 60% are category 0 to 3 stars according to the Costa Rican Tourism Board data.  

In 2018, the total lodging offer was counted with 3´748 hotels for a total of 57´233 rooms. 33´842 of these rooms are categorized between 0 and 3 stars which means that there is a wide variety of quality accommodation alternatives and adjustable to various budgets.

TIP: Need help finding hotels according to your budget? Contact us in our chat service and we could help you finding hotels for all your trips.

Where to eat?

If you want to eat healthy, delicious and in an affordable way, Costa Rica offers very interesting alternatives. While it's true that having lunch in this country hovers around 7 to 15 USD and that's a lot compared with other countries, a well-selected dish can leave you satisfied perhaps for the rest of the day!

My best recommendation for where to eat is: "In the central markets". Each of Costa Rica's major cities has its own central market, and within them, you'll find at least 4 “sodas”, small local restaurants. In these “sodas” you will find all kinds of traditional and typical Costa Rican dishes, but I will focus on two more than all:

The “Gallo Pinto”

gallo pinto

More than anything for breakfast. A well-prepared “Pinto” includes a mixture of rice with beans, chopped egg, custard, palmed omelette and in some cases sausage and/or white bread. If you have a good “Pinto” for breakfast in one of the “sodas” on the market, perhaps you won't need lunch, as it's such a complete dish that it will sustain you for many hours, and if that were the case, you would be saving a meal that day. A “Gallo Pinto” with a coffee can be around 7 USD.

The “Casado”


For lunch or dinner. The “Casado” basically includes rice, beans, a “picadillo” (a mix of several vegetables as an accompaniment), meat of either beef, chicken, fish or pork; a salad and often a second accompaniment. In many “sodas” the “Casado” also includes a natural juice within the price. Like the “Pinto”, a well-charged “Casado” can support you for many hours, and also hovers around 7 USD.

TIP: Along the roads throughout Costa Rica, it's common to see “sodas” where you could eat the original Costa Rican food. My advice as a “Tico “traveller is: Look for the “sodas” where, for a very good price, you can enjoy the authentic gastronomy of Costa Rica and also can share this experience with locals.

TIP 2: If you're in a small town that doesn't have a market, ask a taxi driver or local for advice on where to find the best “sodas.”

Which means of transportation should I use in Costa Rica?

Terminal 7 10

Costa Rica's public transport service is quite good, and the units for long trips are mostly comfortable, the only deficiency is that in case you need to move from one place to another (on long routes) it is necessary to first go back to San Jose and take another bus. However, prices are always low and transportation is safe.

  • Terminal to La Fortuna, Monteverde, Cobano, Jacó: Terminal 7-10. Avenida 7, Calles 8 y 10.
  • Terminal to Manuel Antonio, Uvita, Dominical: TRACOPA. Calle 5, Avenida 18 y 20.
  • Terminal to Puntarenas: Empresarios Unidos de Puntarenas. Calle 16, Avenidas 10 y 12
  • Terminal to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca: MEPE. Avenida 9, Calle 12.
  • Terminal to Caribe, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí y Guápiles: Gran Terminal del Caribe. Calle Central, Avenidas 13 y 15.
  • Terminal to the South: MUSOC. Calle Central, Avenida 22.
  • Terminal to Turrialba: TRANSTUSA. Avenida 6, Calle 13.
  • Terminal to Cartago: LUMACA. Avenida 10, Calles 5 y 7.

You can also choose a Shuttle service or private transportation, which takes you comfortably from one tourist destination to another, just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will be happy to assist you.

If you wish to rent a car and travel comfortably with your luggage without worrying about schedules, pick-up points or long trips on a bus, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., we will be happy to help you!

Which places can I visit?

nosara paddle boat

Actually, the whole territory of Costa Rica has beautiful places to visit, if you are in the Central Valley you can go to rivers, mountains, waterfalls, forests, national parks, volcanoes, museums, do a city tour, etc. If you are at the low plains you can get to know the culture, visit rivers, parks, hot springs, caverns, do activities like canopy, tubing, horseback riding, ride a bike, among others. On the other side, there is the beach; Costa Rica has two long coasts, the Pacific and Caribbean coast, so there are hundreds of beaches along the national territory, national marine parks, dry forests and impressive landscapes. Actually, there are many things to do!

Low season and low prices

Punta Uva

First of all, keep in mind that Costa Rica is a country with a tropical climate where there are no defined seasons, such as winter or summer, but a dry season (with little chance of rain), and a rainy season (with a greater chance of rain, even if it does not mean it will be raining all the time, there will also be many days of sunshine). 

Therefore, it is a country that can be visited at any time of the year. However, there are months in which hotels and tourist activities are a little more accessible than the rest of the year. This off-season basically starts a week after Easter (mid-April) and finishes the last week of November. So if you want to maximize your budget, I recommend you visit the country during the so-called low season, (although you may run into some rain from time to time). But it is awesome because at this time there are three impressive natural phenomena: the spawning of the sea turtles on the Caribbean coast, the sighting of the humpback whales on the Pacific coast and the largest bird migration of the year.

Can I work and earn extra money?

Unfortunately, in Costa Rica tourists are not allowed to work since there are no work permits and all services are taxed by VAT, so it is forbidden to have a job without the corresponding permits.

I hope these tips will help you on your next trip to this tropical paradise. If you have questions or know other tips that would like to share with us, feel free to leave them below in the comments. And remember we are always ready to help you, so do not hesitate to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., it will be a pleasure for us!

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  • Janaina & Dieter, Brazil

    The trip was wonderful! Your help was invaluable and without your choices it would not have been so good! I am very very satisfied and very happy with the choices you made!

    Thank you very much for everything!

    Janaina & Dieter, Brazil
  • Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany

    Hello dear Aline, many thanks to you for the great compilation and organization of the trip. We were able to spend eventful, interesting and wonderful days in Costa Rica and will keep them in good memory. A thank you also goes to the ARA Tours team, which was available 24/7 for problems and questions, which were solved and answered quickly and reliably. The punctuality of the transfers offered should also be emphasized. In summary, it was a wonderful holiday.

    Kind regards

    Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo, Germany
  • Carina & Thomas, Germany

    Hello dear Aline,
    Now we have arrived back at San Jose Airport after a great trip. Everything worked out great and the tour was just perfectly planned and organized. Thank you very much. We take a lot of positive memories with us.
    Best regards.

    Carina & Thomas, Germany
  • Yvonne, Switzerland

    The Costa Rica trip together with my family is already behind us - it was wonderful!!! Everything went smoothly from A to Z, we had a wonderful time, no incidents and wonderful experiences.
    We all enjoyed it very much; the nature is enormous, but also the warm-hearted people, the cleanliness, the food - we are very enthusiastic!
    At this point I would like to thank you very much for your support in the preparation, for all the bookings, clarifications and enquiries!!!
    We visited the waterfall in La Fortuna and had a great view of the Arenal. In Monteverde we did a Hanging Bridges and Zipline tour and in Nosara a surf course. In Finca Rosa Bianca we did the coffee tour, it was all great, fun and interesting 😊. All in all, we saw lots of animals, always ate well, enjoyed the beaches....even in rainy weather 😊. Often we were even glad that it was overcast, otherwise it would have been almost toouuu hot for us.
    So THANK YOU again so much for everything!!!!

    Yvonne, Switzerland
  • Christina, Switzerland

    Many thanks for the extensive support (before, during and after the trip) and the professional handling of our concerns. With your support we had a smooth and unforgettable vacation in Costa Rica! Our favorite hotels: Hotel Plaza Yara and the Poas Volcano Lodge - a dream!
    All the best

    Christina, Switzerland
  • Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA

    Yay! I´m glad we are back on track. Thank you again for helping us with all these changes.
    I´m glad we choose ARA-you are amazing! Thanks for all your help! It made it a very memorable visit!

    Jeanne, Bernd & Bill, USA
  • Janka, The Netherlands

    Hi Eli & ARA Team,
    We have spoken to the guest and they are super enthusiastic about their Costa Rica roundtrip! Everything was well organized, nice hotels, nice mix of activities & beach and they have big compliments for you guys!!
    Many thanks for all the good work!! The guest highly appreciate it!!
    They had lunch nearby in Ara Ambigua Lodge, and they loved this place. Friendly staff and good food!
    Do you work with this accommodation? If so, we would love hear 😊
    Once again, heads off for this amazing trip!
    With warm regards

    Janka, The Netherlands
  • Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland

    Dear Priska
    Happily I write some words to you in English, so you can easily forward them also to Ara Tours, please. Thank you all, we spent a magic time in Costa Rica! Baumeler's and Ara Tours organisation and logistics were perfect, everything worked out even better than we expected. The tours were brilliant, we really enjoyed everything very very much!
    All the accomodation was absolutely wonderful... the setting, the quality, the food, with happy helpful friendly staff everywhere. It was a wonderful way to experience this beautiful country the way we did, on a private tour with personal guide and drivers. We saw and learnt sooo much - it would have been impossible to do so on our own.
    Especially we praise our brilliant guide Fernando Perez, we benefited so much from his truly wide knowledge and deep love for his Country which he passed on in lovely encouraging way. We even became friends and we will meet in Switzerland coming September! Also our driver Carlos Sandi was great, not only as a driver but also as a compagnion, animal spotter and photographer. Thank you!
    So.... now we just enjoy our last day...
    Sunny greetings, pura vida

    Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula, Switzerland
  • Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland

    Hello all
    Unfortunately, our wonderful trip is already over and everyday life has caught up with us again. We would like to thank you very much for everything. The trip was planned exactly according to our wishes and we have seen so many beautiful places.
    Thank you Stefanie!
    We have felt completely comfortable and top cared for by you. Via Whats App we got immediate answers to our questions, with the car everything worked out great. In all locations we were treated very warmly and nicely. It was just so indescribably beautiful, we will dream of the beautiful experiences for a long time. In any case, we will warmly recommend you and hope for a next time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Best regards.

    Yvonne & Andrea, Switzerland
  • Anita, Switzerland

    We have arrived safely in Switzerland and have already returned to work.
    It was a wonderful trip you put together for us.
    Your excellent service, as well as the 24 hour support service from ARA Tours, was truly outstanding.
    I have already recommended you several times and would book with you again and again. Thank you very much and keep me informed if there are any interesting offers.
    Best wishes.

    Anita, Switzerland
  • Lukas & Isabelle, Switzerland

    Hello Pedro, our time in CR is coming to an end and we wanted to say "thank you very much for organizing a phenomenal week". Everything has been well organized and we have seen many beauties of nature. Thanks!

    Lukas & Isabelle, Switzerland
  • Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands

    Thanks Jenny for the clear answer. We will make an appointment via the link you gave us.
    Today we visited National Parc Cabo Blanco. What an amazing park, so quiet for tourists, so full of animals, really lovely and therefore together with Monte Verde, Cahuita and Corcovado the park today, Cabo Blanco, scores high in our ranking of most beautiful parks of CR.These parks give us reason, together with the Pura Vida in CR, to come back soon. We'll keep in contact.

    Reinout & Yvonne, The Netherlands
  • Dominik, Germany

    Good day Jennifer
    As we have already told Simone, the stay at Lapa Rios is extremely enriching, thanks to the well planned planting and the untouched environment we see a lot of animals. Contrary to the plans before the stay, we do not want to visit more animals in captivity at the end. We will have a look at the few hours before we leave.
    We thank you and your team very much for the excellent advice and the permanent support! We can only recommend Ara Tours.
    Best regards.

    Dominik, Germany
  • Daniel, Jana & Theo, Germany

    A big thank to you, you saved our vacation!
    Communication already worked very well in Germany. The help from you, especially through Aline, should be mentioned here. This was fantastic from the first WhatsApp message to the last. We already know Costa Rica, so we knew what we wanted and what not. Ara Tours was an important point of contact for us. We are very grateful to Aline precisely because our actual travel agent cancelled our trip 36 hours before departure. She immediately organized everything for us. Whether the hotel in beautiful Punta Leona, the tours to the national parks, even the shuttle service with the great driver Guillerno Ortega has to be mentioned here. We are very grateful to you, dear Aline, but also to the entire Ara Tours team. You too made our almost 3-week trip to Costa Rica unforgettable again. We would love to come back and of course we will book through Ara Tours again.

    Daniel, Jana & Theo, Germany
  • Alexander & family, Switzerland

    Thank you, everything really worked out great. Super organization and at any time quick info / help / support from you!
    We liked it very much. The conclusion in Quepos was crowning. We liked the beach in the National Park Manuel Antonio very much. We would have liked to stay longer, but we take home many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. PURA VIDA!
    Many thanks to you Aline! We will gladly recommend you to others.

    Alexander & family, Switzerland
  • Neumann Family, Germany

    - The route was super planned, first on the beach time to arrive and then only from Monteverde with excursions inland etc. and at the end again beach - perfect!
    - Support from Ara Tours was VERY good!!! Through Whatsapp reachability the service was great, very quick answers / very flexible, good suggestions etc. Also with the doctor Ara Tours helped with translations by phone - that was really very, very good!
    - The home stay day was an absolute highlight - very authentic - so we got to know the locals REAL, the family was super friendly and very open and have talked about everything. Not at all touristy perceived.

    Neumann Family, Germany
  • Marine & Bruno, France

    We would like to thank you personally for this beautiful trip that you organised for us and for the follow-up that you did throughout the stay. A big thank you also to Jennifer d'Ara tours! Thank you again and have a great week!

    Marine & Bruno, France
  • Walter, Switzerland

    We really appreciated your (almost) daily updates from Costa Rica on Covid and related issues. That was a highlight compared to other incoming agents worldwide! We thank you for your effort and wish you that you manage the coming time well and stay healthy.

    Walter, Switzerland
  • Ronald, Germany

    Our great compliments for keeping us informed every day on the developments. We wish you all the best and keep yourself and families in good health and mood during this unprecedented period!

    Ronald, Germany
  • Kathrin, Germany

    You are really super! It is impressive how you manage the crisis with your super flow of information and the great reversal. Hats off!

    Kathrin, Germany
  • Michael, Germany

    Hello, we were on a round trip in Costa Rica from 27.11., which was booked through BigXtra and organised by them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much. The tour was simply amazing! The support by Carlos was just great. We have done many trips before, but this one was an unforgettable experience thanks to Carlos. Carlos speaks very good German and was able to sensitively introduce us to Costa Rica, its incomparable nature and its great, friendly inhabitants. Pura Vida became for us a term for the attitude towards life in Costa Rica. Please say hello to Carlos from us and once again a huge thank you to him in the name of the whole group of 8. We wish him only the best for his future.

    Michael, Germany
  • Evelyne, Switzerland

    Wie just did a 4 week trip in Costa Rica which was organised from ARA tours and we really liked it - well done Ara Tours! We also had a guide - his name is Enrique. His German is really good and he knows a lot about Costa Rica and he showed us a lot of animals. We had a wonderful time with hime - thank you so much Enrique!

    Evelyne, Switzerland
  • Tanja, Germany

    perfect tour perfect tour guide pablo, everything very well organised 👍👍👍👍🇨🇷🇨🇨🇷 were thrilled

    Tanja, Germany
  • Ines, Germany

    Many thanks and great praise to our tour guide Mauricio and our bus driver Adrian! We felt very comfortable during the 2 weeks in Costa Rica. The wide-ranging knowledge of Mauricio and the super driving skills of Adrian were particularly admirable. Thanks to the eagle eyes of both of them, we had the opportunity to observe a variety of animals in Costa Rica. Thank you for everything!

    Ines, Germany
  • Sabine, Germany

    I can only recommend ARA Tours. Thanks again to Nicole for the great planning of the tour and the support. Our tour guide Peter Käser was simply incredible (a walking encyclopaedia) and always had an answer to all my questions about the flora and fauna and the history of CR. Our driver Julio carried my father on his hands, for which I am very grateful. CR is also worth a trip for wheelchair users at any time (with ARA Tours, of course).

    Sabine, Germany
  • Thieme Family, Germany

    We would like to thank you once again for organizing our trip [...] through the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our special thanks go to our tour guide Enrique, who with his extensive knowledge of flora and fauna about his country brought it very close to us and made us want to come even a second time. We were very glad and happy to travel with him, as he was also very committed to our problems on site, in addition to his competent function as a tour guide.

    Thieme Family, Germany
  • Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sensational effort! I do not know such a competent tour guide as with you really from nowhere else... and we have already traveled a lot... 🙏🏻🍀

    Antonia-Maria & Boris, Austria
  • Katja, Germany

    I wanted to thank you again for the great Costa Rica trip. We flew back home very happy and with many great impressions. A compliment for the super organisation. Everything worked out perfectly (except for the handover of the rental car, which was force majeure...). So thank you again and I have already recommended you to friends:-)!

    Katja, Germany
  • Denise & Alain, Switzerland

    Thank you very much for your email and the tickets. We really appreciate how quickly and efficiently you deal with our requests each time!

    Denise & Alain, Switzerland
  • Philippe, Switzerland

    Hello Christine Thank you very much for this information. The support is super👍 many thanks Gruss

    Philippe, Switzerland
  • Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

    Otherwise, the planned trip was a complete success. Everything went well and the visits you organised were all very interesting. The visits you organised were all very interesting and gave us a great insight into the respective topics. The fact that the Ticos are very friendly and always ready to help was fully confirmed.

    Marianne & Stefan Gräub, Switzerland

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