Costa Rica Suggested Packing List

Gear for Costa Rica. 

Plugs and voltages are the same in Costa Rica as the U.S. (120V flat prongs)
  • Headlamp or Flashlight
  • Phone
  • International Calling Plan – see details
  • Pocket Knife or Multi-Tool
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Collapsible Trekking Pole(s)/Monopod
  • Water Bottle or Bag
Clothes
  • 3-5 T-shirts
  • 1-2 Long Sleeved Shirts
  • 1-2 Dressy Shirts or Blouses
  • 2-3 Pairs Shorts
  • 1-2 Pairs Long Pants
  • Underwear
  • Sports Bra
  • 2-10 Pairs Socks
  • PJs or a long T-shirt
  • Jacket
  • Bandana
  • Safari Hat, Baseball Cap or Brimmed Hat
  • Mesh Bag for Wet Clothes
  • Swimsuit(s)
Shoes
some combination of…
  • Amphibian hikers/Water Shoes
  • Hiking/Walking Shoes
  • River/Reef Sandals
  • Beach Sandals/Flip-Flops
  • Crocs
  • Dressy Sandals or Shoes

Toiletries & Health
All of these items are readily available (except tampons in more remote areas) in the local Supermercado or Farmacía, but unless you’re on an extended trip bring them from home and spend your time on the beach rather than in checkout lines.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Razor
  • Toothbrush with Cover, and Toothpaste
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Brush or Comb
  • Antiperspirant
  • Towel
  • Washcloth
  • Toilet Paper or Kleenex
  • Cosmetics
  • Prescription Medications
  • Sunglasses
  • Tampons
  • Contact Lenses and Cleaning Solutions
  • Spare Prescription Glasses

Documents & Info

  • Passport
  • Drivers License
  • Cash Money 
  • Money Belt or Passport Pendant
  • Your Login Information
  • Both Authentication Factors – for two factor authentication (aka two step verification)
  • Insurance Information

Books & Maps
Besides some light reading and a recommended guidebook you may also want to pick these up.

  • Waterproof Travel Map of Costa Rica
  • Spanish/English Phrase Book
  • A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica
  • The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide
  • Costa Rican Natural History
  • Costa Rica Wildlife Guide

Miscellaneous

  • Plastic Bags
  • A Photo of Your Home or Family
  • Address Book
  • Clothesline
  • Blanket
  • Insulated Beverage Container
  • Croakies®
  • Zipties
  • Gifts

Cool Fun Stuff for Costa Rica

  • Cygolite – portable spotlight
  • Kindle
  • Victorinox Nail Clipper
  • RavPower pb28
  • Green Laser Pointer
First Aid Kit (Basic)
  • band aids® Butterfly closures are useful to close deep cuts.
  • eye drops- Artificial tears (e.g. NeoTears®)
  • Imodium® OTC or Lomotil® (by prescription in the US) to treat diarrhea
  • Dramamine® or other motion sickness prevention
  • neosporin® (over the counter) or terramycin® (by prescription in the US) to prevent infection of small cuts, scrapes, and insect bites
  • tweezers- needle point/surgical
  • tape- waterproof, flexible, breathable surgical tape
  • insect repellent- > 95% DEET for mosquitoes.
  • pain relievers/fever reducers (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and/or Aspirin)
  • sun screen- at least SPF 20, waterproof
  • $US 20 bill (if you want more emergency cash carry more twenties.. fifties and hundreds are regarded suspiciously)
  • vitamins- what ever you normally take
  • whistle
First Aid Kit (Advanced)
  • alcohol pads & benzalkonium sterile wipes
  • Aloe Vera gel- 100% pure, no perfume or color added; relieves the pain and speeds the healing of sunburn.
  • anti-histamine tablets- there are all sorts of new pollens to react to, and these can help control the swelling and pain from insect, spider and scorpion stings.
  • anti-bacterial soap
  • anti-fungal cream
  • codeine and/or valium
  • Dramamine® or other motion sickness remedy
  • electrolytes- to ease dehydration due to diarrhea or vomiting.
  • erythromycin
  • hemostat
  • mole foam- to prevent and protect blisters
  • peroxide based water purification system
  • scissors
  • sutures
  • scalpel or razorblade
  • sterile surgical gauze
  • stainless steel nail file
  • super glue- emergency repairs of equipment and an alternative to sutures
  • tampons- as tampons but they also work well in a pinch as sterile absorbent wound packing (o.b.®, no applicator).
  • thermometer
  • waterproof lighter
Other things to have handy in your first aid kit
  • micro led flashlight- in a night time emergency it might be the only light you have
  • eyeglass screws- we fix our own after experiencing the Big Screwdriver
  • 100 lb. test braided nylon line
  • spare contacts
  • emergency contact information (our names, addresses and phone numbers- in case we’re unconscious, and those of our parents, and physicians in the U.S.)
  • nylon sewing thread and needles
  • crimp on snaps
  • phone card
  • ear plugs- the compressible foam ones are by far the best
  • compass (only if you know how to use it)

Unpacking List – things to leave home

  • Cell Phone – either purchase an international plan or leave it home.
  • You can purchase a local sim card if your phone is unlocked by your provider.
  • There is no point in carrying all of your keys.
  • Wallet contents- If you’re going to carry your wallet, you can probably remove ¾ths of the contents.
  • Purse – Look at what’s in yours to decide if you want to lug it around, and if there is anything you don’t need to risk losing.
  • Copies of your documents. Minimally a Xerox of your passport, drivers license, credit cards, airline tickets, and any reservations that you’ve prepaid. You need to leave a set at home in case of emergency.
  • An itinerary.
  • Sheets/Sleep sack-great for hostels in Europe, but not necessary in Central America.
  • If you’re visiting from the U.S. or Canada you can leave the electric converters and plug adapters at home. The current and plugs are the same and your appliances should work just fine.

Something to Put It All In – Packs & Luggage

We’ve used suitcases, soft duffels, rolling duffels, carry-ons, backpacks and even just plain old cardboard boxes as luggage.

There’s no real ideal choice for Costa Rica. While a small rolling suitcase is great for the airport, paved areas around lodges or inside the hotel the people wearing backpacks will fare much better when they encounter gravel driveways and paths or uneven vertical curb concrete amalgams that pass as sidewalks in Costa Rica.

The best advice we can offer is instead of worrying about choosing the ideal bag try to keep whatever you carry to a minimum. You’ll be much happier carrying 20 lbs than dragging around 50lbs no matter how it’s packaged.

When we don’t have to travel with giant cases (stuff for work or U.S. shopping being delivered to expats) we use carry-on sized backpacks lined with a dry bag that double as bike panniers and keep our weight total under 25lbs.

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