Tips for traveling to meet our team in Costa Rica
Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! We are very pleased to work with our clients in the United States and to be able to share a little bit of Costa Rica with you in the process.
When your team comes to visit us in Costa Rica, please keep these tips in mind.
There are two international airports in Costa Rica. Unless we tell you otherwise, you want to fly into Juan Santamaria (SJO) in San Jose. Send us your flight information and we will pick you up outside the airport. Once you clear customs and get your bags, there will be an exit to the sidewalk and that is where we will look for you.
If you need to check your email or contact us prior to leaving the airport, do it near your gate right after you leave the airplane. There is free wifi in that area, but once you clear customs you will not have internet access.
When you leave Costa Rica, please note there is a departure tax that must be paid at the airport. It’s currently about $30 US, and must be paid before you can clear security. Make sure to leave enough time before your flight to pay the departure tax, check in at the airport, and clear security. Arrive at the airport 2 1/2 hours ahead of time.
How long should you visit?
Obviously the more time you can spend, the better! But we understand that your time is limited and we want to make the most of it while ensuring you still enjoy yourself.
This is what we suggest:
- Sunday – fly into SJO airport, arrive in the afternoon and check into your hotel. We’ll make sure you have a nice dinner and ease into San Jose!
- Monday through Friday – work in our offices with our developers, tech leads, Scrummaster and UX/design leads. It will be an intense week of hard work (this is still business after all!), but we’ll make sure you also get to taste the excellent Costa Rican food and have a good time in the evenings.
- Saturday – head to the beach or the mountains!
- Sunday – If you head back to San Jose, we’ll need to leave early enough to account for beach traffic. If you can hang out on the beach until Monday, that’s not a bad thing either!
- Monday or Tuesday – Fly back to the US. You’ll be refreshed, energized about the project, and perhaps a little tan.
Meanwhile, we’re getting to work on your first sprint of the project!
Dealing with jet lag
Jet lag? What jet lag?! This is one of the big advantages our US clients have working with our Costa Rican teams. You can go visit them after a short flight and without changing time zones!
No jet lag medication or tips are necessary!
Our offices are located in the San Pedro region of San Jose. Please contact us for hotel recommendations before booking anything. Driving across San Jose can be time consuming and traffic is not always easy to navigate, so we would like to make sure you have comfortable lodgings near our office.
A note about addresses
Addresses in Costa Rica are funny. You may occasionally notice street names or building numbers, but people don’t seem to use them much. Instead, addresses are given relatively according to area landmarks. It seems very agile, doesn’t it?
For example, here is the address to the Tairona Inn:
Barrio Dent , San Pedro Montes de Oca, 75 metros Oeste de Taco Bell
That means it is in the San Pedro district of San Jose, in the Dent neighborhood, 75 meters west of the Taco Bell. Seriously, there’s a taco bell nearby. It’s actually one of the nicest taco bells I’ve ever seen, but I recommend you walk a little further to better restaurants!
The currency of Costa Rica is the colones. The conversion rate is around 500 colones to the US dollar, so you can do the math quickly in your head by doubling the Costa Rican price and then dividing by 1000. For example, 15000 colones is $30 US.
You can use US dollars almost anywhere you go, so it’s not necessary to have a lot of colones on you. You will receive change in colones whenever you pay with dollars.
Most restaurants and stores in San Jose will take Visa and Mastercard, just remember to advise your credit card company ahead of time that you will be traveling internationally so they don’t block your card out of potential fraud concerns.
You will need cash for cab rides, and at some of the tourist destinations on the beach or in the national parks. So it’s a good idea to bring a healthy amount of cash. For instance, the dolphin and whale boat tours in Uvita are about $75 per person, but where I have been did not take credit cards. It was well worth it though!
Service is included in most bills you get at restaurants. Look for the line item on the bill for “Servicio”, and it’s probably about 10%. You can tip more if you like, but it is not expected.
The only place I have seen where tipping is expected are the parking attendants at some restaurants. They also double as security guards who will keep an eye on your vehicle. Tipping 500 colones (about $1) is common.
What to bring
You will need a valid US passport to enter Costa Rica, which is not about to expire.
Bring a printed copy of your flight itinerary since Costa Rican customs may want proof that you plan to leave within the limits of a normal tourist visa. For similar reasons, they may also ask how much US currency you have to make sure you aren’t a bum. This apparently is a real concern – I once helped a fellow American “hippie” tourist who had run out of money and she did not have the cash to pay the departure tax at the airport!
You will also need to bring the address of the hotel you plan to stay at, since the customs forms will require that.
For the work part of your trip, you don’t need much. Normal US electrical plugs work – you do not need any adapters. Bring your laptop and we’ll provide pretty much everything else you need!
If you plan to stay long enough for some sightseeing (which we highly recommend), you should also bring:
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Bug spray (there can be lots of mosquitoes in the jungle areas)
- Remember though you can’t pack liquids in your carry on!
- Beach sandals/towel
- A long sleeve shirt or light jacket for the occasional cool breezy evenings, particularly in the mountains
- A light rain jacket if you are visiting during the wet season (May to November roughly)
You can get around San Jose fine with only English, especially if you write down the names/addresses of places for cab drivers. In the tourist areas, there are many foreigners and it’s not necessary to speak Spanish at all.
We’ll be with you throughout your trip, so don’t worry if you don’t know any Spanish. You’ll be sure to learn a little along the way!
It’s always appreciated when you attempt a little Spanish however, even if you’re really bad (I know from experience because my Spanish is muy malo!).
So here’s a few key phrases you might need or hear:
- Tico or Tica A friendly nickname for Costa Ricans. Tico is for males, or Tica for females.
- Gringo A common nickname for Americans that can be good or bad, depending on what you just did. In Costa Rica it is generally used as a friendly nickname, and Ticos are very friendly to Americans.
- Pura Vida A common phrase in Costa Rica, used in many situations but means “the good life.” In Costa Rica, everything is the good life! It is used to 1) say hi to someone: “Person A asks: Pura vida?” Person B responds: “Pura Vida” 2) say “Thank you”, 3) say that something is good or cool.
- Habla Ingles? Do you speak English?
- No hablo español I do not speak Spanish
- Para llevar o Aqui? At a restaurant or cafe, this is how they may ask if your order is To Go (para llevar) or for here (Aqui)
- Vamos a ____ por favor Please take us to _________
- Si como no? Why not?
- La cuenta por favor Check, please!
- Señor/Señorita The proper way to address your waiter or waitress, or anyone else you don’t know
- Perdón Pardon me
- Lo siento I’m sorry
- No entiendo I don’t understand
- Puedo tener _____ May I have _____
- Donde esta el baño? Where is the bathroom?
- De donde eres? Where are you from?
- Soy de los Estados Unidos I am from the United States
- Soy norteamericano I am an American
- Un café negro por favor A black coffee please
- Café con leche Coffee with milk
- Una cerveza mas por favor One more beer please
- Guaro The national alcoholic drink. It is like rum.
- Zarpe The nickname for the last drink you order that night, which is commonly also the fanciest drink you plan to order. To break down the grammar, Zarpar means set sail. Zarpe is the conversion to a noun. Another point is that Ticos don’t have a “Z” sound, “Z” sounds like “S”.
Things to do
Where do we start? We know from experience that if you come to visit our team and don’t plan a couple extra days to go see something, you’re going to regret it. So take a little extra time on your trip to enjoy Pura Vida (“the good life”)!
We love showing you around Costa Rica from the locals’ perspective, or we can point you in the right direction for tour groups.
There are volcanoes, Pacific beaches, Atlantic beaches, great surfing, rain forests, hiking in the national parks, whitewater rafting, ziplines, fishing tours, snorkeling, whale and dolphin sightseeing boats, and more great restaurants than you can shake a plantain at! It’s all within a few hours drive.
The closest beach to San Jose is Jaco on the Pacific coast. It is about 1½ hours west of San Jose by car. If you take the public transportation bus, it’s very cheap but can take 4 hours one way.
Jaco is nice but is filled with surfers and foreigners (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). If you are looking for a more quiet experience, you might try Uvita to the south. Manuel Antonio National Park provides a great place to go hiking in the rainforest as well as nice beaches. Those are both a 3-4 hour drive from San Jose, and you can still stop by the Taco Bar in Jaco on your way!
Would you like to work on the beach?
Be default, we tend to work in San Jose during the week and then take you outside the city to play on the weekends. But if you would like to hold the entire kick off week in a resort location, we can definitely make that happen. Just let us know!
Buen viaje! Have a great trip!
It’s a shame we can’t all just work in Costa Rica the whole year. Our developers are definitely lucky!
But it is well worth your time to come visit us in Costa Rica to get your project started, and then periodically again every six months or so after that, or whenever a major release or change in the project dictates it.
I say this very honestly – I’m not just trying to get you to go on a work-vacation! Co-location and the relatively inexpensive travel to meet your team are tremendously valuable and well worth a small investment. It’s one of the big advantages AgilityFeat Costa Rica has over software providers in China or India.
As you plan your trip, please don’t hesitate to ask us for recommendations or assistance in booking. We want to make this a memorable stay for you and the kick-off to a great business relationship.
For more information about working with AgilityFeat, please contact Arin Sime at 434-996-5226 or Arin@AgilityFeat.com.
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