I haven't lived there yet, but hope to! When you land in San Jose (which you will) it will be late, so book the night at the Best Western Irazu (15 minute ride?). Next, pay a cab to take you to a restaurant called Ram Luna... which is on a mountain above the city; food's good, service is better and the view is spectacular. Takes about a half hour to climb the mountain, but believe me; it's well worth it. Next; tell the cab to take you to "El Pueblo"... which is a compound like setting that is essentially a catacomb of various bars, gift shops and restaurants all behind a gate (closed at night) for added security. A cab outside the gate will cost you half when you're ready to leave, but if you're not comfortable in strange cities at night you can pick one up without even leaving the compound. Difference of $5 and $10 for the ride, really, and only because the cabby assumes you don't know what you should pay if you take one from inside. :wink: I imagine they probably have to kick up to someone to be allowed inside as well.
Lonely Planet's "COSTA RICA SPANISH PHRASEBOOK
with Two-way Dictionary" is a must have! It fits in a pocket, so don't get caught without it (click above to buy it at Amazon).
Be prepared to be taken in by the Pura Vida! (literal translation is pure life
, but in Costa Rica it has a more profound meaning that encompasses their very existence. You will find the Ticos don't just add it to everything from good morning to good luck... it really seems to be their purpose. They LOVE it when tourists use the term and will almost always respond in kind with an easy smile... sometimes adding Tuanis
; which is a word they invented just for us a couple decades ago. It seems so many American Ex-pats and tourists described Costa Ricans and Costa Rica as too nice
; they invented a word for us! Use this word and you're guaranteed a smile (which is almost inevitable anyway; Tico's are famously psycho about brushing and flashing their teeth)(about 20 cents on the dollar; if you need any dental work done). Prepare to be baffled at the helpful kindness of strangers. Don't be concerned if someone asks for the last bit of soda in your bottle or some such thing. It's pretty common and doesn't seem to encourage further begging.
Oh, and definitely play a few hands of poker with our fearless leader. He's had a bum run, and could probably use the dough!