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PLEASE Don’t Day Trip from Prague to Český Krumlov! Stay Overnight.

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One of the most popular day trips from Prague is the medieval town of Český Krumlov. So many tourists make the day trip from Prague to Český Krumlov with the best intentions, hoping for the highlight of their trip.

The truth? Český Krumlov is often listed as of the best day trips from Prague — but everyone else has realized the same thing. As a result, Krumlov is almost intolerably crowded during the day, especially during the summer.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Czech Republic lately, and one of my top priorities was to finally visit Český Krumlov. My boyfriend has lived in Prague for 18 years and works in the tourism industry. One of his top tips to his clients is NOT to day trip to Český Krumlov — instead, to stay overnight.

Overnight in Český Krumlov? I thought. But it’s only two hours away. That’s a perfectly fine day trip.

There is a specific reason for this, though. Český Krumlov has become enormously overtouristed in the past decade or so. As a result, doing a day trip to Český Krumlov means spending your day fighting through crowds, waiting in lines, and trying to get photos that don’t have a million people in them.

But after 5:00 PM or so, it all beautifully clears out. The crowds hop back on their buses, back to their whistle-stop tour of Central Europe. The day trippers go back to Prague to stroll the Charles Bridge and watch the Astronomical Clock.

When the town goes quiet, once the streets are empty, that’s when Český Krumlov becomes exceptional.

Table of Contents

Why Travel to Český Krumlov?Frequently Asked Questions about Český KrumlovČeský Krumlov OvertourismWhat can you do to avoid overtourism in Český Krumlov?Things to Do in Český KrumlovČeský Krumlov CastleCastle TowerCastle TheaterCanoe, Kayak and Raft the Vltava RiverSeidel Photographic Studio Museum (Museum Fotoatelier Seidel)St. Vitus CathedralRead The Bloodletter’s DaughterGet Photos from the Best ViewpointsEat Traditional Czech FoodČeský Krumlov at NightLe JardinApothekeMorning in Český KrumlovWhere to Stay in Český KrumlovBest luxury hotel in Český Krumlov: Hotel BellevueBest mid-range hotel in Český Krumlov: Hotel OldinnBest budget hotel in Český Krumlov: Pension GalkoHow to Get from Prague to Český KrumlovPrague to Český Krumlov by TrainPrague to Český Krumlov by BusPrague to Český Krumlov by Shuttle TransferPrague to Český Krumlov by Private TransferPrague to Český Krumlov by CarBest Time to Visit Český KrumlovShould You Visit Český Krumlov?How to Plan a Trip from Prague to Český Krumlov

Kate poses in a furry hooded coat in Cesky Krumlov's church tower-topped skyline

Why Travel to Český Krumlov?

Český Krumlov is a tiny medieval town in the Czech Republic. Like many Czech towns, Český Krumlov is beautifully preserved — you could imagine the skyline looking exactly the same in the 1400s. Because of this, the historic center of Český Krumlov was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

The Czech Republic doesn’t get enough credit for having some of the most beautiful towns in Europe. (Turns out letting the invaders march in is GREAT for preserving your city’s architecture.) When I first came to Prague as a college student, I marveled at the candy houses, thinking this was one of the prettiest places I had ever seen.

Come to Český Krumlov and you’ll get to see more of those candy houses — but you’ll also get to enjoy a castle tower with a hell of a view. And a Baroque theater the likes of which you’ve never seen. And a river that is waiting to be rafted. And one of the country’s best craft cocktail bars. All in a small, walkable, adorable package without the noise and traffic of a big city.

If you’re traveling to the Czech Republic and you want to see more than just Prague, Český Krumlov should be at the top of your list.

I wrote this Český Krumlov guide to make sure you have the best visit ever.

Frequently Asked Questions about Český Krumlov

How do you pronounce Český Krumlov?

Český Krumlov is pronounced CHESS-ky KROOM-lov.

What’s the best way to get from Prague to Český Krumlov?

Don’t take the train to Český Krumlov — there’s only one per day and the station is far from town. I recommend arriving by bus, tourist shuttle, or renting a car.

Where’s the best place to stay in Český Krumlov?

I’m a big fan of the Hotel Oldinn and I think it’s the best place to stay in Český Krumlov. Hotel Bellevue is lovely if you’re looking for luxury, and Pension Galko is a solid cheap option.

Should you do a day trip from Prague to Český Krumlov?

PLEASE don’t do a day trip from Prague to Český Krumlov! It’s way too crowded with day trippers. Stay overnight and you’ll fall in love with the city. Here’s why.

Český Krumlov Overtourism

Overtourism has become a major issue over the past decade, especially in places like Venice, Dubrovnik, and Barcelona. Overtourism is when a certain destination has too many tourists within a small place and makes negative impacts on locals.

A lot of people think that Prague is the epicenter of overtourism in the Czech Republic — and if you head down the Old Town, you’ll understand its severity. Almost nothing in Prague’s Old Town exists for locals; it’s a sea of hotels, money change offices, and chimney cake sellers. My local friends in Prague rarely go there.

Thankfully, though, Prague is a large city and outside the city center, you have interesting neighborhoods that see very few tourists. I hope this is what keeps the city livable into the future.

Even though Český Krumlov gets fewer visitors than Prague — roughly 1.5-2 million per year to Prague’s 8 million or so — Český Krumlov’s overtourism problem is much more severe. This is primarily due to its size — it’s geographically tiny and there’s nowhere for people to spread out.

Tourism to Český Krumlov has increased enormously in the past decade. There are two big factors that account for this — the growing popularity of river cruising and massive increases in tourism from Asia.

River cruises were once a niche product but have recently become a popular way to explore Europe, especially for North Americans over 50. Ironically enough, Český Krumlov isn’t even a river cruise stop! The Vltava River is too tiny to support a cruise ship here. Instead, Český Krumlov is a popular day trip from Danube River cruise ports like Linz, Austria, and Passau, Germany.

As for Asian tourism, there was initially a wave of Korean tourists after Korean Air bought a 44% stake in Czech Airlines in 2013 and began running direct flights to Prague from Seoul. In the last decade, however, Chinese tourism to Europe has been increasing year over year, and according to the European Travel Commission, they’re heading further east, particularly to Hungary, Estonia, and especially Croatia.

Most East Asian tourists to Europe travel in large bus tours, primarily so they can have guides who speak their language. While it’s good that these tours make interesting destinations accessible to more travelers, large bus tours have a negative impact on small towns like Český Krumlov.

How bad is the overtourism in Český Krumlov? If you visit during the summer months, the small medieval streets will be packed wall-to-wall with people. If you’re looking to get one of the signature photos overlooking the castle or city skyline, you’ll have to push people out of the way. There will be lines everywhere; it will be tough to get into restaurants at lunchtime.

Things are a bit calmer in the winter months, particularly January and February, but overtourism is a year-round issue in Český Krumlov. It is crowded 12 months out of the year and the more busloads that arrive, the worse it gets.

What can you do to avoid overtourism in Český Krumlov?

Stay overnight in Český Krumlov. It’s that simple. It is JARRING how different it is at night.

People often ask me whether it’s worth visiting an overtouristed destination. You can avoid destinations suffering from overtourism if you want to, but that’s not always an option. Some of them have no feasible alternatives — there’s nowhere in the world like Venice. I don’t have the heart to tell someone that they should never travel to Venice if they’ve been dreaming of visiting their whole life!

Sometimes you can avoid overtourism by visiting in the off-season. This works spectacularly well for Dubrovnik, for example, but not so well in Barcelona, which is popular year-round. And for cruise ship hubs, you can often look up the port schedule and visit on the day when the fewest ships are in port.

But for popular day trip destinations, the answer is simple: just stay overnight.

This is the truth for Český Krumlov, for Mostar in Bosnia, for Bruges in Belgium, for Kotor in Montenegro. All of these are popular day trip destinations in Europe, and all of them empty out by the late afternoon.

And that is when the magic happens. It cools down, the light turns beautiful, and suddenly you have those winding streets to yourself. I’m betting that if you travel from Prague to Český Krumlov, you will like the city a million times more if you stay overnight.

Skyline view of Cesky Krumlov with the church.

Things to Do in Český Krumlov

So what are the best things to do in Český Krumlov? Most of the charm of the city is just strolling around and marveling at its beauty. Krumlov is a city made for wandering.

But there are plenty of sights. And if you’re planning on seeing several, I recommend getting the Cesky Krumlov Card. It costs 300 crowns ($13) for adults, 150 crowns ($7) for children, students, and seniors; and it gives you admission to Castle Tower and the Castle Museum, the Regional Museum, Seidel Photographic Studio Museum, Egon Schiele Art Centrum, and the Český Krumlov Monasteries.

You can buy the card at any of the five attractions it gives you access to, or the Tourist Information Centre in town.

Český Krumlov Castle

One of the highlights of visiting Český Krumlov is getting to see Český Krumlov Castle. You can enjoy the castle from the outside or explore the sumptuous rooms on the inside.

Guided tours are available in Czech, English, and German. There is written material in French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Dutch. Tours are 300 crowns ($13) per person.

Castle Tower

It’s 162 steps to the top of Castle Tower and the views are outstanding (especially in the afternoon). Your ticket also gives you admission to the Castle Museum, a small museum focusing on the castle’s history. Admission is 150 crowns ($7) for adults.

Castle Theater

This beautifully preserved Baroque theater is spectacular on the inside. The scenery is made from layered painted items that slide in and out. You must visit as part of a tour. English language tours are 270 crowns ($12) per person.

Canoe, Kayak and Raft the Vltava River

The river may be tiny around Český Krumlov, but travel outside the city and it gets strong! Shops in Krumlov will tell you what river trips are currently available. This is one of the best things to do in Český Krumlov during the summer months.

Seidel Photographic Studio Museum (Museum Fotoatelier Seidel)

This museum is actually the former home of local photographer Josef Seidel, who spent his life photographing Krumlov and its people. Entry is 120 crowns ($5) per person.

St. Vitus Cathedral

This is the white church on top of the hill in the city. It’s worth a quick peek. I was here just as locals were leaving Sunday Mass, dressed up far more than American Catholics!

Read The Bloodletter’s Daughter

I often enjoy reading books that are set in the place that I’m visiting. The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty is a historic novel that takes place in Český Krumlov in 1606. Marketa is the assistant to her father, a bloodletter, who is hired to treat the madness of the Emperor’s bastard son Don Julius. As his illness progresses, Don Julius becomes increasingly dangerous and obsessed with Marketa.

(Full disclosure: I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. I loved the setting, liked the plot, and disliked the writing. You may disagree; writing is a subjective thing. But this is so vividly descriptive of Krumlov that I thought it was worth sharing.)

Get Photos from the Best Viewpoints

You might think that in a city as beautiful as Český Krumlov, you’re going to have gorgeous photos no matter what. But if you make an effort to visit the best viewpoints at the proper time of day, you’ll have even better photos. There’s nothing worse than getting to a photo spot and realize you’re shooting into the sun.

Here are the best photography locations:

Across from Hotel Ruze. The light is best in the morning. Scroll down and you’ll see rainbow shots!

Castle Tower. A must. The light is best in the afternoon.

Cloak Bridge at Český Krumlov Castle. You don’t need a ticket to enter. The light is best in the afternoon.

Just past Cloak Bridge on the left. There are half-moon shaped cutouts that are nice for framing St. Vitus’s Cathedral. The light is best in the afternoon.

Kaple Penny Marie Bolestné. See the little white building on the hill in the distance in the top right of the above photo? That’s the spot. It’s about a 30-minute walk from the old town. The light is best in the morning.

Eat Traditional Czech Food

If you’re spending a short time in the Czech Republic, be sure to try some Czech food! Český Krumlov’s medieval environment lends itself well to quirky, traditional restaurants serving up dishes that stick to your ribs.

This is garlic soup (česnečka), a popular Czech dish that is so much more than its name — it’s a buttery, herby soup with potatoes and croutons.

Tavern of the Two Marys looks like a restaurant of centuries past — you climb stairs in a quirky, narrow house decorated with blankets and two portraits of the Virgin Mary. You sit at wooden benches and dine on hearty Czech specialties.

Another fun option is Krčma Šatlava, a medieval restaurant where you dine in a cave-like atmosphere as meats roast on a roaring fire. Reserve ahead here; it tends to book out.

Český Krumlov at Night

In mid-December, when I visited, sunset in Český Krumlov is at about 4:00 PM — yikes! (The good news? Sunrise is around 7:50 AM at that time of year, so if you’re an early morning photographer, you can sleep in!) And of course, if you visit during the summer months, sunset can be as late as 9:10 PM.

Either way — night is the most magical time in Český Krumlov. The bus tours begin leaving at around 4:00 PM, and by 6:00 PM, the streets are empty.

Suddenly you can walk down the street and be one of three people rather than three hundred.

I felt so free in Český Krumlov after dark — and I loved the city more and more. Two of my favorite experiences in Český Krumlov were at night.

Bright orange pumpkin soup

Le Jardin

If you’re looking for a nice restaurant in Český Krumlov, or celebrating a special occasion, I highly recommend eating at Le Jardin. This restaurant serves elevated fine Czech cuisine.

Full honesty: I’m not a huge fan of Czech food ordinarily. I’ll eat goulash and dumplings on occasion, like if I’m at a brewery, but if I want a special meal, I’ll choose virtually any other cuisine.

Le Jardin is an exception. Their food is EXQUISITE, delicate and thoughtful and not stodgy at all, from the amuse-bouche through the dessert. You can eat à la carte or choose a tasting menu. The restaurant is small and cozy, like Český Krumlov itself. And the service is among the best I’ve had in Europe.

Le Jardin’s menu changes with the seasons. But the pork tenderloin and duck confit are both terrific, and if they have squash soup or pumpkin soup on the menu, I implore you to get it! That soup may be the best dish I’ve ever had in the Czech Republic.


But the best part of being in Český Krumlov overnight was spending an evening at Apotheke, one of the best cocktail bars in the Czech Republic (and there are a LOT of incredible cocktail bars in the Czech Republic). Apotheke was once an apothecary, or pharmacy. Today the booze serves as medicine.

It’s a very cool space, dark and old-fashioned and with lots of oddly shaped bottles.

We tried two of their signature cocktails — both spectacular. One tasted like raspberry Kool-Aid (and I easily could have drank that all night!) and one buttery cocktail was topped with popcorn!

You could tell the crowd were almost entirely locals. They were well-dressed, chatted with the bartenders, and seemed to know each other. It can tough to find a bar in a touristy town that has a cool factor but isn’t taken over by tourists. Apotheke is a rarity.

Make sure you bring cash! Apotheke is cash-only. There is an ATM when you leave the bar, take a right, and it will be on the left in what looks like a bit of an outdoor nook.

Apotheke does not permit photography. The manager graciously let me take a few photos after I showed him my media credentials, told him about the story I was writing, and had been there for awhile.

A few cocktails, another evening stroll, and I went to sleep surrounded by quiet and calm.

A rainbow in the sky over the orange-roofed buildings of Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

Morning in Český Krumlov

If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to shoot Český Krumlov in the early morning — that’s your best chance for daytime shots without people in them. And staying overnight ensures that you’ll get to experience good light in different areas than you did in the afternoon.

When I woke up in Krumlov the next morning, the rain had cleared up. But we had the BEST result — a rainbow! A full, bold rainbow that stretched from one end of the skyline to the other.

We headed back to the viewpoint across from the Hotel Ruze and photographed the view with the blue sky, getting more rainbow shots.

After a stroll around town (I recommend stopping for a coffee at Kolektiv), we left at 11:00 AM. And BOY, was that fortuitous timing!

As I left the town, this was the view of the Cloak Bridge. Hardly any people in the morning sun.

No joke — not even ten seconds later, the crowds started pouring in from the big bus tours.

A woman holding a sign from a river cruise leads a tour group in Cesky Krumlov.

Right behind them were river cruise excursion groups led by sign-toting tour guides.

I couldn’t believe it. Had my fairy tale disappeared? I had enjoyed a quiet and beautiful morning in Český Krumlov, and by 11:00 AM, it felt like the city was under attack.

Staying overnight in Český Krumlov was a wise decision.

Where to Stay in Český Krumlov

You can find Český Krumlov hotels at every price point, and you get great value for money. Even though the city is primarily a day trip destination, the city caters well to its overnight visitors.

On my trip to Český Krumlov, I stayed at the Hotel Oldinn, which I really enjoyed and recommend. The Oldinn is a comfortable, newly renovated mid-range hotel in an excellent location.

Here are the top-rated hotels in each price category:

Best luxury hotel in Český Krumlov: Hotel Bellevue

In a city full of old-fashioned luxury hotels, Hotel Bellevue is a breath of fresh air. Modern, innovative, and tucked into a quiet corner of the Old Town, the hotel features a sauna, tennis courts, and even a bowling alley! The rooms are quiet and tastefully decorated in muted colors. The on-site restaurant, Le Jardin, is the best fine dining restaurant in town, serving exquisite Czech fare.

Be sure to get a room that is “deluxe” or higher — the “superior” rooms are very small. Rates from $217.

Best mid-range hotel in Český Krumlov: Hotel Oldinn

I loved my stay at the Hotel Oldinn. Located right on Náměstí Svornosti, one of the most picturesque squares in the old town, this hotel is modern with large, recently renovated rooms. The quotes painted on the walls add a touch of quirkiness, and the hotel provides room service.

Please keep in mind that Hotel Oldinn renovated in 2019 — if you see reviews talking about dated, old-fashioned decor, this was prior to the renovation. It now looks like the photo above. Rates from $62.

Best budget hotel in Český Krumlov: Pension Galko

Located in the heart of the old town, this five-room guest house is a cozy option if you’re traveling on a budget. Rooms are a bit small and dated, but the Bohemian murals are warm and cheery. Rates from $44.

Find deals on more Český Krumlov hotels here.

How to Get from Prague to Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov is a bit isolated — it’s not along any of the main transportation lines, and it’s not a strategic stop between major cities. You’ll be going a bit out of your way to get to Český Krumlov, but there are a variety of ways to get there.

Prague to Český Krumlov by Train

In the past, there wasn’t a Prague to Český Krumlov train. Today there is exactly one train that is limited to once per day, at 9:01 AM, and it takes 2 hours and 51 minutes, arriving at 11:52 AM. The one return train is at 2:07 PM and gets back to Prague at 4:56 PM.

While I prefer to take trains in Europe whenever possible, I don’t recommend taking the train from Prague to Český Krumlov. The trains are a bit awkwardly timed and Český Krumlov’s train station is about a 16-minute walk from the edge of the old town, much further away than the bus station (six minutes away).

The buses are more frequent, take about the same amount of time, and drop you off much closer to the old town (which makes a big difference when you have luggage).

Check train times and buy train tickets from Prague to Český Krumlov here.

Prague to Český Krumlov by Bus

Most people who take public transportation from Prague to Český Krumlov do so by bus. There are buses throughout the day and they take 2 hours and 45 minutes.

If you want to take public transportation to Český Krumlov, I recommend doing so by bus. The bus station is about a six-minute walk from the edge of the old town.

Check bus times and buy bus tickets from Prague to Český Krumlov here.

Prague to Český Krumlov by Shuttle Transfer

Shuttle transfers are usually a minibus that you share with other travelers. Many of them pick you up from your accommodation.

You can also book a shuttle from Prague to Český Krumlov, and book your next shuttle to a different destination — to Salzburg, Vienna, Halstatt, and more.

Prague to Český Krumlov by Private Transfer

If you’d like, you can hire a private driver to take you from Prague to Český Krumlov. This is the most expensive option but if you’re traveling in a group, it could work out to be the cheapest option.

You can book a direct private transfer to Český Krumlov or book a private transfer with up to three sightseeing stops along the way.

Prague to Český Krumlov by Car

Renting a car is an option, and I highly recommend road tripping all over the Czech Republic, not just its two most popular cities! There are great cities like Olomouc and Brno, there is gorgeous nature like the Moravian Karst and the Bohemian Switzerland region. There are even excellent Czech wineries when you go further east into Moravia!

If you’re looking for a good deal on a car rental, I recommend using RentalCars.com.

There is a parking lot right outside Český Krumlov’s city walls, next to the castle, with a rate of 450 crowns ($20) for 12-24 hours and 900 crowns ($40) for 24-48 hours. If that lot is full, there are several others on the same street.

If you’re driving from Prague to Český Krumlov and interested in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, stop by the town of Holašovice. It’s about 30 minutes from Krumlov.

The town received its World Heritage designation for its architecture, but the town doesn’t have any tourism value otherwise. It’s a cute place, but if you’re not into World Heritage Sites, you can give it a miss. We stayed for about 10 minutes, then continued back to Prague.

Other sites in the area you can visit are Hluboká Castle and the town of České Budějovice, home of the Budweiser brewery (the Czech Budweiser — nothing like the American counterpart!).

Best Time to Visit Český Krumlov

I’m guessing that you’re not going to plan your whole trip around one small city, but just in case, I urge you not to plan your trip to Central Europe in the heart of the summer. It’s incredibly crowded, it gets a lot hotter than you’d think, and the prices are at their highest.

If summer is your only time to travel, you can absolutely make the best of a visit. (If you’re a teacher or you have kids, I get it. Summer is what you have.) I would encourage you to visit earlier in summer, in June rather than August, if you can. August is the absolute busiest time in the Czech Republic and temperatures can be searing.

The shoulder seasons, spring and fall, can be a good time to travel to Český Krumlov. Temperatures are milder, but know that the city will still be extremely crowded during the day.

I visited Český Krumlov in mid-December. This is still a popular time to visit due to the growing popularity of Christmas market river cruises. Český Krumlov has a few Christmas markets, and they’re cute, but I recommend going to Germany instead if you really want the best Christmas markets.

The absolute lowest season in Český Krumlov is January and February. Tourism never dies here, but this is when it will be at its lowest (not to mention chilliest). I’m not a fan of visiting Central Europe during the winter months — it’s gray, dark and cold — but if weather isn’t a dealbreaker, you may enjoy visiting at this time.

Overall, I’d aim for November or December, or perhaps April.

But as always, no matter what time of year you visit, Český Krumlov will be far less crowded when the day trippers leave.

Should You Visit Český Krumlov?

One mistake I think a lot of travelers make is visiting Prague, then leaving and not seeing anything else in the Czech Republic. (Hell, I’m one of them. I visited the country for three days when I was 20, never left Prague, and didn’t return until I was 35.)

Český Krumlov is such a special town, and I think it’s the prettiest place in the Czech Republic. It’s absolutely worth your time to visit…

…just as long as you don’t do it as a day trip. STAY OVERNIGHT IN KRUMLOV!

People walking down the cobblestone streets.

How to Plan a Trip from Prague to Český Krumlov

Here is a cheat sheet on how to plan the perfect trip to Český Krumlov:

Step one. Choose a date for your trip.

Step two: Book your Český Krumlov hotel. I recommend the Hotel Oldinn; you can compare other Český Krumlov hotels here.

Step three: Book your transportation from Prague to Český Krumlov. Book train or bus tickets here; book a shuttle or private transfer; or book a car rental.

Step four: Make a dining reservation if you have your heart on a particular restaurant, like Le Jardin or Krčma Šatlava.

Step five: Get travel insurance. If you have an emergency, it could save your life or your finances. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Looking for more Central European gems?

How to Fall in Love with Kraków, Poland, in 30 Steps

Scenes from Košice, Slovakia

Summer on Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Have you been to Český Krumlov? Share your tips!

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AK Monthly Recap: December 2019

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Aloha travel companion, Good Day! We are always in search of new info to show you. Check out this information we located for you. Here is something you may believe to be intriguing. post that we came across. Take notice of this treasure we have brought your way, hope you will enjoy this information that I have came across. I thought that you to may enjoy it

How do you mark the last month of the year — hell, the last month of the decade? Well, with a lot of round-up posts, as is traditional for me in December.

December is a weird time for a travel blog. It’s not a popular month for planning travel, so traffic is down. But if you have any kinds of display ads on your site, rates are at the highest of the year — so you work your butt off to capture traffic!

I spent most of the month working on my best-of-the-year posts — but I also took a 10-day trip to Europe and landed in Cuba just before the end of the year.

Let’s get down to it.

Destinations Visited

Reading and Lynn, MassachusettsPrague, Český Krumlov, and Holašovice, Czech RepublicDresden, GermanyHavana, Cuba

A Christmas tree in front of the cathedral in old town square, Prague.


Spending more time in Prague. The Prague I’ve been getting to know is the Prague that most tourists have no idea exists. It’s comfortable and welcoming and a massively pleasant place to be once you get away from “chimney cake land” in the city center.

An overnight getaway to Český Krumlov. Český Krumlov is a beautiful town in the Czech Republic, beautifully constructed and looking like a fairy tale. It was gorgeous. Even better was staying overnight, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere after the day-trippers had left.

Visiting Dresden’s Christmas markets. Dresden is less than a two-hour drive from Prague, so we did a day trip. The markets were nice, especially the Medieval Market, but I still think Nuremberg is a better experience overall. Also, there was a mysterious lack of lebkuchen…

We also visited the Volkswagen factory that day and it was really cool seeing the vehicles being put together! They even had robots work on each vehicle.

Christmas at home in Massachusetts. Getting to spend time with my family, eating a lot of good food, and particularly enjoying a $25 gift limit, which removed a ton of the stress.

Making it to Cuba, country #83! Some places give me a rush when I arrive — an “I can’t believe I’m here!” type of feeling. Lebanon and the Faroe Islands were like that, and so was Cuba.

I had a lot of fun with my friends in Cuba, drinking Havana Special cocktails, and we did a wonderful cooking experience where we made the most heavenly lobster enchiladas. Getting to know Cuban people was one of the biggest highlights for sure.

A snowy backyard in Massachusetts.


I didn’t like Havana much. I had decent but not sky-high expectations, but I didn’t expect to hold so much animosity toward the city. I’ll go into this in more detail on a future post, but I found Old Havana in particular to be loud, stressful, full of exhaust from the classic cars, men constantly hit on you (if you’re female) and ask if you want a taxi (if you’re anyone), you can’t take your eyes off the sidewalks and streets because they’re so broken, it’s really challenging to find decent food, and once you find a place with half-decent breakfast, it’s randomly closed the rest of your trip.

Please don’t take this as my full description of Havana, because the city deserves a detailed, nuanced write-up that acknowledges the beauty of Cuba and the shit Cubans have to deal with. I just found Havana to be extremely stressful and I kept needing to escape to my apartment. I loved Viñales, out in the countryside, but that’s for next month’s recap.

Some final financial hand-wringing of 2019. I’ve gone into the issues of not being paid on time in other posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but let’s just say that there were some final gems on top of a STELLAR year.

SNOW. It doesn’t snow very often in Massachusetts in December — we usually get one early dusting in November, then the big stuff hits in January — but we had three major snowstorms in a week during my time home!

A plane wing at sunset, over a dark cloudy sky.

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My Favorite New Destinations of 2019 — Newfoundland took the top spot, and there were plenty of runners-up!

Other Posts

My Best Travel Moments of 2019 — The best experiences and moments on my travels.

My Favorite Reads of 2019 — My favorite 16 books of the 80 I read in 2019.

My Worst Travel Moments of 2019 — All the bad, awkward, and hilarious in retrospective moments.

A yellow building with a giant Cuban flag hanging from a window.

A Renewed Focus on Email

One of my big goals for 2020 is to double my email list — a.k.a. my newsletter. Why? Because if you’re only following me through Facebook or Instagram or somewhere else, you’re going to miss posts. Social networks cut off reach for brands because they want us to pay to reach our own subscribers — but with an email list, you reach EVERYONE.

I take time to write out really nice, personal emails 2-4 times per month. NEVER spam, I NEVER sell your info, you can unsubscribe anytime, and it’s just a simple text-based email telling you what I’ve been up to lately, what’s coming up next, and my new and updated posts since the last email. I just designed a new landing page where you can sign up for my list — check it out!

If you’re a blogger, you absolutely need an email list. It’s more important to have than Facebook and Instagram combined. I use ConvertKit for my email list and I highly recommend them — they’re the best in the game.

ConvertKit is also having a landing page challenge this month where they’re giving away tons of prizes, including $10,000 to the grand prize winner. If you get at least five subscribers from your page, you are entered to win, but the biggest prizes are if you get 100 or more. You can sign up with ConvertKit, build a page in 10 minutes, and qualify to win by January 31!

But if you’re a reader and you enjoy what I write here, I bet you’ll love my emails. You can sign up here.

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Until today, I didn’t have any photos of #Prague that I truly loved. But the weather was SO gorgeous and perfect that I couldn’t resist going out. Look at those beautiful blues and oranges! 😍 The perks of visiting Prague in December? You’ll have great light throughout the day as the sun sets at 4:00 PM! And if you’re getting up to shoot at sunrise, you can sleep in, as it’s at 7:55 AM. Now that’s music to my ears. 🇨🇿 What’s your favorite thing to do in Prague?

A post shared by Kate McCulley (@adventurouskate) on Dec 16, 2019 at 9:56am PST

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I hadn’t taken many pictures in Prague this fall — in part because the weather was often dreary. But one day it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL and I went out to the Old Town to get some photos. This was taken from the tower on the Charles Bridge, where photos will look excellent even when it’s crazy crowded.

For more live updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Watched This Month

This month I got into the latest season of The Crown. What a fantastic show. And the miracle is that it’s given me so much empathy for Prince Charles! I just want to hug him.

The new cast is great, too. It took a moment to get used to the new people, but Olivia Colman is excellent and while Helena Bonham-Carter doesn’t really look the part, she brings so much vivaciousness to Princess Margaret.

My favorite episodes were Aberfan (what a gut-wrenching tragedy! I had never heard of it before), Margaretology, and Imbroglio. Really excited for The Crown Season Four, which I’m sure we won’t get until early 2021, because Diana will be introduced!

Movie-wise, I absolutely LOVED Marriage Story. It might edge out Booksmart for my favorite movie of the year! I love movies that are all about the dialogue — just characters that reveal hidden depths of themselves with all the talking. I’ll be especially rooting for Adam Driver at the Oscars this year.

What I Read This Month

I finished the year having read 80 books! Woohoo, new record! Currently I have a lot of books in my library queue and am looking forward to getting back into them again. Even so, I’m not going to push myself too hard on reading this year. I have a lot of other time-consuming goals on my mind.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (2019) — In this incredible memoir, my favorite nonfiction book of the year Machado mixes queer domestic abuse with various literary genres. Machado began a relationship with “the woman from the Dream House” in her twenties, while studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Over time, her girlfriend became verbally and physically abusive, from manipulating her, picking fights, screaming at her, physically harming her, throwing things at her, gaslighting her the next day. This memoir chronicles the relationship with chapters in different literary styles: Dream House as Stoner Comedy. Dream House as Noir. Dream House as American Gothic.

This book is stunningly original and completely gripping. I plan on reading more of Machado’s work in the next year, including Her Body and Other Parties, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2017.

Don’t Come Home by Bea Bledsoe (2019) — Leigh Montgomery is the first person in her family to escape her isolated Wyoming town — and she earns a scholarship to Harvard. While there, she suddenly loses part of her financial aid and decides to seduce and rob rich boys. Suddenly she receives a postcard from her mother reading, “Don’t Come Home,” with a bloody thumbprint — and Bea knows that no matter what her mother says, she needs to go home. On the way to the airport, she is confronted by one of the boys she stole from and he decides he’s going to join her on the trip to Wyoming.

I love books with a strong setting that almost acts as another character, and the wild, isolated, mountainous landscape of Wyoming definitely becomes a character in this book. You can feel the setting surround you, poking you. You can feel every inch of the forest; you can hear the screaming wind in your mind. The thriller, which is available on Kindle only (and pretty cheap or free as a result!) goes in a lot of directions you don’t expect and was a nice read.

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones (2019) — Jones grew up in a small town in north Texas, the only child of a single mother. He knew he was gay from a young age and did his best to keep it under wraps, but once going to college, he was able to flourish in a new way and slowly grow to being the person he was meant to be.

This is one of the most intimate memoirs I’ve ever read. I felt like I was living his relationships with his family — especially when his mother told him that they didn’t have enough money for him to go to NYU, his dream school, and when his grandmother joined a more fundamentalist church and began to reject him and his mother due to their being Buddhists. Some of the moments in the memoir are so uncomfortable that I found myself struggling with pain. It takes a major gift to bring a reader in so closely.

A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston by Robyn Crawford (2019) — Ever since Whitney Houston became famous in the 1980s, there where constant rumors that her best friend, Robyn, was actually her lover. Now, seven years after Whitney’s death, Robyn is telling her story for the first time. Yes, they were lovers, when they were teenagers and into their twenties, until they stopped for the sake of Whitney’s career. They remained fiercely close friends and business partners until Whitney’s drug abuse tore them apart.

More than anything, this book made me so sad. Had Whitney been allowed to be her true self and love the woman she loved publicly, she would probably still be with us today. Instead, she got involved with Bobby Brown (and you will HATE him after this book) and was surrounded by leeches trying to get whatever they could out of her.

Robyn hung in there until she had to get out for her own sanity, and even when she and Whitney were no longer speaking, Robyn and her wife decided that they would always take Whitney and her daughter into their home if they needed it. Their relationship was that deep. They were closer than sisters.

Coming Up in January 2020

This is a big month — January 2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of this blog. I’m not sure what I should do for it. Yet another heartfelt retrospective? Or should I save that for my 10-year I-quit-my-jobaversary on September 14?

I kicked off the year in Havana and visited the gorgeous region of Viñales in western Cuba before flying to Mérida, Mexico, where I’ll be living for the next two months. The house is so good that I keep singing, “My God, this house is freakin’ sweet!” in the voice of Peter Griffin.

I’ll primarily be based in Mérida, but I know there will be plenty of day trips and overnight trips throughout the region!

Also, I’ll be coming back to New York for three days — just barely long enough to attend IMM, an all-day travel industry speed networking event that is one of my biggest priorities of the year. Hope I can handle the cold after all the Mexico.

What are you excited for in January? Share away!

The post AK Monthly Recap: December 2019 appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

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Is it possible for a woman to travel the world and stay safe? Absolutely. Even if you steer clear of resorts. Even if you go to developing countries. Even if you don’t speak the local language. Even if you’re traveling alone. I’ve got travel safety tips to help you travel anywhere.

I created this site so I could help women travel safely and independently around the world. And after a decade (!) as a full-time travel blogger, it’s working — I get daily emails from women who have gone on their first backpacking trips, their first non-resort trips, their first solo trips, all because sites like mine gave them the confidence to do so. They survived, they thrived, and they had the time of their lives.

But the women who took these trips did so well in part because they prioritized their safety while traveling. What does that mean? Well, this list of travel safety tips for women will give you an idea!

This post was last updated in January 2020.

Travel Safety Tips

The biggest part of traveling safely is using common sense. None of these travel safety tips are going to be revolutionary, but you can use them everywhere around the world.

Many of my own travel mistakes have been because I didn’t follow these simple tips.

I got pickpocketed in Buenos Aires (on my first day of solo travel EVER!) because I was using a large, open purse that didn’t close.

I had the worst train ride of my life in Bulgaria because I hadn’t done my research beforehand. All the guides said to take buses along that route, that they were faster and a million times nicer.

BUT sometimes you’re in a better position to travel safely if you follow these tips:

I survived having my wallet stolen in Sri Lanka because I had a backup ATM card in my main luggage that I used to get by financially before getting home.

I’ve never had my passport stolen while traveling because I always keep it locked up.

And sometimes it’s the opposite — it happens in spite of you taking precautions. I was shipwrecked in Indonesia after booking an overnight cruise that Lonely Planet called “one of the safer options.” (Later, they referred to a “well-documented March 2011 sinking.” That was me! I documented!)

Kate on a Train

Research Your Destination Thoroughly Before Your Trip

For many travelers, planning and researching is almost as fun as actually traveling! In between scoping out the most beautiful beaches and coolest cities, take some time to look up safety information for where you are headed.

What are the best neighborhoods and the ones you should avoid? Are there only certain kinds of taxis you should take? Is there a medical center in the city, just in case?

When it comes to your lodging, how are its ratings for safety? What are former guests saying about their experiences? Are there any patterns emerging in the reviews you should be concerned about?

How are you going to get around? What is public transportation like in your destination? Do you need to rent a car? Is it possible to travel safely at night?

Visit a travel clinic beforehand and talk to a doctor or nurse where you’re going. Do you need any vaccinations or prescriptions? Are there local health issues for which you should prepare?

When it comes to activities, especially adventure sports, what are the risks? If you injure yourself, will you be covered by your travel insurance?

I know a lot of people — I estimate upwards of 95% of them are male — who like to rock up to a destination with no preparation at all, just learning as they go. I disagree with this enormously. This is a good way to endanger yourself.

You need to do your research in advance, well before your trip begins.

Keep Your Valuables On You While in Transit

But you shouldn’t bring valuables in the first place!

True. You shouldn’t bring anything you would be despondent to lose: family heirlooms, expensive jewelry, your birth certificate, and the like.

Today people travel safely with an amount of technology that was unfathomable a decade ago. Most travelers bring a smartphone at the very least; many bring laptops, tablets, Kindles or other e-readers, DSLR cameras with pricey lenses, and more. When you consider the costs to replace any one of those items, they definitely count as valuables.

You should have a day bag into which you can fit all of your important items: your passport, your camera, your medication, your jewelry, your credit cards, your smartphone, and any other technology, photography or otherwise valuable equipment. Spend good money on this — this is one of my top travel safety tips.

Never put these items into your general backpack. Never put these items into the luggage hold on a bus. Never put any of those items into your checked luggage on a plane. If you let them out of your sight, there’s a fair chance that they could be taken away from you forever.

Kate Tubing in Vang Vieng

Only Take What You Need and Leave the Rest Locked Up

There’s no need to go out for a walk in the city with all of your credit cards, your passport, and the equivalent of $500 in cash. Take what you need for the day: maybe around $50, tops, and a debit card, and keep the rest locked up in your accommodation.

Almost every reputable hostel has lockers available for guests. Use them if they have them. In guesthouses, hotel rooms, or other places that don’t have a locker or safe for you, use a portable safe instead: a slashproof bag you fill with your valuables and lock to a pipe or something else sturdy in the room. Here’s a full review on the one I use and love. It’s an essential item to travel safely.

While it doesn’t eliminate the risk 100% (if a professional criminal is determined to rob you, he will rob you), most criminals are opportunistic. If you remove the opportunity, they’ll go after someone else who left his or her valuables out in the open, much more easily accessible to them.

Kate and a Viking

Don’t Trust People Too Quickly

When you’re traveling in a new destination, and especially when you’re traveling on your own, it can be tempting to join up and find a tribe. Sometimes these tribes turn into lifelong friendships.

But they don’t always. Some con artists have mastered the art of befriending travelers, getting them to leave their valuables unattended, and robbing them before taking off.

When it comes to romance, you might want to crank up the speed when you meet someone outrageously sexy, but that’s not always the best idea. Sex is prevalent on the road, but be sure to protect yourself as much as possible.

Sometimes, we want to be part of a group so badly that we start trusting people before we should. Instead, err on the side of caution. If you’re just getting to know someone, don’t trust him or her to guard your expensive electronics while you’re in the bathroom.

It’s not rude to be cautious. Take things slowly, and if someone earns your trust, that’s when you depend on them.

Watch Your Drinking

This is a travel safety tip that doesn’t get said often enough. It’s applicable whether you’re at home or on the road. When you drink alcohol, you dull your senses and slow your reaction time, which in turn makes you vulnerable to others.

That doesn’t mean that you should avoid drinking altogether. Instead, drink slowly. Pace yourself. Eat beforehand or during. Have a glass of water in between each drink (your body will thank you in the morning). Be cognizant of what you are actually drinking, and always take drinks directly from the bartender. Constantly ask yourself, “Do I want to be less in control than I am right now?” and stop if the answer is no.

Most importantly, resist the pressure, gentle or otherwise, to keep up with others who might be able to drink more than you, especially in countries where it’s common to “shout” drinks for a group, like Britain and Ireland. If people are taking turns buying rounds for the whole table, say up front that you don’t plan on drinking as much as everyone else and they’ll understand.

Don’t think you need to go drink for drink with your companions, especially if they happen to be beefy rugby players from New Zealand. Or beefy frat boys from Oklahoma. Or Russians.

Kate at Petra

Blend in as Much as You Can

Want to have the attention of every pickpocket in Paris? Show up in shorts and a t-shirt. For extra credit, wear Birkenstocks. Or a sweatshirt with a university on it.

As normal as shorts and a t-shirt would be in North America, you would never see that style in most of Europe. Shorts are rare and Europeans in general dress much more neatly than North Americans, especially in France and Italy.

The more you stand out, the more you brand yourself as someone who is unfamiliar with the location, which makes you more vulnerable to criminal attention.

Instead, research your destination in advance, observe how people dress, and try to pass as a local – or, if that’s impossible (like if you’re in Thailand or Mexico and look neither Thai nor Mexican), try to pass as a longtime resident.

That means eschewing the backpacker trail uniform of drop-crotch hippie pants and souvenir beer t-shirts in favor of casual but neat and tidy clothing. That means covering your arms, legs, and cleavage in Muslim countries, wearing loose clothing in India, and wearing long pants in Europe and Latin America.

In tandem with blending in, it’s important to maintain confidence at all times, and even if you’re not confident, at least maintain the appearance of confidence.

When you’re walking down the street, hold your head up and your shoulders back. Look straight ahead and walk with a purpose. Pretend that you have somewhere important to be, and if you fall prey to street harassment, ignore it and keep moving.

If you become lost and you need to find your way, slip into a shop or café to consult your map privately before continuing on.

Kate wearing a burgundy and navy striped long dress and short black leather jacket in front of the San Francisco skyline, covered by fog.

Spend Extra Money on Staying Safe

If you’re traveling long-term on a shoestring budget, it can be hard to justify spending extra cash when it could go toward so many more fun activities. But it’s a smart idea to financially invest in your own safety.

What does that mean?

It means that if your flight is scheduled to land in a rough city late at night, you should spend more money on a hotel that will pick you up right from the airport instead of taking a bus into town and trying to navigate your way there on foot.

It means you should pay extra money to take a taxi home at night if you don’t feel comfortable walking through the neighborhood on your own.

It means paying more to stay in a central neighborhood with lots of lively activity instead of a cheaper, quiet residential area where you feel isolated.

It means you should choose the dive school with the stellar safety reputation and hundreds of positive TripAdvisor reviews instead of the rough-around-the-edges dive school that will do it for much cheaper.

Build an extra financial cushion into your trip and use it for situations like these: ones where you could travel safely if you spent a little more.

Kate Shipwrecked

Prepare for the Worst with Documents and Secret Cash

In the event that the worst happens – your purse is stolen, your credit cards are suddenly maxed out, you get sick and need to go to the hospital – it’s good to have a backup plan.

For documents, keep front-and-back copies of your credit cards saved to cloud storage like Google Docs or Dropbox, as well as a copy of your passport. It’s a good idea to keep your bank and credit card phone numbers stored in a document as well.

In addition to the documents, keep a backup cash stash. Keep at least $50 in US dollars hidden in a secret spot deep inside your luggage, like inside a tampon applicator or hidden in a sock. In a separate spot, keep a backup credit card.

If your purse or day bag is stolen off your body and literally everything is taken away from you, this will provide you with a temporary financial cushion.

If you’re traveling somewhere with less-than-ideal ATM and internet access, you’ll want to be even more prepared. One of my top travel safety tips for Americans traveling to Cuba is to keep an extra stash of secret money, enough for transportation to Havana Airport and a flight to Cancun, hidden in your underwear at all times.

It may sound a bit extreme, but in a country where you can’t use credit cards or ATMs, you need to be even more prepared than usual in order to travel safely.

Adventurous Kate on the Bridgeclimb

Get Travel Insurance

Do you really need travel insurance? Absolutely. It could save your life, and in this day and age, with so many online providers, there’s no reason not to get it.

Whether your luggage is lost, you end up in a political coup or natural disaster, or you need to go to the hospital while on the road, travel insurance will reimburse your expenses. If you’re robbed, travel insurance will provide you with the security you need.

If the very worst happens and you end up losing your life, good travel insurance will allow your family to bring your body home without paying tens of thousands of dollars and getting wrapped up in mountains of red tape.

In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling in the first place.

Be sure to examine prospective travel insurance policies in depth, because they might not cover your personal situation. Many insurance plans won’t cover certain adventure sports or particular countries or regions. Most plans will only cover a fraction of the value of your electronics.

What’s a good company? I personally use and recommend World Nomads.

Check in Regularly

It’s a good idea for at least one designated friend or family member to have a copy of your itinerary in advance: your flight numbers, your accommodation, and a general schedule of where you’ll be on which dates, as well as information on your travel insurance, credit cards, and a bank account number.

Plan ahead of time how you’ll check in and how often, whether it’s through daily emails, texts, social media updates, or regular Skype chats. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you keep a consistent schedule.

When I left for my first long-term solo trip to Southeast Asia in 2010, my parents insisted I email them every day. At first, I thought this was way too much — but I was surprised how much I enjoyed checking in with them each day and telling them what I was up to!

These days, we’re more relaxed and I email them every few days when on the road, but I send them a daily update when I’m somewhere they’re a bit more nervous about, like Lebanon or Colombia.

Staying in touch is a way to assuage the fears of your loved ones, but if you find yourself in trouble, they would be able to locate you much more easily than if you had been vague about your whereabouts.

Know where you’re going?

Check out our solo female travel guides!

Highly detailed guides written by experts, to solo female travel in Paris and New York, Thailand and Japan, Europe, Mexico, Central America, and many more!

Travel Safety Tips for Women

What are your top travel safety tips for women?

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Solo Female Travel in Costa Rica — Is Costa Rica Safe?

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I love traveling alone in Costa Rica. It’s a place brimming with joy. A nature destination filled with rainforests, volcanoes, cloud forests, golden beaches, coral reefs — oh, and tons of adorable sloths! And more than that, it’s a very easy place to travel, ideal for first-timers.

“Pura vida” is a phrase you’ll hear throughout your solo trip to Costa Rica. It means “pure life” and you can say it as a response for anything. “How are you?” “Pura vida.” “What did you get up to last night?” “Pura vida!” It’s more than a feeling — it’s a peaceful, happy state of mind.

I think Costa Rica is one of the best countries for first-time solo female travelers as well as first-time international travelers. I know that most people head to Europe for their first solo trip — but if you’re looking for something with a cheaper flight from the US or Canada, somewhere that’s warm in the winter, a place where you can delve deep into nature, a country where the people will welcome you with open arms — think Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is an excellent solo travel destination. I think you’re really going to like it here.

Table of Contents

Why Travel Solo to Costa Rica?Is Costa Rica Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?Costa Rica Tours for Solo TravelersIs Costa Rica Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?Is Costa Rica Safe?Where to Go in Costa RicaSanta Elena/MonteverdeManuel Antonio National ParkTortuguero National ParkArenal/La FortunaTamarindoCorcovado National ParkPuerto ViejoSan JoséSámaraBest Things to Do in Costa Rica on a Solo TripCosta Rica Travel and Safety TipsBest Time to Travel to Costa RicaHow to Get Around Costa Rica SoloGetting Around Costa Rica by BusGetting Around Costa Rica by Tourist ShuttlesGetting Around Costa Rica by Private TransferRenting a Car in Costa RicaEating Alone in Costa RicaHow to Meet People in Costa RicaWhat to Pack for a Costa Rica Solo TripTravel Insurance for Costa RicaCosta Rica is Waiting for You!

Palm trees lining the beach in Samara

Why Travel Solo to Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is the perfect introduction to traveling alone in Latin America. It’s one of the easiest and safest countries to travel in Latin America, making it a bit of a “soft landing” of a country. Even if you can barely speak a few mangled Spanish words, you’ll get by fine here.

Costa Rica has excellent travel infrastructure. Costa Rica has been welcoming tourists for quite some time and they have accommodation, transportation, and tours designed and priced for budget, mid-range, and luxury travelers. No matter what kind of traveler you are, Costa Rica has the goods for you.

Costa Rica is one of the best destinations in the world for sustainable travel. Back when eco-tourism was a buzzword at best, Costa Rica was leading the way on sustainable wildlife tourism, and thanks to laying that early groundwork, it’s one of the world’s leaders today. If you’re interested in responsible travel, Costa Rica is brimming with options.

Costa Rica packs a lot of diversity into a small country. If you’re visiting Costa Rica for a week, you’ll be able to fit in jungle, cloud forest, and beach time — and maybe even a few volcanoes! The diversity extends to the climate — if it’s too rainy in the rainforest, you can always pack up and move to a sunny beach within a few hours.

Also — Costa Rica is beautiful and warm and outdoorsy, but you aren’t expected to lie on the beach all day, like many Caribbean destinations. This is a big reason why my pale-skinned friends have traveled to Costa Rica — to enjoy the weather and a little bit of beach time but getting to do other things, too, with less of a risk of sunburns.

Is Costa Rica Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?

Costa Rica is one of the BEST possible destinations for women traveling alone for the first time ever. And it’s my top recommendation in Latin America for first-time international travelers.

What makes Costa Rica a great destination for first-timers? The whole country is outfitted for tourism with excellent infrastructure at a variety of price points. Every tourism spot has tons of day trips and activities that you can join as a solo traveler. English is spoken extensively. There is a large expat community and it’s easy to find connections.

But more importantly than that, Costa Rica makes it easy. All you need to do is book flights and accommodation, and fill your days in with cool tours and activities.

This is a significant difference from other countries in Central America. Guatemala and Nicaragua are wonderful places to visit, but they involve rougher travel and I think they’re more enjoyable if you have more solo travel experience.

Costa Rica has been in the tourism business forever — and as a result, they’re great for everyone. Costa Rica is great for families. Costa Rica is great for honeymooners. Costa Rica is great for retirees. Costa Rica is great for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free folks. And Costa Rica is fantastic for solo female travelers.

Costa Rica Tours for Solo Travelers

If you’re not quite sure if you’re ready to travel completely solo, another option is joining a group tour! G Adventures is a company with whom I’ve traveled before and I recommend. Their tours are very solo-friendly, they keep their groups small, they’re sustainability-minded, and they have a ton of tour options in Costa Rica. Here are some of them:

Costa Rica Quest (9 days from San José) — the perfect intro to Costa Rica with jungle, beach, wildlife, and canopy.Costa Rica Adventure (16 days from San José) — Costa Rica Quest plus three more exciting destinations.Costa Rica Volcanoes and Surfing (9 days from San José) — An active tour with hiking, climbing, and kayaking.Costa Rica & Panama Quest (16 days, San José to Panama City) — The best destinations in Costa Rica and Panama in two weeks.See all their Costa Rica tours here.

Kate on the beach in Samara, Costa Rica

Is Costa Rica Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?

Costa Rica is great for all kinds of solo travelers! I had visited more than 50 countries before I made it to Costa Rica and really enjoyed my time there. That being said, I do think experienced solo travelers would enjoy Costa Rica more if they got off the standard tourist trail.

I would especially recommend avoiding the most popular tourist spots — particularly Tamarindo, which is nicknamed Tamagringo for a reason. You may also want to avoid places like Manuel Antonio National Park, La Fortuna, and possibly Puerto Viejo. Getting off the beaten path in Costa Rica can be its own reward.

Some cool places in Costa Rica that aren’t as overcrowded are Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsula, which has more of a backpacker/hippie beach vibe; Turrialba, a chilled out town with easy access to whitewater rafting; and the Osa Peninsula, which is home to half of Costa Rica’s species and is the place to go for wildlife retreats.

If you’re traveling solo in Central America for several weeks or months, like I did, you may have the urge to limit your time in Costa Rica as it’s one of the more expensive countries in the region. I understand the impulse — but don’t limit it TOO much. Try to visit at least three to five places in the country.

A dirt road leading to the beach in Samara, Costa Rica.

Is Costa Rica Safe?

Many Central American countries have a reputation for crime — a reputation that is often not unfounded. But one of the biggest mistakes that travelers make is painting the whole region with one brush and assuming that a low-key beach town in Costa Rica is just as dangerous as a gang-controlled neighborhood in Tegucigalpa.

Please know that Central America is a big and diverse region, and destinations vary enormously. Central America may be home to cities with high murder rates like San Pedro Sula and San Salvador, but the region is also home to safe, peaceful destinations that have very little crime.

And Costa Rica is one of the safest parts of Central America — a country where I am very comfortable sending women who have never traveled solo before.

Petty crime is the biggest risk in Costa Rica, particularly in San Jose and on public transportation throughout the country. It’s important to keep your valuables on you in transit and keep them locked up when at your accommodation, ideally in a portable safe. I also recommend using a lockable backpack while in Central America, like my Pacsafe bag — more on that below.

Most crimes committed against travelers in Costa Rica are opportunistic. If you’re the only room that leaves your door unlocked, you’ll probably be the one room that gets broken into. If you leave your passport under your pillow in a dorm (yes, I’ve seen this happen MANY times on my travels), it’s pretty likely to be stolen.

Occasionally you hear terrible news about a traveler dying in Costa Rica — from drugs, from drowning, from an adventure activity go wrong. Please understand that these tragedies make the news because they’re such rare occurrences. If they happened all the time, they wouldn’t be newsworthy.

Anything can happen anywhere, anytime. You could survive dozens of trip to dangerous destinations, then come home and get killed by a drunk driver. It’s impossible to protect yourself from harm 100% of the time.

Most solo travel safety in Costa Rica comes down to common sense. Keep your valuables on you in transit, don’t drink too much, budget extra money to upgrade to safer experiences, and keep in touch with someone who has a copy of your itinerary at home.


Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

A hanging bridge through the cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

Where to Go in Costa Rica

What I love about Costa Rica is that it has so much diversity within a relatively small space. Most travelers will be spending at least a week to 10 days in the country, and that gives you time to visit a few different destinations.

The best Costa Rica trips, in my opinion, combine wildlife, jungle, and beach. These are three elements that make up the perfect Costa Rica solo trip.

Santa Elena/Monteverde

The Monteverde Cloud Forest is one of the places that people picture when they visit Costa Rica. Here you can zip-line, hike, and bungee jump through the clouds. Santa Elena is an adorable small town and makes a nice base for a few days.

Manuel Antonio National Park

One of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations, Manuel Antonio is like Costa Rica in a nutshell — it’s got beach, forest, and tons of outdoor activities. It’s also an LGBTQ hotspot. While a lot of fun, it’s also one of the most crowded places in the country.

Tortuguero National Park

If you’re hoping to see sea turtles nesting, Tortuguero National Park is the place. The best months to see nesting are from July to October, with September and October being the best months. Outside of nesting season, it’s still a great wildlife destination with canals to explore by boat.

Arenal/La Fortuna

La Fortuna is a town headed by Arenal, one of the country’s fiercest volcanoes. In this popular jungle destination you can go wildlife viewing at night, trek Arenal volcano, explore the lake by boat, or spend your days soaking in the surrounding hot springs.


An enormously busy beach town in Costa Rica. This is the place to stay if you want all the creature comforts of home; go further afield if you want something more special.

Corcovado National Park

If you’re intent on exploring Costa Rica’s wildlife, Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is the best place — it’s one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and home to half of Costa Rica’s species. It’s also less touristed than other parks in Costa Rica.

Puerto Viejo

This town on the Caribbean coast is a stone’s throw from the Panama border, making it a good stop if you’re visiting both countries. Here you can surf, horseback ride, snorkel, and dive in the reefs of Cahuita National Park — or party with the backpacker crowd.

San José

Nobody comes to Costa Rica to spend time in its capital — but if you have a day here in transit, there are some nice museums and markets to visit.


A chilled out beach town and my personal favorite spot in Costa Rica. Sámara has a gray sand beach and calm waters. It’s a good environment for paddle-boarding if you’ve never done it in the sea before, and there are lots of great cafes and yoga spots.

These are just some of the destinations — Costa Rica has plenty more!


In Search of Perfect Beach Towns: Sámara, Costa Rica

Best Things to Do in Costa Rica on a Solo Trip

See sloths in the wild. The really are the more adorable animals, and you can find them hanging out in trees in towns! I spotted this guy outside by hostel in Monteverde. You can even visit the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica in Limón on the Caribbean coast!

Please don’t touch any sloths you see — just touching them scares them and sends their heart rate through the roof. Even the sloth sanctuary doesn’t let you handle them for that reason. But they are super cute to look at!

Learn to surf. If you’ve never surfed before, Costa Rica is a great place to learn! Most of the best surfing beaches are on the Pacific coast like Jacó, Dominical, Tamarindo, and Montezuma, though Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side has become another surfing hotspot.

Watch sea turtles nesting. One of the signature activities of Costa Rica! Tortuguero National Park is the best place to see this in action, and nesting season is July to October with the best sightings in September and October. Tour operators say you have a 90% chance of seeing the turtles during the season. Book a turtle tour here.

Get into yoga and fitness. There’s something about being in a natural environment surrounded by healthy food that inspires you to have healthy habits. Join a yoga or meditation class in one of the towns — they’re everywhere — or even join a yoga retreat!

Go ziplining through the canopy. Another signature experience of Costa Rica! You can find this everywhere, and I enjoyed my experience in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. If you’re not a fan of zip-lining, you can still walk through the Monteverde Cloud Forest and its hanging bridges.

See the smallest orchid in the world. I loved visiting the Monteverde Orchid Garden — and was delighted at the tiniest orchid in the world!

Go whale watching. Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is a great place to spot whales in their natural habitat.

Watch a fútbol game with locals. Whether it’s on TV at a local bar or a real-life game at La Sabana stadium in San José, it’s a fun and passionate cultural experience!

Find your own perfect beach and chill. That’s what pura vida is all about.

Samara Beach at Sunset

Costa Rica Travel and Safety Tips

Get a day bag that locks. This is my top piece of advice for Central America. While petty crime is rarer in Costa Rica than other Central American countries, you should be prepared, especially in San José and on public transit. I ended up buying a Pacsafe bag and some padlocks; Pacsafe makes an excellent selection of bags that lock.

Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. Even if you’re not lying on the beach all day! A lot of people don’t realize you can get burned even when it’s cloudy, which it often is in Costa Rica. Hydrating keeps you from suddenly feeling ill; sunscreen and cover-ups keep the nasty burns away.

See a travel doctor before your trip and be prepared on what to do if you get sick. On the Central America tours that I led in 2015, I was shocked that roughly half of my attendees got sick. Your doctor may advise you to take antibiotics that are easily available at pharmacies throughout Costa Rica. As I am not a medical professional, you should ask your doctor what you should do.

Costa Rica requires a yellow fever vaccination if you’ve traveled to a country with yellow fever is present. You can see the full list of countries here. Budget for this, as there it’s pricey and there is a vaccine shortage. I paid around $200 in the US and you can’t get it cheaper anywhere; the price is set. Get it for cheap while abroad if you can. If not, get it when you see the travel doctor.

Whether you’re actually checked for yellow fever in Costa Rica is unlikely, but it’s better to have it just in case.

Costa Rica has malaria in some regions: “the Distritos of Cutris and Pocosol in San Carlos Canton of Alajuela Province. Rare local cases in other parts of Alajuela, Heredia, Limón, and Puntarenas Provinces.” Some travelers choose to take malaria prophylactics; others do not. Again, that’s a conversation for you and your travel doctor. You may decide to take pills; you may decide not to. Either way, wear mosquito repellant and cover up, especially in the affected regions.

The zika virus has been documented in Costa Rica. Read more on this from the CDC. Zika should be a concern of pregnant women, partners of pregnant women, and women who intend to become pregnant soon, but if you’re none of those things, you don’t need to worry. Once more, this is a conversation to have with your travel doctor.

Is the water safe to drink in Costa Rica? The water is safe to drink in parts of Costa Rica, but it’s not safe to drink in all of Costa Rica, particularly rural areas. While most travelers rely on bottled water, it creates a major waste problem. For this reason, I recommend you bring a LifeStraw, a bottle that purifies water as you drink it through its straw. Altneratively, you can bring a reusable bottle and invest in a SteriPen water purifier (much better and faster than tablets).

Learn a bit of Spanish. It’s not totally necessary in Costa Rica, where most people in tourism speak a bit of English, but it’s kind to the people you’re visiting to greet them and thank them in their language. If you’re going off the beaten path in Costa Rica, definitely spend time practicing your Spanish.

Haggling is the way to purchase at markets. Never accept the first price — people are expecting you to lowball them. Have fun with it, but don’t get so caught up in it that you’re arguing for five minutes over the value of 25 cents with someone who makes far less money than you.

Keep your valuables locked up in your accommodation and only take with you what you need that day. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack. Keep an extra debit card and at least $100 hidden in obscure parts of your luggage.

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Even if you’re used to asking someone at the next table to watch your things while you use the bathroom in a coffeeshop at home, don’t do that in Costa Rica. Take your belongings with you. If you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.

Don’t flash your valuables or wear expensive jewelry. There’s no need for fancy jewelry or purses in Costa Rica. I wouldn’t wear an Apple Watch in San José or on public transportation.

If you carry a purse, hold it close to you. I recommend a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. I recommend many purses in this post. Never let it hang behind you — always keep it in a place where you can see it, and keep your hand on it if you’re in a crowd.

If you carry a wallet without a purse, don’t keep it in your back pocket. This is obvious to thieves. They will grab it and run.

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it. Be especially cautious in party spots like Tamarindo, but drink spiking can happen anywhere.

Do not take drugs, even if you’re a party drug enthusiast. Drugs in Costa Rica can be cut with poisonous substances that can often lead to your death, and if you’re caught by the police, you’ll be in life-changing trouble.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If it costs you money to take a taxi rather than walk, or to stay in a guesthouse in a well-lit, central neighborhood, do it. It’s worth the peace of mind. Don’t pinch pennies on your safety.

Get a digital guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone — it’s great for calculating approximate time of journeys, knowing which days places are closed, and it lists medical centers you should go to in case of emergency.

I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks — get the digital version of Lonely Planet Costa Rica or if you’re hitting a few countries, Central America on a Shoestring. You can buy individual country chapters if you’d like, only through the Lonely Planet site.

Most importantly, you have no obligation to be nice to anyone. Women often feel the need to be nice and please people at all costs. You don’t have to — not to locals, not to travelers, not in Costa Rica, not in your hometown. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.

Palm Trees on a gray beach in Samara, Costa Rica

Best Time to Travel to Costa Rica

The best time to travel to Costa Rica is during the dry season — roughly January to April. During this time, you’ll have pleasant temperatures and the least amount of rain.

Rainy season in Costa Rica, or “green season,” lasts roughly from May to December. This doesn’t mean it rains all day — it may mean that you’ll experience a brief rainstorm each day and have nicer weather for the rest of the time.

There’s a bit of geographical variance within this. The Nicoya peninsula in the northwest, home to many of Costa Rica’s best beaches, is the driest part of the country. If you’re looking for reliably sunny days, your best bet is Nicoya from January to April.

The Caribbean side of Costa Rica tends to have heavier rain year-round, but paradoxically, things tend to be sunnier in September and October, which tends to be the rainiest time of year in Central America and the Caribbean!

One very seasonal activity is sea turtle nesting in Tortuguero National Park — you’re most likely to see nesting from July through October, with the best months being September and October.

In terms of prices, Costa Rica tends to be the most expensive during North America’s winter — from December to March, with the peak being between Christmas and New Year’s. This is when Costa Rica will be the absolute busiest and prices will be at their highest. If you’re looking to book a trip to Costa Rica between Christmas and New Year’s, I urge you to book accommodation as early as possible.

If you’re traveling from a snowy region in winter, or connecting through a city like New York or Toronto, consider the possibility of your flight being cancelled due to snow. That almost happened to me on a flight to Costa Rica and it’s a reason why you should get travel insurance for your trip.

One major tip — visiting during the “dry season” is not a guarantee of dryness. I was in the Arenal/La Fortuna area for three days in January and it poured buckets the whole time! But the good thing about Costa Rica being a small country is that you can hop on a bus and be somewhere sunnier in just hours.

A Costa Rican road surrounded by lush vegetation at golden hour.

How to Get Around Costa Rica Solo

Most Costa Rica trips begin with a flight to either San José, located close to the center of the country, or Liberia in the northwest, close to the Nicoya peninsula. I use Skyscanner to find flights to Costa Rica, as they tend to have the cheapest rates.

From there, it’s easy to get around the country through a mix of buses and tourist shuttles — or even renting a car if you’d like.

Getting Around Costa Rica by Bus

If you want to get around Costa Rica the cheapest way possible and the way Ticos do, travel by bus! Costa Rica’s buses are safe, cheap, and while they’re basic, you’re not paying much for the experience.

Keep in mind that Costa Rica’s buses tend to be based on where locals go — not where tourists go. If you’re hopping between major transit points, I recommend traveling Costa Rica by bus; but if you’re going between two random tourism hotspots in two different regions, you may be better off taking a direct tourist shuttle.

Getting Around Costa Rica by Tourist Shuttles

Another option and one that doesn’t get talked about as much is “tourist shuttles” in Costa Rica. These are typically minibuses or vans that focus exclusively on taking tourists from place to place.

Tourist shuttles are more expensive than local buses, but they are almost always more comfortable and convenient. Some of them follow a set route between tourist hotspots (say, from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio National Park); others go to a nearby destination and you’re able to book your final route separately.

I’m a huge proponent of taking tourist shuttles in Central America — they save you a ton of time and effort. You can book them at tourist agencies right in the town you’re visiting.

Getting Around Costa Rica by Private Transfer

A lot of travelers in Costa Rica get around by private transfer — essentially a private driver to take you from place to place.

For the most part, I don’t think private transfers are necessary for a solo traveler — it will end up costing you a lot more money. The only exceptions would be if you were traveling somewhere really random and isolated or if you had no choice but to travel at night.

But you can book private transfers here and there, as complements to public buses or tourist shuttles. It’s much more economical, for example, to join a tourist shuttle from, say, Tortuguero to Tamarindo, getting in most of the mileage for less, then getting a taxi to your beach town of choice on the Nicoya peninsula.

Renting a Car in Costa Rica

Renting a car is another option for solo travelers in Costa Rica. For the most part, roads are in good condition, much more so than in other Central American countries. Speaking on a personal level, Costa Rica is the only Central American country where I’d feel comfortable driving alone, with the possible exception of Belize.

If you want to have the ultimate flexibility in your travel plans, or if you’re hauling around big equipment like a surfboard, renting a car may be the best option for you.

Check out car rental rates here on RentalCars.com.

Eating Alone in Costa Rica

Traditional Costa Rican food, frankly, isn’t the most exciting food you’ll ever eat — there’s a lot of rice and beans (or gallo pinto, rice and beans cooked together), served with plantains, meat or fish or eggs, sometimes fruit or other side dishes.

Those ingredients, along with corn, are the basic building blocks for most Costa Rican dishes. As you can imagine, Costa Rican food can be very tasty but a bit repetitive.

Luckily, Costa Rica excels when it comes to health food, international food, and especially vegetarian and vegan food (though always ask if the beans were cooked in meat). There are tons of healthy dishes to choose from and in popular tourist spots, it seems like there are half a dozen healthy cafes. If you eat a plant-based diet, you’ll do very well in Costa Rica.

This is how I ate in Costa Rica — lots of fresh, healthy food, salads, vegan dishes, fruit shakes and vegetable juices, occasionally splurging on tacos and eating plenty of local Costa Rican meals, too. Mix that in with hiking and surfing and you might come back a few pounds lighter!

You won’t be judged for eating alone in Costa Rica — Costa Rica is such a popular tourism destination that nobody will bat an eye at you sitting by yourself. Plenty of solo travelers do the same thing, as do locals who just want to get a bite to eat on their own.

And don’t forget to indulge in delicious Costa Rican coffee!

Kate posing with three guy friends on a Costa Rican road, trees and vegetation in the background.

How to Meet People in Costa Rica

Costa Ricans are friendly, fun, and always quick to laugh! Whether you want to meet Costa Rican friends or hang out with other travelers, you’re in an easy place to meet new people on your Costa Rican trip.

Frankly, I met a lot more Ticos in Nicaragua than anywhere else! But I met a lot of fellow travelers in Costa Rica, especially at my accommodation.

Stay in social hostels and guesthouses. Read through the reviews of hostels and guesthouses (and keep in mind that many Costa Rica hostels have private rooms!) and spend time in the common areas. I met these guys above at a hostel in Santa Elena.

Check out local meetups via Meetup.com. Whether you’re into travel, running, movies, board games, or just want to meet a group of nice people, there’s a Meetup for that. 

Couchsurfing. The Couchsurfing Costa Rica community isn’t just for free accommodation, it’s also for socializing. The local Couchsurfers often put on events and meetups in a variety of destinations.

Join local tours and events. Costa Rica is all about activities! Going horseback riding or learning to surf or hiking a volcano is a great way to meet other travelers in Costa Rica! Once the day is over, ask them if they feel like getting a drink or dinner.

Put out feelers on social media. You never know — often a friend of yours will have a cousin or friend in Costa Rica at the same time as you, or knows someone who is living there long-term.

Tinder. If you’re looking to date or hook up in Costa Rica, it’s as easy as swiping right.

Kate zip lining through the rainforest.

What to Pack for a Costa Rica Solo Trip

If you’re traveling to Costa Rica, you should be prepared for the outdoors! Here are the items that I found particularly useful on my Costa Rica trip:

Trail runners — the best shoes for hiking in Costa Rica. They work equally well as sneakers and hiking shoes, as long as you’re not doing super-intense mountain hiking, which you won’t be doing in Costa Rica. I love my Merrill Siren Edge Q2 Waterproof Trail Runners.

Sports sandals — Lightweight supportive sports sandals, better than flip-flops for light walks in the outdoors. I’ve been wearing my Teva Tirra sandals since 2010. I’ve worn them on cave swimming hikes in Thailand and Belize and was the only person who didn’t soak her sneakers.

Flip-flops — Essential beach footwear. I can’t wear most flip-flops due to arch issues but I ADORE my Abeo flip-flops with arch support.

Warm clothing — Parts of Costa Rica can get cold at night, especially in the mountains, and public transportation often has the AC blasting. I usually bring a hoodie and a pair of leggings or yoga pants.

A Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These scarves are ideal for travel — they all have a hidden passport pocket and some come in light fabrics perfect for Costa Rica. I love these scarves (I even designed my own!).

Lifestraw water bottle — The water is safe to drink in most of Costa Rica, but not some rural areas. Be on the safe side with a Lifestraw water bottle, which filters any kind of water as you drink it. I love mine.

Reef safe sunscreen. Even if you’re not planning on diving or snorkeling, this helps protect Costa Rica’s reefs off shore.

A portable safe. By far the most important thing I pack — it keeps your valuables safely locked up in your room.

A Divacup, if you menstruate. A great way to avoid buying pads and tampons and ultimately creating more waste in Costa Rica.

Travel Insurance for Costa Rica

One last note — it’s absolutely vital to have travel insurance before traveling to Costa Rica. If you get sick or injured on your trip, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Costa Rica.

I had one instance where I almost had to use my travel insurance in Costa Rica — my flight to Liberia was scheduled on a day when a major snowstorm was about to hit New York City. JetBlue offered me the chance to move my flight a day early before the storm hit, but most airlines won’t do that.

If I hadn’t had that option, I would have been stuck paying for a new, more expensive flight booked at the last minute — and travel insurance would have covered the difference. One of the many reasons why it pays to have it.

Purple and yellow sunset on the beach in Samara, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is Waiting for You!

Costa Rica is a destination brimming with adventures. I know you’re going to have a wonderful trip — and I hope this is the beginning of many wonderful solo trips around the world. Costa Rica this year, maybe Italy or Thailand or even Colombia next year?!

And when you come back from your trip and your friends ask you how Costa Rica was, turn to them with a grin and say the phrase you now know well: “Pura Vida.”


Solo Female Travel in Central America: The Guide

Have you traveled solo in Costa Rica? Share your tips!

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