Tips for Women Traveling Alone
Costa Rica is a great country to explore on your own—especially if you are an independent, experienced traveler that already has a schedule of things to do and see. Here are a few beginning tips for traveling to ANY country or city:
- Keep in touch with your family/friends
- Please share the details of your trip with some of them and
- Travel light with any valuables safely left at home
Let's get into the details of traveling solo in Costa Rica.
Read, and Plan Your Trip
Read everything you can find on destinations and topics you're interested in. Read travel guides and frequent forums and ask questions. Detail your route in advance so you can book and schedule all your accommodations and transport. And once you hit the road, you won't be stressing over where you'll end up tonight.
Suppose you don't like strict plans, that's OK too. Just have a good idea of what destinations you want to visit and single out a few possible options where to stay per destination. Once you decide where you want to go next, book your room before getting there. Many hotels in Costa Rica are small properties with less than 20 rooms. They get booked far ahead in the high season, so consider when planning.
Travel During the Day
Most Costa Ricans are used to the somewhat unusual schedule of starting their day as early as 5 AM. However, by 7 AM or 8 AM, the sun can already be relentless, so everyone tries to get their morning chores done beforehand.
It will stay scorching hot most of the day during the dry season unless the clouds roll in the early afternoon to give some shelter. Sunsets are not to be missed—but also come in early, at 6 PM year-round. Planning travel for the morning means you avoid spending the hottest and also the most crowded hours of the day on the roads.
If you travel by shared shuttle transfers, you'll have a more relaxed schedule, but if taking public buses, opt-in for early departure, typically at 5:30 or 6 AM. Yes, you might be less sociable at that hour, but you'll arrive early at your next destination, giving you more time to pick and choose if you already don't have a place to stay.
Also, you will avoid slow traffic coming in and out of the Central Valley. Getting the early bus is a must if you travel across land borders—to both Nicaragua and Panama—as the lines in front of immigration can get long and slow.
Find Like-Minded Travelers Along the Way
Some guidebooks offer info on meeting places for independent travelers. Another good resource is various Facebook groups that are relatively active in Costa Rica.
If you're staying in boutique hotels and hostels, getting to know fellow travelers is easy; use your common sense when arranging your joint activities.
If you're in a somewhat remote area (which is plenty in Costa Rica), you already have much in common with people who also chose to be there. However, in more popular destinations, especially the San Jose area, you can join plenty of social gatherings to meet international travelers or locals.
Just Say: No
You don't have to do anything you don't want to do! If you get that gut feeling that something's probably not a good idea for you—even if you previously thought it was—follow your instincts and say no. It's as simple as that. In the worst-case scenario, you'll come off as uptight for canceling plans, but that's nothing compared to a worrisome day or night or feeling uncomfortable when you're supposed to be having fun.
It's also OK to walk away instead of getting involved in a discussion or an explanation. Ticos—Costa Ricans—are generally not too aggressive at selling you anything, and you most likely won't have to fight anyone off. Except for maybe taxi drivers and tour guides in popular tourist areas.
Just be firm and stick to your guns.
Avoiding Unsolicited Attention Isn't Hard
Costa Rica is a country where you can wear anything you want, and you'll see some locals dressing with a passion for fashion, too. Nobody will ever scold you or give you the evil eye for wearing casual clothes, but you will get reactions from passers-by if you dress up or show a lot of skin (except in beach areas).
Catcalling, honking, and passing comments of 'mi reina' (my queen), 'que linda' (how pretty), 'Preciosa' (beautiful), and 'muñeca' (doll) are all standard repertoire of Ticos. If you ignore them, that's all there is to it. It's recommended to take it as a compliment and move on. There's no need to wear a wedding ring to put someone off—Ticos aren't famous for fidelity, so the ring won't faze them much. Just be confident and state your intentions; as they are very non-confrontational, they'll take a hint.
Pura Vida Lifestyle
Take everything with a grain of salt and a dose of humor. By Western standards, Ticos are extremely laid back. So they won't understand why you're obsessing on bus schedules (any schedules for that matter) or words they said last night—although those might have sounded like promises to you. For them, it was just a way to be polite and participate in the conversation. Yes, they mentioned they'll show up then and there, but they in no way feel obliged.
For Costa Ricans, making the other person happy when engaged in conversation is essential, even if it slightly overstates something. Was that a genuine promise or a polite statement? It's not easy to tell. So, don't get too hung up on Ticos' words.
Also, don't get upset if it takes forever for the bus to arrive or a server to come to your table. Ticos take their sweet time when doing something: "Tico Time." It's not personal, so don't let it ruin your day. Just kick back, relax, enjoy the view, and find something else to keep you occupied while you wait.
Take Care of Yourself, Be Confident, and Use Common Sense
Like in any other country, people in Costa Rica would like to take advantage of tourists—if the right opportunity presents itself. So avoid walking alone in risky areas to reduce the risk of something like that. Instead, ask the hotel staff if you plan to go somewhere, as they are best informed about what's happening in the neighborhood.
Pay special attention to your belongings in bus stations and buses—keep your carry-on bag next to your feet, not above the head compartment. Also, do not leave expensive belongings on the beach while you swim/surf, and be sure to use safety lockers in hostels or safes in hotels.
If you get to an unfamiliar area, walk confidently, even if you don't know where you are. Don't panic; enter the first shop and ask for directions. Of course, it helps a lot if you know some Spanish, but many young Ticos know basic English and are willing to help you.
Costa Rica is a very safe country with kind and helpful people. Even women traveling alone should have no trouble getting around without any problems. Follow these tips, and you should be just fine: you may even have the time of your life!
FAQs for Travel Tips for Solo Women
Is it safe to travel to Costa Rica alone as a female?
Of course, it is safe to travel independently as a female in Costa Rica. But, we ask that you take precautions just like any other country.
Is Costa Rica a good solo trip?
It depends on you if you like traveling alone or with friends. If you head to Nosara, you will find plenty of ex-pats to guide you on where to go. If you head to Flamingo or Conchal, there will be a mix of Costa Ricans and Tourists. There are some incredible opportunities to connect with the locals if that is what you are looking to do.
Is it safe to travel to Costa Rica by yourself?
It is, but we ask that you take the precautions, such as don't walk on the beach at night, don't drive alone at night, being mindful of drinking alcohol if you are alone, and making sure you don't have many valuables on you. Keep the high-end jewelry and clothing at home. It isn't needed here.
Where do singles go in Costa Rica?
If you are looking for party towns, check out Tamarindo and Jaco. If you are looking for surfers, yogis, and the beach tribe, check out Nosara; if you want a mix, head to the Caribbean side and bond with the Costa Ricans of Puerto Viejo. There are plenty of places to find in Costa Rica for singles, but we want to remind you to stay safe and use precautions and your spidey sense!