Traveling to Costa Rica is a great way for teachers, students and parents to get their feet wet in the world of global travel. It's beautiful and exotic with rich cultural and geographic layers, and there are more things to do than days to travel.
That said, school trips must be blanketed with a "safety first" mentality to ensure everyone has a good time and the group returns home bursting with positive memories.
Common sense is a staple feature of travel safety tips
Safe travels require smart travel, and that's why common sense is a travel group's best friend. Front-loading students and chaperones with these smart, no-nonsense travel tips will facilitate everyone's enjoyment of your upcoming Costa Rica itinerary.
Schedule a safety-focused meeting for parents, chaperones and students
Costa Rica is a very safe place for traveling, and tourist statistics back that up. The more common complaint is of petty thefts. Fortunately for your tour group, petty thefts are easily avoidable if you follow general precautions.
To put parents at ease, include safety information as part of your family presentations. Use the U.S. Department of State's Students Abroad Website as a resource for important safety topics. Go over these tips meticulously, and ask parents, students and chaperones to sign and return a copy along with their behavior agreement before traveling.
Make copies of passports
Adults and students traveling anywhere outside the United States must have a valid passport. You can follow USPS.com's instructions to apply for - or renew - an international passport.
Once you've received your passport, make copies. Keep one in an accessible location at home, keep one in each piece of luggage or carry-on bags, and then store the original in a safe place during your trip. Most hotels, resorts and hostels have a safe where the group can store original passports for the duration of their stay.
In the meantime, passport copies can be used should anything need to be reported to the authorities, or in the case that someone's passport is lost or stolen en route.
Minimize valuables and cash
Most valuables have no place on a Costa Rican adventure. Between jet lag and an on-the-go itinerary, it's way too easy to lose track of valuables and precious belongings. Limit valuables to simple jewelry that can be worn continuously without having to take it off.
Also, know that the more "bling" you show off, the more you become a target for petty thieves who make the assumption there are more expendable cash or other valuables at hand.
Speaking of cash, you'll rarely need any. ATMs abound in Costa Rica, which means you'll be able to take out small sums of cash if you need it at all.
Your tour with NationsClassroom is all-
inclusive, so cash-in-hand can be limited to a small amount for souvenirs.
Other tips for cash and card safety:
- Only bring one credit, cash, or debit card with you and leave the rest at home.
- Write down the card number, expiration date, security number, and the customer service phone number on a separate piece of paper. This can be stored in the safe with your passport or in a piece of luggage in case the card is lost or stolen.
- Keep money in a zippered money belt or neck wallet, close to your body. This makes it much harder for pickpockets to access.
- Don't hang bags or purses on the backs of chairs in a restaurant.
- Leave electronics, like iPads, laptops, and expensive cameras at home. If you bring an expensive gadget, keep it in the safe when you're away from the room.
- Don't flash your cash around. Keep smaller bills in an accessible, zippered pouch and keep extra money (if needed) in a plastic baggy in the sole of your shoes or another hidden area.
Be prepared for a tropical climate
Certain things are inherent in a tropical climate - heat, water and mosquitoes being three of them. Travelers should prepare for this and pack accordingly, including
- Appropriate clothing for outdoor activities. Clothing should be breathable and quick to dry. It should also be comfortable and durable so it can withstand the rigors of walking, hiking, biking, zip lining, climbing, horseback riding and other outdoor adventures waiting to be had. Fashion-conscious students should be reminded that an outfit or two for a nicer meal out or a special event are fine, but otherwise outdoor clothes are a must.
- Footwear that is comfortable and slip-resistant. If it doesn't rain at least once while you're in Costa Rica, you're probably not in Costa Rica. The country is primarily rainforest and beaches, which means surfaces are slippery when wet. Comfortable, slip-resistant sneakers and/or hiking shoes, and socks that are 100% cotton, will help you enjoy a safer and blister-free adventure. Closed shoes instead of sandals also help keep out bugs that may bite.
- Ways to cover up for protection. Everyone should pack hats, sunglasses, water-resistant sunscreen, closed toe shoes, and insect repellent to protect them against Mother Nature's jungle features as well as the sun, rain, sweat, and insects.
Use the buddy system
Students should never be anywhere alone on the trip. The buddy system must be embraced and respected from the moment the group leaves to the airport, in the airport and throughout the duration of of the trip.
Not only is there safety in numbers, two students together are less likely to get lost. If one needs to use the restroom, the other can wait outside the door.
Students should always report where they are going to a chaperone - and have it acknowledged - before they leave the group.
Keep copies of important contacts in travel packs
Students should each have copies of important contacts in their luggage and daily travel packs or backpacks. If they do become lost or separated from the group, they can phone chaperones or the hotel to get help or to arrange to be reunited with the group.
NationsClassroom also provides wristbands with an emergency number that can be called any time for assistance.
Drink water and eat well throughout the day
Yes, Costa Rica is humid and water is everywhere, but busy travelers can become dehydrated and that's no fun. Everyone should have a refillable water bottle they keep topped off from safe water sources. Chaperones should occasionally remind the group to take hydration breaks throughout the day. This will keep everyone alert, headache-free and feeling their best.
Remind students to take advantage of meal time to fill up on nutritious foods that will sustain them throughout the day, including fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Keeping common-sense safety tips in the forefront of the minds of students, parents and chaperones will guarantee everyone has a more pleasant and memorable trip to Costa Rica.
Interested in planning a student trip to Costa Rica with experienced, educational travel professionals? Contact us at NationsClassroom.