1. Must I host a visiting Tico before I can travel to Costa Rica as part of this program?
A. Yes. Hosting a visiting Costa Rican in September/October when they arrive in your Oregon town will help you understand the true purposes of this program, and ensure you already have OPOA friends and Tico ‘family’ before you travel to Costa Rica in February.
2. What if I don’t have a spare, suitable bedroom for a guest, am I automatically disqualified from traveling?
A. There are many ways you can host a visiting Tico: become a ‘day host’ to help a host who works and cannot attend a scheduled activity with the guest; participate in planning or leading activities for the Tico guests, etc.
3. Will I get to decide who hosts me while in Costa Rica?
A. You could mention your preference for a host when applying as a travel ambassador, perhaps someone you’ve hosted in Oregon, or someone you met on a previous trip. Final selection is determined by the Ticos organizing each area, however.
4. What if I don’t get along with my chosen host in Costa Rica?
A. Speak to your Oregon trip leader and explain the reason(s); every effort will be made to transfer you to another host, if at all possible.
5. I’ve not travelled often with a group; what happens if I just get tired and want some ‘alone’ time?
A. This trip can be intense and if you are not used to being flexible when traveling and when dealing with a larger group. it could be frustrating. Speak with your Oregon travel guide early; perhaps you’ll be advised to take an afternoon off, or be paired with another traveler who also needs some time alone. Don’t suffer in silence.
6. What if I want to go on a nearby outing alone, and not the planned activity?
A. Your Costa Rican guides and hosts will make every effort to grant your wish(es), if at all possible. But understand that for many Ticos there, they will have also pre-paid for each activity, and consider it a social event to be shared with the OPOA group. Likewise, your host will feel responsible for your welfare, just as you would if the situation were reversed. Think about what might happen if/when one of you were to get lost, for example, while off on your own? An option for doing something on your own might be to schedule a few days or weeks before or after the official program tour.
7. Will my insurance work in Costa Rica, or do I need to buy travel insurance?
A. Medicare and most US health insurance does not apply outside the US. Before leaving, be sure to thoroughly read your insurance policy regarding what is covered, and when and how you can be reimbursed. For example, if your policy says they will reimburse you for illness expenditures after 3 nights in the hospital, but you only stay for two nights, you may not get reimbursed for ANY medical expenses related to that illness, even if you continue to need treatment once you return home, including any necessary (and expensive) adult care facility stays here.
Travelers without international health coverage must purchase health insurance for the trip and provide proof of same (name of carrier, policy number dates of coverage) to the Southbound travel coordinator before leaving Oregon. Travel insurance should include the cost of emergency transport back to the US. (The Access American insurance company has had insurance for as low as $44.) Be sure to get all treatment paperwork you’ll need before leaving the country, so as to avoid hassles upon return. Partners has no financial means to help you with health related payments.
8. What about money, travelers checks, credit cards, dollars vs. colones, etc?
A. Since you will have paid cash for all activity expenses upon arrival, there is no need for anything extra except for personal souvenirs, medicines, alcohol, etc. Traveler’s checks are a hassle as the banks usually have long lines, and you’d need to use your passport to cash them. Instead, take a couple hundred dollars (in ten’s/twenty’s) for souvenirs, and take a maximum of two credit cards with sufficient funds to pay for any needed emergency medical care. Let your bank know you will be spending funds in Costa Rica, and check your foreign exchange rates before you go.
Most stores there accept dollars and give change in colones; ATMs give you an option of receiving funds in dollars or colones. Banks there offer a better exchange rate than in Oregon, but again remember that your bank may charge high exchange fees for using the ATM, etc. If you want to exchange dollars there, your host will know the best place to do that.
9. Do I need a passport and a visa?
A. Before you even board a plane from the U.S. to Costa Rica., the airlines will ask to see your proof of exiting Costa Rica, as Costa Rica doesn’t allow entrance unless you have proof that you are also leaving; a round trip ticket works fine. Costa Rica requires that your passport be valid for 6 months after your planned date of departure. You may not be granted entry with less time remaining on your passport. It is not necessary to obtain a special visa before traveling as it is granted upon entry, no charge. (Please note the importance of providing ticketed proof of exiting the country PRIOR to being allowed to enter the country.)
10. I don’t speak Spanish well, isn’t this going to be a problem for me? For example, how will I know what the schedule is for the day?
A. They will make every attempt to match you with a Costa Rican host who speaks some English, maybe even pair you with another traveler who does speak Spanish. If you need translation help, most homes have English/Spanish dictionaries, even online help, and you’ll have phone numbers for each Tico home where your Oregon guide resides should you need any help. You’ll each be given the week’s itinerary in each location, and before the end of each day, your trip guide will ask the Costa Rican coordinator the correct times, clothing/footwear, and plans for the day. Be sure to check w/your guide before leaving for the day.
Need additional questions answered? Try here…. Travel Ambassador – Additional FAQ’s