Tropical Field Studies in Costa Rica

Frequently Asked Questions

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You must have a passport (U.S or foreign) that is valid through December 2018. If you have permanent U.S. resident status you must carry proper documentation in addition to your passport. If you do not currently have a passport you should apply for one as soon as possible. You can apply online at U.S. Department of State.
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Visas are not required for U.S. citizens and permanent U.S. residents. If you are in the U.S. with a legal visa you will be allowed to enter Costa Rica. Costa Rica requires visas for residents of certain countries. You can check your requirement at the Costa Rica Embassy in Washington D.C. You also need to verify that your student visa will allow you to leave the U.S. and return. Check with the International Center to determine your status.
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We will require verification of current primary health insurance. You will also be required to purchase supplemental travel medical and evacuation insurance. The cost for the 12 days is generally under $35 (based on your age). You can purchase travel insurance online. These companies also offer other trip protection packages that include trip cancellation, lost baggage, etc., but you only need a medical plan.
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You need to be enrolled in at least one 3 credit course in the spring 2018 semester. You must enroll in ENV120 for the spring 2018 semester if you receive a scholarship. This will satisfy the one course requirement. If you are self-paying you must also register for ENV120.
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We will arrange air travel for you so we can all arrive in Costa Rica together.
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The airline will allow one check-in bag at a cost of $25 each way. Bring a credit or debit card to pay the fee. You can also purchase a prepaid debit card if you do not have a regular credit card. You can pay in cash but this can hold you up at check-in. You must keep your check-in bag under 50 pounds or you will encounter a very large surcharge. You should also bring a day backpack as your carry-on. The airline does not charge a fee for your carry-on.
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We will have a private tour bus for our group. It will pick us up at the airport. The bus will take us most of the way to southern Costa Rica. The last part of our journey to the field station will be by boat. You need to bring several large heavy-duty trash bags to cover your bags. This is especially important for the boat ride to the field station and back. Several large Ziplock bags are also very useful in keeping smaller items dry.
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You do not need to know Spanish. We will have an English speaking Costa Rican naturalist as our guide and interpreter for the entire trip. You will get a few Spanish lessons along the way.
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While in Costa Rica you will be participating in various rigorous activities. We will be doing a lot of hiking on rough trails. You should be healthy enough to be able to hike for two or three hours at a time. We recommend that you get a physical examination and do some conditioning before we leave (at least do some extended walking or hiking several times before we go).
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Yes. You will need a quality pair of hiking boots that come above your ankles for protection against ankle sprains and possible snake bites (odds of a snake bite are extremely low but a possibility). If you purchase a new pair of boots for this trip make sure you purchase them well ahead of time and break them in. You do not want to develop blisters on the trails. You also need a pair of light shoes that can get wet. You will be crossing streams on some hikes. An old pair of sneakers will work fine. You don’t need to purchase the more expensive water shoes unless you want to.
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Although we will be staying in a remote region of Costa Rica we will be able to get you to a medical facility in less than two hours if required. Costa Rica has an excellent health care system.
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Major infectious diseases are not a major concern in the areas we will be staying. However it is highly recommended that your tetanus vaccination is up to date and that you get vaccinated for Hepatitis A.
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Malaria is not widespread in the areas we will be traveling. You can speak to your healthcare provider about taking anti-malaria medication if you are concerned. Be aware that anti-malaria medication can have some unusual side effects. In our past eleven trips to Costa Rica no one has contracted malaria. If you want more information on malaria check out the CDC website.
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Yes, there are plenty of bugs (and other critters) in Costa Rica. This is just part of the amazing diversity of the rainforest. The mosquitoes are actually much less frequent and less of a bother than they are in New England. A little insect repellant will go a long way.
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Probably not. There are some very dangerous venomous snakes in Costa Rica and you do have to be careful. You will be instructed on what you need to do and not do in order to avoid contact with the snakes. If we encounter even one or two snakes on the trip we will be lucky. In most cases the snakes we do find are completely harmless. If you do happen to get bitten by a viper we have emergency evacuations plans and the Costa Rican hospitals are very capable of treating venomous snakebites.
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When we are traveling through some of the major cities in Costa Rica you will be able to call from pay phones or the motels. You will need to purchase an international calling card. Make sure the card will work in Costa Rica. You can also purchase a calling card in San Jose. These generally work. Calls back to the U.S are very expensive and will use up your minutes very fast. Cell phone service is available in most of the major urban areas if you have international roaming with your service provider. We do carry a cell phone with international roaming that you can use in an emergency. There is no cell phone service at the field station, however there is a phone that can be used in emergencies.
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We will have a GPS locator with us that will send an OK message twice a day to an email address(s) that you provide. In addition to an “I’m OK message” the email will also have a link to Goggle Maps so your friends and family will know exactly where you are in Costa Rica on any given day. You will also be provided with a list of phone number in Costa Rica that you can give to your family or friends in case they need to contact you in an emergency.
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Water throughout most of Costa Rica is perfectly fine to drink. The water at the station comes from a private stream and is double filtered. You do not need to bring water purification tablets.
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You might. Everyone’s system is different and occasionally someone will react to a different strain of common food bacteria. The diarrhea symptoms generally go away in a day or two. Bring some OTC anti-diarrhea medication just in case. Go to the CDC website for info on Travelers Diarrhea.
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When we are traveling we will be staying in motels similar to those in the U.S. You will generally share a room with one or two other participants. For one night we will be staying with an indigenous indian family. The accommodations here are clean but very basic. At Campanario you will share a room in the station or in a separate cabin. The station has flush toilets and showers (no hot water). Minimal electricity is provided by solar panels so we generally eat dinner by candlelight.
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The food is very healthy and traditional Costa Rican. Rice and beans will be served at most meals. You will get plenty to eat. Vegetarian meals can be prepared if requested. The coffee is great.
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Hot and humid. The average daily daytime temperatures will be around 90 degrees F with 90%-100% humidity. It may take you a couple of days to adjust. Evening temperatures are very comfortable. May is the beginning of the rainy season so it could rain every day. Generally it is clear in the morning with downpours in the late PM. Some years we had hardly any rain and other years it has rained 24/7. After all it is the Rain Forest. Hiking in a tropical downpour is an amazing experience.
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Absolutely bring your camera. Many students use their smartphones and their phones have taken some amazing photos. After we return we generally share our photos with each other. The wet conditions and humidity can be an issue with digital cameras and smartphones. We recommend that you purchase a watertight bag for your camera or smartphone. Ziplock bags work great for smaller cameras. It also helps to purchase some silica desiccator packs to put in the bag with your camera or phone at night so they can dry out. Most students have not had a problem with their smaller digital cameras or smartphones. The more expensive SLR digital cameras need a bit more care and attention. Video cameras are also a bit more temperamental in the humidity. Make sure you bring extra batteries and memory cards for your camera. Once we leave San Jose you won’t be able to purchase more.
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On our way back to San Jose from the station we will stop at various roadside shops for you to buy souvenirs.
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Typically $100-$200 is plenty unless you plan to purchase a lot of souvenirs. You will need to reserve $30 to pay an exit tax at the San Jose airport. Most places including the airport will accept major credit cards.
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The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon. Currently the exchange rate is approximately 500 Colons to the dollar. You can exchange dollars for Colons in San Jose. You can also purchase Colons from your local bank before you go but this is not necessary. Most souvenir stores and vendors will accept U.S. dollars.
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If your conduct is a major disruption of activities or endangers the health and safety of you or other members of the group you will be sent back to the U.S. at your own expense. Be sure to read the Statement of Understanding you will be required to sign.
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You will be jailed and there will be nothing we will be able to do for you except contact your family.