Mesoamerican Paradise: Costa Rica

Costa Rica lies adjacent to Nicaragua and Panama, and has been termed by many as an “intermediate region” between Mesoamerican and Andean native cultures. The terrain consists of deep valleys, rolling hills, sand beaches, dense forests, vast plains, wetlands, mountains, and volcanoes. Cerro Chiripo is the country’s highest point at 3,819 meters and Lake Arenal, the country’s largest lake, produces 7% of the country’s electricity. While Costa Rica has been independent since the 19th century, it had once been a victim to colonization. During the age of Spanish imperialism, Christopher Columbus first landed in Costa Rica in 1502 where the indigenous population was swiftly conquered. In 1524, the country was incorporated as a province of New Spain and the Spaniards laid claim to the country for the next 300 years. Costa Rica then became part of the Mexican Empire in 1821 but in 1838 the country gained its independence. Today the country thrives on technology and eco-tourism and is known for its commitment to human rights and democracy.

Among Americans, Costa Rica is the most popular international travel destination. 39% of Costa Rica’s tourists come from the U.S. and in 2013 the country had a total of approximately 2.4 million tourists. The popularity is only increasing and the 2.4 million visitors in 2013 showed a 3.6% increase from the previous year. While the country has seen massive growth in tourism, the country maintains a philosophy of sustainability. The country balances the use of natural and cultural resources with the economic demands of society. The goal of this philosophy is to improve the inhabitants’ quality of life while enabling industrial economic success that contributes to national development. This is imperative for many countries like Costa Rica to follow in order for them to be competitive.

Many tourists visit the country for adventure and outdoor activities such as rafting, canyoning, zip lining, hiking, surfing, fishing and mountain climbing. Many raft along the Pacuare River, which forms the northern border for some of Costa Rica’s national parks and protected reserves. This river is known to offer some of the finest white water rafting in Latin America and flows deep into lush rainforest that is home to monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, and many different bird species. While rafting is popular, with outdoor sports like canyoning, visitors get into the heart of river canyons, waterfalls, rainforests, and volcanoes. Lake Arenal is a case in point because its diverse terrain and numerous rivers make it one of the most attractive places for canyoneers and other hikers. Many visitors also enjoy zip-lining because they get to explore the canopies of Costa Rica’s many rainforests and can even get a bird’s eye view of vast landscapes and water bodies.

There are many travel packages that show the natural beauty and biodiversity of Costa Rica. For 2016, Condor Tours and Travel is offering packages from six to fourteen days that include deep-sea fishing, rain forest exploration, beach destinations, volcanoes, surfing, and honeymoon packages. The fishing tour includes two full days of deep-sea fishing and lodging is at the Tamarindo Diria hotel. Guests will leave from the Flamingo Beach Marina and after the two fishing tours they can take advantage of Tamarindo’s beaches, restaurants, and nightlife. Between the jungle and the ocean is a nine-day tour that includes zip-lining through Selvatura Park, hiking at Tenorio National Park, and sight-seeing at Poas Volcano and the Central Valley. Accommodations include breakfast every morning and lodging at the El Establo Hotel and Rio Celeste Hideaway. There are many more destination and activity packages at www.condortoursandtravel.com that highlight the natural beauty of the most popular international travel destination for Americans.

All About Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is often seen as an unnecessary add-on fee but it can be a useful tool when unexpected events occur prior to or during travel. It protects from severe weather, cancelled or delayed flights, lost luggage, and family and medical emergencies. What is also important to note is the stark contrast between the average cost of an insurance policy and that of a claim. The average policy’s cost is $54 while the average claim is $1,524. Given this disparity, one would have to take 28 vacations annually for the cost of the policies to exceed the cost of the average claim. Furthermore, travel insurance expenses are not increasing nearly at the rate of some of the costs they cover, such as medical care. As a case in point, in 2004 the average cost of a medical claim was $1,040 but nine years later it grew to $1,570.

While the cost of a policy is low, travel insurance is not as relevant for certain travelers such as those embarking on an inexpensive domestic trip or if bearing any financial loss associated with the trip could be borne without much headache. It is also not as relevant if your trip involves things that aren’t covered by insurance such as staying at a friend’s house, if there are few or no non-refundable payments are involved, or if coverage would be redundant because of your credit card or health insurance providers’ policies. Travel insurance is most relevant to those who are spending more than at least $1,000 on the vacation, taking a cruise or package tour, on Medicare, traveling internationally, or if the vacation involves non-refundable fees and expenses.

Travelers can buy insurance directly through companies online, their travel agents, or third-parties who show plans from several different providers. When buying travel insurance one should always keep in mind that the average cost of a policy is between 4 and 8 percent. This will help determine if you are getting a good deal or not. Travel companies certainly offer travel insurance but many air and cruise lines, and tour operators will offer it directly to customers. Buying through your travel agent is one of your best bets because you have a pre-existing relationship and they can help guide you through some of the policy lingo. Your travel agent will also likely know about your destination and can consult you given your own background and travel habits.

Common Reasons for Needing Travel Protection

  • Cancelled connecting flight
  • Lost bags or important personal items
  • Lost or stolen wallet or passport
  • Lack of adequate medical care abroad
  • Family emergency
  • Finding an English speaking doctor
  • Terrorism
  • Weather

Insurance Policy Types

 Medical

Many health plans do not cover policyholders while they are abroad. The people who fit this category the most are Medicare recipients and citizens of countries who have a National Health Service, but those with private policies should check their policy before making a decision. However, even if you have medical coverage abroad through your current provider there is the possibility of being treated at an out of network hospital in case of an emergency. Many medical travel protection policies will cover participants regardless of where they receive care.

Emergency Evacuation

This applies to individuals who plan to travel to isolated and remote regions. This covers travelers in case of the need for a medical evacuation back. These plans can be as cheap as $40 while the claim could be as expensive as $30,000, or more.

Travel Protection

The benefit of Travel Protection is that it protects against losing prepaid and non-refundable fees. This would be the most helpful in a situation where your flight were delayed or you needed to cancel your trip altogether. Trips that involve expensive and its fair share of prepaid or nonrefundable costs warrant Travel Protection more than a pay as you go kind of vacation or trip.

 Baggage Protection

This covers items that have been lost or damaged in transit and expenses that are incurred due to delayed luggage. Airlines are required to reimburse passengers for lost, stolen, or damaged luggage, but, there are limitations, and is limited to only the flight. Baggage protection extends beyond the flight to the entire trip.

Personal Liability

This covers legal, medical, and property damage expenses in case if you harm a third-party or cause property damage. This is a less commonly purchased travel insurance policy but can still be helpful whether you know you and your friends are going to be rowdy or if there is a fair chance you will find yourself in an accident.