We recommend that you bring your own phone and call your service provider in the US for the international rates. As of now there is no WiFi, at the home there is a dial up internet connection, or you can use your phone's data connection. There are plans for WiFi in the near future. There are several locations in the town of Jimenez where you can get on WiFi.
911 exists in Costa Rica and should be used in case of emergency. Other important phone numbers are in the Handbook and you should carry a copy of that page with you at all times. If you are in the Osa, contact 911 and Marlene or go directly to the health clinic in town. Costa Rica has social health care and everyone is treated without charge (however, sometimes a donation is asked of foreigners). Puerto Jimenez has a clinic (small hospital), and more severe cases are transported to Golfito Hospital (a 30 minutes boat ride across the Gulf) or directly to San Jose (45 min flight). San Jose has public and private hospitals. I recommend both Clinica Biblica and CIMA as excellent private hospitals. Detailed information is in the Handbook.
As part of the application process, you will be required to check with your insurance company on if and how coverage works in Costa Rica. Every company has different policies. Before you leave the U.S., you will be required to send me the detailed information for health insurance coverage, as well as evacuation policies. Failure to have proper coverage could delay your trip.
Several interns purchase additional travel health insurance. There are several companies that sell short-term travel policies at affordable rates. I recommend STA Travel.
The Handbook has all necessary contact information and a copy of Marlene's phone number in Costa Rica and Helaine's phone numbers in the U.S. should be left with your emergency contact, along with instructions on how to call Costa Rica. We will do everything possible to put family members or friends in contact and help plan necessary logistics.
Most issues are related to the change in food, water and climate. Stomach aches are common during the first few weeks and can be treated yourself with Pepto-bismol or tea. Headaches are also common and usually can be remedied with lots of water. Dehydration can occur quickly in this climate. Let Marlene know if you do not feel well and consult a doctor at the pharmacy if symptoms last.
No vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica. However, we do recommend prior to departure that you talk to your doctor about recommendations. The most up-to-date vaccination information can be found on the Center for Disease Control website or by consulting a travel doctor.
Road accidents: Costa Ricans are not known for their safety record on the road. Please use common sense when getting into someone else's car or taxi and use a seatbelt even if they don't. As a biker or pedestrian, be aware that cars have the right of way. Stay on the side of the road and always wear a helmet. Your bike and helmet will be provided upon arrival and are included in the program cost.
Harassment: Female travelers especially should do some research on this topic. It is common for Costa Rican males to whistle or cat call, and as annoying as this can be, they are harmless if ignored. The more attention you give them, the more you will get back. If you are in an uncomfortable situation, remove yourself immediately and let Marlene know. Interns should always be cautious, use common sense and not be "overly trusting" of the locals. Marlene can give you excellent "local" advice on making friends.
Theft & Crime: Puerto Jimenez is a small town with little crime, however theft does occur. Again, use common sense, air on the side of caution, and ask Marlene if you are not sure about something or someone. There is a police station in town, but mostly the townspeople look out for each other. You should carry a copy of your passport, a copy of your health insurance card and the phone number list with you at all times. Keep your actual passport in the lockbox at Marlene's house.
This is the question I get asked the most! Yes, there are snakes and insects, but they are not easy to see. It is rare to see a snake of any kind, as they are just as afraid of humans as humans are of them. Most snakes found in the Osa are non-venomous, however some species of venomous snakes do live there. In general, snakes will rarely bite unless provoked, trodden on or grabbed so it is important to follow the guidelines regarding wearing closed-toes shoes at night and always using a flashlight.
Insects are more abundant than snakes, however they are not life-threatening (unless you have an allergy). Mosquitoes, ants and spiders exist but can easily be avoided by following simple safety measures such as wearing repellent and using the provided mosquito nets over the beds. It is also important to keep food out of your bedroom, wear closed-toed shoes in the grassy areas and ask Marlene or Luis about the different insects (many of them do not sting and will not bother you).