Boomers Traveler: Knowing When to Trust the Locals

Fourth in a series of safety tips for traveling in Costa Rica by Doris Gallan

It is sometimes hard to know who to trust when you travel but you invariably have to ask residents for information that isn’t contained in your travel guide book or on the web sites you regularly consult. Up-to-date knowledge about hours of operation, closures of establishments, safety of neighborhoods and a whole lot of other things are usually available from locals but you need to know who to trust. There are some travel tips you might find useful to enjoy your family or friends vacations and will let you enjoy the many beautiful locations such as white sanded beaches, rain and cloud forest where you can spot some wildlife or active volcano tours.

Ask people who don’t have anything to gain: Usually, the staff at your hotel or hostel can guide you as they don’t likely have a personal interest in it. You should be aware, however, that many cab drivers do give a tip to hotel staff who call them when a taxi is needed and similar arrangements may exist with stores, restaurants, tours and other activities. Store clerks, waiters/waitresses, hotel managers, market vendors and other guests at your hotel can also help you.

Ask the same question of several people: When walking on the street looking for a location, it helps to ask a number of residents where something is (out of earshot of your last query to be polite). Recognize that in some cultures, people cannot say they don’t know as it would be impolite. Instead, they’ll direct you in some vague way to the general area – maybe. By questioning several people, you cross-reference the information received to make it more useful and trustworthy something particularly needed in Costa Rica where street signs are uncommon and house numbers even rarer.

Ask the cab driver: Taxi drivers are a fount of information and will proudly share it with you. The caution, however, is that if they have anything to gain they may mislead you (in India, tuk tuk drivers are infamous for telling tourists that wherever they want to go is closed and wouldn’t they rather go to their uncle’s store?). Instead of asking about a place you want to go now, question them on locations or activities that you are planning for the near future. You should often take what taxistas say with a barrel of salt as many provide tour services and will talk up locations so that you’ll to hire them to drive you there.

Local knowledge goes a long way in preventing illness and crime as well as dealing with both should the unfortunate happen. Residents can tell you where to eat, what foods to avoid, how safe is the water as well as areas of town to avoid after dark. They also know the train schedule, the fastest way to airport, what is open when and can advise you about doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and can help you deal with police if necessary.

Ticos are generally very friendly and helpful and they can be a great source of local information. With it comes the bonus of interacting with the people who live here and the opportunity to practice your Spanish.


Doris is a Baby Boomer living in Costa Rica. She and her husband traveled around the world for 26 months visiting 40 countries on six continents (including Antarctica). You can read more about their travels and get travel tips at Follow Doris on twitter @dorisgallan.

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About Marina Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 20+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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