06-29-2009, 01:32 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Maplewood, NJ US
I got back from a ride much like yours in Feb 09. I have a couple of uninvited suggestions that I hope make your trip more enjoyable.
- Buy and use sunscreen, you are traveling in the hottest part of the year, with the strongest sun that will continue to cut into your fun. I have fair skin as well; I rarely tan, mostly burn.
- Buy some "Cipro" (Ciprofloxacin) and take it for ~5 days. That will fix your digestive worries. Not ever country will sell it over the counter (without a Rx.) Panama and I think Costa Rica requires a Rx.When you find one pharmacy that will sell Cipro, then buy two batches, you may need the second one later. Eat some yogurt to restore your system to normal. You'll spend about $24 (USD) but it is worth it. Panama and El Salvador use the US currency (nickles, dimes and quarters, everything)
- Use mosquito repellent to avoid getting malaria. I assume you are not carrying anti-malaria drugs. I talked to people that claimed the anti-malaria drugs are harder on you than the cure. I decided to take the drug and not have to be treated.
- Try to exchange enough money to get your through a country and spend all of your local currency before leaving the country. My wallet started looking like the World Bank. Sure, save some for your return trip north, but I'll bet your aren't going to go back through Belize, so you are stuck with those bills until you find a bank that will exchange them. I exchanged 6 different kinds of currency when I got home, and didn't get the best exchange rate back to USD from Bank of America!
- Buy and drink bottled water. Don't use the tap to brush your teeth. Drink beer and avoid juices that don't come from a can or bottle. I didn't always follow this advice, I used Cipro twice and enjoyed more of the local food. Yes, I ate salad and drink things many tourist avoid, but I was willing to take the risk. Some people get hit hard by the bacteria...your mileage may differ.
- I used helpers at the border crossing. I imagine you have as well, but it your spanish is good, then ignore the rest of this suggestion. I took my time picking a helper and worked out the price before proceeding. I found that $5.00 per border usually agreeable, which only gets you half way, as most helpers can't cross the border and assist with paperwork on the other side. I made it clear to my helper that I was on a budget and that is all I could spend. It makes a big difference to negotiate upfront.
- I went with my help at each step and paid the fees myself. You may pay more if you wait with you bike and hand over wads of cash to your helper. I never handed over my documents (title, registration, passport, license) to my helper. I have read stories of their fee going up in order to get your papers back!
- Have a rough idea of what the exchange rate is before getting to the border. I downloaded an iPhone application call Currency and it kept me from being ripped off at a few borders. The best bet is to not exchange too much money at the border.
- If you see a copy shop, then make a few copies of your documents. You'll still need to have copies made, but it might save you a couple trips to the copy shack when crossing borders.
In the northwest corner of Costa Rica, check out La Paz. the town is not that special, but the ocean is a gravel road ride away. Drop down from the hills and turn left. A few miles down the road turn right when your see a small sign and find the public beach.
Enjoy the ride,
PS: We stayed in the same hotel in Tuxpan.