One of the beauties of staying at a vacation rental home is you have the option of eating in. However, you're most likely to venture out for a few meals during your trip. Eating at a restaurant in a foreign country is intimidating, especially when you don't speak the language or understand the cultural nuances. If you're headed for Costa Rica here are 3 tips that will help you feel and act like a local.
Tip #1 - The Check Will Never Come Unless You Ask for It
Unlike the western world where the waiter can't wait to hustle you out the door and seat another customer to get his next tip, a Costa Rican waiter treats clients with a completely different attitude. In the land of Pura Vida (live the pure life) no one rushes and there's time for everything. Don't sit at your table and fume thinking you're getting poor service because the waiter hasn't brought your check yet. It isn't bad service, it's cultural. Costa Ricans feel you should relax, enjoy your meal at a leisure pace and when you're ready - you'll ask for the check. Rushing through a meal is bad for your digestion, so lighten up and enjoy the sunset or the view. Bask in the moment - you'll be back to the hustle-bustle soon enough.
Tip #2 - Tips Are Included
Although it's true that 10% for "service" is almost always included in your check, a waiter who gave you special service will always be grateful for an extra tip. Restaurant servers make little money and an additional 5% to 10% is appreciated. Never leave just a couple of coins, especially the silver ones - at a currency rate that hovers around 500 colones to the dollar - it may only add up to a few cents.
Tip #3 - Pay with Colones
The colon is the currency in Costa Rica. To get the best rate, exchange your colones for dollars at a local bank after you arrive. Local business can give you arbitrary exchange rates as there are no regulations. So, to get the most bang for your buck pay in colones whenever you can. That said dollars are accepted all over Costa Rica. Credit cards are also widely accepted except in the small local "sodas," those hole-in-the-wall places with delicious food nonetheless. So, get out and enjoy the many wonderful restaurants available throughout Costa Rica. Just remember to ask for the check when you're ready, leave an extra tip if you feel it's warranted and pay with local currency whenever possible.