While traveling in Costa Rica we depend a lot on our phones, especially when it comes to transportation. Over time we have narrowed down a list of our favorite must-have free apps for Costa Rica travel. These apps will help your vacation in Costa Rica go smoothly and plus they don’t cost any money, so what’s not to love, right?
Free Apps for Costa Rica – Off The Grid Traveler
Off The Grid Traveler is a definite must-have if you are planning to travel Costa Rica by bus. This app allows you to select your starting location in Costa Rica as well as where you would like to end up. It will then give you the best bus route for you to travel, bus times and how to get to the bus terminal. It’s so helpful!
There is also a feature in which you can search for hotels by specific qualifications (treehouse on the beach anyone?) but I have not explored this feature too much so I can’t provide you with much info in regards to that. Definitely use it for navigating the buses, though!
Free Apps for Costa Rica – Google Translate
My Spanish is amateur at best and Thomas is slowly surpassing me with his skills (grrr), but we still struggle a lot. It is usually not difficult to find English speakers in Costa Rica, especially in touristy areas, but we think it is just polite to try to speak a little Spanish. To translate things quickly we use Google Translate.
It’s really nice because not only does it translate what you write, it will also translate pictures of text, and audio. The audio feature is definitely my favorite!
Free Apps for Costa Rica – Uber
If you are doing any traveling around San Jose and plan on using taxis, you need to get the Uber app. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Uber here, but for now it is legal and running. Because Uber makes their rates based on distance rather than length of time, the cost is always considerably lower than the cost of taxis.
Traffic is crazy in San Jose almost all the time. We recently had a situation in which we took an Uber downtown for $5. On the way back we decided to just jump in a taxi. The same route with the same amount of traffic cost us $26. Learn from our mistakes! Use Uber.
Tip: If you need to get an Uber from the airport you can take advantage of the free wifi in the airport and order one on your way out. The only problem is there will be a ton of taxi drivers standing at the exit as well. You will have to weed through them to find your Uber driver or ask them on the Uber app how you will find them.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – Waze
If you are planning on renting a car for your travels throughout Costa Rica you should download Waze. This country can be difficult to navigate and maps will provide you with enough detail to properly travel. Roads here are changing constantly. Waze is great because it will notify you of upcoming traffic, road closures, etc. I find that for my phone Waze kills the battery pretty fast, but it uses very little data.
Tip: If you are not planning on getting a SIM card for your phone while traveling you can try Google maps instead. They now have this feature in which you can download your route ahead of time and it will navigate you via satellite for free and without internet. I’ve had some trouble getting it to work sometimes though and I’m not sure how well it takes into account road closures and traffic.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – TripAdvisor
Anyone else obsessed with looking at restaurant pics on TripAdvisor or is it just me? You can use TripAdvisor to find hotels, restaurants or activities etc. based on location in Costa Rica (or anywhere in the world). It’s great because you can read reviews from previous customers and see pictures.
I mostly use it to find great restaurants based on our price range and vibe we are feeling on that particular day. The only downfall of TripAdvisor is the millions of email messages they will send you until you unsubscribe.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – WhatsApp
WhatsApp is our go-to app for staying in contact with family and friends back home while we are traveling. With Whatsapp, you can send text messages, voice recordings, or call someone. It is all run through your internet. Thomas and I use it to send pictures to our families easily and quickly.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – Touchnote
This app is not a “must have”, but still pretty cool. Touchnote allows you to use the awesome travel pictures you’ve taken on your phone and create nice postcards that you can send to your family and friends back home. It is great because it will ship your postcard from the US which means it will get there a lot faster than if you tried to send a postcard from Costa Rica. Plus, it is much cheaper than buying a postcard and paying for shipping.
Thomas uses the German equivalent of Touchnote to send his grandmother a postcard every few weeks to keep her updated on our adventures. It’s great because she doesn’t have a smartphone so we can’t send her pictures on Whatsapp like we do to the rest of our families. She loves getting these in the mail.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – XE Currency
The exchange rate between dollars and colones is always changing. Granted it’s not a drastic change, but a few cents adds up. The XE Currency Exchange app allows you to easily convert different currencies and see the current exchange rate.
This is important in Costa Rica because a lot of places accept both dollars and colones. It’s good to know just how much you should be paying depending on which currency you plan on using.
You can read about how XE- Currency helped us not get cheated out of money on the Nicaragua border here.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – Magicseaweed
If you are a surfer you probably already know about Magicseaweed. If not, prepare to be enlightened! Magicseaweed lets you check out the current surf conditions at the beach. People can upload pictures and nearby places of interest are listed as well. I’m not a surfer, but I use it as a fast way of checking the tides.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – TrailWallet
Costa Rica is not exactly the cheapest country in the world. We find that we tend to go a bit over budget on our trips even when we have booked cheap accommodations. I recently downloaded TrailWallet and although I sometimes forget to update it, it definitely helps to keep track of your budget.
It works by letting set a daily budget for your trip. As you purchase various items you can add the amount and it will deduct it from your daily allowance. It’s super helpful if you would like to really stay on budget while in Costa Rica.
Free Apps for Costa Rica – Google Drive
Google Drive is my lifeline. While traveling I tend to take tons of pictures, but you never know if your phone will break or be lost and I don’t want to lose all my pics. I’m not a huge fan of icloud so instead, I upload all my pictures to my Google Drive. Google Drive saves them and you can access your pics or documents from anywhere you have internet just by logging in. I also use it to save copies of all my hotel confirmations just in case.
And there you have it! If you know of any other amazing apps for Costa Rica travel or have any questions about any of these apps, leave them in the comments section. We love to hear from you!
You might also like: A Complete Gide to Using Your Cell Phone in Costa Rica
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