When traveling Costa Rica, ghosts & goblins are fine, but don’t be the “Ugly American”
You’d be amazed at the number of “Ugly Americans” walking around in Costa Rica, and not just on Halloween! Ugly American is a pejorative term used to refer to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of North American citizens, mainly abroad. Many people think of the term in reference to social exchanges, but the term can refer to thoughtless interactions with nature and ambiance too.
When traveling to Costa Rica, or any country in the world for that matter, it’s important to travel with deference and sustainability.
Here are some suggestions for travelling Costa Rica respectfully
- Shouting won’t help non-English speakers understand you better. Do your best to try to learn some basic Spanish words and phrases before your trip. Bring along a Spanish phrase book or download a translation app to your smart phone. Have fun with it and just try; hand gestures, “spanglish” and a smile will get you much further than yelling.
- Don’t talk at, or about, Costa Ricans in a condescending manner. Remember, different doesn’t mean less than.
- Keep in mind that Latin America IS America; it’s polite to refer to the United States as “North America” or “The States” or “The U.S.” Say, “I’m North American” rather than, “I’m American.”
- Don’t complain about how things are done in Costa Rica; remember, you are a guest. When you are back home, you can expect things to be done, and do things, in the way you are accustomed to. When traveling, you have an opportunity to respect cultural differences and learn from them!
- Be respectful of the communities and environments you visit, regardless of whether you’re in the city, or you’re in the Costa Rica rainforest surrounded by jungle flora and fauna.
- Don’t litter. Ever. Anywhere. Leave no trace other than footprints, and take nothing away with you except memories.
- Bring a refillable water bottle to help prevent contribution to excessive plastic in the landfills.
- Be conscientious of energy consumption. Turn off the lights and unplug your phone; take public transit, or walk when you can.
- Conserve water. Take shorter showers and reuse towels. Did you know that the average hotel guest uses nearly 80 gallons of water per night? In luxury accommodations, it’s 6 times that amount!
- Always ask permission before taking pictures and respect the wishes of your potential subject.
- Do not buy or eat products of endangered species such as turtle eggs.
- Support the local economy. Buy locally made souvenirs, eat at local restaurants, stay at small privately owned (versus huge corporate) vacation rentals, hotels and hostels, and enjoy the local culture!
- Try to frequent hotels, guest houses, lodges and vacation rentals that have sustainable practices in place such as composting, recycling, and water conservation.
Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy. When you do that, you arrive on the seen as a welcome Traveler, not the Ugly American.