Category: Country Profile

Country Profile: Costa Rica

Pura Vida!

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States

Visas: No visa required for up to 90 days, however you must have proof of health insurance and complete the online Health Pass.

Currency: 1 CAD = 483.06 colones (Costa Rican colón)

Things to Read:

A Kid’s Guide to Costa Rica by Jack L. Roberts

The Umbrella by Jan Brett

Pura Vida Mae! by Buffie Biddle

Cocorí by Joaquín Gutiérrez

The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure by Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini

Fernando’s Gift / El Regalo de Fernando by Douglas Keister

Famous authors of Costa Rica:

You will recognize Carmen Lyra from her place on the twenty thousand colones! She was the first prominent female writer in Costa Rica, the founder of the first Montessori school in Costa Rica, and the co-founder of the Communist Party in Costa Rica. She fought against the monopoly of the fruit companies.

Manuel Arguello Mora, Joaquin Garcia Monge, Carmen Naranjo, and Carlos Luis Fallas are other prominent Costa Rican authors.

Phrases to Know:

Pura Vida! – Translates to “pure life,” used as greeting, as thanks, or a way to describe a relaxed situation

Ticos – Costa Ricans

Mae – dude, or friendly name between friends

Soda – Not a soft drink! This means a lunch spot serving typical Tico food.

Tuanis – Awesome, cool

Detras del palo – Literally translates to “behind the tree,” means “you don’t know what you are talking about!”

Miando fuera del tarro – “taking the pee out of the can” (?!?) Used the same as above ^_^

Que pega – “hat a stick,” annoying

Lava huevos – “wash the eggs,” suck up to somebody

Tico Spanish differs from México or España! Find more Tico slang on My Tan Feet.

Stuff to See:

Costa Rica is famous for its incredibly diverse ecosystems, its beautiful beaches, its excellent surfing conditions and extreme sports, its commitment to green energy, and for its friendly culture.

Tourism has become a significant contributor to the economy of Costa Rica! Therefore, tourists from around the world will find a range of activities and accommodations to meet their interests.

We travelled to Costa Rica for a two-week trip about five years ago. We spent a week on the Caribbean coast in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and the following week in Arenal. Puerto Viejo is a small, laid-back town with beaches that are black from the volcanic rocks. We stayed at Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge. They had several cabanas with closed-in bedrooms but open “rancho” style kitchens and living spaces decorated in unique nature themes. It has changed ownership now and is primarily for yoga classes and retreats (AmaSer). Fantastic space though! We enjoyed eating at Bread & Chocolate regularly and at the amazing restaurant that was just word-of-mouth and served fish that was caught earlier that day. You can get a tour of cocoa and coffee production at Carib Beans, visit a sloth sanctuary, and see many animals at the Jaguar Rescue Centre.

Arenal was also a big hit! We loved the hot springs and ziplines! The zipline at Sky Adventures lives on in our family history as one of our best experiences ever!

Five years later, Arenal and its La Fortuna volcano are still one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo has developed quite rapidly. It doesn’t seem to have the same small-town vibe as it once did. Much like Sámara and Tamarindo, for example, some places in Costa Rica are gringo party towns. If that’s what you want, cool. However, if you are more interested in a quiet escape or learning about nature, you may do well to look elsewhere.

The biggest cities with airports are San José and Liberia. Watch for cruise ship ports, such as Limon.

National Parks such as Manual Antonio and Tortuguero offer guided tours to see sloths, monkeys, or crocodiles. Other parks like Ostional are protected refuges for sea turtles and a good place for whale watching. The cloud forests of Monteverde are popular destinations for observing nature from a canopy walk. The Nicoya Peninsula offers beaches, surfing, turtles and whale watching, and caves. Make sure you have 4 wheel drive!

Check out Endless Summer II (1994) to compare with modern day Tamarindo!

Again, My Tan Feet is an excellent resource. Check out their list of 50 things to do in Costa Rica!

Places to Sleep:

There is a wide range of accommodations available, everything from hostels to high-end luxury resorts. Airbnb and VRBO both have listings in Costa Rica. We did enjoy the Aloft in San José, cool heat reacting gel elevator floors!

Country Profile: Japan

Tokyo 2020 Olympic poster “Wild Things – Hachilympic” by Tomoko Konoike
Tokyo 2020 Paralympics poster – “The Sky above The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa” by Hirohiko Araki

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States Visa: Travel visa not required for less than 90 days. You should have your outward ticket, accommodations, and proof of sufficient funds organized. Vaccines: Yellow fever is not required, you may want to consider Japanese encephalitis.

Currency: 1 CAD = 84.30 JPY (2020.01.18) A quick way to convert is to just take the last two zeros off of the Japanese price, should get you close enough.

Things to Read:

Phrases to Know:

  • Sumisen – “Excuse me.”
  • Hai, wakarimashita – “Yes, I understand.”
  • Dōmo arigatō – “Thank you very much!” Domo can also be used as a casual way of saying “hi!”
  • Arigatou gozaimasu – “Thank you.”
  • Onegaishimasu – “Please.”

I feel like, growing up in Canada, we are exposed to Spanish a lot more than languages from Asia and Southeast Asia. Probably all of that American tv… Living in Japan for a few weeks feels much more challenging than living in Mexico. At least we know some Spanish numbers and how to say yes or no!

Life Where I’m From shares some good advice about ordering food with little to no command of the language:

Stuff to See:

  • Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum (advance tickets required)
  • Tokyo – Robot Restaurant (advance tickets required)
  • Tokyo – Imperial Palace (surrounding gardens open to public)
  • Tokyo – Disneyland + DisneySea (Touring Plans and TDR Explorer guides). We’ll be using our experience planning a Disney World trip here!
  • Tokyo – Ueno – National Museum, Museum of Nature & Science, Zoo, Shitamachi Museum, the Metropolitan Art Museum, and the National Museum of Western Art. Not to mention, the beautiful park itself, the pond, and the temples! You can get a “Ueno Welcome Passport” at any Tourist Information Centre for 2000 yen. This gives you admission to many attractions plus a cool passport, a map, and a stamp game. (Without the pass the attractions cost about 4770 yen.)
  • Tokyo – Odaiba – Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology) looks really great! There are lots of attractions for kids in Odaiba, like Legoland, which our kids have kind of aged out of, Joypolis, Leisure Land, the giant Gundam statue, weird techno art installations at Team Lab Borderless, and the, ahem, poop museum. Oedo-Onsen-Monogatari (hot spring baths) is also a popular attraction in Odaiba.
  • Akihabara, Shinjuku, Harajuku in the Shibuya district…. Phew! So many neighbourhoods in this mega-city! That’s 13 million people in the core and 37 million in the metropolis, in case you were curious. This is the biggest city in the world!
  • Kyoto – Temples! Palaces! Gardens! Time to knock 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites off your to-do list baby! I’m hoping that we can see Kyoto with fall leaves?
  • Animals – Deer in Nara Park, rabbit island (Ōkunoshima), and cat island (Ao Island). And don’t forget Hachikō!
  • We plan on travelling to Osaka to feast on delicious food. I love the fun, oversized signage at some of the restaurants.
  • We’re not really sure how much the 8 year-old will understand about Hiroshima but we plan on going nonetheless.
  • We plan on crossing at Fukuoka to travel to South Korea by ferry.

The Hangry By Nature Youtube channel has been helpful for us in planning:

PLACES TO SLEEP:

Life Where I’m From shares an excellent break down of the different accommodation options to consider on a trip to Japan:

We took the kids out for ramen this past weekend. Oh my goodness! What a hit! Their excitement for travelling to Japan is “over infinite and the scale broke,” as TRex says.

Country Profiles: New Zealand

Photo credit: 2il org/Flickr

Glow worms!

Hobbits!

The How-to-Dad guy!

Suffice to say, we are VERY excited about travelling to New Zealand. It is our second most anticipated place, after Japan. Unfortunately, like Japan, it is also a very expensive place to visit. We will try to do our best to plan well and to have a great time without breaking our budget.

We will be arriving after Mexico City. Most likely flying from LA, unless the situation in Chile improves we switch back to our original route. We have gone back and forth many, many, MANY, times with how to get to New Zealand. We even considered a re-positioning cruise ship! The Pacific Ocean is just too dang big and there is just no easy and quick way to get across.

The number one goal for our trip to NZ is to celebrate our son’s birthday. As per his request, we will be visiting the Hobbiton movie set. It looks really cool!

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States

Visa: Not required

Vaccines: Yellow Fever

Currency: NZD (0.88 CDN) as of 2019 07 02

Other Requirements: Onward ticket with visa. NZ$1,000/month

THINGS TO READ:

PHRASES TO KNOW:

  • Rattle ya dags! | Hurry up!
  • Just popping to the dairy. | I’m going to the convenience store.
  • I’m knackered. | I’m tired.
  • Wop-wops. | Middle of nowhere.
  • Get your A into G! | Rattle ya dags! (Get your arse into gear)
  • Pakeha | Fair-skinned.
  • It was choice, bro! | It was good.
  • Kia ora | Be well.
  • Yeah-nah | No thank you.

STUFF TO SEE:

(Source)

PLACES TO EAT:

FREE OR UNDER $10: (https://www.aucklandnz.com/visit/events)

  • Auckland Museum, Auckland Art Gallery
  • Hiking (Mt. Eden, tallest volcano, or Cornwall Park/One Tree Hill, large Maori settlement)
  • Beaches (Muriwai Beach)
  • Ferry to Devenport, explore North Head (1800s fort)
  • Ferry to Rangitoto Island, climb the summit (1 hour)
  • Goat Island & Ambury Regional Park (day trip, glass bottom boat/kayaks or snorkelling)
  • Manukau Heads Lighthouse (free, donation accepted)

WHERE TO SLEEP:

Country Profiles: Mexico

Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s map of Tenochtitlán (1556)

Now that we are a year away from the start of our trip, let’s start getting some of our research organized and up on the blog. We will be visiting roughly twenty countries throughout the world. There are a lot of details to understand regarding the logistics of getting to these places, what to do, and where to stay. Here’s how we are organizing each country’s profile:

  1. We start by looking at the travel advisories from Global Affairs Canada and the US State Department.
  2. Are any visas required?
  3. Are there special vaccinations required?
  4. What is the country’s currency and how does it compare to Canadian dollars?
  5. Are there any other special requirements for entering or exiting the country?
  6. Next, we collected a list of books, films, or music for each country to give a quick snapshot of the culture.
  7. Each country profile has a list of phrases that are useful to know.
  8. Then, we made a list of a) places to see, b) places to eat at, and c) places that are free or under $10 to see. These aren’t exhaustive lists, most have about five items. If a country has a certain attraction that requires early reservations, Studio Ghibli in Japan for example, this is noted.
  9. The last item lists possible places for sleeping.
  10. In addition, JBot created a binder of country profile information for the kids that uses CultureGrams. It may be available at public libraries? These CultureGrams provide useful timelines, an understandable summary of history, and general snapshots of modern culture.

Country Profile: México

Travel Advisories: Canada, United States (FYI, the travel advisories are severe for México. However, we are only visiting México City and are avoiding problem areas.)

Visa: Not required

Vaccines: Yellow Fever (Similar to malaria or dengue as it is spread via mosquitoes. A certificate to show you have been vaccinated will suffice. I always thought the name came from the Yellow River for some reason… It refers to the jaundice symptoms. Info on where to get shots in Canada are found here.)

Currency: 1 CAD = 15.0282 MXN peso (08.25)

Other Requirements: Obtain a tourist card upon arrival

THINGS TO READ:

PHRASES TO KNOW:

  • Disculpe – excuse me
  • Es una piña! – Literally “it is a pineapple” but it means “it’s a joke!”
  • Felipe y con tenis – “Felipe and with tennis” means happy and content
  • Voy a perseguir la chuleta – “I’m going to chase the cutlet” means I have to go to work but I don’t want to…
Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954)

STUFF TO SEE:

  • Mexican Wrestling at Arena México
  • Frida Kahlo Museum
  • México City Historic Centre – Unesco World Hertiage site includes the Zócalo (Aztec city centre, large square or plaza in colonial times). There is an archaeology site for the Aztec centre of the world (Templo Mayor), MUNAL (national art museum), the presidential palace, a cathedral, and a really, really big flag. The Palacio de Bellas Artes (iconic), the Museum of the City of Mexico, markets, and tons of other museums and palaces are close by as well.
  • Bosque de Chapultepec – huge park with a Castillo of the Spanish viceroy, the children’s museum. The really fantastic looking anthropology museum is close by as well.
  • Museo Jumex is a funky looking modern art museum in the Polanco neighbourhood.
  • Teōtīhuacān – you can take public transit!! Visit the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun by walking the Avenue of the Dead.

FREE OR UNDER $10:

  • Palacio Nacional – The office of the president, great Diego Rivera mural about the history of Mexico.
  • The Sears building has a cafeteria on the 7th floor that gives a great view of Palacio de Bellas Artes.
  • Free walking tour

PLACES TO EAT:

  • Mercado San Juan – Market in the city centre where you can eat chapulines (deep-fried grasshoppers in a taco) and escamoles (ant eggs)
  • In what I am guessing will be a trip-long trend, there is a Starbucks about three blocks from Templo Mayor
  • Lalo! – funky cafe, pizza, burgers, COFFEE
  • Taqueria Orinoco – dude, tacos.

PLACES TO SLEEP:

  • Gran Hotel Ciudad de México – too expensive but the interior is gorgeous! (Set for the James Bond’s film Spectre)
  • Hampton Inn and Suites México City Centro Historico – perfect location (2Q $118 USD 09.12)
  • Hotel Diligencias – They have a family room, $550 CND for the week, great location
  • Puntu DF – hostel that supports local arts. They have private rooms (with bath) that sleep two in a queen. $962 MXN per night ($66 CND)
  • Casa Eufemia – Hostel, we may be able to rent a 4 bed room. Cost for one bed is about $20 CND a night. Great location. They don’t have their own website though?
  • Hostal Regina – has a private loft room with 4 beds, however they are a party focused hostel, probably too loud. $1100 – 1300 MXN ($75 to 90 CND)
  • Hostal Suites DF – private room with 2 singles $740 MXN ($50 CND). A private bath as well.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén