Why must I pay the full rental amount upon booking?
We used to take deposits and let people pay their balances when they checked in. Unfortunately people would sometimes start their vacation in another part of the country, meet new friends and be having such a great time that they would not show up for the next part of their trip. It was a big problem when people didn’t show up because we only have a certain number of available room-days in the year to rent out, unlike hotels with hundreds of rooms.
We also wouldn’t have time to re-rent the property when people didn’t show up, which was particularly frustrating because we would have turned away other renters while holding spaces for the “no-shows.”
This is a common problem in the hospitality industry. What most places do is simply raise their prices to cover these losses, much like a supermarket or hardware store does to cover theft. But that sort of thing has always bothered me; I fundamentally disagree with what I call “making the good people pay for the jerks.” So we experimented with a variety of methods including a sliding scale for deposits, varying due dates for full payment, even a cancellation fee. Nothing worked well enough to resolve the problem without either us taking losses or other, good clients having to pay more for their stays.
So we decided to make everyone responsible for their own expenses. With the exception of bookings over $3000, we don’t accept deposits, just full payment to secure a rental. (Even with those we require the balance 90 days prior to arrival.) If need be you can give your dates to a friend or even sell it to someone else if you need to cancel, but it is yours regardless of whether or not it gets used. We encourage people to purchase trip insurance if they feel that there is a possibility of things going wrong or their having to cancel; not rely upon other guests to have to cover part of the cancellation.
This is not to say that we have not worked with clients in extraordinary situations, of course we have. However our policy has helped us to keep prices down and our properties almost fully booked. I am a very frequent traveler myself and completely understand the role that deposits play and the reluctance to pay in advance, so we’re never at all put off if folks decide that they would rather not stay with us. However I hope that this helps you to understand where our policy came from and that we will have the pleasure of having you here.
How does the Security Deposit invoice work?
We use a separate invoice for your security deposit. After you have checked out and nothing has been found missing or broken, it will be refunded to you within 2 days, (depending upon when the cleaning lady cleans and inspects the property.) We use PayPal for this function as the refund includes all transaction fees, so you end up paying nothing. Also it allows you to be on your way instead of checking out and then waiting around for a couple of hours while the property is cleaned.
Why do you suggest using a professional driver?
I recommend using a professional driver for long distances and then renting locally only on days when you need a vehicle. This is because there is a “convenience fee” of $10-15 added to most rentals by the airport, and it is a waste of funds to rent a vehicle on days when you don’t need one. Also driving here is a bit of a challenge for those who haven’t done it before.
Other reasons include being able to keep a group together without risking separation, not getting lost with Costa Rica’s many un-signed turns and saving time and frustration: The process of renting a vehicle with a family in tow and all of your bags is not something to look forward to at the end of a long travel day. You have to get to the rental office, wait in line, check out the vehicle including walk-arounds, (take pictures of any damage,) etc. all before starting your trip. In the end driving yourself only saves you $30-40 once you pay for gas and the savings is not worth the frustration and wasted time in my opinion. Best to just walk out of the airport, be met by someone with your name on a piece of paper, get straight into the van and relax while you are whisked safely and directly to your destination.
We do not keep drivers on staff, however we have some excellent owner/operators with newer vans and English speaking drivers with whom we regularly do business and they are fantastic. They are a small, family owned and operated company and they are punctual, courteous, very knowledgeable, friendly and professional. More than 70 of our clients used them last month alone. So we can easily arrange for your transportation requirements with drivers who have proven themselves. Please contact us for a quote or use our Complete Vacation Planner to add transportation to your itinerary.
What are the other transportation options?
If you do decide to rent, then I recommend Vamos as an honest option at good value.
Or you can use a shared bus service like Interbus. They cost around $50 per person to go from Alajuela (SJO) to la Fortuna. I do NOT recommend taking the public bus! It will waste up to a day of your vacation and can be very hot and trying. Plus there is a fair degree of theft on them.
Why I should book activities in advance?
Also you definitely don’t want to wait until you get here to set up your activities. People make this mistake all of the time and end up wasting a day of their vacation being frustrated when they could have been having fun. Also there is the real possibility of the activities that you want to do not being available on the days that you have free to do them. Plus we can get you 5-10% off of almost every activity in the area because we refer a lot of people.
Some things have enough capacity that you don’t have to worry. Hiking in the Arenal volcano park is not something that you have to book before you get here and neither are some of the hot springs. (Tabacon will not allow us to get discounts for you unless you book at least one day in advance.) However some things have set capacity limits. So while we completely understand the desire to “wing it” and occasionally do the same ourselves when we travel, we don’t recommend it here when it comes to booking things like rafting, zip lining, canyoning or our private horse/jungle/waterfall/lunch tour.
Why do you recommend skipping Monteverde?
Unless there is something very specific that people want to do in Monteverde we usually recommend that people stay here longer rather than going to Monteverde at all. We have everything here that they do there and it’s usually better here. (This is one of the reasons why I settled in this area.) Travel distance with a 4wd is about three hours, as one has to drive all of the way around the lake.
Monteverde used to be a very common stop over when traveling west from La Fortuna. People would take a Jeep to the power dam here, then cross the lake by boat, then take another Jeep to Monteverde and stop for the night. It was also where a legendary golden toad was photographed by a reputable biologist. However no one has seen one of those toads in many years and since the road around the lake was paved some years ago, Monteverde has become somewhat isolated and increasingly irrelevant. That may change when/if the track around the south-west bit of the lake is ever completed, however that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.