Student Group Journeys FAQs
Q: Why Costa Rica?
A: Aside from being an exotic, biodiverse destination, Costa Rica is also very safe. Costa Rica boasts a great variety of tropical landscapes and biomass, all of which are readily accessible and within a relatively short distance of travel. Costa Rica is also a democratic republic with little internal strife.
Q: Where is Costa Rica and how big is it?
A: Costa Rica is located in the isthmus of Central America. It is bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Costa Rica is exactly 51,100 square kilometers (31,937 square miles). Virtually, you could fit 10 Costa Rica’s in to the state of California.
Q: Is Costa Rica safe?
A: Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in the world. It is a peaceful democratic republic with no military. However, we never allow any of our participants to venture off alone without company or without notifying an adult in charge. Also, we always recommend to keep a close eye on personal belongings because petty theft is a big temptation in third world countries.
Q: Do I need to speak Spanish?
A: Although Spanish is the national language of Costa Rica, if you do not speak it you can get by easily. Most “ticos” (Costa Ricans) speak some English and are very willing to learn. They also love to teach Spanish to foreigners.
Q: What travel documents do I need? Do I need a visa?
A: IMPORTANT FOR MINORS UNDER 18 We ask that all participants bring a copy of our Permission to Travel Letter signed by his or her parents. This form is included in the Trip Forms and Information Folder that is sent once your deposit is received. You must be sure to have a valid passport to travel to Costa Rica. It must have at least six months validity before expiring or you may not be allowed to enter or depart Costa Rica. Be sure your passport will not expire while traveling because it will be difficult to renew in Costa Rica, especially as a minor. Some airlines may require minors traveling alone be assisted by an airline representative. Generally this has an extra fee. Visas are NOT required for those traveling from the following countries: European Union, United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. If the country you are coming from is not listed here, please contact the Costa Rican consulate in your area. If you have any difficulties, AUSun may assist you as well.
Q: What is AUSun’s insurance policy?
A: AUSun follows safety standards and regulations established by leading outdoor adventure tourism operators in the US and Costa Rica. We are covered by a Comprehensive Commercial General Liability policy with the Costa Rican National Insurance Institute.
Q: Are there any required vaccinations I must have before going to Costa Rica?
A: AUSun requires that you please be sure to have an updated Tetanus and Tuberculosis shot before coming on any programs. The CDC recommends that those traveling to Costa Rica be inoculated for malaria and hepatitis. These inoculations are not required by AUSun; this is left to your discretion. Should you choose to be inoculated for these diseases, please be well aware of the side effects. If possible, administer the inoculations well in advance so that side effects will not affect you during the program. AUSun leaders are qualified to assist in administering or reminding participants to take prescribed inoculations if needed.
Q: What is AUSun’s cel phone policy? Can I bring one so that I can keep in constant communication with my friends and family?
A: We strongly discourage and request that you abstain from bringing a cel phone on your trip. Our goal is to stimulate personal growth through real, face to face interactions and experiences with people and the environment. Though we try to encourage little communication with home during our programs, telecommunication has advanced quite incredibly in Costa Rica thus we will provide various options and opportunities to make contact with loved ones far away. Also, there is always an AUSun representative in the office in Costa Rica that knows the exact location of all participants while on their adventures. In case of an emergency, parents can call the office or trip cell phone at any time, day or night, and the representative will get them in touch with the group as soon as possible. Participants are also scheduled to call their parents upon arrival to the country, and on specific days during their travels. Parents will be made aware of these days prior trip departure.
Q: What is the average size of a Student Group?
A: Group sizes are generally defined by the client. We really like to recommend an average of 12 – 17 kids, as this allows room for individual attention to be given to each student during the course by the teachers and trip leaders. We can however, accommodate much larger groups.
Q: Is there any limitation as to how many adults can come on the trip?
A: NO. The group can travel with as many adults as you like. In our experience though, students often feel inhibited by too much adult supervision so we recommend one adult for every 8-10 kids. We will try to provide complimentary trips for most teachers too.
Q: How many trip leaders do you provide for a student group?
A: AUSun provides one trip leader for the first 15 students. We do recommend that at least one representative from your institution be present, thus establishing two adult chaperones for the group. After 15 though, we will recommend another trip leader, or more chaperones.
Q: What type of experience do your guides/trip leaders have?
A: AUSun trip leaders are required to carry a national guiding license which is awarded after completing an intense course on Costa Rican natural history, English language classes, tropical biology, CPR, first aid, etc. AUSun also requires trip leaders to partake in our week long staff training program held every year and in which we teach them the guidelines, policies, procedures and standards of all of our programs.
Q: How will we be traveling during our journey?
A: During your trip, the majority of your travels will be done by a private van or bus that can accommodate your entire group and your luggage comfortably. All vans or buses used for AUSun programs have insurance, carry a tourism transport permit, and have seat belts.
Q: How do you select the locations and activities for a group? Can you include places we know of and want to visit?
A: During our low season, AUSun staff heads out to scout new locations and review old ones. We test the tours and activities; we even try out the restaurants again. We always select those locations that we feel are the most authentic, follow the highest safety standards, have proof of insurance, excellent safety and health records, updated risk management plans, certified guides, national ownership, environmental awareness, and remarkable landscapes.
Q: Can you include home stay, language classes, cultural immersion or community service activities in our itinerary? And if so how do you select these?
A: Yes, AUSun can include any of these experiences in your itinerary. Costa Rican’s love to share their customs, traditions and language, and a “tico’s” hospitality is unmatched; therefore, we are always delighted when requests for such are made. Because we offer programs all over the country, Adventures Under the Sun has sought out various grassroots rural organizations and local non-profits in distinct communities, and the most dynamic language programs. We work closely with the members of these organizations to create the safest, most educational and ideal cultural experience for our visitors. Our outreach contacts are known members of the community and have ample historical knowledge of the families that provide home stays, and the locations in most need of help.
Q: Do I need previous experience in outdoor skills? Do I need to be in good shape?
A: NO. All of the outdoor activities are scheduled to suit all levels of experience. Beginners do not need any previous experience for any activity. The group’s enthusiasm will guarantee a positive experience throughout the journey.
Q: What type of Service projects can AUSun set up?
A: AUSun has been establishing service projects with several different needy communities throughout the country for some time now. Depending on the final itinerary established, and the type of project you are interested in, we will select the community; but the projects can vary and include: reforestation of native species within reserves; construction or maintenance of infrastructure for community establishments like schools, non-profits, old folks homes, community centers, etc; waste management, clean up and awareness activities; English classes for rural schools; or environmental education activities and projects with local students.
Q: What can the group expect to see?
A: Costa Rica holds 5% of the world’s biodiversity within its relatively small area. As long as you keep your eyes and ears open, we can guarantee that you will see an incredible amount of creatures that you have never seen before. Depending on the area of your program you are likely to see toucans, herons, egrets, sloths, monkeys, crocodiles, dolphins, whales, turtles, lizards, insects, maybe even a jaguar and thousands of different plants. Landscapes and views can include clean waves in the ocean, erupting volcano, canals lined with lush jungle, white water rapids flowing through tropical rainforests, and views from the canopy of lowland or dry tropical rainforests.
Q: What do we eat? What if some are vegetarians?
A: On your student group journey, participants will have the opportunity to enjoy the many varieties of meals, fresh fruits and vegetables of Costa Rica. The majority of all meals will be typically Costa Rican which includes tropical fruits, vegetables, rice and beans, salads and usually the option of fish, chicken, beef or pork. Vegetarians need not to worry; the main staple of Costa Rica cuisine is rice and beans that provide plenty of protein. We only ask that vegetarians notify us ahead of time so that we may be prepared. Unless the Group Coordinator requests it, participants of a Student Group Program will not be expected to assist with any meal preparation and or planning in a backcountry setting.
Q: Will someone meet our group at the airport on the first day?
A: Yes! Your trip leader(s) will be meeting the group at the airport and accompany you throughout your journey.
Q: What is the weather like in Costa Rica?
A: Costa Rica has two seasons: a dry season from the end of November through April and a wet season from May through October. The average temperature is about 75 F (24 C). The coastal regions can be very humid and hot.
Q: Are alcohol, drugs, and tobacco allowed?
A: NO! AUSun maintains very strict policies about NO alcohol, drugs, weapons or tobacco products allowed on any AUSun programs. Participants can dedicate themselves to having a good time through fun activities, adrenaline from adventure, and many laughs.