Living The “Pura Vida”: Your Essential Costa Rica Student Packing Guide

5 minute read

Studying abroad in Costa Rica promises an adventure unlike any other: lush rainforests, stunning beaches, and culture all await. But before you get swept away by the beauty, let’s tackle the practicalities. Your packing list for Costa Rica requires a mix of essentials and unexpected must-haves. This guide will be your one-stop shop for deciding and ensuring you have everything you need to live the “pura vida” student experience in Costa Rica. So, ditch the packing stress, grab your surfboard (or not!), and get ready to dive into your ultimate Costa Rican packing list!


Study Abroad Packing List for Costa Rica: Important Items

While the country has 27 micro-climates, it’s vital that you keep your packing list for Costa Rica pared down to essentials. It will prevent your valuable items from being lost, stolen or damaged in the country. So here’s a list of what all you need to carry:

Essential Documents

You need to have the following documents in your packing list for Costa Rica, in your carry-ons ready for verification at the airport and other places:


Hey, casual outfit lovers! You can add as many shorts and t-shirts to your packing list for Costa Rica since casualwear is common in the country. With the temperature of cities and beaches being 25-35 degree Celsius, it’s best to pack clothes that dry quickly and absorb moisture.

As an international student, here’s the list of clothing to tackle the major seasons that Costa Rica has:

For Rainy Season (May-November):

  • Lightweight, moisture-wicking shirts, shorts and pants (activewear fabrics or cotton blends).
  • A light rain jacket or poncho
  • Pairs of quick-drying sandals or water shoes
  • Compact, foldable umbrella

Dry Season (December to April):

  • Hat
  • Light sweater or long-sleeved shirt 

General Clothing for Every Season:

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Jeans
  • Closed-toed shoes
  • 2 shirts for formal occasions
  • Sandals with straps
  • Beach towel/sarong
  • Flip-flops
  • Lightweight bath towel
  • Comfortable sleepwear
  • A fleece/warm hoodie


Here are the electronics you can add to your packing list for Costa Rica as an international student, considering both usability and customs regulations:

  • Laptop
  • Smartphone
  • Chargers 
  • Universal Adapters
  • Headphones/Earphones
  • Tablet
  • Camera
  • Powerbank
  • Portable Speaker

Note: Costa Rica allows duty-free entry for personal electronic devices valued at CRC 500 every 6 months. Keep receipts to show value if prompted by customs officials.

Personal Care

Since your luggage is light, you should include the following travel-size toiletries in your Costa Rican packing list:

  • Toothbrush 
  • Toothpaste
  • Contact lenses & solution (for 1 semester)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Hairbrush/Comb 
  • Wet Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer 
  • Deodorant
  • Personal first aid kit (band-aids, preferred over-the-counter medications)
  • Common medications: Pepto Bismol, pain reliever, cold medicine, etc.


Below is a list of additional items you can take with you in your packing list for Costa Rica as an international student:

  • Small daypack/purse/tote bag (daily use)
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Watch/alarm clock
  • Large Ziploc bags
  • Plastic bags for wet/dirty clothes
  • Portable games (Bananagrams, playing cards, etc) [optional]
  • Musical instrument (optional)
  • Travel mug (optional)
  • Reusable straw (optional)
  • Sleep mask (optional)

Click on the link below to download the free packing list PDF for Costa Rica:

Study Abroad Packing List for Costa Rica: Travel Budget

For international students, in-hand cash of CRC 26,165 – 52,330 (USD 50-100) is enough to cover any essential/emergency expenses (transportation, small purchases, and tipping). Also, it’s best to avoid carrying large amounts of cash on your person. Utilize a secure money belt or wallet and avoid flashing cash in public.

Things NOT to Carry While Travelling to Costa Rica

Here’s a list of some banned items that international students, or any traveller for that matter, should avoid including in their packing list for Costa Rica:

Firearms and Weapons:

  • All types, including pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and pellet guns.
  • Replica or imitation firearms.
  • Ammunition and explosives.
  • Weapon components (except for telescopic viewing equipment).

Dangerous Goods and Flammables:

  • Fireworks, flares, and any kind of explosive material.
  • Gasoline, lighter fluid, and other flammable liquids.
  • Compressed gasses (unless for medical use with proper documentation).

Plants, Animals, and Food Products:

  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat products (may require specific import permits).
  • Plants and soil (may require phytosanitary certificates).
  • Endangered animal products (ivory, coral, etc.).

Other Restricted Items:

  • Pornographic materials.
  • Counterfeit goods and pirated materials.
  • Large quantities of medication (may require a doctor’s prescription for personal use).

Baggage Limit for International Students Going to Costa Rica

Luggage weight and size limitations for students moving to Costa Rica will depend on the airline you choose. However, here’s a breakdown to give you a general idea for your packing list for Costa Rica:

Type of LuggageWeight LimitDimensions Limit
Carry-on7-10 kgs55cm x 40cm x 20cm (21.7in x 15.7in x 7.9in).
Checked-in23 kg (50 lbs) to 32 kg (70 lbs) per bagLength: 75-80 cm (29.5-31.5 inches)
Width: 50-55 cm (19.7-21.7 inches)
Depth: 30-35 cm (11.8-13.8 inches)

Study Abroad Packing List for Costa Rica: Last-Minute Tips

Moving to Costa Rica as a student is exciting! But apart from adding and removing items from your packing list for Costa Rica, don’t forget these last-minute travel tips to ensure a smooth transition:

  1. Double-check the documents and make sure that they are readily accessible in your carry-on luggage and valid.
  2. Download essential apps (maps, translation tools, local transportation) and offline content (e-books, movies) for the flight and potentially limited internet access when you land.
  3. Notify your bank and credit card companies about your international travel to avoid blocked transactions.
  4. Consider activating international roaming on your phone or purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in Costa Rica.
  5. Confirm your arrival plans and check-in procedures for your student housing or temporary accommodation.
  6. Research and arrange airport transportation (shuttle, taxi, ride-sharing) to your accommodation in Costa Rica.
  7. ATMs are readily available in Costa Rica, but having some cash on hand can be helpful.
  8. Learning a few key Spanish phrases can go a long way in navigating communication and showing respect for the local culture.
  9. Include basic medications (pain relievers, allergy meds) for any minor ailments during your travels.
  10. Be open to new experiences, embrace the laid-back “pura vida” (pure life) lifestyle, and enjoy your incredible student adventure in Costa Rica!


Q1. How to pack for 10 days in Costa Rica?

Ans: Focus on breathable, quick-drying clothes (shorts, shirts) for both wet and dry seasons. Pack a swimsuit, light rain jacket, sandals, comfortable shoes, and a hat. Consider layering options for cooler evenings at higher altitudes.

Q2. What can you not bring into Costa Rica?

Ans: Here’s a list of items you cannot bring into Costa Rica:
1. Firearms
2. Explosives
3. Fresh produce (without permits)
4. Endangered animal products
5. Large amounts of medication (without prescriptions)

Q3. How should you dress in Costa Rica?

Ans: Keep it casual and comfortable. Opt for lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing. Pack for both sun and rain. Bring closed-toe shoes for hiking and exploring.

And that’s it! This is all you need to add to your packing list for Costa Rica as an international student. Keep following Leverage Edu for more study abroad resources for students.

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