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Costa Rica 2003: A Let's Go Travel Guide    Editor Charlene Music order for
Costa Rica 2003
by Charlene Music
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2002 (2002)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Let's Go guides are aimed at budget and independent travelers. For those who already know the series, the 2003 edition has been re-vamped to include features on current events, culture, and politics, and includes information researched between May and August 2002. I opened the Costa Rica 2003 guide, interested in the possibility of a vacation in the country, and the contents quickly caught my interest, with their emphasis on Costa Rica's biodiversity and the warmth of its people, self-styles Ticos.

The guide begins with a 'How to Use' section that includes advice on when to do critical things like passport renewal, insurance and preparation of emergency contacts. The 'Discover Costa Rica' summary entices with an invitation to visit this 'haven of peace and stability in Latin America' in all its variety - beaches and surfing, volcanoes, cloud forests and ecotourism, including 'the most important nesting site for turtles in the entire Western Hemisphere.'

There are suggested itineraries, the usual facts for travellers (visas, currency, consulates, inoculations, mail, getting there etc.) and a handy few paragraphs of advice on bargaining, 'The Art of the Deal'. A section (new to me in guide books) on safety and security covers everything from con artists to terrorism. 'Specific Concerns' advises particular types of travelers from singles to gay travelers, those with disabilities or travelers with children.

Gray boxes scattered through the guidebook include handy information, like how to tell a poisonous from a harmless serpent, or that Costa Rica has the only amusement park in the world that donates all its profits to charity. 'Alternatives to Tourism' provides welcome information on studying, working or volunteering in the country. Regional and city information is comprehensive, with interesting asides (in black boxes) like details of the custom of nine days of mourning and wakes.

This Let's Go guide does an excellent job of conveying the appeal of the country and its people and of detailing all you need to know to enjoy a visit there. If it has any flaw, it lies in the organization of its very dense content (for example, historical information is scattered), including ads which are somewhat distracting. However Costa Rica 2003 certainly succeeds in selling the reader on a visit and provides the tools needed to make it a safe and enjoyable one.

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