10 ways to deal with it:
We discover these magical places for the first time when we are children. We hear about them, we see them in movies and shows, and we read about them in our books and novels. When we become adults, we save our money to travel, plan vacations and finally visit our dream places. Only to be overwhelmed by the crowds of tourists at these iconic locations!
According to the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization), the number of international arrivals has increased from 25 million in 1950 to more than 1.3 billion in 2017. This number is expected to grow continuously by 3.3% until 2030. , by which time 1.8 billion international tourists will cross borders.
Cities like Prague, Venice, Barcelona, Edinburgh, Paris, etc., suffer from the excessive number of tourists arriving every year. But countries have now started to push back. Some impose tourist taxes, daily taxes and pollution taxes, some limit the number of tourists allowed per day in a place, while others have stopped allowing the construction of new hotels and Airbnbs.
In my previous article, I mentioned a few possible ways that Costa Rica as a country can deal with overtourism.
But will these efforts be enough to fight against overtourism? Nope!
We, as tourists, must also play our part! Especially if we want to retain the beauty and authenticity of Costa Rica.
10 ways to deal with overtourism in Costa Rica
Below are some small steps we can all take on an individual level.
1. Travel during off-peak seasons
When you visit a place during high season, not only do you face crowds, but you pay extra for everything from flights to hotels. By doing a little research on the place, you might be able to find a “shoulder season”, a season when the weather is still nice, the crowds have disappeared and the prices have returned to normal.
2. Travel slowly
Some travelers have a must-see list and want to check off as many places as possible from the list in one trip. They stop in one city for a day or two and jump into another.
Choose to travel slowly instead. Spend more days in the same place. Take time to interact with the local community, explore the city and visit places beyond the popular ones. This way you focus more on quality than quantity.
3. Divide your trips
This step goes hand in hand with the previous one. When you travel slowly, you end up covering places beyond the most popular.
When visiting a city, don’t limit yourself to the most popular places. Get out of the city center. Explore unusual places. This would mean fewer tourists in hotspots and increased tourism benefits for local communities around the city.
4. Use public transport
Many international tourists rent a car as soon as they arrive in Costa Rica. They then drive to each location on their list. Visiting a destination by private transport only compounds the problem of congestion and increased traffic.
Take public transport whenever you can. Alternatively, take a shared shuttle. A shared shuttle can transport up to 12 tourists (sometimes even more) at a time, compared to a car which will transport 4-5 tourists.
5. Be an informed traveler
A little research on the place you are visiting helps you know its culture, customs, values, rules and regulations. In this way, you will be more knowledgeable and respectful of the places.
6. Be a responsible tourist
I once read a sign at Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica – “Take no more than photos, leave no more than footprints”! I think that sums up the idea of a responsible tourist perfectly.
Don’t leave a negative impact behind. Respect the local culture and be sensitive to the nature and environment of the place you are visiting. Take your trash with you.
7. Travel in small groups
When you travel in large groups, you add to the crowds in one place. You’re also in your own social bubble, giving you fewer opportunities to connect with your surroundings. Traveling in small groups would allow you to interact with the destination and the locals around you.
8. Eat at local restaurants
If you enjoy eating at McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, or Subway, even when you travel, you need to think about your habit. Often, the money spent in these large multinationals is transferred out of the country, providing very little benefit to the locals.
Eat local! Not only do you get better quality food, but you help boost the local economy by spending on local businesses.
9. Stay at a local hotel, Airbnb or B&B
The same is true for housing. When looking for a place to stay, try to opt for locally run hotels, hostels, guesthouses and Airbnbs. For many residents, it is their source of income. Not only are you helping them, but you are also learning about the local culture and tasting the local cuisine.
10. Promote lesser-known places
If you’re a YouTuber, social media influencer, travel blogger (or even if you’re not), post photos and talk about offbeat places on your social media handles. It would draw people’s attention to places they’ve never heard of before. They might even add this place to their to-do list.
Every step counts! You can start as little as you want. One day it will all come naturally to you. And, one day, we hope you can be the torchbearer and enlighten others!