6 Essential iPhone Apps for Your Costa Rica Trip

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6 Essential iPhone Apps for Your Costa Rica Trip

I’ll admit it, I’m an iPhone app junkie. I’ve downloaded and tried so many apps that I’m scared to even look at my iTunes purchase history. I have 11 to-do lists, six browsers and five Twitter clients – it’s downright ridiculous. I use my iPhone for almost anything that I can do on a PC,  and sometimes more. In fact, I’m using it to write this post right now, 30,000 feet above Costa Rica, on my way to Mexico City.

So, considering the in-flight movie is starring Dane Cook, I thought this would be a good time to share some essential apps I’ve discovered that can save you time, money, headaches and even help you document your trip to Costa Rica.

The apps

sayHi_Translate_screenshot 1. SayHi Translate

When I first tried this little translation app I thought wow, the future is here! Like a boatload of other apps, SayHi can translate basic text into almost any language. But what sets it apart from the rest, is it’s astounding ability to record your voice using speech recognition, translate your words and speak the translation aloud. This is some real Star Trek technology here.

Both the voice recognition and outgoing translations are extremely accurate and could be used in a variety of situations. Can’t understand a taxi driver? Let the app be your intermediary translator. Not sure how to pronounce a word or phrase? Have SayHi read the sentence aloud before you ask your question. Being detained by police for drug trafficking? Well, you get the idea – the possibilities are endless.

cr_idioms 2. Costa Rica Idioms

One of the most frustrating things for a language student is studying vocabulary at home, only to go abroad and find the locals using words and phrases that they’ve never seen in their textbooks.

This is where Costa Rica Idioms comes in handy. The app was developed locally by a Tico couple and has a simple purpose: documenting and translating Costa Rican slang into English.

The app has gained a bit of popularity and was even featured on CNN en Español. It has a simple interface and features a ton of words and phrases which you’ll hear frequently on your trip in Costa Rica.

If you want to take your Tico Spanish to the next level, this app can help you get there.

dayone_screenshot 3. Day One

This journaling app is the perfect way to document your trip. The developers have created a beautiful interface which lets you easily create journal entries, add photos with date and location, apply weather data and record checkins from foursquare.

You can tag your entries with labels like “Costa Rica Trip” or “Arenal Volcano,” and use the search feature to easily go back and find posts from the past. The app also syncs with Dropbox and iCloud so there’s no need to worry about losing all of your hard work.

Even if you’ve never kept a journal, Day One is such a pleasure to use, it will make you want to start.

frommers_costarica 4. Frommer’s Costa Rica

The days of lugging travel books around in backpacks and deciphering outstretched maps on street corners are over. Frommer’s Costa Rica 2013 e-book is one of the best travel guides out and it’s available and optimized for all of your iOS devices.

It features interactive maps, color pictures, suggestions for all budgets and was written by an expat who has lived in Costa Rica for many years. Most importantly, it’s continuously updated so you can be sure that all of the information provided is current. If you like to travel as light as possible, Frommer’s iOS book can help you save some space.


eCurrecy_screenshot5. eCurrency

It’s pretty easy to convert colones to dollars in your head as long as the exchange rate stays at 500 colones to $1. But that will undoubtedly change and it never hurts to be exact.

eCurrency solves this problem nicely with a clean, simplistic interface that doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet to work. This is a big help when you’re out of the country and don’t have data service.

You can convert any amount to a large list of currencies and your three most-used combinations are all available by swiping the main panel. If you’re looking for a simple exchange rate app, eCurrency will do the trick.

skype_screenshot 6. Skype

Installing Skype on your iOS device is a no-brainer, especially when you’re traveling abroad. I wince thinking about how much I spent on international calls from Costa Rica in the Dark Ages before Skype was available, not to mention the horrible call quality that can only be produced by a state-run telecommunications monopoly.

Skype uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocal) to make calls anywhere in the world for pennies per minute. You can either call using a wifi connection or over 3G (although 3G call quality can suffer). The app also has a chat application which has replaced Microsoft Messenger and is used widely.

For clearest quality, find a wifi hotspot and call someone who is also using Skype. These Skype to Skype calls are totally free. To make calls from Skype to mobile phones or land lines, you will need to add credit to your Skype account and pay a small charge per minute. The current rate from Costa Rica to the USA, UK, Australia and Sweden is just 2.3¢ 1/min.

With the Skype iPhone app, you can call directly from your iPhone as if you were making a regular phone call and the quality is usually great. It can save you a lot of money when you need to connect with someone out of the country.

Hopefully these apps help make your Costa Rica trip a bit more stree-free. Do you have any suggestions of other apps you use in Costa Rica on a daily basis? Let us know in the comments!


  • Name says:

    I appreciate you taking the time to recommend these iPhone apps. I will keep this info handy for our upcoming trip to Costa Rica. For general travel apps, we have found TripIt which is free and keeps track of plane flights with a beautiful interface, and Cities2Go which has a method of storing map info right on the iPhone in case of no connection and has many detailed city maps available, very useful.

    • Bill Grinstead says:

      Thanks for reading! TripIt is good, I’m also digging WorldMate for iOS. It’s more of a novelty, but check out the Taxiando app. You turn it on when you get in a taxi in Costa Rica and it tells you if the meter is calculating correctly.