Working at hotels has given me a unique view into people’s lives. I’ve heard travel horror stories from dozens of people – everything from simple lost luggage to your hotel neighbor being a human trafficker. Travel itself isn’t dangerous, but life, in general, can be . You always need to play it safe. Just like you wouldn’t get into a strangers’ car at home, you probably shouldn’t do it in Panama either.
I usually book airport transfers through the concierge at my hotel when traveling to new places for the first time, as I mentioned in my post here. It makes me feel safer to know a trusted company will be transporting me since I’m usually traveling solo. When I traveled to Costa Rica I decided to price transportation companies myself to save money.
I booked a company called Costa Rica For Everyone after seeing a few people sing their praises on travel message boards. After doing some more research on airport transfers I happened to find the company that my hotel booked for their guests called Guanacaste Viajes. Booking through the hotel it was going to cost $280 round-trip and booking myself it was $150 round-trip – for the same company – done deal! I cancelled the reservation with Roy at Costa Rica For Everyone and booked my reservation with Manuel at Guanacaste Viajes. Now I was getting the best of both worlds, a hotel-trusted airport transfer and a great deal!
I arrived at Liberia Airport, made my way through customs and headed outside to meet my driver. I saw the sign with my name on it and we headed over to the “turismo” van. The driver was very nice and made sure I was comfortable on my ride to the hotel.
After a fabulous fist evening in Costa Rica, I woke up to an email from Manuel at Guanacaste Viajes asking why I never showed up at the airport for my transfer. Whaaaat??? No comprendo. After several emails back and forth, I realized that Roy from Costa Rica For Everyone had sent a driver to pick me up even though I had cancelled it.
My stomach dropped – not because anything bad happened, but because something could have happened. I consider myself a somewhat experienced traveler at this point and I am vigilant about my safety. I watched the other drivers to check if they knew my driver (drivers spend a lot of time waiting outside of airports together), and I made sure the vehicle I got into was the designated “turismo” van.
I apologized profusely to Manuel from Guanacaste Viajes for missing the transfer and explained what happened. He was very understanding and agreed to give the transfer for my departure still. Since I didn’t have phone service in Costa Rica, I e-mailed Roy from Costa Rica For Everyone again to re-re-confirm the cancelled transfer. I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt – could be a system glitch – it happens.
Just to be even more cautious, I explained what happened to my hotel and asked them not to let anyone except Guanacaste Viajes on the property just to play it safe. Manuel was nice enough to tell me my driver’s name, license plate number, and what color shirt he would be wearing. I passed all of this to the hotel too.
The next morning as I’m checking out of my hotel I received a Skype call from Manuel telling me the other company was outside waiting for me along with his driver. Somehow they managed to get past the gate guard at the hotel. At this point I was a little freaked out, so Manuel sent the driver into the hotel to walk me to the van. Apparently Costa Rica For Everyone is so hungry for money they couldn’t take no for an answer.
My driver, Miguel from Guanacaste Viajes, was fantastic and understanding. This company is amazing. When I didn’t show up for my first transfer (regardless of the situation), they could have easily decided not to do my pick-up. Instead, Miguel offered me even more security. This is a first class company and I highly recommend them to anyone traveling to Guanacaste.
I definitely do not recommend Costa Rica For Everyone. While the transfer itself was fine, the owner Roy was completely unprofessional showing up for a transfer that he confirmed cancelled. Never mind the fact that the poor driver who was supposed to pick me up upon arrival missed out on work that afternoon. Had I picked a worse company this could have gone much worse.
I learned a lot from this experience and I hope you can learn from it too. I was lucky that the situation panned out as it did, but sometimes people aren’t so lucky. Be vigilant, especially while traveling alone. Find out who will be picking you up, what color they will be wearing and what they are driving. If the company you book with has a problem supplying that information in advance, then find a new company. Do you first, boo boo.
Side Note: I write about my bad experience with Costa Rica For Everyone with a heavy heart because I know competition is fierce. With that being said, I do not want anyone else to have similar fears on their vacation. What that company did was completely unprofessional and bad business. As travelers, we need to watch out for each other. Stay safe <3
Talk soon dolls,