Pack your bags!

A carefully packed suitcase is important to your day to day success and vital for feeling comfortable during your semester at QERC.

While you may imagine Costa Rica as a hot, beach destination, the weather at QERC is much more like your perfect fall day- ~55 degree Fahrenheit evenings and 65-75 degree Fahrenheit days. Evenings are chilly, so you’ll want to be prepared with warm clothes. We will spend time in much warmer locations though, so bringing clothes for both types of weather that can be layered together will help keep your suitcase light.

Check TSA’s website for ways to prepare for your flight if you have questions about what you can bring on the airplane.

You can find our recommendations for what to pack below.


Checked Bag
Plan on checking
only one piece of luggage. You will be able to fulfill the requirements of the packing list and meet the 50lb weight limit. Storage space is limited at QERC, and we find that typically students wish they’d packed less.

We recommend a backpack that is 40 – 60 liters in size. You’ll be using the bag to carry your field equipment for research, hiking, weekend trips, and group travel excursions. Something that can hold a hydration reservoir is ideal, although a water bottle will work just as well to keep you hydrated on the trail!

SNU students may be asked to check a second piece of luggage that belongs to the Biology Department.


Personal Medical Needs
A full semesters worth of any prescriptions you take, and also your own supply of the following. Even if you’ve never taken these medicines, bodies react to new foods and experiences differently. Be prepared.

  • Pepto-Bismol
  • Imodium AD (or other anti-diarreal)
  • MiraLax or Colace (or other laxative)
  • Ciproflaxin (in case)
  • Tylenol and Advil
  • Allergy medicine
  • Cold medicine
  • Motion Sickness Medicine (Costa Rica is home to MANY curvy mountain roads)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent (20-40% DEET for the Biome Tour and other low-elevation trips, DEET free is fine for QERC)
  • First aid items such as neosporin, bandaids, etc.
  • Moleskin for blister prevention

A note for vegan and vegetarians – Options are more limited in Costa Rica as for the variety of protein sources available. We recommend bringing some sort of supplement (i.e. Iron) to make sure your body is getting what it needs.


Both for the cool (50F – 70F) climate at QERC and for hot/humid conditions. During the semester, we will be traveling places that are home to mosquitos. Loose fitting clothes pants and long-sleeved shirts are the ideal first layer of protection and strongly recommended. Leggings are NOT ideal. If you don’t have things like this, visit a thrift store or Consignment shop! Men’s dress pants and dress shirts are perfect. Shy away from cotton, synthetics are more comfortable, dry easier, and are less likely to cause rashes.

For most days at QERC – t-shirts, pants, etc. Shorts are ok for sporting events like playing soccer, but NOT for other planned interactions with locals. Clothing items will all be line-dried, so breathable, quick drying items are ideal. 

Costa Ricans dress more formally than North Americans. Plan to wear nicer clothes for trips into the city, church, and when we have guests.

  • A knee-length or longer skirt (women)
    For church services or a guest speaker.
  • A tie and collared shirt (men)
    Appropriate for church and for guest speakers.

Sweatshirt or jacket
Or 2! For the cold evenings at QERC. You will appreciate warm clothing!

Light rain jacket
Though the dry season goes from November to April, light rain can be expected on a regular basis.

Shoes and Socks

  • Sturdy closed-toed boots for hiking. You’ll be wearing these boots often, so be sure to break them in before you come. 
  • Nice shoes/sandals: for church, community presentations and other activities.
  • Tennis shoes: ok on a daily basis, but NOT for church activities or guest speakers. Great for the soccer field!
  • Warm slippers: an absolute must for the cold tile floors at QERC.
  • Socks: be sure to bring socks that are appropriate for hiking. We recommend wool.



Eco-Friendly, and biodegradable preferred. Some items are available during our brief stops in San Jose if you run out, but expect to pay a bit more for them than you would in the U.S.. Girls should plan to pack a semester’s worth of feminine care items, especially tampons if preferred.


Head lamp: something with a red-light option is preferred.

Quick-dry towel: very useful as we travel

Notebooks, paper, pens for course work (you’ll find that stick-pens don’t run in the humidity)

A compact Bible (a bilingual Bible is very useful)

Laptop computer: you’ll need your laptop for your assignments at QERC.

A small bilingual dictionary

A few small gifts: You may get to know a family well in the valley, and it’s always a nice gesture to give them small things from home. (e.g. chocolates, something typical of your area, a non-Starbucks mug with your hometown or state on it).

Books, DVDS, and games: be prepared to entertain each other on rainy days!

Small travel alarm clock or watch

Water bottle or hydration bladder


Photos of your home and family, music from home: Both you and people you get to know from Costa Rica will appreciate a few pictures and music from back home.

Camera: And batteries to accompany it.

Binoculars: While QERC has binoculars available for students, you may prefer your own pair.

Field Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica: QERC has a few copies of this book on hand, but we find that many students wish they had their own personal copy to mark the birds that they’ve seen and make notes. It’s particularly accessible in the US, but it’s expensive to find in country.

Small Dry BagWe will be doing some boating during the semester, and rain happens frequently. You may want something like this to keep electronics or a small notebook dry, especially if your backpack is not particularly water-resistant.


Anything prohibited by SNU’s lifestyle covenant. These things would include firearms, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.

Video game consoles: QERC students all share access to one TV in a shared space. This TV is reserved for community activities (movie nights, church services, etc.)

Portable speaker systems