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Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!

Missouri
9 posts
Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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We recently booked a vacation package through www.1-costaricalink.com (please note the dash…this is very important) and it was a big mistake. We booked our trip in December for June and were told they would charge us 1/2 then, and 1/2 in May. We received “prepaid” vouchers from the company and it looked like we were on our way.

We became suspicious when we were charged the full amount in December. We spent three months trying to contact these people to confirm we were paid in full. In the course of trying to contact the folks from 1-CostaRicaLink, we discovered this company is notorious for charging the credit cards of the would be vacationers, but not paying the hotels, or tour companies…so what would happen is the individuals would fly to Costa Rica and find out their vouchers are invalid, nothing has been reserved/paid for, and they are on there own.

We tried contacting 1-Costa Rica Link by phone, fax, email, etc. with no response. We couldn’t get a straight answer from the hotels if we had a reservation, and/or if they had been paid for. We contacted our credit card company to dispute the charges. This ended up being a huge hassle as well. Most credit card companies will not reimburse you charges made unless you can prove that the services paid for were not provided. We were supposed to provide proof of this. As you can imagine, it is challenging to do this when you can not contact the individuals that took your money. They wanted us to go to Costa Rica, and if services were not provided, try to “rebook” everything on the fly and turn in our receipts for reimbursement. We were trying to avoid this if at all possible.

Fortunately, we were able to convince the credit card company to reimburse our account BEFORE we left. If you have booked with 1-Costa Rica Link I would be very concerned about any trip you may have planned.

I mentioned to note the “dash.” There is another company www.1costaricalink.com that is a good, reputable company. It is a complicated tale, but the long and short of it is avoid “the dashes!”

Tampa, FL
Level Contributor
2,234 posts
1 review
16 helpful votes
1. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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This has come up before, most recently in January. See my extremely lengthy (as usual) post analyzing this subject.

tripadvisor.com/…5670474

Incidently I've seen other posts that actually recommended the one with the dash, so go figure:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g291982-i813-k3097…

Personally, as I explained in my post in that 1st thread, I would probably just avoid both outfits and play it completely safe.

san jose
Level Contributor
1,044 posts
2. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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prolifo advise is good , avoid both of these companies , they are in legal battles over something dumb ¡ and you would only have confusion and a bad time ,

New York
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8 posts
30 reviews
32 helpful votes
3. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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Thank You for this Post. I am surprised that there are not more posts about this company. I had a similar experience but only waited a day when I got suspicious. Luckily my credit card is not making me pay for the purchase. This company promises you whatever you need, takes your money and gives you a fake voucher to show to the front desk. Once they have your money you won't be able to get in touch with them again. When booking with an agent always check with the hotels to see if they have your name on the reservation list. Costa Rica is a new destination for a lot of people and the bookings of hotels is a little different than many are used to. The best bet and for the best value, travelers should find the numbers of the hotels directly and book through the hotel. These numbers can be found in Frommers or Fodors books. Another option is corresponding directly with the hotels website. Somebody always gets back within a day or two and are extremely helpful. When calling Costa Rica from the U.S. you have to dial 011 before the area code. Keep Away from 1-Costaricalink and if you can always use an American Express card for the most protection. I am travelling to Costa Rica in December of 2007 and will post reviews of the various hotels I am staying at when I get back.

P.S. do you have a post somewhere how the trip ended up for you? Hopefully everything turned out great

San Jose, Costa Rica
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60,362 posts
122 reviews
41 helpful votes
4. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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Anybody have any names, of the principals that run the company?? Or addr. Maybe we can help reporting this people directly here in Costa Rica with the ICT...

Is not very good for the country to have this people around...let us know more info...and we can try to help you from this end!!

R.A Luis

Just buckle up and enjoy the ride in paradise!!

Missouri
9 posts
5. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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Dang, tried to post this and it got lost in cyberspace, so am having to try to recreate it…

Okay, first the good news. Yes, we had a fantastic trip. We made alternative plans through Costa Rican Trails. Several good things I would like to mention:

1) Our flights into San Jose were delayed from getting in at 2:00 until about 11:00 p.m. Someone was there at the airport waiting for us after being delayed for nearly 9 hours.

2) The trip itself they booked was fantastic. The activities/tours booked were fantastic and the hotels were great. We’d be happy to provide more information regarding this if you want.

3) All of the transfers were there on time, and took us to the right place. I know this sounds like a minor thing, but we were being transferred all over at different times and places. It is amazing how much trust you put in someone to do this.

The bad news. We are still dealing with the Visa over the initial “double charge.” Initially, we were credited the money when we disputed these charges. However, the dashes waited until day 44 of the 45 days they had to “dispute our dispute.” Additionally, they charged an additional $1300 to the card in May. We have since changed accounts, but will have to resubmit paperwork for this new dispute. In the end I am confident this will be resolved in our favor…but it is a headache.

I would not be surprised if they waited until the last minute to do the same to you. I hope not.

RoadAdvisor, you asked for names, etc. We discovered in our research for the cc company that Jorn and Angela Malek are the ones in charge of this company. I’m not sure about addresses, but I will tell you we (as well as the credit card company) could not find any phone number listed on their website that would go through.

I hope this helps someone from making the same misjudgment we made. We were able to discover our mistake early and make alternate plans, however, we are still dealing with the credit card company over it.

san jose
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1,044 posts
6. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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forrest grant gieger

Tampa, FL
Level Contributor
2,234 posts
1 review
16 helpful votes
7. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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Forrest Geiger is the principal behind the costaricalink WITHOUT the dash. Joern Malek is the principal behind the costaricalink WITH the dash.

When I made my earlier posts, I attempted to make a balanced appraisal based upon all the information I was able to dig up at the time. Unfortunately, at that time, Forrest had elected to try and at least publicly ignore the scurrilous charges being made against him. As he has acknowledged, that was HIS mistake. Nonetheless, lacking any information to the contrary, I tried to read between the lines of Malek's accusations to come up up with what I thought was a more plausible and balanced theory of events. That was MY mistake. I thought I was presenting just that - a theory or a personal opinion if you will, but was somewhat wary even back then that my post might somehow risk dragging me into the whole ugly dispute between these two former friends.

Since then, I've received some private correspondence from Forrest, who seems like a fairly reasonable guy to me, and have just recently discovered my posts now figure prominently on one of the pages of his website, which I have to say I'm not altogether crazy about. I guess I underestimated my significance as a potential "opinion leader" of sorts (or Forrest overestimates it). I was going to contact Forrest about what he posted on his website and didn't want to add anything more publicly to this thread but since it has now been bumped back up in the listings, I'll attempt to rectify my previous comments here.

Having reviewed the newly available evidence that Forrest brought to light (which I won't go into here), I have to say that I find his version of events to be a LOT more credible than the allegations made by his former friend and partner. To the best of my knowledge, all of the negative reviews and complaints by travelers that I have seen have been about the costaricalink WITH the dash. While the confusion that these similar names create and the nastiness of the dispute between these two outfits might understandably give one some pause about dealing with either of them, I don't think that should really prevent anybody from dealing with Forrest and 1CostaRicaLink IF they're looking for an agent to package their trip. He strikes me as a responsible, professional and earnest service provider. (Quote me on that, if you like, Forrest!)

I hope this doesn't now drag me into a dispute with his old partner, but from the look of things he has a helluva lot more problems to deal with than little old me.

One last thing to really pis all these travel agents off. Personally, I'm still sticking with my earlier remarks that dealing with agent middlemen is really unnecessary for most people visiting CR as it is an exceedingly easy country to visit independently (and I've been to many that aren't). However, I also recognize that many first-time or infrequent international travelers are uncertain about traveling that way and prefer to leave the details to someone else, even if that costs them a bit more or reduces their flexibility once they get there. Forrest, this is just my personal opinion, it works for me and I don't really want to get into a whole other debate about it. As in so many things, YMMV and others are free to disagree.

New York
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8 posts
30 reviews
32 helpful votes
8. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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Again, I must say I am surprised that there are only 3 of us that are on this page..there must be many more people that have been treated poorly by this company. They either don't hit up tripadvisor or they don't know they were swindled yet. I am very surprised that they have a merchant # with American Express. Sorry you are having so much trouble with Visa. I don't plan on having the same problems with Amex. That is why I use them as much as possible if they are accepted. They are well worth the higher yearly charges. I am glad the trip worked out for you. This is our first visit there and are looking forward to it. If you have time I would love to hear about the hotels you stayed at and the experiences

Missouri
9 posts
9. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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I am also surprised that there are not more people complaining.

But on to better tidings. My apologies for the length of this, but believe it or not, here is a quick and dirty run-down of our trip. After flying in on Sunday, we checked into the Best Western Irazu. It is a nice hotel, not much character, but it was clean and there is a small market just down the street. If you are only staying for a short period of time, there is a Denney’s next to the hotel (at which you get a free breakfast), but we liked the market down the road for something different (and cheaper). For example, we got back late one evening and wanted something for dinner. At the deli we got about a pound of spaghetti and sauce for around a dollar. And you can by cold beer for around a buck as well.

Okay, back to the trip. We get picked up and are driven through LaFortuna to Arenal. This took nearly 3½ hours. I am not sure if you are planning on renting a vehicle and driving yourself, or plan on being transferred. I would recommend the latter. The roads are not what you will be used to in the States, the roads are not marked very well, and the drivers are…well, let’s just say I’m glad I was not behind the wheel.

We checked into the Arenal Volcano Inn. Of all the lodging, this was by far our favorite. We were greeted by the manager, Caesar, and two young women at the front desk, Katlien and Gretta. The staff took the time to learn our names, greated us by name when we saw them, and made every effort to meet our every need. The customer service we received everywhere we stayed was very good…but at the Arenal Volcano Inn, it was fantastic. Additionally, the views are fantastic, there is a restaurant there with very good food and the breakfast buffet is included. Each “room” is it’s own cabin with large picture windows facing west, giving excellent views of the eastern side of the volcano.

A couple of things to keep in mind; actually seeing ALL of the volcano can be tricky because of cloud cover. But it is pretty cool to see this thing shrouded in clouds and mist. If you want to watch the thing erupt (particularly at night), you may want to look at some of the lodging on the western side of the volcano.

That afternoon we got picked up for our volcano hike and hot springs tour. Our first stop was at Arenal Volcano. Our guide gave us lots of fantastic information about volcanoes in general and Arenal specifically (this brings up an interesting point; we did a lot of “nature” kind of hikes…pony up the $$ and get a guide; it is worth it). We hiked up to the volcano and got to see it spit rocks down the side of the mountain and hear it release gas.

After hiking back to our van we were transported to Tabacón Springs Resort. There we enjoyed the hot springs that result from the volcano. The resort had a very nice garden spa set up and we relaxed in the water that was about 40° C (104° F), then dried off and had a very good dinner at the resort. We slept well that night!!

The following day, on the recommendation of the hotel staff, we did a waterfall rappelling tour. It was an excellent suggestion! Our guides lead us rappelling through Lost Canyon. We did five rappels, 4 of which were through waterfalls. It was beautiful, at times the canyon was no wider than our outstretched arms, and the highest waterfall we rappelled was about 85 meters (280 feet). This tour also included a fantastic lunch on the banks of Rio Arenal.

The next day we were transferred to Monteverde. The trip itself was quite an adventure. Half an hour to Lake Arenal, ½ hr. across the lake; then 2½ hours across VERY bumpy roads (imagine the worst logging road you’ve ever been on…but for 2½ hours) through Santa Elena to the Trapp Family Inn (yes, think “The Sound of Music”). The only paved portion of road once we got off the boat trip was the three miles through Santa Elana. Monteverde is at about 5500 feet above sea level. Because of the altitude it is much cooler and much more refreshing.

Once we got checked in, we had a zip lining tour scheduled. Our tour was booked through Sky Trek. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we found out it had the best and longest lines in Costa Rica. For example…one of them is 2,526 feet…that’s right, nearly a half mile long. The views are spectacular as you are zipping through this cloud forest region. A couple of things to keep in mind. At least during the “green season” it rains nearly every day. It started to rain on us ½ way through the lines. It was just a heavy drizzle, but when it’s about 65 degrees it can get chilly. Also, when the lines get wet, the start to spit the grease from the lines and pulleys all over you. So either wear crappy clothes, dark clothes, or something that you don’t care if it gets splattered w/ grease. Fortunately, we were able to get nearly all of it out once we got home.

The hotel has a restaurant on sight, which is good because it is probably too far to walk to town (though you can get a cab for $5).

The following day we hiked through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. This is only about a ½ to 2/3 mile from the Trapp Family Lodge (it is the furthest one from Santa Elana. We got to see a quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds I’ve ever seen (and I’m a biologist). Get a guide. You will see so many more things that you would have otherwise have just walked by. Additionally, they all have spotting scopes that you can not only zoom right in on animals, but can take photos through as well.

There is also the Hummingbird Gallery at this entrance. This is not to be missed. There are literally hundreds of hummingbirds buzzing around. We saw 7 or 8 species, and could walk right up to them to take pictures…I must have taken 100 at least (thank goodness for digital).

The last thing we did here was the Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour. I’m a coffee drinker, and have a much better appreciation for what it takes for me to “get my fix” in the morning. A fantastic tour.

The next day we were transferred to Manuel Antonio. This was only supposed to take about 3-3½ hours, but there are two one lane bridges on Hwy. 34 into Quepos. It is a first come first serve on these bridges. We waited nearly an hour at the first bridge before getting across, and nearly 1½ hours at the second bridge (the only reason it “only” took 1½ hours here was due to some coordination between van drivers to leapfrog traffic.) In all, the trip ended up taking about 6 hours. I am not sure how common this is, but it is what happened to us.

At Manuel Antonio we stayed at the Mango Moon. This is a bed and breakfast and has very good food for breakfast each morning. There is no restaurant, but it is within walking distance of some very good places to eat.

We took a park tour. This is not to be missed. We saw SO much stuff, and got some fantastic photos. That night we took a night kayak mangrove tour. This was also very good. We got to see things that you just don’t get to see during the day. We got to see fisher bats take fish right out of the water!

We spent a day at the beach. Keep in mind…YOU ARE 9 DEGREES NORTH OF THE EQUATOR SO WEAR SUNSCREEN. I spent 95% of the time in the shade…and got roasted.

The last thing we did in Manual Antonio was a catamaran dolphin watch tour. We ran into some people we’d met earlier in the trip…they took the same tour and saw lots of things. It rained probably 6-8 inches the night before our tour. We got to see dolphins, etc. But the snorkeling wasn’t so good. The water was very turbid. I have a strong feeling this is due to the amount of rain we got earlier.

Okay, the last thing we did. After being transferred to San Jose (about another 5 hours…supposed to be about 3½ but we had to cross the bridges again, then were behind large trucks on the mountain switchbacks), we did a white water rafting tour on the Pacuare River the following day. FANTASTIC!! This river is rated as one of the top 5 in North America, and one of the top 10 in the world for white water rafting. It is about an 18 mile float…you drop nearly 1300 feet in elevation across this 18 linear river miles. This translates to about 50 feet per mile. This dramatic change in elevation provides class 3, 4, and 5 rapids. Spectacular!!

Okay, I know that was long, but I hope that gives you some insight on things. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to ask…we’ll do what we can to help!!

New York
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8 posts
30 reviews
32 helpful votes
10. Re: Avoid 1-CostaRicaLink (notice the "dash")!!
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Thanks for the info..sounds like you had a great time. You may have talked me into doing the charter flight into Quepos instead of driving. What did you do for 6 hrs in a van? sounds painful. How do you feel about the zip lines for children? I have kids aged 10 - 15 and am a little worried about the 10year old.