Costa Rica

Frequently Asked Questions About Costa Rica:

 

 

I know you’re busy but can I stay with you at your house in Costa Rica and will you stop what you’re doing, take me around the country and be my personal tour guide for free?

No, but for a limited time, we are renting our apartment out. Click here for more info.  I also can recommend some great hotels if you’d like and if I’m in town and have the time, I might even be able to meet you some place to have lunch together. Hotels are super cheap. You can get them for as low as $30/night without roaches and hostels for as low as $10. Don’t come to Costa Rica on a budget.

 

Why not? You’ll make an exception for me, right? (wink, wink), It’s just me, I’m a great houseguest and I’m your great great aunt’s second cousin Taqueeta and I used to change your diapers!

I’d love to take everyone around the beautiful country of Costa Rica but being a full-time author, husband, uncle, son is a full-time job and well, if I was to stop what I was doing and take everyone who asks me around the country, not only would I never get any work done but I’d be broke.  What I can do is recommend some great tour guides who would be more than happy to do so for a reasonable fee.

 

Is it cheap in Costa Rica?

That depends. It can be cheap if you go to the right places but not as cheap as most people think that it might be. Chain restaurants and electronics are easily three to four times what it might cost you in the United States. So, save your money before you come! If you’re looking for cheaper places to visit, think about Nicargua. It’s hotter and may not be as tropical but the people are super nice and it is definitely much cheaper.

 

What is cheap in Costa Rica?

Rent, utilities, taxis, going to the movies, fresh fruits and vegetables (if you buy them from the right places and not the supermarkets) but everything else is just as much as the United States or a lot more. That may not be what you want to hear but it’s the truth, so come prepared!

You can pay in dollars at some places but really, just get your money exchanged at the airport into colones, if you can.

 

How much money do you need to have a really great time in Costa Rica for a few days?

I’d start with at least $500 a person plus hotel and airfare and that’s if you’re roughing it.  Once again, don’t come to Costa Rica on a budget.

 

Is Costa Rica safe?

Yes, very much so and they do like Americans. But like most places, there are some shady areas and some people will try to take advantage of you because you’re American and they think you have a lot of money. You just have to use your intuition about people. Most Costa Ricans are super nice people and pure of heart but not everyone.

 

What are the people like in Costa Rica?

Super cool, especially in the country areas. But they’re also very conservative in some ways, other areas they’re incredibly laid back. Friendly? I’d describe them as pleasant. There are exceptions but most aren’t outgoing like you might get in Puerto Rico or Italy. Nice? Yes, very much so and polite typically.  If you go to a club or concert, you won’t generally see them dancing around sweating it up on the dance floor. They’re very reserved.  If they know you, they are very warm and inviting. If they don’t, they’re pleasant.  If they think you have money, they’re even more pleasant…

 

When’s the best time of year to come to Costa Rica?

I’d say between February through about the end of May because it’s green and it doesn’t rain. After June, it pretty much rains every day and sometimes all day until about February. If you don’t mind the rain, then you can come any time of year. Remember,  one of the great things about Costa Rica is that each part of it is different.  You can get the Caribbean weather in the Puerto Viejo Limon area and you can get the freezing cold in the Poas area. You can get the rain forest experience in Arenal and you can get the temperate climate in San Jose.  My favorite part of all of Costa Rica is definitely Puerto Viejo and it’s a 4-hour bus ride from San Jose.  Busses to most parts of Costa Rica are less then $10 but they are crowded and cramped so if you can get a tour van, get one and your neck will thank you for it.

 

What’s there to do in Costa Rica?

Lots of stuff; especially if you’re an outdoors type of person. Rafting, hiking, zip-lining, surfing, walking the beach. They also have incredible wildlife in Costa Rica.  It’s not an island (though many people think it is) but there are lots of island-type of things to do. San Jose, the capitol doesn’t really have a lot to do, ironically but if you’re looking for the modern day mall experience there, you might think about going to Multiplaza Escazu. Remember that everything they sell there is going to be at least three or four times the price that it would be in the United States.
Do they speak English there?

Maybe about 5-10% of people speak an understandable level of English, the others? Practice on your Rosetta Stone before hand because you’re going to need it!  The people that speak English are often very excited to speak it with you so they can practice. Ticos, as they call Costa Ricans, are also incredibly patient with you if you’re trying to speak their language.  Now, they will look at you like you have three aliens coming out of your head when you don’t speak Spanish well but they’ll be patient. Remember also, that Costa Rican Spanish is different than any other part of the world in that although you may not notice it at first, they have a different accent. For one, they’re the only Spanish I know that doesn’t roll their R’s.

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What kind of food do they eat in Costa Rica?

Their most popular is gallo pinto which is just rice and beans mixed together.  They’ll typically eat that for breakfast with eggs and maybe some type of pork and bread & butter is common with coffee. For lunch and dinner, they’ll eat chicken, some cooked vegetables.

They have awesome coffee there.

Honestly, I wouldn’t come to Costa Rica for their food. Most of the really good food there is food from other countries.  But if you like fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll find it there.
Why do they do that there in Costa Rica?

Never ask why people do things the way they do in Costa Rica because if  you ask them, even they cannot answer that question. It’s just the way it is and has been for hundreds of years and probably won’t change for a few hundred more.  (For example, after three hundred years, they just now got street names for their streets). No, turn the “why” question off when you come to this beautiful country and instead just say, “Pura Vida” like they say do and go with the flow or you’ll get very frustrated.    Just think, when in Rome …

 

Is prostitution legal?

Yes it is. Underage sex is not and it’s nasty so don’t even think about it.  There are whole hotels dedicated to the craft of prostitution. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, just ask around.

 

How long can I stay in the country and should I move there?

You can stay in the country about 90 days at a time.  To become a resident is a ridiculous and expensive process so many people who want to stay longer go back and forth between Costa Rica and other countries, including the U.S.  Make sure that you have a return ticket to the United States with you or to some other country (even if it’s a cheap one way bus ticket from Nica Bus to Nicaragua which you can get for $30).

 

Can I make a living in Costa Rica?

Anything’s possible but probably not. It’s possible if you open a shop of your own and sell something popular to tourist you might be able to. But honestly, it’s better if you have a source of income coming from the United States such as an online business. The average Tico makes about $350/month after taxes and they have to somehow scratch out a living with that income.

 

Do they like black people in Costa Rica?

Yes, I think so.  I’ve never had a racism problem in Costa Rica. I think they love us personally, especially the younger generation. Don’t be surprised if the women (and the men) are very vocal about how sexy you are with your dark skin. It’s happened to me on many occassion.  But just to be safe, dress well, don’t dress sloppy.  If you have tattoos, cover them. If you have dreads or braids and like to dress Rasta-style, pull your hair back and be a little bit more conservative so you don’t raise any eyebrows. A friend of mine was walking down the street and was questioned by police just for dressing like that.

Remember, if you’re black American, you are representing all of us and for some Costa Ricans, they’ve never really experienced black Americans before so remember, you’re leaving a lasting impression.   Represent!

What’s funny is that some Ticos don’t seem to like Nicaraguans which is so ridiculous because Nicas (as they’re called) are the sweetest, hard-working, genuine people.

There’s a whole area with a heavy black population called Limon which is made up of mostly Jamaicans and ancestors of black slaves. They typically speak both English and Spanish and maybe even Patois or Creole.

You’ll also see more and more Colombians (both black and Latino), Chinese and Korean as well as some Dominicans in San Jose.

 

Do they like gays in Costa Rica?

That’s a very complicated question. I’d say it’s sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy there. They look they other way but if you are in a poor and uneducated area, you might get some very ignorant comments. We had a discrimination problem there once but we won the case.   There is a pretty large “out gay” population in Costa Rica as you can tell going to clubs like Club Oh! But there’s an even larger “in the closet” population there.  Costa Rica has come a long way but it also has a long way to go.

 

What else should I keep in mind?

  1. Bring your passport with you everywhere or at the very least, a copy of it. They’ll ask to see your passport as a form of ID at the most unusual places so it’s best to be prepared.
  2. Please, don’t judge Costa Rica by San Jose Centro which is the downtown area. It is the most dirty, disgusting, crowded area of Costa Rica I’ve ever been and I avoid it whenever I possibly can. If the government had any sense (hello, are you listening?) they’d know that is often the first impression people get of their country and they’d clean it up but as they say, Pura Vida.
  3. When you leave Costa Rica, you’ll need to pay a tax that’s about $30 so be prepared for it. You’ll pay this before you check in.
  4. When you step out of the airport, you’ll be bombarded by taxi drivers asking if you want a taxi.  Just politely say “no” and keep walking. You can save a lot of money if you just walk to the corner and get a taxi from there.  Make sure you ask them very specifically how much it will cost so that you’re on the same page.
  5. Don’t expect your taxi drivers to get out of their car and actually help you with your bags, even if it’s raining. They don’t do that there unless you make it clear you’ll give them extra money.
  6. You don’t have to tip your taxi drivers and they’re not expecting you to.
  7. Try not to use an ATMs (or cajeros as they call them in Costa Rica) that require you to stick your card in. Try to use ones that allow you to slide it through. I’ve had many a card swallowed by those damn machines and it takes about a week and a very complicated process to get it back.
  8. The power and WIFI go out a lot in Costa Rica and in some areas, running water is only available during certain times of the day. You’ll get used to it and plan accordingly.

 

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