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Questions from Readers

November 6th, 2007

I guess this is going to turn into its own permanent post as the number of emails I am getting is just crazy. So here again are my replies to some of the better requests:

Is residency required to obtain a driver’s license in Costa Ria and is a test required?

Not yet! However there is now a bill before lawmakers that requires this, and it looks like it has a good chance of passing. As your right to drive here is tied to your being in the country legally, this might spell problems for those here illegally (past their 90 or 30 day tourist visa).

Do you know if the CCSS insurance covers pre-existing conditions?

They do. I actually hope this changes and I think it must. Too many people are coming to Costa Rica with VERY costly illnesses and this places an enormous burden on the already financially strapped CAJA.

I loved your website, very helpful. I do have a suggestions; maybe you can include more information for MOPT offices, hospitals, clinics, etc; in other areas, like Guanacaste where the expat populations is very high.

The hospitals (CAJA) are listed in the Real Costa Rica. There are VERY few private hospitals in Guanacaste and the “clinics” would shock the average expat. This is why I have ranted about 400 times that if you are over 50, you should consider whether you wish to be 4-5 hours from quality medical care. Expats love that beach, but seem to forget that over 50, your chances of needing emergency medical care go way up. Even in San Jose. getting an ambulance and getting to the hospital can take an hour. Just two weeks ago, three persons died in Escazu (10 minutes from Cima Hospital) because the ambulance arrived 50 minutes after it was called. Consider this when moving here!

There are MOPT (Ministry of Public Transportation) in Liberia and Limon, but the reason I have not listed them is that I have been told my many expats that those offices cannot issue driver’s licenses and are not full service.  I’d love some feedback on this as I am getting mixed signals.

Your website is very informative. Thank you. Quick question: I have an opportunity to work in Costa Rica for a couple years (have been there several times). My wifes main objection is that she does not want to live where she cannot fluch (sic) toilet paper. Is it possible to rent homes with plumbing that can handle TP?

I was not going to answer this, but then I remembered why I wrote The REAL Costa Rica in the first place which was to debunk these generalities!

Yes, there are about a jillion places to buy or rent homes with toilets that can handle paper. This is one of those truly dumb urban legends that surface on occasion… probably based on either plumbing from the last century or places that used really cheap toilets. Also, there are some older homes where the pipes are too small. Easy to find out! FLUSH before you BUY (or rent)… something you should be doing anyway! Now if you are one of those people (read GUYS) who use about a half a roll to take care of your business, then you may have a issue.

 

old-1412.jpgHello, my name is Dave, I am the fire chief at Nancy Run Fire Department I am trying to locate one of our old fire trucks that was sent to Costa Rica some time ago, I was seen at a parade called the fiesta palmares, see photo attached, I am hoping to find where it is currently located and contact information for the department that is using it. The fire truck is a 1964 Mack, yellow in color with the above listed fire company name on it.

So here is the photo (click to enlarge)! Any of you readers able to help? If so, email him at djb2328@rcn.com

When a cable company advertises cable modem speed 4 mb would that really be 4 mb? After reading your segment on the internet I wondered if they could really deliver that speed.

Probably not. I know I have never received even close to what I pay for (2MB). First, the infrastructure is generally crummy and second, you are sharing the connect with your neighbors. Order 50% more than you need and you will probably be happy. Also, expect a fair bit of downtime from the company you mentioned in your email.

We are planning our first visit for June 2008, and would appreciate any
feedback you have on the tentative following itinerary for myself, my wife,
and our two daughters, ages 11 and 9:

June 24 depart LAX – redeye
June 25 arrive San Jose around noon and take private van to Monteverde
June 26 fun and games in Monteverde
June 27 private van to Arenal
June 28 fun and games in Arenal
June 29 private van to Tamarindo
June 30 fun and games in Tamarindo
July 1 private van to Grecia
July 2 shuttle/van to airport, San Jose – LAX

I almost never answer these questions (or even reply) as I tell people I am not a travel agent. It occurred to me though, that this is a great example of why not to plan your own trip without the assistance of a good travel agent. Let’s take a look at this.

Monteverde is about 5-6 hours from the San Jose airport and about 2 hours from the Liberia airport. Is Liberia a better option?

Next, there are few vans that can handle the truly horrible road to Monteverde. A 4X4 is required. A tank would be better! Beautiful place though for sure! I love it!

Then to Arenal? Same issue. 4X4! Lovely drive – 2-3 hours depending on roads. Go North around the top of Lake Arenal.

To Tamarindo? 3-4 hours I am guessing. Loooong drive with young kids on bad roads (until you reach the Pan American Highway.

Tamarindo to Grecia? 5-7 hours. Lose a day just driving. Good roads though and a van would be OK.

You chose some GREAT places to visit, but after counting your drive hours (about 17-20 including the trip to the airport), you should be prepared for some grumpy kids and the perhaps serious loss of some vacation time. Now if you and the kids all really enjoy driving… well then give it a shot! You’ll pass through some beautiful country.

In summary, it is very tempting to look at a Costa Rica map and make plans based on what you THINK looks close. When traveling here, plan on an average travel speed of 20-25 MPH. Sound low? It is not. A 100 mile (150KM) trip here is at least 3-4 hours if you know where you are going. Bad roads are everywhere. Just this week I informed two of my tourist customers that the Pan American highway south is closed. They had no idea and had they followed their original plans, would have lost 6-8 hours getting back on track.

There are some excellent US based travel agents who really do know Costa Rica. Sadly, the majority read the same travel brochures and web sites you do and that is not enough. I always suggest a good Costa Rica based TA as they know what is happening here.

That’s it ’til the next batch.

We have a new Contributor!

November 6th, 2007

Nora StraightPlease welcome Nora Straight who moved here from California with her husband and two sons aged 18 and 14. Half Chilean and half Mexican, it is no surprise she is Spanish fluent. She and her family live in Rio Seco which is about 15 minutes inland from Parrita, approximately 25 minutes north of Quepos.

Her bio indicates she likes Books, politics, cookbooks, travel, and knitting. It also indicates she likes chocolate. Having visited her Blog and seen her picture, it is clear that this is just nonsense. No serious chocolate lover could look like that. She probably doesn’t even sweat on the stairmaster either.

Welcome Nora! Now write something!

I Meet So Many Friends in Costa Rica

November 1st, 2007

There is a new baby down the block. She’s a cutie, with the adorable outfits to boot. She cries, as babies tend to do, and her father dutifully walks her up and down our “shared” walk-way trying, hoping, praying, she’ll stop and go to sleep. These parents are a fine couple, and I feel grateful to have met them and have them for neighbors. 

Then, I remember it’s Costa Rica. I already know they are going to leave, not permanently, but part-time they’ll return to their “other” home. I’ve made some fantastic friendships here; I am always delightfully surprised at the assortment of people that pass through my life. I’m getting a little more accustomed to watching them leave, and quite a few have – it’s part of the ex-pat life. When I get sad at the news of another ship sailing for a different shore, I try to shake the stick the other way and think about the fact that I’d have never met these adventure going souls who brighten my life had I stayed in the good ol’ Midwest,* even if it’s only for a month or a year or two. 

And, there’s always espresso and chocolate mousse to cheer me up.



* Now I’m not knocking the Midwest, there’s a lot of fine folks there too.

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