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June 30th, 2008

My Brain SometimesI really do try to make sure everything I write is exactly correct (personal opinions excepted!), but on occasion, I experience what my late great-grandmother termed a “brain fart”. She was an earthy sort of woman!

This phenomena occured on 9 June when I wrote the post entitled “3,000 Jobs Gone? Why?“. I am 99% sure I read in La Nacion that the new regulation had been published in La Gaceta. It appears I was wrong and it was not published. As Bugs Bunny would say, “Whatta maroon!”.

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Costa Rica Takes Action to Control Gasoline Usage Part 2

June 27th, 2008

This week, the government of Costa Rica asked for an increase of ¢145 in the price of gasoline, this to offset their recent request to lower the price of diesel fuel by exempting diesel from government taxation.

The price of super gasoline would go up to ¢801 per liter and diesel prices would fall by ¢97. Gasoline today is $5.10 per gallon for super, $4.97 for regular and $4.82 for diesel. One US gallon = 3.79 liters, so after this change, a gallon of super will be ¢3,036 or $5.88. With the regular monthly increase coming in July, $6.00 per gallon gas is pretty much assured.

Currently, the cost for a gallon of diesel is $4.82, so this will drop to about $4.11. Sounds like a nice windfall for those who chose to buy dieseled vehicles right? Nope… the government giveth and the government taketh away.

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Costa Rica Takes Action to Control Gasoline Usage Part 1

June 27th, 2008

Mopt restrictionsFor quite some time now, the government has placed restrictions on what vehicles could enter San Jose. This was more done to lessen the overwhelming traffic in San Jose during peak hours than to control gasoline usage. All non commercial vehicles were affected.

The system was/is simple enough. You were restricted from entering San Jose for about 2 hours each morning rush hour and two hours during the afternoon rush based on your license plate. For me it was rarely an issue, and when it was, I just drove the circunvalación, the road that runs around San Jose and locally known as “the rotundas” because of the numerous traffic circles in that route. Sometimes I’d drive the La Uruca route. No big deal.

Well this all changed this week as the government expanded enormously the restricted areas and the hours of restriction, and yesterday, over a thousand folks learned this the hard way and got a little $10 traffic citation for their ignorance.

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Arenal Volcano is Putting on a Show!

June 19th, 2008

Arenal volcano eruptingTourism is getting big boost these days as travelers from all over the world are descending on Costa Rica to see the Arenal Volcano, always a big draw at any time.

Lately, the active volcano has been strutting her stuff, and this has been going on for some weeks now. Customers of mine witnessed a fine show just this week.

The volcano is near the town of La Fortuna de San Carlos, about three hours northwest of San Jose by car. We go fairly often and rooms are always easy to get, especially now in the low season. The beds in many of the hotels are positioned so you can watch it at night. Beats Leno!

Wanna see something cool? Come take a peak! Bring the camera.

Costa Rica Eateries is Back

June 18th, 2008

Get ready to EAT!There certainly is no shortage of restaurants and sodas in Costa Rica. The problem as anywhere, is to find the good ones with great food, decent service and reasonable prices. With that in mind, I opened a Forum a couple of years ago so people could post their favorites and warn others away from those places that are not-so-good.

I had an issue a few months ago, and was forced to remove and reinstall the web site. Today I was able to get it back online with all the original Posts and reviews. There is also a nice section for trading recipes!

All my readers are invited to join and give your opinion, good or bad, on any restaurant, soda or other eatery here in Costa Rica. The Web Site is Costa Rica Eateries and I hope you will call visit and add your favorite places to eat in Costa Rica. Enjoy!

ICE to Discontinue TDMA Cell Phones in 2009

June 15th, 2008

Those of you who live in Costa Rica are probably quite familiar with the cellular phone system here and most of you are also aware of just how lousy is the GSM system in particular. TDMA is still the only reliable system here in Costa Rica.

To provide a bit of background for newcomers, visitors and tourists, there are currently two cell phone systems here in Costa Rica. The first, TDMA , often referred to as “the old system” and GSM, “the new system”. New is better, right? Often true, but in this case… totally not true.

The GSM system was installed some years ago by Alcatel, a French company under contract to ICE the government-run monopoly that controls all telecommunications in Costa Rica. Apparently not satisfied with just trying to win this huge contract in a competitive manner, Alcatel decided to spend some cash in order to bribe some key decision makers in ICE and in the Costa Rican government. About $11 million as I recall! This was also distributed to at least two and probably three ex-Presidents of Costa Rica, two of whom spent some time in prison for accepting these bribes, and a third who is currently hiding out in Switzerland, unable and apparently unwilling to return to Costa Rica for fear of also passing a few hours in the slammer.

This is important to know because the GSM system installed by Alcatel simply did not and still does not work well at all… and it will soon be the only system available.

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A Reader’s Opinion of Costa Rica – Change and Perspective

June 11th, 2008

As you might imagine, I get a pretty fair amount of email. I try to reply, but I am often a few weeks backlogged as the stuff is arriving at the rate of maybe 200 emails per week. When I get a “good one”, I like to share it with other readers, and Neal from Canada has granted me permission to print his email.

I first came to Costa Rica maybe 15 years ago. It has changed significantly. My 15 years pales, however, next to Neal’s long term perspective of 46 years. I hope you enjoy it.  Click continue to read it.

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Gasoline Crosses $5.00 per Gallon Threshold

June 10th, 2008

Today Costa Rica awoke to gas prices that now exceed $5.00 per US Gallon. Before I delve into this more, it is worthwhile discussing world gasoline prices.

Caution! Rant coming!

As most expats, I watch the current political battle for the Presidency of the United States. I watch as Barrack Obama and others make their stupid claims that they will “do something” about the price of gasoline in the US, now over $4.00 per gallon in 23 states. They just don’t get it. To me, it as is stupid as their claims that they will stem the outflow of jobs from the USA to other countries. I have news for them. The first will not happen without strong leadership and new ideas (which neither candidate has even remotely shown) and it is years too late the do anything about the second.

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3,000 Jobs Gone? Why?

June 9th, 2008

I always try to remember that I am just a guest here in Costa Rica. That even though I am a Permanent Resident with all the rights of a citizen, sans voting, I do not have the right to tell Costa Rica how to run their country. This is often very hard to do, especially if the actions or laws affect those of us living here.

Most foreigners living here feel they do have that right. Perhaps they do. Certainly, it is hard to not form opinions and even harder to keep those opinions to yourself. However, I have yet to hear of a case where a North American was asked his opinion on an issue by anyone in the government.

Saying that, there are times when the government does something that to me just makes no sense whatsoever. A few weeks ago, the government announced a new policy that for the life of me I did not understand and still do not understand.

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Tamarindo – Costa Rica – More travels!

June 3rd, 2008

My wife swears she did not ask for this!Two travel posts in two days. I promise I am not going to turn this in to a travel blog!

A couple of weeks ago, ML and I took one of our long weekend trips, this time to Tamarindo, a popular beach in the province of Guanacaste about an hour south of Liberia and about 4-5 hours from San Jose, the capital and where we live.  I especially wanted to visit as Tamarindo has been plagued with problems, namely high crime, drug use, overbuilding, and of course pollution of the Pacific Ocean.  I found the area to be expensive, terribly overbuilt, and generally not all that great.  I decided to forgo a dip in the ocean.  Say no need to do that much research.  We were not affected by the alleged crime problems, so nothing to report there, but we pretty much stayed in the hotel venturing out only two or three times.

In general, I loath all-inclusive hotels. However Luisa loves the damned things and after we spent a few days in an all-inclusive in Cancun on our honeymoon, and had a fine time with good food, I thought “Why not?”. We stayed at the Barcelo Langosta Beach, Langosta Beach being a few hundred yards south of Tamarindo.

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