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The New Driving Laws in Costa Rica

February 13th, 2009

jerkA lot of people are surprised to learn that it is perfectly legal to drink and drive in Costa Rica.  It’s true! However, the law also states that you cannot drive while drunk. That means that means that you as a driver are depending on the guy who is drinking to know when he is drunk. File that under things that make you go… “Hmmmmm”.

The government, getting fed up with the huge number of alcohol related traffic accidents and the resultant deaths, passed last December La Ley de Tránsito or simply new driving laws.

Although signed into law and effective last December 2008, I did not blog about it because there were sure to be a ton of appeals to the Costa Rica Supreme Courts, called Salas, regarding the legality of the new laws and the associated punishments which are truly severe. Sala IV has upheld some and is still considering others, but it is time to talk about these new laws. In this post, I will provide my thoughts and more important, a shortened list of the new laws and the associated fines and/or imprisonment.  If this topic is of interest, read on! Continue reading »

Much Ado About Nothing – Proposed Immigration Law

January 11th, 2009

nopanicI have received a fair amount of email regarding the proposed immigration laws and asking my thoughts.  I understand the panic as several online sources have made this out to be a done deal.  A disaster!  One such article promised the law would be passed before the Christmas Holiday.  All I can say is that Chicken Little would have been proud. Panic does sell though…  as we all know.

First… let’s look at what this is all about.

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Renewing Residency

July 4th, 2008

It is a bit hard to believe, but in all the years I have lived here, I have never had to make “the trip” to immigration (migración) to renew my residency. I have always been “legal” but the rarely used form of residency I began with was a true pain in the butt. Migración ran me in circles for several years, never approving my residency, but thankfully, never denying it either. Every time I thought they would approve it, they came up some new requirement that was never even in the law.

North Americans and others always have a real problem understanding “how things work” in Costa Rica. In the USA, for example, laws are more or less clearly defined. The “rules” are clear. If you go to renew a drivers license, you know what has to be done, and you are confident that all the clerks and others who assist you will follow these rules. Nobody does things on-the-fly.

This is NOT the case in Costa Rica, and most assuredly it is not the case when dealing with migración.

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Oops!

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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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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Importation of Birds – Rule Change

January 18th, 2008

I know this topic is of interest to many.  For many months, Costa Rica has forbidden the importation of birds, pet or otherwise, because of bird flu fears.

I can now say that this law has been changed and the news is good and bad.

The good news is that you may now once again bring your birds to Costa Rica.

The odd part? You may NEVER export those birds to any other country after they are here! I guess this should be called the bird version of Hotel California… You can check in, but you can never leave…

Therefore, as I have written at least 1,000 times before, if you are not 100% SURE that you will want to live permanently in Costa Rica (currently about 50% leave before first year), I would urge you NOT to bring your pet birds until you have lived here at least 6-9 months and are sure this will be a lifelong move.

For further information, I would suggest contact ARCR . I am sure members can get the hot skinny on this topic.

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.

New Law Can Send Me To Jail

July 26th, 2007

I have been pondering about blogging this for a while now… partly to get a handle on how I feel, partly because I expect some interesting comments.

Not long ago, President Óscar Arias Sánchez signed into law (“Ley de penalización de violencia contra las mujeres”) a truly controversial measure that provides tougher and longer sentences for the murder of women than of men.

While that in itself seems odd to me, the kicker is it also makes it a crime to insult a woman. Here I am not just speaking of a woman on the street or in the workplace. I am referring to any woman… even a wife or daughter. The law punishes men who are physically and/or psychologically abusive of women, especially a wife, live-in partner or girlfriend.

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