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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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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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Travels to Monteverde, Costa Rica

June 2nd, 2008

Karen HangingAs my regular readers know, Luisa and I enjoy mini-vacations around Costa Rica. We do these regularly, and I often like to blog about what we did, the hotels where we stayed, and general info that may be useful if you are traveling or living here and are looking for an escape.

Recently, my daughter Karen, 40 something mom of three, well actually two but we often count her husband as one of the kids, came a visitin’ from Chicago, and we all made the four hour trek to Monteverde, Costa Rica. With us was son Bill, his wifey and my granddaughter, Lucy all of whom live here.

I had the cool idea of renting a van and driver for the trip. Normally I drive, but there is a 10-15 miles stretch of nasty road and I figured I’d save wear and tear on the car and use taxis when we got there. Turned out to be a great idea. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every so often!

If this interests you, read on!

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Well ICE ALMOST Got It Right!

March 20th, 2008

So it was maybe 5:30AM, my normal get-up time, and I am “sleeping in” with my bride. Today is a feriado (holiday) and I figure maybe 7:30 is lookin’ good.

Then, my mind starts thinking… “After so many years in Costa Rica, when has ICE (our friendly local telecommunications monopoly) EVER gotten something right the first time!”. So I reach over to the bed side table and make a test phone call.

Sure enough, ICE has done it AGAIN! They switched to the new calling plan 24 hours early!!!! I have web sites to update, both my customers and my own… notification calls… all originally scheduled for tomorrow morning. Sheesh!

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The Change to 8 Digit Dialing draws near

February 29th, 2008

On March 20, 2008, how you dial a number in Costa Rica is going to change. This not only affects those of us IN Costa Rica, it also will affect those in foreign lands who make call TO Costa Rica.

If you fall into either of the above categories, by all means read on!

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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.

Crime in San Jose? Take Care!

December 18th, 2007

I just HATE to write these kinds of posts. I know how blogs like mine can and do affect tourism. On the other hand, if the country continues to not support those branches of government charged with protecting the people… well then so be it. They cannot expect good press about bad situations. Perhaps the loss of tourist dollars will get them off their collective traseros!

I live here and I love this country so to write something bad just makes me very sad. Here again though, I must write about the crime that is causing serious issues in San Jose, the capital. Please note I am not writing about the whole country, just San Jose…  but for now, I must caution my readers to be very cautious if they must drive in San Jose, especially the downtown area.

The bad guys are winning.

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Books and Reading in Costa Rica

November 17th, 2007

I get a fair number of questions from people who ask about bringing their books to Costa Rica when they move.

I have been fond of reading all of my life, and when I first came to Costa Rica, moving all my books (maybe 2,000 or so) was a big decision. Most were hard bound, but I had a fair number of paperbacks as well.

On the one hand, I really wanted my books but was not thrilled with the idea of packing those babies. Then, there was the cost of shipping them. Books are not exactly light, and when you are paying by the pound for an international move, you start to re-think every item in terms of its weight (cost to ship) and duties (taxes) that will have to be paid upon entering the country.

Sadly, when I was planning the “big move” there were NO Blogs to help me and very few resources other than the ARCR to advise me on the realities of Costa Rica.

If I had just know then what I know now, the decision making would not have been such a big deal, and my long term solution to reading (see below) would never have been part of my decision making. I would have brought far fewer books. That is because many of the books I brought with me are now gone.

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Trade-Offs

November 16th, 2007

Up until two months ago, my family and I were living in a contemporary three-story house on a beach in Southern California. We had every convenience available. We were only limited by our imaginations. Now, here we are in the jungle with electricity that goes out from time to time, severely pot-holed roads and surrounded by people whose lives and backgrounds could not be more different than our own.

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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.

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