Pay attention to where you’re putting your feet. Many of the sidewalks are showing their age and have uneven pavement or even gapping holes to underground utilities. If you do run across a section of road or pavement that has temporary warning pylons, make sure to take them seriously. Walking along the street I once encountered a block with live electrical wire dangling with nothing more than an electrician periodically waving pedestrians away at one end of the block. Another time a window washer had placed a single cone on a sidewalk to warn about the copious amounts of water that were falling from his brush.
This airport collects a fee of US$16 or 17 (don't remember exactly) for leaving the country, which you have to pay at the entrance of the airport. PLEASE, DON'T PAY IT TO ANYONE BUT THE AIRPORT'S MODULE AT THE ENTRANCE!! The problem is that, no sooner do you arrive at the airport, there are several guys trying to collect the money by giving you a fake seal of payment, so be careful about it.
There is also another tax of $6 for "using the instalations of the airport". This tax is generally included in the value of your air ticket, but, since mine did not, I had to pay it right away :(
It is best to take the official airport taxi upon arrival in San Jose if you have not arranged an airport pick up through your hotel.
When in the city, always have your hotel call for a taxi on your behalf and never hail a cab from the street as it could be potentially unsafe with the high possibility of a rip off! Also, this will be a surefire way to meet your unexpected "taxi driver from hell" and witness the crazy driving that will take you for a joy ride throughout the city and surrounding neighborhoods at your expense! This happened to me once en route to the shopping plaza around the Pavas area (one of the more upscale neighborhoods) from downtown San Jose.
Not only did I experience an unbelievably crazy ride, but I also became an unwilling witness to a gruesome sight, saw a freshly covered up dead body from some horrible motorcycle accident on the highway, where the crazy taxi driver slowed down and pointed that horrific scene to me. :( And after this traumatic ride, when it was time for me to alight from the taxi cab, he further harassed me into giving him more money for the cab ride. I left hurriedly, so I was not able to jot down his license plates to make a police report for his scary tactics & his attempt to extort money. What a vile and unscrupulous character he is!
e just returned from a much anticipated visit to Costa Rica.
Sadly; the experience left us never wanting to return. We've travelled extensively in the third world (Africa, SE Asia, other parts of Central America) so these comments are balanced with reality of expectations.
Firstly, we had our tires spiked while leaving the airport in San Jose, were followed by a group of thugs who robbed us of ALL valuables, including passports as soon as we pulled over to deal with the flat. The children were terrified. San Jose is a very poor and filthy city where you cannot go out at night. All hotels and many restaurants and stores have armed guards (serious professions, not rent-a cops) with flak jackets protecting the entrances.
The police are largely corrupt. We were pulled over twice for infractions we definitely did not commit and extorted of money for not having passports (duh, they were stolen).
The rainforest, while beautiful to walk through, was virtually devoid of wildlife which our guide explained was because of the rain (it's rains heavily every day-after all, it's a rainforest).
The coast and beaches were fantastic to look at but forget relaxing on the sand or surfing-each day crossing the street from our hotel to the beach we were followed at a distance by youths who were just waiting for us to stop paying attention to what few things we had left. SO, as the hotel warned, it was back to the pool and enjoy being a prisoner of the resort.
To replace passports; charter a plane to fly back to San Jose to the US embassy and spend a couple of days filing forms to get home. long lines of travellers at the embassy are testament to the fact that ours was not a random experience. So many stories of theft were shared with us. We salvaged the trip by spending several nights at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach. We found the reality of CR far from the marketing hype. The country is no eco-sanctuary. It's filthy, but fortunate to have heavy rains which wash the garbage away every day and feed heavy foliage growth to hide the trash. Let's not even begin to discuss the shocking road quality!
Crime is HUGE issue in Costa Rica and the number one reason Americans return home once the honeymoon of living there wears off. Very few crimes are actually recorded so the country does not have to admit or publicize this epidemic problem.
It's really too bad; CR has such great potential but is being ruined by this runaway crime that government chooses not to address. Do some research on the internet; you'll find this is no over-reaction but reality.
There are certain areas of San Jose that are not safe to walk around, day and night. Known areas include Barrio Coca Cola and many of the parks at night. Check with your hotel as they will tell you where is safe to go and where is not. When in doubt, take a taxi. It is very cheap, which costs less than 1000 colones depending on how far you are travelling.
The airport exchange is a real rip off . You see them as soon as you get through arrivals ...they gave us 461.00 per hundred and at the bank it is 570.00...that's a huge difference. Everyone takes US dollars anyway so there is no rush to exchange .
We were more than warn about the danger of this bus stop. And dreading it. But it's an outdoor kind, with bus parking on each side of boarding sidewalk under a roof. Although we never let any of our belongings out of our side and were careful not to do anything stupid, we never felt in danger of anykind.
The man that got closer to me was trying for the third time to sell me cheap watches. But I think he knew I wasn't interested and even tho I didn't spoke spanish, he engage in a nice little chat. I understood about 4 words of what he said, but it didn't bother either of us. He left after 2 minutes, smilling and waving.
The other one, and he was in fact the first one we encountered coming in for the first time from our taxi that drop us off at the wrong station (500 meters from the correct one). Although I was sure at first he was going to trap us in an alley to sell our eyes and kidneys, he kindly took us to the correct station, pointing where to buy tickets and where the bus was. Quite friendly after all and I think we didn't made a good impression... being very afraid to loose our precious organs!
Be careful, but don't be alarmed.
See the website below for more information on ways of preventing crime from happening to you.
On the morning of the day I was going to leave for Volcan Poas my wrist watch decided to stop working, the battery went flat. I had no other choice than take my alarm clock with me, because I knew that the last bus back to San José would leave at 2.00 pm and I just couldn't miss it. I normally don't pack anything valuable in my day bag, only sweater, some food, pen and paper and things like that. This time I put the alarm clock into my day bag and left for the bus. On the bus I took the day bag down from my back and saw that all the zips were open! The only thing which was missing was my alarm lock. They are real professionals and I had no idea when it happened. I wasn't pushed and distracted. It wasn't a big financial loss but something I would have needed that day. I am happy that I learnt my lesson this cheaply though and I know that I will never make this mistake again.
There are speed traps all along the highway to Manuel Antonio if you are planning on going there.
The cops will try to give you a ticket for like $120 dollars US.
And in Costa Rica you will end up paying your ticket because when you rent a car, they make you sign a form saying that any tickets you get will be automatically charged to your Credit Card.
I ended up being able to pay the cop like 20 dollars cash and he ripped up the ticket.
Now I dont know if all cops there do this, but mine did :)
San Jose has many different bus stations, depending on where you are planning to travel to next. Exercise extreme caution when hanging out near the following bus stations:
San Carlos (books will call it Atlantico Norte but no one knows it as this)
These are not good places to hang about and when arriving and leaving, take a cab straight there and flag one down immediately. Particularly after dark, thieves (many armed) will not hesitate to take advantage of a backpacker. Caribe has a safe feeling since there is a big gate that goes around the terminal. Once you leave however, get a cab ASAP and don't hang out on the street, mind try to walk to your hostel/destination.
We were on the walking tour up by Park National.
2 cops on bikes came over and asked for our ID.
They said this is a dangerous area, many drugs and crime.
We felt safe and saw no problems, but the warning from the police made us think and head on back to the bar by the hotel.
I dont know why, but I thought Costa Rica didnt have corrupt police. Although it would seem to have worked in my favour, Ive had to deal with the police twice while Ive had a rental car ...
Both times, I have to say, I am guilty as charged. Im not proud of it, but hey, we do stupid things sometimes. The first time I was overtaking a car and while doing this I was doing 100kph in an 80 zone. The police got me with the speed gun. The damage was going to be 30,000 colones plus tax (around $150), for a ticket. Or at least thats what they told us. I was travelling with 3 Chilean/American guys and one of them stepped in, did a deal, and we set off without any further ado, for the sum of 10,000 colones (around $35)
The second time I left the hostel in a hurry and forgot my passport and driving licence. Id also had a couple of bottles of beer. Nearly had palpitations when I saw a road block in front of me and realised the situation! He threatened to take my car keys and impound the car. I said ´What can we do?´ - he said ´You tell me´ - 8,000 colones later (around $25) we weer on our way again.
I got off lightly. A friend who was speeding had to pay a policeman $100 not to lose her car. Be careful, and be smarter than me and not get into the situations in the first place! ;o)
Look out for any girl who approaches you in a bar, she is most likely a prostitute, a legal occupation in Costa Rica. Regular girls just walk by you constantly, and obviously to get you attention if they are interested. Also, beware of the street urchins - known as 'Champolines' in CR.
There are pretty close to zero road signs in San Jose. OK, there are some but you almost certainly cannot find to your destination with them. The few road signs either point to places that do not exist on your map, or will be shortly followed by a T-junction with no road signs whatsoever, leaving your guessing your way with a compass anyway.
We were staying in Best Western Irazu, 2 km north-west from San Jose. We did not intend to visit the downtown but had to cross the city area three times. Every time was a separate adventure, taking always >2 hours to find our way through non-marked one-way roads, crowded downtown streets, suburban streets and nearby villages.
It was an experience though. If you drive in San Jose, reserve enough time and patience and don't do it at dark.
Our tour guide told us San Jose is safe to explore during the day, but he advised us not to venture out after dark, unless we were taking a taxi. Basically, as long as you are not walking around after dark you will be fine.
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