Costa Rica Culture

I love the Costa Ricans actually most of Latin America for their attempts to not hurt anyone by their words.  You will not see a Costa Rican screaming at you in any situation, they just don’t do that.  You can be in a car accident in the middle of rush hour with someone already late for work and they don’t get upset, they don’t get mad, they NEVER yell.

They don’t even use all caps when typing like many of us North Americans have a tendency to do in our emails.

They will avoid you or a situation if they are put into a position that they feel uncomfortable.  For instance, you call the plumber to come fix something and he tells you he will be there on Tuesday.  You called him the Friday before.  Something happens and he can’t show up on Tuesday but he will not call to tell you because that would make him look bad and they hate that.  Instead he just does not show up or call.  He might show up a few days later with no explanation of where he was on Tuesday then again, you may never see the guy again.

This is not because they are rude or insensitive, actually it is quite the opposite.  They do not want to upset you or hurt you in anyway so they believe that it is better not to show up at all than to call you and tell you they will not be there.

It has taken me many years to adjust to this way of thinking and to understand how their culture works but I am finally getting a clue as to what goes on in the minds of my neighbors and friends.

These are the most loving and sensitive people you will ever meet.  Even the plumber, he is a great guy.  They are very sensitive to your feelings and do not want to disappoint you under any circumstances so they go along for the ride when often it is the last place they want to be.


Yes means NO

I get so much accustomed to the culture that sometimes I forget the obvious. Have you noticed while living in Costa Rica that no one will ever tell you “no” they cannot do something or “no, I don’t want to do that?” You probably have not because it just appears that the Tico’s and Tica’s are being polite by going your way all the time. The secret is Costa Rican’s do not like the word NO for some reason.

If you ask someone if they want to go to the mall, they will tell you “ok” or “yes” every time. They will never ever tell you “no I don’t want to go” because they would consider this rude.

This is one of the things that make the natives of Costa Rica so endearing. They at all cost will not hurt your feelings by telling you “no” they can’t do something or “no” they don’t want to do something.

Long and short of it… their Yes means No in some instances.


Book on Costa Rica

Well…I’m working on it. Actually it is finished. We are now in the process of editing and correcting my mistakes and typo’s. Unfortunately I cannot edit my own work so I am having to rely on the kindness of others to do this for me.

Lots of information in this book. Some of the topics covered are different types of residency in depth, bringing pets in or out of Costa Rica, jobs in Costa Rica, differences in schools, housing options, hiring help, employment laws and so much more.

It’s not too late to add more. It seems like every week I come across another topic that I would like to cover. This is the reason that it has taken so long to finish and I use that word loosely. I might come up with something else tomorrow or get a question that I feel needs to be discussed and it will be added.

Help me out here. Comment on this blog or send me an email to with your questions about Costa Rica and I will try to add on if the subject has not already been addressed.

Sometimes I get so familiar with the answers that I forget the questions.


Cars in Costa Rica

The cost of cars are rising as is anything else in Costa Rica.  Gas and diesel are now about equal where diesel was 150 colones less per liter, now they are running neck in neck to keep up.  This doesn’t help when you are looking at a car to buy.

When we were looking at cars, we always looked for diesel because the fuel was so much less and the mileage seems to be a little better for a diesel car.  Some might disagree but that is our experience.

Renting a car can be a harrowing experience.  You will settle on one price when you get the car, then when you get ready to turn it in there are all of these added charges.  Many of the big name companies do this on a regular basis.  The solution to this is to go with a smaller company.  One where you can meet the owner.  There are a couple of these in Escazu but they are not any cheaper than the big companies.  Renting a car for a month (small car) can run anywhere from $600 -$1000.

To buy a car is really your best bet if you plan on living in Paradise.  But you must be very careful who you buy from and have a mechanic look at the car for sure.  Second hand cars in Costa Rica often have problems that can only be detected by a good mechanic.  People drive the life out of them and with the roads being as bad as they are, they really take a beating.

Low miles and newer car are really the way to go if you don’t go new.  Each car that we have bought has been used and we have had some good cars with only minor repairs needed.  The good thing about repairs is that if the car has easy to find parts like a Hundai or a Nissan, labor is very cheap.

Another point mentioned above…get a car that is popular to Costa Rica and you will be able to find parts.  Many of the cars that Expats bring into Costa Rica, the parts are not readily available and must be ordered from the US, costing mucho dinero.

Hundai’s are very popular and less expensive to work on than say an older model Jeep or Dodge.

Mitsubishi and Nissan are too other cars that are easier to work on and find parts.

Transferring title to the new car is subject for another post and will be up later.


Bus in Costa Rica

I found a terrific site over the weekend for finding a bus in Costa Rica.  The link is here: .

You can put in where you are and where you want to go and this site will give you the bus schedule.

If they do not have a town listed the way that you put it in, it will bring up all of the options or towns that are served by this bus line.

I found a bus from the airport to Jaco as an example.

Bus transportation in Costa Rica is really good and the majority use this method to get around.  With gas prices being as high as they are, I know several Costa Rican’s that have parked their car to take a bus.

Very convenient if you know the schedules and now you can find the schedule to fit your needs.

Happy traveling!


July 4th Celebration

Last year, as many of you living in Costa Rica might know, for the first time in almost 50 years, the 4th of July picnic was canceled.  This was very disappointing to all of us that meet many of our friends there each year.

Approximately 3500 expats attend this celebration each year and many plan their vacations around this event.  I know our family never misses it as many of our friends.

You must have a US passport to enter the grounds where it is held.  So only Americans or spouses of Americans are permitted to enter provided you have a US passport.

This year the fun is back on and I’m sure it will be great fun as always for everyone.  Besides all the hot dogs and beer you can consume, there are games for the little kids. There is enough cotton candy and frozen yogurt to keep the kids on a sugar high for the balance of the day.

I think the highlight each year is when the Marines come out in all of their uniforms and straight faced look to raise the flag and sing the US National Anthem.

It still brings a tear to my eye, each year, when thousands of people gather to celebrate their heritage in another country.

We are still, very much, Patriots even though we live in Costa Rica.  Don’t let the term “Ex-Patriots” fool you for a minute. Ex-pats as we are called only means that we are citizens living outside of our home country.  It in no way implies that we are no longer patriots or followers of our country as you can see each year at this fabulous event.

Hope to see you there!


Fugitives in Costa Rica

Two to three times a year we pick up the paper or read online that another fugitive has been captured in Costa Rica.  The last bad guy was picked up in Playa Garza last month.  This one was a convicted child molester.

Tom Noel Mastin is the latest of several fugitives that have made their home in Costa Rica and gone unnoticed for years before being captured.  He had been in the country since 1999. Officials deported him in 2007 into the custody of Florida law enforcement.

On February 21, 2008 he entered a plea deal in Florida and was placed under house arrest.  Amazingly, he was seen again in Playa Garza only 7 days later after sneaking back into the country.  Mastin was deported this past Monday for the SECOND time!

Several questions come to mind when going over this recurring problem we seem to have in Costa Rica;  With the new laws in place in the US one can no longer travel outside of the US without a passport but don’t they take that away from you when you become a convicted felon?  If Mastin didn’t have a passport, how did he get out of the US?

When you enter Costa Rica legally, your passport is scanned and sirens, bells and whistles start going off if you are a convicted felon or have been kicked out of the country. CR does not let you back in for 10 years if you do something worthy of getting kicked out ie., working under a tourist, pensionado or rentista visa just to name a couple.  Being carried away by US law enforcement means that you are never allowed back into the country.

Hundreds of Nicaraguans “sneak” into the country every year but the idea of a 70 year old man (Mastin) coming in the way that these others do is mind boggling.  Had it not been for some good Samaritans reporting Mastin in the country, he could have lived his life out in Costa Rica and the police nor immigration would have ever known.

Guardian Angels CR received a call last year asking what the extradition laws were in Costa Rica.  We promptly told the caller that if they were running from the police and found in Costa Rica they would spend time in the Costa Rican jail before being sent back to the US.   They didn’t request our relocation assistance after that response. :)

I feel that Costa Rica has become a sort of haven for criminals from many countries because of the non-existent police presence and immigration laws not being enforced in the outlying areas.

If you get robbed or your home gets broken into it is your responsibility to go down to the central police headquarters and file a report.  No one comes to your home to investigate or take your complaint so many crimes go unreported and many fugitives are still running around free.

I suppose other countries in Latin America have similar problems, however living in Costa Rica, all I care about is the safety of my children and my family in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica needs to enforce their immigration laws, do something about border control and catch the bad guys before they catch us at a vulnerable moment.  Sounds like some of the same complaints I hear about the United States.

where the police force is basically non-existent.


Poles, trees and holes

Driving in Costa Rica can be treacherous on good days. Forget it if it is raining or dark. While I have become used to many things in my path every once in awhile I forget and almost hit a tree that is placed 4 feet off the curb or an electric pole that is a meter out from the side of the road. You must pay attention while driving here. You can’t take a lunch break and take your eyes off the road for even a moment.

On our way to school each day, we go over 3 manholes WITHOUT covers on one short street and dodge a half dozen poorly placed electric poles only to be dodging big trucks, buses and motorcycles at the same time.

For those that have driven in Mexico or other Latin American countries this I am told is not out of the ordinary, but if this is your first time to Costa Rica….BE CAREFUL!!!

We have lived here for 6 years now and I still have to stay on guard when driving here. If you know where the manholes are or if you can see them, you can dodge them. At night they aren’t visible and often cars fall into those holes and either get stuck or damage their front end.

Now that coupled with the motorcycles driving down the middle of 2 lanes are hard to get used to.  My defensive driving instructor back home would be very proud of the driving skills that I have acquired while living in Costa Rica.  Driving in Costa Rica takes defensive driving to a whole new level.


Call Costa Rica

Today is the day that the phone numbers will change that was mentioned in an earlier post.

Effective tonight at midnight all landlines will have a 2 in front of the number that is already assigned.  For instance, 219-2747 will as of mid-night tonight be 2219-2747.  If you are calling from the US or Canada you will need to dial the code to get out of the US or Canada then the country code of Costa Rica.  Now you will dial (011) 506-2219-2747.

For cell phones the number that is to be added is an 8 so our cell phone for instance would be 8832-2450.  When calling from the States or Canada you will need to dial (011) 506-8832-2450.

A lot of numbers and a big change for ICE (the phone monopoly in Costa Rica).  They have a help line open today until 5:00 for any questions or concerns but strangely this help line is not going to be in place AFTER the change is to take effect.

ICE has not been accepting payments for about a week now.  Apparently they are more concerned with a smooth changeover on Wednesday night.  They have stated that they will not be cutting off any phones until people have a chance to get caught up to the new numbers.  I don’t know how long that would be…it is kind of open ended and that is not very typical of ICE.

My phone bill is due right now and when I try to pay it through my bank online service (the best way to pay bills in Costa Rica), I get an error message that the service is down.  Scary!!!!

ICE is not the most dependable when it comes to phones OR electricity and we have found that they are very fickle. The powers that be can change their minds on Monday when everything opens back up so if you have a phone bill that is coming up or now due, stay up on it.  Check daily to see if you can pay the bill because if they turn it off, it is not easy to get a number restored after it has been cut off.


You CANNOT work in Costa Rica!

You cannot work in Costa Rica unless you have a work permit or the proper type of residency that allows you to do so. You cannot work while living in the country with a Tourist Visa, Rentista Status or Pensionado status. You are actually forbidden to do so by the Costa Rican government. You cannot take the job that a Costa Rican can do. This is the law!!!

Work permits are difficult to impossible to get unless a company is willing to sponsor you. The only companies that do this are large, financially established, well-known by the Costa Rican government. The only people that are approved for permits with these companies are executives for the most part.

If you are living in Costa Rica legally, you can start your own business but you CANNOT work it this business.

There is only one type of visa that allows you to work and live in Costa Rica and that is Permanent Resident Investor Status which gives you all of the rights that a Costa Rican citizen has. This comes with one exception and that is becoming politically involved. You are not permitted to vote in any Costa Rica election but you can work.

You cannot move to Costa Rica and start working. Well you can but if you do, you can get into some serious trouble and will be deported loosing anything that you have bought or business you have established while living in the country.

This has happened to too many Expats to list. Foreigners, usually from North America, come down and buy property or a business and begin working without getting the right paperwork taken care of ie., residency visa. They are caught by immigration, usually because they have upset a Costa Rican in some way. The Costa Rican turns them into immigration and they are kicked out of the country and not allowed to return for 10 years.

You do not want this to happen to you.

If you would like more information on how you can get the right type of residency, please email us.

I want you to know that you can’t just fly in and start working, You CANNOT work in Costa Rica!!!!