17 things I hate about Costa Rica

I don’t mean to have a longer “hate” list than I do a “love” list, but when you come to a new country, you have to expect a number of things to bug you. Sadly, I’ve ended up with a few more than I’d like. But that’s okay. It’s expected, and it’s part of adjustment to a new home. Still, they make me long for Canada, where I find these things don’t bug me as much.
(Though it might be fair to say that some of them would bug me pretty much anywhere.)
And just so you know, I’m not speaking out as a disgrunted ex-pat who wants to bitch about how this country isn’t conforming to me. I’m the one who needs to conform, and there are things I simply have to accept. Some of these things are purely my points of view, and are probably things that most Ticos don’t mind, and might even like.

Superstores / American Chain Stores

It seems impossible to go anywhere in this world and truly escape America. (So far, the only place I’ve been is Mongolia.) Even here, fast food chains are abundant (you already know about the KFC influence), which includes Taco Bell. Why on Earth anyone in Costa Rica would gladly choose Taco Bell over any number of local Tico restaurants is beyond me. And I don’t get the KFC thing, no matter how hard I try.
Beyond fast food, there are chain superstores here that are not only modelled from American stores, they are owned by them. Wal-Mart has a significant presence through its Más Por Menos (grocery), Hipermás (think Wal-Mart in Spanish), and EPA (think Home Depot) chains. Apparently, they own 70% of the market. At least in Canada (and the US) there is more competition. Here? Only Más por Menos has direct competition (Auto Mercado and Mega Super).
Yes, I do try to go to the smaller stores and to the markets … but sadly, there are times when you simply can’t avoid the bigger chains because — just like back home — they crush their competition out of existence.


Take every traffic law you know, and throw it out the window. No, I’m not just talking about my incident with a u-turn. I’m talking about a place where the lines on the road, traffic lights and signs, and even common sense are basically ignored. Speed limits are not suggestions — they’re just decorations at the side of the road. Snarls are not common, they’re constant (when there is no snarl, you wonder what happened elsewhere to keep people away). You don’t just honk your horn at someone who did something stupid, but also for “hello”, “goodbye”, “passing on your left/right”, “look out”, “let me in”, “hey!”, and “what’s the special at the market today?”. It’s a whole conversation in a single sound.
You either drive agressively here, or you never get anywhere. You have to be fully aware of what’s going on around you at all times. It’s daunting, even scary. It doesn’t help when pedestrians also try to run in front of you. If nothing else, it does force me to be always aware, and not rely on the assumptions that others know how to drive — which is the danger in Canada, especially when people start driving like assholes.
And lest ye drive too aggressively, you might have an accident. Unlike most places in North America, where you pull yourself over to the side of the road (at least when it’s possible), the law states that you have to remain exactly where you accident occurred until the police and your insurance adjuster arrives. Yes, you are imagining correctly what traffic looks like when an accident blocks a lane (or an entire highway).


I’m amazed that more of these putzes aren’t splattered all over the roads. In North America, most motorcyclists treat themselves as the equivalent of cars. Here, they weave in and out of traffic in patterns so erratic and unpredictable that I’ve nearly hit three of them. (Considering how little I drive, that’s significant.) They don’t wear helmets (they’ll wear them just on the top of their heads, which serves no purpose if they’re flung off, or they carry them in the crook of their arms!), they drive like maniacs, and I’ve seen more than a few of them ride with young children on the front of their bikes. I would love nothing more than to run some of these morons off the road and take them permanently out of my misery.

Corrupt Police

Again, not so much about the u-turn, as it is about police pulling gringos over and trying to scare them into paying money to the cop to make whatever trivial error they committed go away. I don’t care if this is something that evolved from centuries of Spanish rule. This is just a level of human depravity that bothers me a lot. You look to the police as a force to help keep the peace, protect the innocent, and maintain some form of order. With all the things I hear about crime, it makes me wonder if the police do anything to help at all.

The Roads

The odd road gets repaved every few years. Otherwise, it’s just a mess of potholes. And missing manhole covers. Lanes that end without warning (sometimes into ditches and/or telephone poles). Realigned one-way roads that really make no sense whatsoever. A complete and total lack of road signs, so it’s quite easy to get lost if you’re not paying attention (Mark got smart and bought a Costa Rican-programmed GPS).
And did I mention that some of them flood easily?
Add to that the issue of the Panamerican Highway — Route #1, the main road from one end of Costa Rica to the other, which goes (quite literally) though San José. This is a highway that around the capital area goes from 4 lanes to 2 lanes, as a result of narrowing at bridges. No, the bridges have not been expanded, and it causes binds.
For whatever reason, few roads are actually straight. In Canada, we’re used to roads going in a straight line for great distances — longer than the country of Costa Rica. It’s pretty quick to move about there due to all the flatness (generalisation, I know that BC is fairly hilly). Here, it’s rare to find a straight road, and going over the mountains here is a windy, hilly experience. Hence why going a mere 100 kms can take over three hours. At least like in Canada, they measure in time, not distance. But it’s for a different reason.


Costa Rica advertises itself very well — it’s very green, very lush, and it’s an environmentalist’s paradise. The truth is much dirtier. Garbage is thrown out of car windows. Many of the lauded Blue Flag beaches have lost their blue flags due to fecal choliform. No recycling. Buses and trucks belch out enough exhaust to make Beijing look clean. I’ve yet to see a stream in this area that doesn’t look like it’s running with a million nasty chemicals or various forms of garbage.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love it here, but trust me when I say that things don’t look nearly as green when you look more closely. And no, I’m not holding up Canada as a shining example of clean — witness the oil sands to find out how bad things can get.

Everything Takes Longer

Things you expect to take a day take two; a week is a month. “Mañana” is heard often, and all it really means is “when it’s ready”. One of the nice things of Costa Rica is the laid-back attitude. The flip side is that things do not happen quickly, and that can be really frustrating. This is a cultural aspect of life here, and I’m fully aware of it. I don’t fight it (anymore) — you can’t. Trying to fight it is like trying to move a lake with a small stick. While I don’t fight it, it still drives me batty.

Higher-Than-Expected Cost Of Living

This isn’t directed so much at Costa Rica as it is at those who thought moving here would be a financial boon to me, that I would earn so much more money down here. Well, lemme tell you a few things:

  • My rent is USD$2,000 a month. And yes, I could find cheaper, but refer to my above statement about crime. With my baby, I’m not taking chances — we’re living in as secure a facility as we can get.
  • Gasoline costs between $1.40 and $1.50 per litre. It costs USD$80 to fill up our car. (For the record, I support higher gas prices, as they force the issue of less personal vehicles and better public transit.)
  • Gringo-ised areas. Where we live, there are a lot of gringos and gringo influence. Hence higher-than-usual prices. $5 coffee? No problem. $40 dinner? Easy. $10 hamburger? Without breaking a sweat.
  • Familiar foods, such as cereals or imported tastes do not come cheap. A small jug of maple syrup? USD$30. Yes, you read that right — thirty dollars.

That’s not to say that everything here is expensive. You can find cheaper prices, but you have to know where to find these things. And it’s a big trust factor for gringos to go into some places that most Ticos wouldn’t think twice of. It’s adjustment, I won’t deny that. But it’s a tough thing to handle.
That said, we’re not bad off right now. Alex is able to stay at home with Mi Pequeña Niña and we’re able to do things. But I don’t know if we’ll be able to have as much freedom as we’ve experienced in these first two months forever…
But still, please stop telling me that living here is great for my finances. It’s just not true.

Noisy Neighbours

We live in a fairly nice complex, but my downstairs neighbours have their sub-woofer turned up way too loud, going sometimes to 23:00 in the evening. And they’re not the only ones. I know this is part about living in a condo complex (it’s why I didn’t want to buy one in Canada; and living in a house is far too cost-prohibitive), but come on, people, it’s not a stretch to realise that if you think it’s loud, others will think the same, too.
I’m told that this is a cultural thing, too. Not so much the noise as the joie du vive that exists in most Spanish-speaking countries. People stay up late, well into the early hours. I don’t hate that part per se — I suppose I just dislike not being able to do it myself, and the lack of consideration for people who have their lights out at 22:00 every night.

The Beef

There’s no easy way to say this: Costa Rican beef sucks. I’ve eaten Canadian beef for almost my entire life, and Alberta produces some amazing beef. Down here, though, it’s stringy and tough. You need a sharp serrated knife to go through a steak down here, and about an hour to chew it. I think it’s the type of cattle that are used. But either way, unless it’s ground or you know a really good cook (which Javier does), the beef is hard to eat. I’ll be waiting until I get home for my next rib-eye.

Government Monopolies

Costa Rica is replete with monopolies, again due to the Spanish model of government set up hundreds of years ago. The worst is ICE, which is not just the electric company, they also handle the cell phones, television, and internet systems. Technically, there are other companies involved (RACSA and Amnet), but ultimately this all comes down to ICE. It’s why the cell phone network here sucks, why it’s hard to get your own phone number at home (Ingrid, who’s lived here most of her life, took a year to get a line at home), and why the internet goes up and down like a yo-yo.

Finding Low-Sugar Drinks

I don’ t know what it is, but Costa Rica is hooked on Splenda. It seems to be in everything that’s “low sugar”. When you try to go to fruit juice, some idiot adds sugar to it. (It’s APPLE JUICE, man, it does not need any sugar added!) And heaven forbid you buy something in a plastic bottle — chances are it’s from the US, which means it’s full of high-fructose corn syrup. Even many of the milk products here are like that.
Although one good side: Coca Cola (“Coke regular”) is made with cane sugar, which is the original recipe. I think Canada Dry Ginger Ale uses it, too. Both come in glass bottles, and taste a lot better here than they do in Canada.

Electrical Outages

I love the storms, but we’ve had 30 or so power outages since we arrived. (Note we’ve only been here about 60 days.) It’s so bad I’ve had to buy a small UPS for our networked storage so we don’t lose any more data (I think I lost some songs in our music library when one of the disks when out of sync from a power outage.) It’s particularly fun when the power goes out at the office and everyone loses their work.

Air Conditioning

Can someone please tell me why air conditioning needs to be turned up so high? It’s not as bad as Panama (that was extreme), but here it’s still insane. Two degrees cooler than the outside is a good rule of thumb, folks.

Lousy Public Transit

Despite the fact that most people here can’t afford cars and have to take the bus, the bus system sucks. I don’t know why, but that’s all I’ve heard. When you’re warned not to take the bus, that’s a sign that it’s bad. I might complain about Calgary Transit, but I’d still recommend it over driving. Here? I’d rent a car.

Poor State Of Sidewalks

The sidewalks mirror the roads: missing grates (complete with several-foot falls if you’re not careful), cracked, broken, ending abruptly, or altogether missing. Being a pedestrian here is sometimes risky, especially if you’re pushing a stroller. And where sidewalks don’t exist, people tend to run across roads and highways. There’s a reason why some places are marked with a heart and halo — a place where someone died.

Guys With Shotguns

I’ve never gotten used to this, and I never will. Again, due to the aforementioned crime, there are a lot of armed guards. Ever seen Armed and Dangerous? It’s not a comedy … it’s a documentary. Down here, there are guys I wouldn’t trust with a potato gun wielding something that could easily blow my head off. Someone tell me how this is supposed to instill a sense of security?

84 thoughts on “17 things I hate about Costa Rica”

  1. I don’t want to rip into your list — I get that there are all things that we love and hate about CR — but I hope you don’t mind if I add my own experience to a few of your hates. I’ve been here for 21 months, and have made some serious adjustments, but I can truly say that my own list of dislikes has dwindled to just a teeny fraction of what it once was.
    1) Higher-than-expected cost of living: I think this is a case of each person creating his own financial situation. While I certainly understand your fears, especially with a baby at home, safe homes can be had for much, much less. (I don’t know where you live, though, probably W. San José?) In Heredia, for example, a 3BR/2.5BA home in a guarded community can be had for $600-$800. Others can be had for much less. For reference purposes, my boyfriend and I live on about 1/2 of your monthly rent! But again, we live in a tico neighborhood, shop at tico stores, go out to eat at moderately-priced, non-Escazà º restaurants, etc.
    2) Beef: Just a thought (because we don’t eat beef) – have you tried to tenderize it? It’s such an easy process (pound thin strips with a beef mallet), and may make it more edible.
    3) Low-sugar drinks: I feel your pain, but with the high availability of cheap fruits, why don’t you make your own? They’re really easy, and can be completely sugar-free. Also, check out the refrigerated prepared drinks – I think it’s Dos Pinos that has a few 100% juice, no-added sugar kinds?
    4) Lousy public transit: I don’t own a car, and I LOVE the public bus system here! It’s cheap, relatively efficient, and will take me anywhere in the city (or country, for that matter) easily and without any headache. It can be a little tricky to get used to, but after that, I can’t see why anyone would complain. (Unless he has to take 3-4 buses to get to his destination, which I understand is sucky, but hey, it’s public transit… by definition, things don’t go in a straight line.)
    Anyway, congrats on making it through two months, and I hope that your hate list grows shorter and shorter.

  2. Geoff,
    I had to laugh at your list as a lot of it I can relate to things that grate on my nerves living in the UK. Things like big American retailers. A lot of them are here, with different names, but it’s obvious where they come from. B&Q = Home Depot, ASDA = Walmart. There’s tons of Pizza Huts, KFC’s, Subways and McDonalds on all the high streets. It’s sad as they’re pushing out the little guys over here, too. But we do our best by shopping at local businesses and farm shops as much as possible.
    But the one thing I could relate to most was your rant about the Beef. With the greatest respect to Erin, I must disagree and say that no amount of tenderizing, marinating, or other means is going to make the beef any better. I’ve had beef in CR, and it sucks.
    And although Britain takes pride in it’s beef, it will never, ever taste as good as Alberta Beef. British beef is just lacking something and the taste just isn’t there. It’s the way Alberta Ranchers raise their cattle, and what they feed their animals that makes the difference.
    The pork here is amazing. The lamb, divine. Poultry, game meats, and the fish! The fish is awesome. But I’m like you Geoff. I’ll wait until I’m back in Calgary before I sink my teeth into a striploin steak again.

  3. Hey Erin!
    No ripping perceived! I’m always happy to be corrected if I’ve misjudged things. 🙂
    I live in Santa Ana, which was recommended to me. Sadly, we never viewed anything in Heredia, so I can’t speak to prices there. Had we the chance, I think we might have gone there instead. Such is life, however. While I’d love to live in a Tico neighbourhood, nuestro Espaà ±ol no es bien, and that alone makes it hard to live where we do, let alone in a Tico-only neighbourhood.
    Though, in my own defense, I was complaining more about the people who think I have it so good down here, more than the cost itself. 😉
    As for the beef, I was raised on beef, so I know what you can and can’t do. I have to agree with Terri — it sucks here. If it ain’t ground and turned into a hamburger, it’s just too tough. That, and from what we’ve read of the farming practices here, I’d rather not support the cattle industry.
    We’ve found some non-sugar drinks, but even finding the fresh fruit juice is sometimes hard (at least where we are). Dos Pinos does make no-sugar-added drinks, but they also have a tendency to make sugar-added drinks (including milk — who the heck adds sugar to milk?).
    You might have lucked out with public transit. We’ve had Ticos tell us to avoid it. We also know (from someone who’s tried) that commuting into San José from the Santa Ana/Escazu area is pretty hellish by bus. Do you know of any way to look up bus routes? We don’t even know where the buses go!

  4. Hey Geoff,
    Unlike Erin –œ I am going to rip into your hate list a little bit.
    When I left Canada to live abroad for the first time, my Grandpa (who enjoys the comforts of his own armchair and t.v. tuned into hockey night in Canada) said “If you want to feel right at home –œ stay home”.
    I am submitting an unsolicited list of recommendations:
    1. I am a big fan of CR inter and intra-city public transit. Don’t knock it until you have tried it a few times.
    2.. Life without sugar is possible. Request batidos without sugar. Invest in a blender and make your own juice.
    3. Explore “off the beaten path” poco a poco. Be prudent”¦breathe”¦.then enter the biker bar. I’m so glad you guys did! Do that thing that is slightly uncomfortable and a bit scary, but not foolish, every so often.
    4. Become a fish snob. You come from Alberta – you are a beef snob. Beef just about anywhere, except Argentina and Brazil perhaps, is sub-par. It is hardly fair for someone who has lived in Alberta to comment about CR beef. However”¦.at this exact moment you guys are conveniently located between two oceans, both mere hours away, that provide lovely fish. Mackerel! Ceviche! Tuna! Mahi Mahi! Dorado! Fried! In soup! Served whole!… and more! If fish doesn’t suit your fancy, there’s always tripe.
    5. Traffic/Motorcycles/Helmets/Guns? You could be in Delhi or stuck on the 401 behind an overturned chicken truck, or get shot in downtown Calgary as an innocent bystander from the recent upsurge in gang violence in this city”¦. Life is fragile on this planet.
    6. Avoid the big-box stores and North American chains. You can find them anywhere, even Canada.
    There is a space between the two extremes of being “just like home” and “nothing like home” –œ and you and your cute little family can find that balance. Put a time limit on your frustrations, vent, rage, get over it, and drink a batido (sin azucar) before frustrations get the best of you and you miss out on all the great things.
    You are complaining to the people who think you’ve got it good”¦.you do. For a finite period of time you have the chance to work, play, explore and experience life in a different country.
    Like Erin, I also hope your hate list grows shorter and shorter as time passes and I also hope that you are able to build some rewarding relationships with locals, their families, see/dance/experience/taste a lot, have pleasant surprises and be open to the rich diversity and extremes of the country you are a guest in for the next little while.

  5. Bec, Bec, Bec…
    You’re going to have to work on your ripping skills. 😉
    Valid on all points. But I do have to correct you on one thing. First, I am a fish snob. Love it. Bring hither the fish!
    But remember whom I married to… 😉

  6. IÂ ´m costarican, and IÂ ´m not gonna whine about the things you said because most of them are true, however I do have two things to say:
    1. The reason for our roads to not be straight is simple, we have a lot of mountains, and its obviously easier (and nature friendlier) to build a road around a mountain than to build it through it.
    2. The only good reason I can think of you not having had good beef here is that you must be being cheap, spend a little more on the supermarket, or go to a good restaurant and we’ll see.

  7. Hey Jose.
    I have to disagree with the roads. Yes, Costa Rica is mountainous. But so is Alberta and British Columbia back in Canada. (And I’ll wager a lot steeper and harder to go through than the mountains here.) Yet the roads there are much easier to drive and definitely less windy.
    As for the beef, can you recommend somewhere, then? It’s not for being cheap — I’ve paid too much for what I still consider to be a poor steak.

  8. You whine about the superstores but choose to live in a gringo area paying no doubt another gringo-exaggerated rent. My rent is $150 a month and in a year I have had no trouble at all, By the way there are no steel bars on our windows. Sounds like your landlord is robbing you, yet you’re happy with that as he speaks the language and is in all probability one of your own!
    Yes the police do seek bribes often with foreigners but if those foreigners obeyed the laws in the first place they wouldn’t be stopped and if they don’t like it they can go back to where they came from and try speeding there to see if it costs less when they’re caught.
    Sure the roads are crap and we foreigners complain. But I bet very few of us pay tax here unlike we did at home so what do you expect. Less tax=fewer Services. Not science to work out is it!
    Everything takes longer, sure and I hate it with a vengeance, If Ticos can complicate something that can be done so minimally they will and that’s the way it is here!
    You find it expensive for the reason that you want it to be expensive .If you wanted to live economically you would. Most Ticos earn less than a quarter of your rent bill alone and they are not famished and seem to always be in good spirits. You can get a cooked breakfast in a soda for $2, and lunch/dinner for a little more so surely you can buy the ingredients and cook it yourself at home for much less!
    The busses are fantastic, who ever told you they were best avoided is talking pure shite, I can take a 5-hour journey to samara for under $10, and get there faster than I can drive my own car simply because the driver is a Tico driver (say no more)!
    Home is just a plane ride away, you could live here for $500 a month easily including rent if you wanted to but if you expect CR to be like home spend that $500 on a plane ticket home and stay there. You won’t regret it by the sound of things! I’m leaving ASAP as well and I can’t wait, like I said there is no place like home!!

  9. I am a gringa who has lived here for the past 8.5 years.
    Yes traffic sucks, motorcycle drivers are nuts, roads and sidewalks are in poor condition for the most part (they have improved since I first moved here in 2000. Most if not all government agencies are corrupt especially the police, IMHO. Etc Etc
    I definitely agree with the beef comment. But have you seen the cows? Of course the beef isn’t very good here… the cows are skinny!!
    Next time you go shopping ask the butcher for lomito.
    I have no idea where you are buying your maple syrup.
    And you are nuts for paying $2k / month to live in a condo. I live in a perfectly safe neighborhood on the other side of san jose from Escazu and Santa Ana and pay $330 / month. I don’t think someone needs to speak great Spanish to live in a non gringonized neighborhood. I rarely have a conversation longer then “Hola, como va todo?”
    However, I do understand your point… living here is not inexpensive although you are living like a king compared to the majority of the population?
    The public transit system here IMO is great. Much better then in Atlanta.
    Anyhow, if any ticos read your response most likely you’ll hear “if you don’t like it then leave!”

  10. Hey Jas,
    Thanks for pointing out that there are alternatives — there certainly are. Today, for example, we went to the farmer’s market, which is my preferred way to get fruits and vegetables (wasn’t such as great day today, sadly — the selection was oddly limited).
    My landlord is a Spanish company that operates here in Costa Rica. The biggest irony is that their bank is a Costa Rican branch of a Canadian bank (Scotia Bank).
    The cops stop anyone, and I have a coworker (a Tico) who was rather savagely beaten a few years ago for doing nothing more than forgetting his identification card.
    Believe me, I’d love to live here more cheaply than I do. But I don’t have a lot of options when it comes to my family’s safety (I have friends who have personal experience with violent break-ins in less secure places) and comfort (we’re still learning Spanish, and I refuse to abandon my wife to being isolated 12 hours a day).
    So there’s my question/challenge to you — do you know of a place I can pay a lot less rent and still ensure security and comfort? I’ve been here only 4.5 months, and so far I know of none.

  11. Hey Nicole,
    Yeah, the cows here are mighty weird. I wonder where they originally came from? When my wife and I were here in 2005, we joked they were mountain cows. I’ve since switched to chicken and fish here (well, whenever I can get fish, anyway).
    Lomito? A small beef? Is it a better cut? I’ve never heard of that one before. We’ll keep an eye out for it.
    So what area do you live in? I don’t know the east side well. Like I said in the previous comment, I’ve only been here 4.5 months, and we chose the place we currently live in after a mere 3 days of looking (without any real idea of where things were).
    You find the transit system better than Atlanta? Either that doesn’t speak well of Atlanta, or everyone I talk to who complains about the system must have it REALLY bad. Do you know where to even get a route map? I’d kill for one of those.

  12. I especially like the south of France, cheaper than $2000 a month, the best food in the world, Safe outside of Marsielle, great weather, Good infastructure, Everything. Just out of curiosity what sort of work do you do here in Costa Rica if you don ´t speak spanish? Not the toilet that Central America resembles

  13. Geoff,
    Next time you go shopping wherever – Hipermas, Automercado or even a carneceria ask the butcher for lomito en bistecks dobles. Lomito = tenderloin. I also buy lomito de cerdo (pork tenderloin).
    When you can you not get fish? I rarely eat fish but occasionally will pick up some talapia (sp)
    I live in San Blas de Moravia. There’s a neighborhood close to me with really nice houses (haven’t seen any for rent though) The neighborhood is called Alta Moravia. There are also nice places in Sabanilla and Barrio Escalante (San Pedro).
    The problem with the transit system in Atlanta is that in order to get to the subway station you have to drive.
    A route map? HA! I have to admit I don’t take the bus anywhere here because I have no idea where the bus stops are. And from where I live to where I work, I’d have to go to san jose to change buses and that’s just not happening. It just takes practice and getting lost a few times I imagine.
    Just a little tip… in Dec. use more caution when you are out walking around. Since companies pay their employees the aguinaldo (x-mas bonuses) in the 1st 2 weeks in Dec., muggings are much more common.
    If you have any questions about anything feel free to email me and I’d be happy to answer them.

  14. Hi to you all.
    I’ve read your comments and apart from the odd gripe about things that are relatively trivial, the overall views seem to be positive. Of course we all know that no where is perfect , there are always going to be things to moan about no matter where you live, btw the way if you want to know about corruption, poor infrastructure go to Romania. Anyway swiftly moving on, I live in the UK and I plan on visiting CR next year to teach EFL/business english and coach tennis, my partner is a paramedic and she plans to teach first aid as well some english. What Id like to know is where might be a good place/neighbourhood to live ( without paying 2k), is there any kind of a demand for tennis coaching.

  15. Costa Rica is the worst place I’ve ever visited, people lie to steal from you, they look at you like you are an idiot.

  16. My wife and I just spent a few days in Costa Rica and we’re glad we’re heading back home. There are a few things we did appreciate, i.e.: people were really friendly, especially in towns away from San Jose. But in the overall it just really really sucked! Everything is over priced! I’ve never spent almost $10 for a single meal at McDonalds for example. This country is just a machine designed to squeeze the money out of you to the last bit! The infrastructure is terrible and hotel rooms are extremely expensive. We’ve visited other countries in Central America and had an awesome time with half the money we’ve spent here. While we were in Costa Rica the hotel right next to us was robbed and the security guard shot in the head which killed him right away. So please don’t tell me that Costa Rica is safe. Also, as soon as we got up in the morning while in the city and went out for a walk we could see a dense cloud of smog covering the whole city! What’s so green about Costa Rica? Nah, we’re definitely not coming back.

    1. Sounds like you had a pretty unsettling trip, Fernand.
      However, I’m going to throw a few things out in Costa Rica’s defense on this one.
      Costa Rica is about as safe as any major city in North America. The shooting you reference is the same as many I’ve heard back up north, especially my previous city of residence, Calgary.
      Did you spend your entire time in San Jose? That would explain the smog — San Jose sits in a valley, which are notorious for creating smog. Mexico City, Athens, Rome, Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and Los Angeles (given, not a valley, but the winds there create a similar effect) have similar problems. If you managed to get out of San Jose (which really isn’t that hard, it would be very difficult to miss the green — this country is very green this time of year.
      You found prices high likely due to where you were staying. Costa Rica is the most tourist-developed of Central America, so it’s also the highest-priced. It’s sort of like staying in Las Vegas on the Strip, rather than going out to Laughlin to save a few bucks. There’s lots of good deals to be had, though.
      You ate at McDonald’s? You really missed out on the absolutely amazing Tico food experiences, and for significantly lower prices.
      It’s too bad you didn’t get a chance to see the non-tourist parts of Costa Rica. There’s much to be seen and experienced. You just have to go outside the lines.

  17. Hi, I am a Canadian looking to move to Costa Rica. The reason, I like warmth and if you can compare Costa Rica to Jamaica, I would like to hear your story! I have visited Jamaica many times, my mom lives there so I would be interested in hearing if you can compare both.

  18. When a Tico tells me to leave, I laugh because all I’m trying to do is get back a small percentage of the $600,000 investments I made here. I bought a B&B with a bar and restaurant and put $130,000 into new furnishings, etc. Two months later, right before opening, two cops broke into it and took everything, including the outlets from the walls, the toilets, everything. OIJ caught them and had all my things but needed to keep them for 30 days as evidence. When I went back, everything was gone. The had a signed statement from the cops saying the had permission to break down the doors and take everything. I had another $110,000 in Bantec, a bank in Uruca. Enough said there. I had another $150,000 with a Canadian bank. Gone. I had another $141,000 with a Canadian developer with over $51,000,000 worth of property in Guanacaste. I had to put him into bankruptcy, and he finally deposited the money with the court. That was 2 years ago. His Tica concubine is now contesting it, and I wait.
    The last $135,000 was with an investment company called the Vault. The Costa Rican office that regulates such things assured me they were safe. Six years ago they were closed down. They had the assets to pay over 50 cents on the dollar, but finally three weeks ago, they gave the money back to the Tica concubine of one of the owners and the other two owners, the very people who stole the money in the first place.
    Yes, I found a $500 a month dump to live in. No stove, heat, or airconditioning. Hot water from a little electrical machine on the shower head, and I stay awake night after night listening to the taxi drivers honk, the Ticos shooting off fireworks or just yelling at each other all night, etc, etc.
    You bet, I’m leaving….when I can.

  19. Hi Geoff,
    I really understand your frustration and I am going to give you some good tips!
    I grew up in CR ’til the age of 18 and then I moved to North Carolina, where I have lived for the past 13 years.
    Although I come from a family where everyone is a professional including doctors, I did not experience a very luxury life. I grew up hanging out with the rich and the poor. That is just how CR is! I went to a private school like most of my friends and I knew many kids that where ghetto as hell, including my self on occasion…lol!
    I grew up in San Pedro, where you can find a number of nice neighborhoods with reliable bus access, for example; San Rafael, Guayabos, Freses, Pops en Curridabat, Barrio Dent, Barrio Escalante, Sabanilla and Monterrey just to mention a Few. All of these are between 10 to 30 min from downtown San Jose by bus. However, San Pedro de Montes de Oca has a downtown as well where you can do your banking, shopping, etc. Curridabat is also a district that has few nice areas such as Lomas de Allarco. This area is where the money used to be before Escazu and Santa Ana developed. Such is the case that it has several universities including the UCR (University of Costa Rica). If you are in to healthy and organic food and that sort of thing, I know that in “Plaza del Sol” (shopping center) there is a Health Store. Several areas have a farmer’s market either Sat. or Sun. and they are call in CR “la feria del agricultor”. If you ask around you can find it!
    To find fresh fish and produce any day of the week you need to go to San Jose’s old markets. However, to go there is better to go with someone that is street sharp, because as it is cheap and fresh as hell, it can be dangerous. Plus, the lingo to negotiate prices will be different than your everyday Spanish.
    When in San Jose or in areas that you know are packed with people don’t wear any jewelry or flashy nice clothes. You want to look like you have nothing of value on you. Always, divide your money, little in your wallet and if you need to carry large bills, hide’em somewhere like in your socks or even underwear…I know it sucks! Remember to wear your wallet in your front pocket. When walking on the street look on the reflection of the windows to see if you are being followed, walk fast and act like you know where you are going. If you are lost, don’t stop and ask directions in the middle of the sidewalk, instead walk in to a store or business. You will be more likely to find people English speaking people there anyway. If you know or think that you are being followed, walk in to a store or stop a taxi. Whatever you do, stay on the outside of the sidewalk, the nearest to the road. Don’t walk on the inside, next to walls and doors, cause criminal either hide in gaps between buildings or try to get you in there to rub you.
    Taxis are cheap as hell, always ask for the meter (ticos call it “Maria”) and only use taxis that you know 100% are taxis; you know…with the proper symbols and always red color, cause unless they are from the airport they are always red. However, illegal taxis (“piratas” as they call’em) sometimes are red, but don’t have the legal symbols. If you don’t know how to get where you are going, is likely they will take the longest way (that happens in every country). To avoid that, tell the driver you are in a hurry if you are not afraid of driving fast in those crazy roads.
    As for your beef, it is better to go to the town’s butchery than to a supermarket, called “carniceria” and always ask the “carnicero” to makesure the “lomito” is tender.
    Although supermarkets have replaced the local stores you can still find them in few towns. This is what they are called and other few “tico” words:
    Produce store (only produce)=vedureria or fruteria
    Hardware store=ferreteria
    Convenient store=pulperia or mini…
    Small, cheap and good restaurant=soda or sodita
    Bakery=panderia or reposteria
    Taxi meter=maria (yes, like the name…it’s just a slang for it and it is what everyone calls it)
    I hope that this info can help you.
    Costa Rica is no France, but France is not Costa Rica. CR is what it is and if you brake the shell and get smart, specially street smart, CR can offer you more than what you are taking at the moment. Just remember…you are living in a third world country!
    God bless you!

  20. Hi Geoff,
    What a great sight…My Wife are an d I are looking into buying a small business is CR. We are tired of Erie Michigan. Our youngest daughter is graduating (30 years of raising kids) and we have always been some what on the %$#@##@[email protected]# side. But we are good people with lots of long term good friends!
    We started searching and it seem we always came back to Costa Rica. Having vacationed alot in Aruba,Mexico and about 20 other countries it just semmed strange at first that Costa Rica would keep coming up. To make a long story even longer we are having a moving sale the weekend of June 13, 20 and the 27th (selling everything) and moving down the week of July 5 2009.
    Hope to meet you!
    Rick and Annette Barlow

  21. Costa Rica has changed so much in the last 5 years. some of the problems in clude The increase of developers coming in and destroying the land because of their greed. The target expats have n their backs. If you are a foreigner ticos feel it is their duty to charge you more…the crime is the reason i left after living there for 8 years. the crime is everywhere and the cops are not there to help you. I had a home invasion robbery where i was tied up, beaten to where they thought they had killed me and raped. My dog was killed and the cops never investigated this crime.. so good luck to you who think costa rica is paradise…. it is a place for thieves because there is not law….

  22. the reason pedestrians run in front of the cars is because cars never stop, even at the intersections or stop signs. how else can we cross the street?

  23. Hey Bryan,
    I can accept the fact that cars don’t stop at intersections — I’ve had to run through traffic myself.
    But across highways?! That’s just insanity, and totally reckless.

  24. Lol. I live in CR. And I cant stop laughing because its absoultley true normal guards here have shotguns.. I dont trust them.. Not even the police have them.

  25. ITS ANOTHER F-ing COUNTRY, WHEN Y’ALL GRINGOS GONNA GET IT, it’s supposed to be different, we are not like you, even though 50% of ticos are wannabe gringos, with there hollister shirts and hooter fries, at least this isnt Indonesia, where foreigners are really put down, charged and thrown in jail for bogus reasons, get over not having cheerios or whatever brand of junk food, what was the point of y’all moving to another country than assimilating it, culture, food, people, stop bitching and be happy, at least where not Nicaragua…hahaha

  26. Hey Nat,
    I’m quite well aware that this is another “f-ing country” (as you put it). I’ve been to many countries on this planet (both developed and undeveloped) and been very fortunate to see many different things.
    I will freely admit that, many months later, I’ve come to accept some of the things I hated. But these things still bother me. (Okay, I’ve gotten past the box stores. Long ago. Farmers markets rule, that’s all I’ll say.) But corrupt and ineffective police? Ridiculous traffic? Motorcycles that refuse to follow traffic laws and cause more accidents?
    C’mon, Nat, you know there are major problems here and Costa Rica would be far better if they were fixed.

    1. Oddly, we thought that same thing when we first went there on a business trip not long after we got here. Some part of us still thinks we should have…

  27. Hi Geoff
    I just wanted to let you know that most of the things that you have published on this Blog are True.
    I’m Costarican, i can tell that 100% of the things that you wrote here are true facts.
    As an advice i will suggest you to look for a house far away from San Jose, you can problably find a peace & quiet place.
    In regards the safety, nowadays there is no such a thing call a safety Area or Neighborhood. It’s very difficult live here.
    You can get killed just because you have a good cellphone or a good pair of sneakers, if you want to verify this you just need to check the daily news that are broadcast every day here in ticoland.
    I’m looking for an oportunity to leave this place, to be honest i’m sick of it.
    Things have changed a lot-and the “goverment” if you want call it in that way, doesn’t do anything to solved those problems.
    They are trying to get richer & richer..
    Sad but true.

    1. Hi Oscar,
      Wow, when I first wrote this article some 10 months ago, I had some serious beefs with things. I’ve calmed down considerably since then, and come to accept a lot of them as “just the way things are”. Needless to say, your comment kinda worries me a little. I rarely hear Ticos say things are bad anymore (though it does happen from time to time). I guess the right word here is “vigilance”.

  28. 2000$ for rent?
    I live a great life here in Thailand for 500 a month..
    Average meal…1$
    Apartment rental …100$ incl. bills.
    Cheap electronics and plenty of counterfeit dvd/software.
    Internet cafe…30cents per hour(flat screens,aircon environment)
    Almost zero violent crime…inless you court it that is..
    Downside…Virtually impossible to become citizen..
    [email protected]

  29. Well. It’s perfectly obvious from your post that you don’t live in Costa Rica.
    You, like 99% of the other goofy azz gringo’s, live in the Central Valley. Little Guatemala as I call it.
    If I had to spend 2 grand to rent a house and $10 for a burger I’d haul my silly azz to a REAL Latin American city. MIAMI !!!

  30. Uh, Douger, just a thought — how would I possibly get to know all of these situations if I *didn’t* live in Costa Rica? (Which I obviously do, if you saw all the other Costa Rica posts.)
    “Little Guatemala”? Curious, what does that refer to?

  31. I am glad that you point out these issues because Costa Rica is portrayed as the Little Switzerland of America, but in reality Costa Rica has social issues and problems like any other Latin American country. Costa Rica “the Little Switzerland of America” is a myth.
    I agree with the other person that left a comment earlier–I would rather move to Panama.

  32. Most of the things posted here are true about Costa Rica but you have to remember we are not a “first world country” (whatever that is). As any other Latin AMERICAN country we have issues due to corrupt and greedy politicians. But, in general people are hard working and honest.
    It’s easy to criticize without a solid understanding of the history that might have left us to be in this state. We’re a poor country and undeveloped country mainly due to us and our lack of love and dedication to our nation and also for giving away of land and our freedom to the highest bidder (usually rich people and or companies from other AMERICAN countries, oh yes, we’re AMERICAN as well).
    So, it’s easy to criticize when things don’t work as you’re used to, but if we had the proper goverment to lead us and as much money, we would be in the same position, but we aren’t.
    So, stop winning and try to make a difference.

  33. Prefer go to Panama, jajajajjaja what a joke, the weather at Panama really SUCKS, customer service SUCKS, transportations SUCKS, rent SUCKS so ALL PANAMA SUCKS.

  34. Hi Erika,
    Actually, I have been to Panama, but admittedly not for very long. Dare I ask what are the major pain points you’ve seen there?

  35. My husband and I were planning on buying a home in Costa Rica. So glad I found this blog to read all the awful things about the country. I think we’ll go to Flordia.

  36. (Ericka) I do not know what ignorant point of view you have taken against Panama but it is a wonderful country. Me and my husband go over there once a year and it is miles ahead of Costa Rica. How can you compare San Jose to Panama City?

  37. Woah, Ericka, why so much hate? Yeah Panama does have transportation issues and ALL Latin American countries have (different) customer service but overall the country is not too shabby. I think you’re a tica feeling a little threatened because some gringos are finding Panama rather attractive. So, as Geoff mentioned, what are your main points to back up those statements? Weather? Really? You’re saying that San Jose, behind all that smog, is hiding some world class weather? Ever been to the malls in Panama? Ever been to Boquete, Bocas or San Blas? There are some rainy days over there but in all honesty they are stunning and very clean and MUCH cheaper than most of what is offered in CR. The number 1 banking center in the world is Switzerland. Number 2? Yeah, it sure isn’t CR. Try Panama. Why do you think so many dollars, Euros, etc. are pouring into Panama over such a short period of time? Is it sucky weather, rent, transportation, and frankly everything else that you say sucks in Panama? Get some facts. It’s not the perfect country, it’s still a lot like CR in some ways but don’t bash another place out of spite or (dare I say) jealousy alone.
    P.S. What really sucks is exchanging foreign currency to colones. Boy, they try to cheat me every time I go there as if I wasn’t aware of the accurate rates and prices. In Panama you don’t have to worry about… you get the picture, right?

  38. Geoff is dead on with several points. I have lived in CR for 3+ years now, moved from Miami (slightly nicer there). Here is where I most agree most along with an important tip:
    I. Corrupt Police- this cant be more true. Every time I have been pulled over for “not looking like a Tico”, there has been a shake down. Paying up anywhere from $20 to $30. Recently two police men were arrested downtown for stealing thousands of dollars from foreigners. Also last year 4 under cover police were arrested for bribes.
    II. Electrical Power Outage: This happens way to often, and it doesn’t help when you work online. The longest I have seen the power shut down is 6-8 hours.
    III. Dangerous Downtown (No Security): Try going for a walk after 6PM downtown, I give you a 50/50 chance of returning home with your belongings. Prepare to be held up at gun point by a Tico / Nica / Columbian. Home invasions are another big business, most of the time these are X cops / OIJ who chosen to give up their low salaries for a life of crime.
    Important recommendation: Make sure you have a lawyer in Costa Rica. You need one for “EVERYTHING”: buying a car, signing contracts, renting / buying property, work permits, etc. Even worse if you do happen to get in trouble with the law, get ready to do 1-2 years “prisión preventiva” jail time. This is another ideal time to have a professional lawyer ready to defend your case. Don’t try US Embassy, all they can do is give you magazines and vitamins every 60 days.

  39. WoW! come over to Puntarenas This is the shit hole of Costa Rica. What dont you hant stay away frome here. this is the armpit of costa rica…

  40. Nice list, very true. I am costarrican and I can tell you I hate my neighbor’s loud music. I also hate that off road motorcycles are used for driving on regular streets; hate that people cut you off on the intersections; hate that girls look up on foreigners as if they are all rich or intelligent, well except nicas which is my next point as most ticos treat nicas as if they are all dumb and like torob. Nothing further from the truth, I envy their humbleness, hard-workness. I guess we are spoiled for not having to deal with wars or massive emigration. Didn’t undertand all the complaints about the beef until I ate a REAL steak in Memphis. The thing about KFC is that ticos are crazy about fried chicken and gasp I have to admit that KFC makes a darn good fried chicken in CR. Interestingly enough I have tried KFC in the USA and it sucks big time! About chain stores what infuriates me is the lack of urban planning, like the Pali they built up in San Francisco de Heredia in a historic part of town. What an eyesore!
    All in all, I love Costa Rica I can’t wait to get back whenever I travel abroad…

  41. Great site. Got a kick out of reading the original post + the comments. I’ve been here since August ’09. Tica wife convinced me to come, telling me it would be much less expensive than L.A. Not true. We live in a very nice place, but it’s still $1,600. Shopping at A.Mercado, eating out is as expensive as the US; I tried eating at sodas, but they’re just terrible. Clothing is more expensive than back home. Cars are much more expensive than in the States, and there’s no such thing as financing here. In my view, it’s as expensive here as in the US. If you live in the Central Valley, the beach is hours away. I used to live in CA for Chrissakes! It’s mostly a cultural backwater. Ticos are way too provincial. You don’t want to have to use the public health system. Road signs are either non-existent or absurd, one sign contradicting the next. People drive as if death were a fiction. Always being warned to watch you’re back when you’re out; I lived in L.A. for 25 years and nothing ever happened to me, but in less than 2 months, my wife came this close to being carjacked. Getting your money back on a return is impossible. The cable company can set up your modem, but not your router. Pet peeve: having to tip glorified parking attendants who show you where to park as if choosing/backing out of a parking space were rocket science. I must say, I don’t much care for this country.

  42. I will say one thing to anyone considering a move here… DON’T…. This country is vipers den. I say this based on 3 years experience. If you must come here be smart. Do not rely on this country to treat you fairly or equally. To the people here, civilians, government whatever, you are just a chance to make money. You will pay dearly for everything here, including your sanity. I lost everything here thanks to my husband, his tica concubine, and his tico realtor, and the many crooked lawyers here. It has been 3 years and I am still not divorced. Have tried 3 times now but the husband and girlfriend live in the house my husband and I bought 3 years ago and with the token 1/2 tico baby of course and the court grants the requests to halt divorce proceedings. I lost my home and a lot of money. My husband charged me, without any evidence, for 3 counts of penal fraud and the courts have taken my freedom from me. I cannot leave this nightmare country until the charges are dropped or we go to trial. It has been over a year and half since these charges were filed against me. There has been no evidence presented, my lawyers have filed for a dismissal and it was denied. That was 8 months ago and still no trial, no evidence, no nothing. I cannot leave the country, I cannot legally work here, no medical, no money, I have spent it defending myself and living here against my wishes. This country does not accept responsibility for anything nor do the people.
    Paradise is a nice place to visit, but when you live there you see the reality of it. The reality of Costa Rica is this. Dead and dying animals everywhere you go, no to mention the people ignore them usually or inflict more suffering for fun. Pushy people who don’t understand basic social interaction skills unless you give them money. The police and legal system that is at best pathetic and sexist. My neighbor was raped at gunpoint in her home and the police wouldn’t come because it was dark and raining out and they didn’t have proper lights on both the bikes. Another lady assaulted by two officers and then they told her for the right price they would leave her alone. Sexual harrasment is rampant here. Most of the men treat women like they are less valuable than the farm animals. If you have money, it doesn’t matter where you are from or what language you speak, you are a rich gringo and should give them everything they want. I could go on, but the bottom line is this: Costa Rica could be a nice place to visit if it was safe, but it is not. Especially for women, there are laws in place for the protection of women, but none are enforced. Like many aspects of Costa Rica the image the country tries to portray to the public is very different from the reality of life here. It is also full of many undesirables hiding from their home countries, not to mention the large amount of men that come here to take advantage of the booming, unregulated underground sex trade involving many underage girls. Please be extremely careful when you come here. As for me when I am legally allowed to leave and can be legally divorced I will leave this country and will never return…..

  43. One thing more important to note, the food here is awful. Everything has the same bland taste and leaves your mouth dry and wanting something more satisfying. Establishments claiming to have varieties of ethnic food are overpriced and usually a huge disappointment. I lost 22 pounds the first year I was here and suffered from a few different bouts of food poisoning in varying degrees. The chicken and pork are quite good if prepared at home. The claims that the Kentucky Fried Chicken here is great here is a crock. It is terrible and that coupled with the severe lack of understanding of customer service adds up to the fine CR dining experience. Do not tip, it is already included on your bill and very rarely will you need to tip more for good service or food. The best eating establishments are usually owned by foreigners who are serving up food from their homelands. It can be pricey, as imported food prices have gone through the roof here. If any one knows why the local food has so much sugar and crap added to it could they please enlighten me….

  44. I’d add to the cost of living part;
    1) it is difficult to meet any local tico or established expat, who will just have a conversation without, at some point, trying to sell you something
    2) taxis…
    At airport- “$75 US to Esertillos Oeste”
    In Jaco – “You wanted to go to Esterrilos Oese? that will be extra”
    In Esterillos Oeste – “That’s $95, plus my tip” – Asshole! just tell me the actual price up front, quit incrementing it like I won’t notice or I forgot the original agreement.
    And for the pollution,
    for a so called eco-mecca, there is more trash on every beach I’ve been to, every roadside, every river I’ve seen, and more trash and tire fires than in Mexico.
    This place is ricockulous

  45. Bueno….si nos les gusta CostaRica pues NO vayan y ya esta…quienes son ustedes para jusgar….Well..if you don’t like Costa Rica don’t go there and that’s it!!!!! Mucha gente Loves Costa Rica!!! Be happy!!!!Pura Vida!!

  46. When a country misrepresents itself the way CR does the world deserves to know about the tactics used to lure foreign investors here so more people don’t end up broken and desolate. Other than that I agree with you if you don’t like it leave which is what I plan to do when I am legally able to. However people should be able to change their minds about living here and be able to return to their home countries without losing everything. Unfortunately that rarely happens in CR. Also women who move here need to understand that they are not respected here and contrary to the claims made by officials womens right are not enforced. Especially if you are a foreigner up against a greedy Tica who had your husbands baby. So make sure you have your own lawyer who has some morals and a work ethic. Pura Vida…

  47. Trust me, I WILL be as soon as I am granted a divorce…….marriage is not slavery anymore… well at least not in most countries….

  48. I am confused as to why you people detest Costa Rica but come to visit our country despite your hatred of my country. Specially this woman Sarah Western who evidently shows hostility towards my people and my country. Myself am a lawyer in SJ and am appalled at your disrespect for our country and can say that in order for you to be restricted from leaving our country, you have done some thing bad enough for a court to do this to you. You say for Costarricense are irresponsibly yet you accuse every one but you for the trouble you have. In what area of Costa Rica are you staying Sarah as may be the laws are unique in that part.

  49. @ Tatianna Valverde, Thank -you for your concern, although I have very good and respectable lawyers working with me and they are frustrated also. I will await my day in court if it ever comes. After close to 2 years I am starting to wonder???? The Costa Rican lawyer at the consulate told me that there are many people here that are restricted to leave or are awaiting a trial date that hasn’t been set yet in preventative prison. It is normal protocol. The court can judge me and no-one else. The consulate also informed me that the legal system here is ultimately effective but slow. I admit I should have done a lot more research and visited here more in depth before I moved here, I have learned my lesson.

  50. To inform you correct I would have to tell you that what you have levied against you is called medida cautelar and these are not given to any person with out reason. I am having difficulty understanding your situation and I think your lawyer need to be honest by advicing you that if you have medida cautelar against you a judge has all but decided on your guilty. Where you from Sarah? I am positive you have medidas cautelares where you come from but in english it is injunction.

  51. Luckily, my lawyers here are some of the most honest people I know and have proven so time and time again. These cases have been going on for years and also involves civil and family court cases as well. I am confident that when ALL the facts from both sides are presented with the evidence this will end quickly. I will let my lawyers know of your concerns.

  52. That would be good for you to understand as that is very serious for you. I would normally wish you luck but that is difficult concidering I am Tica and you evidently do not like Costa Rica or my people.

  53. I’ve closed comments on this article, as it’s turning far more into an argument than for any useful conversation.

  54. I have wanted to visit Costa Rica for more than 10 years. I was very disappointed. I am still in shock at the expats who charge American prices, brag about living for 40% less than in the states, and also feel comfortable mentioning that they manage to “stay under the Costa Rican government’s radar” in terms of how they run their businesses. I have visited 29 countries, Iraq is 29 on the list and CR is 28. There is a huge gap up the list with many other countries standing side by side as favorites.

  55. I have to say that not every country is perfect this is for 2008 and now its 2011 , i really hope that you went back home and not live in costa rica anymore … what a tragedy you have living in such a awful country like costa rica…
    I am 100 % costarican and i love costa rica even with the awful part.. but if i were you and hate where i live SO much i just pack my bags and go home …
    So i SERIOUSLY hope u are back home and not sucking up our beautiful wheather and costarican ´s money …

    1. Hi Karol,
      Yes, I’ve since moved back to Canada. If you had read my other entries and comments, you’d also know that while I still stand by my original post, I’ve also come to terms with the realities of living in another country. For me to rant about “things I hate” is an extremely ignorant approach to trying to understand life in a new country. I have similar rants about Canada, for the record, and for every amount of what I considered “bizarre bureaucracy” in Costa Rica, there’s just as much “inane and self-serving politicians” up here.
      Thanks for your comment!

  56. How entertaining. I just came across your “rant” for the first time and chuckled when I read that your frustration culminated in your hasty departure from the unbearable hell in which you found yourself.
    everything on your list can be ameliorated( could have been), even the beef. Did you try the imported beef from PriceMart? Perfectly adequate usda choice, quite delicious when aged properly. The rest of your list was covered by your other contributors
    I must say that you may have missed out on the best things about this country and the possibility for a privileged and delightful lifestyle unique to a place like Costa Rica.

  57. Hey Geoff,
    Have to agree with most things. I spend a lot of time in cars. I’ve been here and found that you quickly adjust to the way traffic works here. Sorta like living in New York (traffic during rush hour).
    What I miss the most is the meat. I totally agree. However, during this semana santa ironically, my roommates found a spot in san jose that reminded me of eating steak back home. Man do i miss a thick T-Bone steak. This place came pretty close. When I have to time I will post it up again.
    I get more bothered with the fact that huge American chains don’t really help the locals here. There is no nutritional value with eating a fast food restaurants and just to look chique and say you are wearing American branded clothing people will go out to buy which leads to the next comment.
    If you know how to look you can find very good clothes for cheap. You just have to venture outside the norm. Some clothes store seem ugly but picking out a pair of pants or t-shirts that you liked in a cheap store over time accumulates to having a pretty cool wardrobe.
    Cops are corrupt just know that there is a way to make them know you know how the system works and they will get off your case. Hopefully the monopolies will soon be out of business as competition moves in with globalization and free trade commerce treaty during the Arias administration.
    Everything does take too long but if you live the Tico lifestyle you lose the anxiety you get in a large city like in Canada or United States. I came from Boston where everything moves quick only because people always have something going on. I see it as the difference between living to work and work to live. I definitely find life here more relaxing thus anything that takes too long… i just relax during the process. Its a state of mind.
    There are no street signs but you learn to get around without them. Buses are pretty easy. If it heading towards your neighborhood than the other way is heading towards San Jose. Easy as that. It is pretty efficient. I like the bus system here very much. I actually recommend it. I don’t know why you have people tell you otherwise. My recommendation for your bus stop however which would be near the coca cola in San Jose is just watch your back at night. The area is shady but there is always people around there. You should feel safe in numbers. Cops are everywhere. Aside from transit cops being corrupt (Not all) the fuerza publica I feel does their job pretty well. The OIJ is pretty effective. Unfortunately, delinquency prevails due to the lack of stronger laws that punish the perpetrators. My impression from the news is a lot of criminals get caught and arrested. It’s the judicial process that lets them off the hook for another day of mischief.
    I have lived in Costa Rica for two years, half of that time in a not so friendly neighborhood but have never been robbed or felt unsafe to a point where living there was unbearable. All have been in Tico neighborhoods. I have a longer lists of “likes” than “dislikes”. Enjoy the simple things in life and once that is your focus everything else becomes pleasant. Originally I was also disappointed with life here so I relate to every single thing you mention above and more. It certainly isn’t the case anymore.
    I would like to see a future post on how life has improved for you here. I miss home a lot and become very nostalgic but I can definitely see myself living here for the rest of my life and visiting every now and then Boston. Or maybe living there and here.
    Expectations should not be to find a place better than home nor to eventually decide you don’t want to leave but definitely to find a practical way to enjoy life here.

  58. Canadians shouldn’t be allowed access to the internet – they’re basically like really nerdy Americans with no culture of their own, so they ape ours and criticize “box stores” and “high fructose corn syrup” like stuck-up hippies…and Canadian ex-pats??? at least the locals may not know how big a loser you are, but I do…

  59. Wow…you really need to delete this last post from this really rude guy. I started off at the bottom and it wrecked the whole site for me. He’s just being needlessly mean and offensive…
    I was going to move to CR but have decided not to move to SJ after reading all of these posts. I’m having serious concerns about moving there, in general. I would not be pleased if my funds were taken or stolen or if I was subject of illegal police activity. If I do move to the area, I’ll be sure to keep my funds at a Canadian bank.

    1. Hey Jo,
      There are some people — myself, included, when I first wrote this post — that look(ed) at Costa Rica VERY negatively. The problem, mostly, is North Americans who have moved there and expect Costa Rica to be like where they came from. This is the same issue that crops up with most places that aren’t like their home. It takes some getting used to, and some people never truly make the transition. Others do, and then can never go back because they can’t handle the uptight superiority complex common with most North Americans. Live abroad — you’ll either love it, or appreciate home that much more.
      As for San Jose, there’s lots of places around San Jose that are safe. Yes, the police are “crooked” by North American standards, but that’s largely due to the centuries-old Spanish patronage system (the government can appear similarly crooked for the same reason). There are definitely ways to combat that, as well. As a general rule, anytime you think you’re being extorted by a cop (which I was at one point), get your Tico friend (if you have one with you) to get you out of it, or ask to go to the police station to resolve the problem. Cops only try that on their own — they don’t like sharing. 😉 Oh, and don’t make u-turns. Trust me on that.
      Frankly, I’d say “go” anyway. If for no other reason than the experience. It’s totally worth it. And if you don’t like it — as some do — there’s always the option of going back.

    2. Besides, I also refuse to be the Idiot Whisperer. So long as a comment isn’t outright abusive (taunting doesn’t even register on my radar), I’ll leave it. I just won’t acknowledge it as being in any way valuable to the conversation.

  60. If you are moving to costa rica….there are some simple rules you should live by……1. keep your money in your pockets….you dont need a lawyer for alot of things use the internet…..2.have a bank account in the states or your home country with an atm, move to a place like santo domingo heredia. 3, dont pay thousands of dollars for rent…600.00 is almost to much…4.dont try to live like you did in your home country..5. dont go where trouble is….and dont be in the streets at night….6. the cost of food is high….make a budget…7. the meat does suck….eat anything but the beef….8. traffic…if you have a car make wise choices where and when you drive…..leave your car at home some of the time…9 want to buy things cheaper….catch a bus to a nearby country or miami……I get all my expensive items that way….its a good break and shop in panama…..10. you dont need a lawyer for residency……do it yourself……11. safety adt is here to….get some locks and make your home safe…12 get a dog..if your affraid….get a big one……13. if you dont bother the police……they wont bother you….14 if you drive on a trip….drive by the speed limit….or you will pay in some way….ticket or payoff….15. want to see the country…catch interbus….it safe,no problem with police and you will have a good time……16. sign a lease for only one year and dont pay the asking price,,,and keep looking.17. want a cheap vacation…go to another country….there are cheap flights to all nearby countries…I hope this helps alittle…..In closing, knock on wood…..I have lived here for over five years…yes its diffrent….but I dont play the game……then Im not so bitter….besides….I have lived in the US for over 50 years and have gotten screwed there enough also……good luck

  61. If you have any questions…..I will be glad to help……one final thing….keep your money in your pockets………….leave or rings at home…….and you will be ok……the only problem i have had is being board…..but that happens in the US also……good luck everyone and peace

  62. lived here for 25 years……costa rica is awesome, once you speak spanish fluently.

  63. The comments here have turned nasty (I’ve deleted the last two to remove an unnecessary argument), so I’ve closed future items.
    In short, yes, I did have issues with adapting to Costa Rica. Everyone moving to a new country will. Period. This was merely commentary to friends and family back home to help them understand.

  64. Geoff, please read this post very, very carefully and if you want to give me a response it would be appreciated. Keep in mind, I’m person with an odd and unusual mentality and perhaps you will misunderstand some of my ideas and you can even feel upset about something.
    I’ll start with a question. Why you, a Canadian, a person born and raised in a highly developed country and which is acclaimed to be one of the loveliest countries in the world would want to live in a third world and terrible country like this one? I don’t see the point. It’s like sitting in a table and having the opportunity to choose between a complete meal in one side and a chicken bone in the other and pick up the bone.
    Foreigners tend to be… “dazzled” (sure, let’s call it like that) by the pictures they find of Costa Rica’s nature. For them, that’s enough reason to move to this country, some for vacation and some with the idea of moving permanently, completely ignoring the current and deplorable situation of that country. Of course, after such an unpleasant experience it’s not surprising that some of them will end with a total hatred towards Costa Rica. So, the Costa Ricans have nothing to argue and defend if even they have suffered by multiple situations while living there. Amusing, Costa Ricans posting negative reviews about their own country.
    Think! Think for a second. All the things you posted as “14 Things I Love About Costa Rica” are in relation with nothing else that nature, period. And what did we have here, in the list of things you hate?
    Problems of transportation, security, an abysmal economic difference from those who’re wealth and those who live in complete misery (the first case leading sometimes to corruption and the second one to high percentages of delinquency) and a distressing globalization, which in any case have “attacked” all the countries nowadays. You showed the country where I born as what it really is, a little devil disguised as an innocent creature he’s not.
    That’s why people, you should read the post made by this clever man very carefully. He knows what he’s talking about, if he found those seventeen things as bothersome experiences, you probably will suffer them and some of them will annoy you very quickly. Nevertheless, don’t get the wrong idea that Costa Rica is like hell, because it’s not. Besides, there’s no perfect country in the world, right?
    I lived there until the age of sixteen and now I’m living in Norway (and I think I’ll do it for the rest of my live, this country is simply great). I love my natal country, I really do, but I can’t hide its problems and showing it as a perfect paradise when a person asks me if he/she should visit it.
    Now, Geoff, if you were so kind. What can you tell me about your country? I’ve always wanted to visit Canada since I find it very interesting and to be honest, I would rather live there than in USA. Thanks in advance.

  65. I’ve lived in CR for the past 8 years. I’m a gringa from Manhattan, and now I live in a rural area where there are NO Americans in my immediate area.
    I agree, the beef sucks, the roads suck, the driver-especially motor cyclists are a hazard. My biggest pet peeves here are the way animals are treated. I have rescued a total of 20 dogs since I have been here. I found homes for many, but I have 9 CR dogs along with my American dog I brought with me. I feed and water daily 5 of my various neighbor’s dogs. I also feed and water my next door neighbors horse, who is in a tiny pasture with nothing to eat and no water source and the owners only come out to the property on the week ends to ride this poor guy. That’s number one on my list, the way animals are treated, both wild and domestic. I also hate the RTV that is mandatory each year for car inspection. Talk about a scam! I’d also like to why when I’m the third person in line at an ATM, I have to stand in that line for at least 1/2 hour. What the hell are people doing in there? It takes me less than 2 minutes to get in and out. Of course I’m not standing in there talking on a cell phone, or letting a 5 year old try to work the ATM. I get very frustrated with service people. I took my power washer in for fixing one year in June and was told it would take an hour if I wanted to wait. I told them I would be returning to the town a month later, and would pick it up then. July, August, September, October, finally I got angry and told them I was going to pick it up regardless of it’s condition. They then told me it was fixed, but of course it wasn’t. I do have an excellent vet (which is the most important thing for me). Racsa, ICE, Seguro, Sky t.v., I go through lawn guys and maids frequently because none of them work that well. I also find the more you do for your help, the less they work. Things are getting a little better with the help since I stopped driving them to the store, or paying for their kid’s braces, or taking them to somebodys funeral, etc. Where I’m living now, the Tico’s around here that do labor just have no ambition. My other big pet peeve is garbage. People liter- kids, adults, they all liter. Every morning I have plastic bottles, potato chip bags, once even a dirty diaper in my driveway.
    That said, I do love the weather, taking photos of the wild life around here, and there is lots of room to ride my horses. With the exception of the animal abuse, I have gotten a lot better about dealing with the way things are here. I’m the stranger here, so it’s up to me to conform or move on.

  66. Costa Rica,, what a shame,,,first of course when we write we dont mean everyone…
    a more superficial culture and place couldnt possibly exist… by the way i got out….anybody writing anything nice about anything other than the weather must be trying to sell or promote something…i lived out in the mountains away from people on a back to nature kick.. i am very self sufficient … builder, mechanic, electrician plumber etc..and i was a single male who had lived all over the world and in some poorer places…if you enjoy getting drunk smoking cigarettes and living with nothing behind bars..or standing guard over your stuff 24/7 youll enjoy yourself….the pollution of food and ocean and rivers beneath all that beautiful green is horrible…the ticos are self-centered immature lazy people with no care of anything but whats momentarily available to them.. i swear they cant think 10 minutes into the future…the only effort put out is trying to figure out how to do something with the least effort … everything thing is so half assed its incredible…they only care about what people that they dont know think about them..or even worse they only care about what they think other people think about them…

  67. a one room school house out where i lived where the young children went to school ages 6 to 9 from 7to 1 then the older kids went from 1 to 6.. well i found out all the kids were being stuffed in together from 7 to 1 and was shocked to find out why… because the light bulb went out… many of the childrens parents were wealthy farmers with cars and horses and major property….but no one who buy a lightbulb ..
    because that person who be the sucker to all the others who didnt… the thought of what was best for the children was not as important as what they thought others would think of them….the same goes for picking up trash or fixing a washed out section of road…i can give lots more stories that dont seem possible….one of my favorites is going into to the farmers market on thursday to buy supplies while driving along the road had a small stand and he had some nice big pineapples so i was going to entertain some friends the next night i thought i would hollow them out and make some nice big drinks.. i knew he would give me the gringo price and i could get one almost as nice at the farmers market for half the price but im not cheap i dont mind paying for something i want…so i bought my supplies in town and driving back i stopped to buy the pineapples ( he had eight of them) sure enuff he tells me over twice the normal price at the market and i dont care i think he wanted 600 colones and at market i could get them for 200-300 granted these were bigger ones.. so i give him 5000 colones 8 x 600 4800 and tell him 200 more for him and start loading the pineapples and he starts freaking out ..i dont understand whats going on figuring he was trying to get even more money out of me… another vendor near by came over who spoke some english and explained to me i could only buy 5..and was handing me back 2000 colones 5×600….but i had at least 10 people coming over i was already 2 short but i guessed a couple would be just beer drinkers so it would be alright….so i said i need all 8 and he said the man would only sell me 5 so i pulled out another 1000 and said here is a 1000 each for the last 3 the vendor was visibly shaken and upset and just keep saying no…so the other vendor explained to me that he couldnt sell me the pineapples because then he wouldnt have any to sell and it was only 11 am and he worked (sat) there till 5 …Costa Ricans consider thinking Effort they do the same thing the same way over and over…he sat there everyday from 7am to 5 pm and could not think about getting more pineapples or doing something else to better his life is some way….. i understand ignorance is bliss… But i should mention i have 2 children with my tica wife and got out of there as soon as the first dna test came back ..being raised by parents who wanted a better life for their children i knew i couldnt stay there.. i knew i couldnt do the whole home school Mosquito Coast thing…..i have to go down once a year now and have tico inlaws here in the states only a few hours away… so i watch and listen to them sit around the kitchen table or talk on the phone and repeat the same conversations say after day…beauty is only skin deep to the enth degree….being paranoid or complaining gives them the ability to just sit there….. I understand growing up surround by the uneducated that you dont see people put out more effort and get better … if you put out effort your just a sucker…. alcohol cigarettes gallo pinto and soccer and novelas….thats it for them they get there music and novelas from mexico or columbia…there is no costa rican culture ….you should see what they do with roundup and poison on their own property…forget about what they are sending of to be sold… they fish (for river shrimp crawdad type things) in streams using poison and sell them to restaurants….forget about the crime there is enough talk on that.. i can tell stories of being robbed and drugged….and like i said i have lived all over the world in worse places.. so i am street smart…the cowshit and poison and septic that runs into rivers and then the beaches is crazy…you cant trust a single person down there because they cant trust a single person around them….i would crawl miles over broken glass just to have an intelligent conversation with someone…go for a vacation to white water raft or the beaches down by Dominical Uvita area,,, hotsprings and Volcano near Arenal if your lucky to get a clear couple of hours to see it…be careful renting a vehicle (4×4 a must) .. if your thing about living there rent for at least a year and even then your crazy to buy anything…
    in costa rica unless your way out away from people then you have to live in a prison while criminals walk the street…. the best saying i ever heard is a bumper sticker that should be the countries slogan.. COSTA RICA WE MAKE EASY HARD…

  68. Funny rant…oh I can relate. Things that are amazing like monkeys…at five am howling outside my window…not so great… Beautiful tropical storms fascinating, no power for 12 hours…not so much. Of course every cloud has its silver lining and obviously if you disliked Costa Rica you wouldn’t live there. Nothing wrong with venting frustrations in a clearly humorous way. I also have taken public transit, delays due to random holidays, trees in the road, or a flat tire have made short trips unbearable. Will I still use the bus system, why yes because it’s cheaper then renting a car. I enjoyed your post and also I have heard to buy Nicaraguan Beef. Cows are raised differently there of a higher standard. Worth a shot right. 🙂 -Daniella

  69. Wow, I so agree with the comments ex expat posted. I have a love/hate relationship concerning CR. My husband immigrated to the US when he was in his late twenties and we met and married a few years later. The whole, “Costa Rica we make easy hard,” basically sums it up. The same conversations over and over and over again, crappy roads, and property over there is a pain in the rump. Glad to know I’m not the only one who loves and hates the place all at the same time. Sigh, but we are headed there again next month to see the progress on our house and listen to his huge family argue over who owes who money…hoorah, I’m looking forward to it already.

  70. Okay, I’ve closed comments on this post.
    Because it’s turned into a bitch fest.
    Hypocritical of me? A bit, yes. I can’t avoid that. But let me be a bit more explicit on my reasoning.
    First, yes, when I wrote this post I was still adjusting to life in Costa Rica. It was very different to what I was used to, and there were a lot of things that truly bugged me. (On a related note, I could very easily write a post with at least as many issues about Canada.)
    Second, I wrote this post mostly for people back in Canada to help them understand what life in Costa Rica was for an ex-pat. Everyone seemed to think I was living on a beach and doing nothing all day but drinking cervesa in the sun. Reality is usually quite a lot harsher.
    Thirdly, I was not trying — IN ANY WAY — to put down Costa Rica. It’s a wonderful country with wonderful people. I will gladly go back for a visit. I still have friends there. I will harbour fond memories for many years to come (especially now that the stuff that I didn’t like has faded out).
    News flash, folks: anyone moving to another country will have issues with it, because it’s NOT the home they remember. That’s humanity for you. And yes, I *do* actually think that I have an idea of what it’s like to live elsewhere, moreso than 99% of the North American population who’ve never left their home for more than two weeks of a sheltered and highly-pampered vacation. Did I succeed in a permanent move, no, but 18 months is no mere vacation, either.

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