Having previously posted my Five Reasons To Love Costa Rica, I mentioned that Costa Rica is not for everyone and promised to post a follow up. So here it is, with reasons why one might not like this beautiful tropical land.
My top 5 reasons Not To Love Costa Rica
Mosquitos: Unfortunately, if you live in, or visit, a tropical coastal area of Costa Rica, you will encounter mosquitos. Avoiding them will be your on-going goal. Unfortunately there is no drug or vaccine available to protect you from Dengue Fever either. DF symptoms are flu-like (like, worst e-v-e-r!); a person who has become infected should be seen by a doctor but the good news is, less than 1% need to be hospitalized.
Ants: You most likely will encounter several different kinds. Army ants — these are ants with a mission. They work together, thousands actually, traveling in a column to exterminate any vermin in their path. If encountered in your home, you simply move aside and give them free range or leave the premise. It is best to stay out of their way because they do bite. (And chances are, you piss off one, you piss off all of them!) Fortunately, they pass through quickly and are quite efficient, leaving no signs of their uninvited visit other than a vermin-free home. Crazy ants — these tiny ants are found both inside and out, and are the reason you become anal in keeping your kitchen clean, and dishes washed immediately after being used. Even still, expect to co-habitate with these, as they are just a fact of life in the tropics. One man I know told me that as long as he keeps a small pile of sugar in his backyard, he doesn’t have an indoor problem. Sounds fair!
Road Conditions: Many of the roads in Costa Rica are in very poor condition. Outside of major cities, many roads are not paved and potholes rule, speed limits are frequently disregarded, and road signage is lacking. Last summer Puerto Viejo got their first ever street signs but don’t count on locals to use them when giving directions. They’ve existed this long without and no one seems interested in changing. During the rainy season, it’s not uncommon for roads or bridges to washout so be prepared to hunker down and wait for the rain to stop and the road to be repaired. (“Don’t worry, be happy.”) Transportation from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is cheap ($9) but the bus ride is guaranteed to take your breath away (and I’m not referring to the scenery, which is in itself breathtaking). The constant swerving and snaking to dodge potholes, in combination with passing on curves, while traveling at highway speeds is the norm. As incredible as it may seem, the locals have it down to an art. Personally, I learned quickly to keep my eyes off the road! And if you happen to find a taxi driver who drives the speed limit and resists passing every thing on the road, get his business card – he’s a gem!
Laid back attitude — at first glance, you may be surprised that I included this as a negative. I mean, who wouldn’t appreciate a slower, more relaxed pace but depending on your attitude, you may find the wait for getting things done in Costa Rica annoying, or maybe even, exasperating. You order a meal but your waiter has decided to wash all the dishes in the kitchen before starting on your order, and you wait and wait and … ; you are interested in making a purchase but the sole employee is busily chatting with a friend and clearly won’t be attending to you until they’re finished so you wait and wait and … ; with the only road out of town washed out, you watch as eight members of the road crew just stand around seemingly without a care in the world leaving you to wait and wait and … (I’m not even going to touch on dealing with governmental agencies!) Living here means accepting a “laid back attitude” in every area of life, you don’t get to pick and choose.
Crime — now we’re getting down to some serious stuff. I don’t know how Costa Rica measures up to crime in the United States or elsewhere, I just know it exists. As a “developing country”, it goes without saying, that you can expect crimes of opportunity. Tourists who flaunt their money and possessions are prime targets. It is wise to follow the same precautions you would, or should, follow when traveling anywhere. Here are my personal suggestions: leave your valuables at home (bring a point and shoot camera, in place of your expensive digital SLR camera), never leave anything unattended (not even in a private shuttle with your driver), take nothing to the beach but your towel (leave your key at the hotel desk or bury it in the sand), when you go out take only the cash you need and leave the rest locked in your room safe, and never walk alone (on the street or beach) at night. It is not necessary to paralyze yourself in fear but do use basic common sense, and always follow your gut. Unfortunately, bad things happen the world over. Also, if you decide to purchase a house and live in Costa Rica, it’s generally not a good idea to leave your home unattended for any length of time. Hire a caretaker or arrange to have a trusted person housesit while you are away. While here in the states, you can pretty much count on your neighbors questioning someone leaving your house with a washing machine, here, your neighbors may just turn their heads and be glad it’s not their machine!
So … is Costa Rica, paradise on earth? Or, a beautiful land filled with annoyances, vexations and possible danger? My opinion: both. Now you decide if it’s for you! Pura Vida!