Five Reasons NOT To Love Costa Rica

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.

A young man appears shirtless, displaying several red sores on his body.

Unfortunately, my son, Tim, was a prime target for the mosquitos.

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!

A cluster of large-sized ants.

Army Ants

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!

Tropic tree-lined gravel road with many puddle-filled potholes.

Dirt, puddles and potholes, oh my!

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.

Young lady sitting at a table with an exasperated look.

Why is it taking soooooo long?

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!

Young lady looking surprised to being kissed by a young Rastafarian.

Remember to always use common sense!

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!


About dbdaze

Currently spending much of my time contemplating the remainder of my life ... realizing the importance of dreams that are fulfilled, support of those closest to you, and the value in downsizing and living with less.
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16 Responses to Five Reasons NOT To Love Costa Rica

  1. Reblogged this on Footprints In Ecuador and commented:
    Here are some interesting things to know about Costa Rica that you might not hear from the US or International News Media. I would agree with 4 of the 5 observations here. The only thing I’ve noticed about the Laid back attitude is that while frustrating, Ecuador (and Costa Rica it seems!) is a school for PATIENCE. And now that I’ve also seen how everything is made from scratch in the cooking, it makes sense that things take a long time here to make. Also the expectation in restaurants is you are there to relax and talk and connect and not to get in fast, get your food fast, and get out fast. This is a tough thing for many Americans at first. Also it is assumed rude on the part of the restaurant to bring your check before you actually ask for it. So some Americans get very frustrated in restaurant situations as they wait for the check. Bu I would definately agree with what MyQuest says here about mosquitos, ants and road conditions!
    Also, I totally agree with this point! “So … is Costa Rica, (or where I live here in Ecuador) 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! ”

    I personally can’t wait to see Costa Rica in my near future!

  2. Me says:

    I have now lived here in Costa Rica for 5 years and I think I’ve had enough. I could probably go on with four of the five reasons why not to live in CR, but the crime is not one of them. I was born, raised and lived L.A., California. I am not sure where L.A. ranks in crime levels, but I am sure it ranks in the Top 100, especially South L.A., e.g., Compton. Yet, I have never heard of anyone getting assaulted or robbed, even for the local neighborhood stores. And, I have never seen anyone brandish a weapon. I would like to say the same with my experience in CR, but it’s not. I lost count on how many times I’ve heard and seen people being robbed at knife or gunpoint in CR. I owned a convenience store in CR and decided to close it after the fourth robbery at gunpoint! When I first moved here my Pros outweighed my Cons. That is no longer the truth. I would love to be positive about a CR, where my parents were born and raised and when growing up as a child would visit, but I can’t. Sadly it is not the Costa Rica that it once was.

  3. Too funny I know the rasta in the last photo taken at Tex Mex in Puerto Viejo! It’s a great place to meet unsavory characters haha.

  4. Juan Eduardo says:

    We are ready to move to Costa Rica but we found too many negatives during our two month trip.
    The import taxes imposed by government is outrageously high, even on the necessities of life, like a refrigerator at 85%. Electrical power is higher than in Canada, cars cost more than anywhere else in the world, groceries cost the same as in Canada, and many of the products are poor.
    There is a crime issue we experienced, but we won’t mention that here. It’s all so sad, such a nice country with so many problems.

  5. Great common sense tips and open and honest advice. Thanks for sharing your views.

  6. rhebus says:

    Debbie – Both your pros and cons articles were terrific and right on! Since I live here in Puerto Viejo I obviously have found that the pros outweigh the cons for me but everyone needs to make their own determination.

    • dbdaze says:

      I’m with you! If we take the time to think about it, EVERY place we live or have lived has it’s pros and cons. It’s definitely an individual choice and the reason why you are advised to visit a place several times at different times of the year or rent for a year before making a decision. It could go either way — the things that you think initially you can’t live with, you find yourself adapting and accepting over time OR the reasons why you love a place can be destroyed by the cons you discover over time. Glad you are happy and well in Puerto Viejo! Pura Vida, mi amiga!

  7. Jenners says:

    Well, the first two would really be offputting for me!! I guess it depends how tolerant you are of these things and how much you love the positive things.

    • dbdaze says:

      Yah, yah, the mosquitos and ants are a common complaint but if you get the chance, try it before you decide. Those two would have been enough to keep me away but I didn’t research too well, I guess, before I planned our first trip. Once I was there, the bugs slipped way down on my list. With Mr. Jenner’s mobile job now, you should suggest a little get away.

  8. ficklefolly says:

    Hmm…yeah I’m thinking now the tropical areas might not be so good for me. May need to live much farther south when I get back to the Americas. The mosquitos and the ants bit reminds me of living in Florida and I’ve had enough of all that. But for the good things I will definitely visit someday. 🙂 Keep writing…

    • dbdaze says:

      Don’t be too quick to discount Costa Rica — remember that my experience is with the southern coastal area. I don’t believe they have a mosquito problem (and probably not the ants either) in central Costa Rica. We expect to travel to other areas during our next visit. What I think is funny is that the two items that concern you most are mosquitos and ants, not crime or road conditions! Love it!!

      • ficklefolly says:

        Hahahahaha!! Good point. I suppose that’s because I know there are road issues and crime issues in most South American countries so those can’t be avoided. However, drier climates with less bugs and humidity can be found. 😛

  9. Judith says:

    So are you still there or has your time there finished? I like that you have given us both sides of the coin and as we know, every place has reasons to love it and reasons not to.
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Debbie Day says:

      We’ve been back a couple of weeks now, Judith. I know that in my searches for info on potential vacation or retirement areas, I appreciate getting a more balanced description rather than just the big hype. There’s no true “paradise on earth” — you have to be able to accept the downside of the place, and if you can, you may have just found YOUR paradise on earth!

  10. f-stop mama says:

    Thanks for sharing both sides of the coin. It’s always interesting to get a first hand account. My boyfriend and I are going on a 2 week vacation/check things out to Panama in December/January. We really want to get a feel for the place and decide if it’s the right move for us in a few years.

    • dbdaze says:

      My husband and I are interested in visiting Panama and Ecuador, as well. Every place has it’s pros and cons and, like you, I prefer to hear the good, bad and the ugly so I can make my own opinion. I do have to say, sometimes, the media can create either a unrealistic hype or a frightening picture and I don’t think either are necessarily true. Read all you can and then, do just what you and your boyfriend are going to do, visit and find out for yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Panama!

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