You are ready to start your vacation after a couple of months of a terrible winter. After that there is nothing more liberating than getting down from the plane in a tropical paradise, walk to the rental car agency, sign the agreement, and get your car keys. On the way to your car you decide to ask the agent how to get to your hotel and then you hear his answer:
“The Inter, that’s easy. Drive 400 meters north of the old Fig tree, then make a left and go around the fruit market, and you will see it right 100 meters after you pass the mall”….
Suddenly you realize that the car has a manual transmission, the radio stations are only in spanish, and worst than all, there the GPS has no street names.. Welcome to Costa Rica!
San Jose (CR) may be the only place where Pizza Hut has the same touristic, or relevance point as the pyramids in Egypt. The address of the city mayor residence is “200 meters north of the Pizza Hut, then 400 meters west”, something that could create confusions if Pizza Hut suddenly becomes very popular and have more than one location.
Yes, in the country with one of the most beautiful and rich biodiversity environments, finding an address in the capital San Jose, or in any other city, it’s as entertaining as going in a photography hunting safari in the middle of the tropical rainforest. For the ticos, that’s just part of the classical “pura vida” lifestyle, and until recently something that may have bother them somehow, but never enough to make a big effort to fix it. Still, in today’s competitive world, the government is starting to realize that the lack of street signs may be causing over $700 million in loses every year due to lost mail,or undelivered packages. Because of that reason the country has finally decided to go ahead and start installing street signs to help emergency vehicles, police, postal service, and let’s not forget tourists, find their ways around the city.
Without doubts, Costa Rica is one of the most successful countries in Central America, with a vibrant culture, a beautiful environment, and a welcoming people. It’s a place that I recommend you must visit at least once, and enjoy the views, the food and the people. Just remember to turn on the GPS on your phone, and download one of the apps that allow you to track your walking or running workout.. It may let you actually find the route back to your hotel :). If you need a more robust solution check out the different Garmin GPS maps for Latin America. ( I haven’t tried them but the reviews seem Ok).