The scouting trip (I). First impressions arriving to Costa Rica

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So, after some delays and changes of plans (I got the Chickenpox the week before I was supposed to travel to San Jose!!), I was finally on my way to Costa Rica for the scounting trip! I was exahusted and still quite weak from the illness, but full of excitement about what lied ahead of me!. The trip included a short train from Sweden to Denmark, a flight from Copenhagen to Munich and a final 12:30 hours flight from Munich to San José Juan Santamaría airport with Lufthansa. Despite the lenght of the intercontinental flight, I have to say that it was a very pleasant flight.

Arrival in San José

The arrival at Juan Santamaría airport is very easy. The passport control went fast and  the luggage arrived also quite fast. Before exiting one needs to scan the luggage through a screen machine. Official taxis are waiting outside, with a fix price. They are dressed in orange.

Staying in San José

I stayed in an Airbnb. I usef  Uber for the local transport in San José. Although it is not yet legal, it is also not illegal, it is ubiquitous and works very well here. The local people  recommended to sit in the front, so that it does not look like a taxi and does not enact agressive behaviour by the official orange taxis . One of the advantages of UBER is that there is no need to pay cash, if you have registered the card on the system – goes automatically.

Payments

1 US dollar is about 600 colones; 1 Euro about 690 (info from February 2019). It is possible to get colones at the ATM at the airport but it is not absolutely needed. It is possible to pay with cards (Visa) everywhere – from the local soda to the supermarket. When booking a tour or transport (for example with Interbus) it is also possible to pay with credit card. Accommodations can be paid with credit cards or PayPal.

Prices

In supermarkets, small shops prices are in Colones. Only touristic activities (tours, transports, etc) are in dollars. For tours, there is usually a different price for Residents and Foreigns. For example, a canopy tour is 65$ for residents and 95-100$ for foreign.

Mobile SIM card

A SIM card (called Chip in CR) can be bought in any small shop called PULPERIA. The best company, according to everyone, is Kölbi. One can have a prepaid or contract sim. The pre-paid costs 1000c (c=colones) and includes already some amount to use. Whatsapp is for free with kölbi. It is possible to top the card in the supermarkets and to buy a topping card in any pulperia. To keep the card “alive” once needs to top it up regularly. Importantly, I tried to top it up by internet and it was not possible with the passport. So better supermarket or pulpería.

Transport to other cities in CR fron San José

Public buses are very cheap – usually 5 US$ to go to Monteverde, for example, from San josé. The alternative is to use Interbus or Greylines which are small vans that offer shuttle services. To go to Puerto Viejo, I used Interbus, which is a shuttle, with pick up in a close-by hotel and drop-off in my hotel in Puerto Viejo (very convenient). The drawback is the price – about 90 US$ for a return ticket.

Supermarkets

Close to the house in San José, I used MasxMenos. In the city center I used Automercado. Both are well assorted, with some alternatives to dairy and meat (for example almond milk and vegetarian hamburgers) but VERY little assortment of organic products. I was suggested not to buy veggies in the supermarket but in the small veggie stalls (some of them on the street) or the weekend local market. The alternatives to dairy are NOT cheap (for example 1 liter tetra-pack of Almond milk is about 3000c (4,30 euros/ 5 US$). Payment can be with VISA without any problem. Supermarkets open every day, including Sundays.

Opening times

Supermarkets: From 7 or 8 to 12 am!! Sundays “only” till 9 pm.

Shops in Malls: open at 10 am to 7 pm.

Making contacts in Costa Rica

Like in Sweden, Costa Rica works quite well with references. If you contact someone on your own, it is likely that you do not receive any response unless the contact is institutional (for example with a University backup). But if you contact someone that has been suggested by someone else, then it is very easy to get an appointment. This is why setting up interviews once in Costa Rica was much easier than in advance.

Usually people do not plan appointments with a lot of time in advance. One week before tends to be enough to organize meetings.

It has been suggested not to make more than on appointment per day, since distances here (and traffic in San José) can be quite heavy.


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