Acclimating to a move to Costa Rica takes time and effort for any expat, even if you’re eager to relocate. However, you can reduce the adjustment period and learning curve significantly by getting feedback from the locals.
Here are a few lessons that you can learn from Costa Rican natives.
In the United States, many people are very dependent on taxis, and they are a convenient option in Costa Rica, too. There are over 7,000 taxis throughout the country, which many people rely on to get around cheaply and easily.
However, many people believe that every taxi driver is going to rip them off. This isn’t true, but riders still need to be more careful than they would in the U.S. Taxis aren’t regulated as closely in Costa Rica, so drivers sometimes take advantage of locals and tourists alike.
To protect yourself, do as the locals do when taking a taxi.
Monitor the Meters Carefully
Pay close attention to the meter the second it starts ticking. Remember the meter is measured in Costa Rica Colones, which are worth less than a fifth of a penny. Even a short ride may cost thousands of Colones, so don’t be alarmed if the number rises quickly.
But you should be worried if the meter doesn’t rise steadily. Rigged meters will spike sharply at the end of the trip. If you notice the price suddenly rose sharply, then you need to dispute the charges with the driver. Warn that you will report them if they don’t allow you to pay the correct price. Few drivers want to take the risk of being reported, so you should be able to talk them down.
Download the Taxiando App
Use technology to help get the best price possible. Tico Times wrote about Taxiando, a new smartphone app that can be used to monitor your taxi fare. The Taxiando app was developed by Creativeria, a San Jose app developer. The app was created for Costa Ricans who are weary of getting scammed by rogue taxi drivers. You can download Taxiando on Google Play.
Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful wildlife in the world. However, some of their native animals are also very dangerous. Todd Sarouhan, an expat from California and the founder of Go Visit Costa Rica, wrote an insightful post about some of the most dangerous animals to look for after moving to Costa Rica.
Take time to marvel at the beautiful animals that live across Costa Rica, but also respect their territory and potential to bite. Ticos know to stay quiet and tread carefully when encountering deadly creatures, and understand they are more likely to attack when provoked.
In most Spanish-speaking countries, you are expected to use the term “tu” when addressing someone you know. However, this doesn’t go over well in Costa Rica, because the “tu” pronoun is considered very rude and too familiar.
If you do make the mistake of using the “tu” pronoun, you’ll find that the majority of people are understanding and patient with foreigners. However, it’s still smart to get into the habit of following the proper norms. Use the word “usted” instead, which is a more polite and formal way to address someone you don’t know.
Many people believe that the water in Costa Rica is too dirty to drink. They spend their time there buying a lot of bottled water. At the moment, water costs over $2 a liter.
In reality, buying bottled water is completely unnecessary in most parts of Costa Rica. Most of the water is perfectly safe to drink. Much of it comes from local rivers, streams, and mountain springs, and is clean and ready to drink.
However, while the tap water is generally safe, expats and tourists find it harsh on their stomachs until they get used to it. If you have ulcers or other stomach problems, then it may be best to drink bottled water instead. Also, keep in mind that it often takes a little while for your stomach enzymes to adjust after moving to a new place, so don’t be surprised if you have an upset stomach for a week or two after relocating.
Costa Rica sells many popular North American drinks. For example, Budweiser and Miller are imported and available for reasonable prices. There are also plenty of Guinness beers. You’ll also find some delicious native drinks that you should try.
To start, the chili guaros are one of the most famous drinks in the country. They are very spicy drinks made with citrus fruits, tabasco, and salt and pepper. You can generally buy chili guaro shots for 500 colones each (approximately $1).
There are also a number of fantastic rums and other hard liquor drinks from Costa Rica, Columbia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. These drinks include Centenario (the national rum of Costa Rica) and Aguardiente Antioqueño (a Colombian drink that doesn’t leave a major hangover).
It’s always a good idea to get recommendations from the locals before trying alcohol. They can give great tips on what to try, but keep in mind that they likely also have a taste for spicier drinks.
Every country has its own slang, and Costa Rica is no exception. Some of their native phrases can be a little complicated to figure out, because they often have multiple meanings. Here are some common slang terms to learn before moving to Costa Rica (courtesy of former expat Meg Yamamoto of the Matador Network):
It can take a while to wrap your head around these terms. Make sure you understand them in their proper context to avoid unwittingly offending anyone.
There can be vast cultural differences between the Central Valley region and the more rural parts of Costa Rica (such as the Caribbean Coast). San Jose and other Central Valley cities tend to be more Americanized, although people still live slower-paced lifestyles.
However, once you venture away from the large cities, you’ll find people have varying preferences and lifestyles. For example, on the Caribbean Coast and in places like Limón, you’ll find a lot of people love reggae music.
When in Costa Rica, live like the Costa Ricans do. This may sound like sage advice, but it can take some time to get right if you don’t know the customs. The good news is that there will be plenty of locals who can help teach you.
What do you think you can learn from locals while living in Costa Rica? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below: