San Jose, Costa Rica Report of what it's like to live there - 08/09/11
Personal Experiences from San Jose, Costa Rica
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Home is VA, total flight time is 4 hours with one layover in ATL
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is nice and large. Depending on where you live it can take anywhere from 25-40 minutes to/from work.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find almost all the U.S. products here for a hefty price. We order most of our stuff through Amazon. We have found some items here are triple the price compared to the states.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Almost everything, it's very expensive here!
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All fast food places are here, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Quiznos, & Wendy's and they are all expensive, almost double the price you would pay in the states. We also have Outback, Hooters, Applebees, TGIF, & Tony Roma's, again very expensive!
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
This is a tropical climate so there are many insects and bugs of all kinds.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We receive mail via DPO or Pouch. Try and use DPO if possible, pouch is very slow!
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is somewhat cheap but complicated due to the labor laws. You have to pay their social security (CAJA) on top of their regular pay. As well as paying 2 weeks paid vacation per year and keep up with the 2 pay increases each year. And whether you fire them or just let them go since you are leaving you still have to pay severance (percentage of their pay).
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a small dark/grim gym in the Embassy and a few in San Jose. World's Gym (most Embassy people go) is located in Escazu and costs around $450 per year per person
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
ATM's are safe to use and we use our credit cards almost everywhere.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Many Catholic churches and a few International churches with Baptist or non-denominational services.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
We use Amnet which streams from U.S. (Miami) Cable. We have ABC, NBC, CBS, TBS, TNT, AXN, HBO and many other Channels. All cartoons are in Spanish. Alot of the movies on tv are dubbed in Spanish
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A LOT! If you don't speak Spanish, good luck! None of the locals in San Jose seem to speak English. If you go outside of San Jose they all speak great English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The roads here are horrible, worst than 3rd world countries and there are almost no sidewalks so I think it would be very difficult for someone with a physical disability to live here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are public buses but no schedule. Some taxis are safe and affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Definatley bring a 4x4.The roads are terrible here and if you plan to travel around Costa Rica you will defiantley need a 4x4 to even get to some places.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We also have high speed internet through Amnet.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There is only one company you can get a cell phone from, ICE.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
There are many vets & kennels for pets.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Living in San Jose the air quality is nice.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather in San Jose is very nice, around 80 since you live in the mountain area. Once you get outside of the mountain range it is very hot and humid. Rainy season lasts for about 9 months out of the year. Mostly March to November and it rains everyday mostly in the afternoons.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are 3 main International Schools. CDS, AIS & Lincoln. CDS is the closest to the Embassy and most Embassy homes so most of the Embassy kids attend CDS. AIS & Lincoln are pretty far and a long commute but their campuses are very large and beautiful. CDS has the lowest standard facilites compares to the other two schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
AIS has accomodations for special needs kids.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are sports programs in the schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large, There are many, many Americans living here.
2. Morale among expats:
Not that great. This is a very laid-back country with no sense of urgency here so therefore nothing ever seems to get done.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are many soccer games, concerts, movie theaters, malls, shopping, bars & clubs.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it's a good city for singles & couples. If you have a family of four or more it gets pretty expensive!
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The only highlights we have experienced so far is the scenery and touristy stuff like ziplining, rafting, hikes & some beaches.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There is not much to do in San Jose. Most fun things such as the beach, and tourist activities are about 1 1/2 - 3 hours away depending on traffic.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The only special advantages we have found here is the beautiful scenery, rafting, ziplining, & hiking.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
thoughts that this is paradise.
3. But don't forget your:
umbrella and luggage to get out of this place as much as possible.