San Jose, Costa Rica Report of what it's like to live there - 12/15/16
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?
Not my first rodeo, I have lived in multiple other places in Africa and the Caribbean.
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?
United States. Usually takes 8-9 hours with connection in either Houston or Atlanta.
3. How long have you lived here?
Roughly 3 years.
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, though not constructed with the best quality. Yards are tiny to nonexistent. Commute time is LONG!!! Traffic here is awful. Takes forever to get anywhere due to congestion.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Super expensive. Think midtown Manhattan prices. Avocados are roughly $9 per kilo right now. Quality is also generally not that great. Availability of imported things is also spotty. Amazon will be your best friend.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Everything. Seriously, you will pay 2-3 times what it costs in the US for everything here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You can get everything delivered, including McDonald's. Restaurants are generally good but expensive: average cost for two people will be $50-$75 including drinks at an average restaurant.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
It's the tropics so there are plenty of bugs.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is easily available but very expensive. Local labor laws are also complicated and contracts are required for everyone who works more than one day a week. Lots of required benefits, everything needs to be negotiated beforehand and put in writing.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
All kinds are available but expensive. World Gym offers a discount if a year is paid in full in advance, about $700 and they have decent facilities including a pool.
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?
Widely used. Locals use credit cards for even the smallest purchases.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Spanish helps a lot. Classes are available and not super expensive.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber is great, taxis are expensive. Buses are okay on some routes but overcrowded often.
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?
Sedan is fine in the city but 4X4 is best if you want to get out and explore the country.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
"Decent" but not great, a combo package of TV/ Internet will cost about $80 a month- Don't expect Google fiber though. Installation times are not that long.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local providers are available and easy to get. Cell phone service and quality is spotty.
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?
Decent veterinary services. No quarantine but make sure to follow the proper steps and get vaccinations. Big dogs are not well suited here because of the lack of space
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?
Some jobs available within the embassy but any embassy spouse will know the issues involved there. Not much on the local economy.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
More formal than the U.S.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not worse than a typical large U.S city. Violent crime against expats is rare.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Zika is a concern. Medical care is excellent and affordable. Lots of plastic surgery options available at good prices.
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?
Air quality is okay usually. The exception being when the volcano spews ash, then the air goes to crap and it can have a huge impact on health.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Same as anywhere else.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Boredom. San Jose is not the most interesting place. People tend to get bored rather quickly.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Moderate climate, rains a lot. When it's not raining it's windy. Doesn't get super hot or super cold ever.
Schools & Children:
1. 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?
Good preschools are available but can be a bit on the expensive side.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, especially soccer, swimming and tennis.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Fairly decent size expat community. Morale is "eh." People tend to be excited when they first come but get worn down fairly quickly. It's super expensive to do anything which limits how often people get out.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For single men yes, single women just okay. Families yes because it is a really safe place, but costs will kill you to have fun.
3. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nope. Not much interesting to buy here.
4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
None that I can think of?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How expensive it is, and that it sort of sucks in general.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
If I had the choice, nope.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Thoughts on saving any money.
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you have any other comments?
It's not the worst place to live. It's safe, people are generally friendly, and the natural environment is nice. But the traffic is horrendous, it's really expensive, and everything fun to do that isn't illegal or immoral is far from the city.