San Jose, Costa Rica Report of what it's like to live there - 01/31/10
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, have lived in Malawi and Bulgaria previously
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?
Washington D.C., flights through Houston, Atlanta, etc. Direct flights to a number of U.S. cities.
3. How long have you lived here?
April 2008 - April 2010
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Working for the American Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most Embassy homes are two-floor town-houses, with a very small yard. Most people say that housing is generally smaller than other posts they've been to but we like our town-house. Single employees are assigned apartments. Some families have stand-alone houses. Most housing is in Escazu, a 10 minute drive from the Embassy. New roads built over the last year have made commutes pretty good, and they just completed a new road to the beach which will make it roughly an hour and fifteen minutes to the nearest beach.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All fast food chains are here, with prices comparable to the US.There are a number of great resturaunts, also with prices the same as the US.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO/Pouch at the embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
widely available - $300 - $400 a month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a small workout room at the Embassy for the embassy community, and there are a number of private gyms.
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?
You can use an ATM or credit card pretty much anywhere.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There's an international baptist church in english.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's definitely useful, though many people speak english in San Jose.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
A number of buildings do not have elevators.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis 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?
All autos are fine. There's not really too much off-roading that one could do, so a 4x4 is not a necessity, though most expats have them.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
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)?
Quality care is available.
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.
Crime is a growing problem. It is generally non-violent crime like breaking into cars and stealing the bags within them, or robbing houses when no one is home. Violent crime is less common, but it does exist. While we generally feel quite safe, you need to take the same security precautions as if you were living in any other major city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Great health care facilities at a fraction of the cost of the US.
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?
Good air quality in San Jose and throughout the country
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
San Jose is temperate with temperature around 70-75 year round, though it cools off to around 60 at night. Weather can change throughout the day. Outside of San Jose on the coasts is hotter, around 85 and humid. Rainy season starts in April/May when it rains in the afternoon for a few hours until September, when it can rain anytime and all day through October, then starts to taper off in November. December - May is the 'summer' and it's a little hotter than other times of the year and generally doesn't rain.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make 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?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large - tons of americans.
2. Morale among expats:
Depends - some like living in San Jose while others complain that they think it's boring. It definitely can be if you never leave to explore the rest of Costa Rica -- the best of the countries lies outside of the city!
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?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
We've enjoyed it both as a couple and then as a family (had our first child here).
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, there is a vibrant gay community.
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?
Traveling to the numerous beach towns on both Coasts, exploring San Jose, seeing turtles hatch in Tortugero, renting a house on the beach with our family from the States for New Years week, learning to surf, visiting rain forests, whitewater rafting
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Surfing, sport fishing, all water sports at the beach, hiking, biking, soccer, etc.
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?
Traveling throughout Costa Rica, close proximity to the U.S., good weather (though the rainy season is longer than advertised - May through November), availability of most U.S. goods, good restaurants, household help while not as cheap as other countries is cheaper than US/Europe ($400 per month)
11. Can you save money?
Prices are pretty comparable to the U.S, so it's hard to save much money.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, we really like it and tried to extend!
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your: