San Jose, Costa Rica Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica 07/24/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, Asia and Europe.

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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?

US, not too bad, Costa Rica has a lot of direct flights to the US.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We all live in condos. The presentation is fine, but the commutes are terrible whenever the country is not on vacation.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive, or at least not as cheap as one would have hoped. Amazon compensates some, as do the fresh fruit and vegetable markets

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing too urgent for my family. Some incidentals here and there we occasionally miss. Clothing is really expensive here, even less high quality stuff. Dishwasher tablets are hard to find here. Sometimes you can find everything but its just so much more expensive than the US.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Costa Rica has everything. They love Americana, so the country is full of typical US chains, Food delivery now includes Uber Eats and every other thing you can imagine

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Bugs galore, and everywhere. Constant spraying.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I only mail through the embassy system.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Availability is not an issue but cost is an issue. For embassy community folks the people hired have to be on contract and there are extensive rules about social security and related benefits they get when they leave. There are also bonuses at Christmas time. It adds up quickly so you can't base cost on the flat price, but have to factor in another 30% or more for all the hidden benefits.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Everything is available here. The embassy has a gym and many of the complexes have them too (ours does), so we don't buy a separate membership.

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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?

Yes, absolutely. I am not too comfortable taking money out just anywhere and try to do it at the office.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Lots, as far as we know. This is a huge expat community so services are available in Spanish but sometimes in English, too

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It certainly helps a lot. In SJ in touristy areas you might do better but in general, no Spanish is going to be an issue. Lots of ways to learn here.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis, uber, are in use and are doable.

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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?

4x4, used, not beautiful because there are so many accidents here. Not a gorgeous new car, just don't do it. Break-ins seem frequent if you leave anything in the car, though it hasn't happened to us. Accidents are a bigger issue.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is avaiable and didn't take that long to get, but its far more expensive than some other countries we've been in and for a much lower bandwidth. And there are days, like Saturday nights, when you have the idea the entire neighborhood are all on Netflix together when you don't think you are really getting what you paid for...but still, its adequate enough.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Use the one provided by the office, you can also get for kids or yourself a sim card and prepay on the card. Just go to a grocery store.

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Pets:

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?

Great veterinarians here, not sure about incoming requirements.

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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?

Lots of different things, embassy work, and private community. Tons of expat schools here, NGOs , etc.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons, there are plenty of organizations that can use help for poor kids, the environment, you name it

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

People dress up more than in the States.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, there is a lot of crime and its not that well understood in the US. You do have to be careful. It is very recent and things like homocide rates are way up, though random crime still seems less an issue than specific groups.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is great. Other than volcanic ash issues, not much.

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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 good unless volcanic ash starts to blow. Not perfect, but I saw worse.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

The people here are not real clued into allergies, but the food is also simple , fresh, and if you stick to their diet, easy to parse out of the menu. If you have nut allergies, you'll note they eat cashews in bags but not really eat nuts much in their national cuisine. They don't even have epinephrine pens in Costa Rica. If you have air quality issues, you'll probably have to determine if the allergens in the area are identifiable or not.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mild in SJ, hot and sticky sometimes on the coasts. Always warm

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Lots of choice, lots of schools. Good quality, decent teachers, overall, not the worst we have seen with international schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

CDS has some accomodation, not sure about the rest.

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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?

They exist but we have no experience.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Everything tends to be through the schools if they are expat schools.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge, tons of retired Americans, lots of other countries as well. Expats are happy living here. The embassy community though, seems to have less than positive morale. While it would be nice to think I imagined it, it seems to have been brought to my attention many times.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Church groups, school connections, the embassy, everything is here.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Probably for single men yes, for single women the anecdotal evidence is that this is not as fabulous a post. Couples, families, everyone can get into this post if they want to...

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes and no. They can't marry but lots of LGBT exist here and live in harmony in the city at least. Not sure about the countryside.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Relatively tolerant society. Gender equality lags but not across the board, just in some instances.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero, Arenal, Poas, Gulf of Nicoya, Cahuita, etc.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The national parks are cheap to visit with diplo status and beautiful. Costa Rica's got so many hidden gems that aren't that hidden. Some say the Caribbean side is the real gem...

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Marginally, there are a few things, but not super ethnic.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Very little, its full of traffic and its sort of near the embassy.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Traffic, cost of living, how hard it is to get a car imported into the country, how relatively insular people here are, though super kind, towards outsiders. And how not very pretty down town San Jose it, most of it is blearingly concrete looking.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe, I like it here, but it can get old quickly sitting in traffic; I wish the embassy was at the coast, instead. Its not though, and that is REAL important to know before you bid. You won't be there every day....

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Coats and your rose-colored glasses about the retirement paradise that awaits you on the coast.

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4. But don't forget your:

beach stuff, anything related to electro-domestics (to expensive to buy here).

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Not really, but don't read too many online retirement ads. They give a false impression that life here is one big beach...its not folks, its a country with all the good and bad together that entails.

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San Jose, Costa Rica 12/15/16

Background:

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.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Roughly 3 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

It's the tropics so there are plenty of bugs.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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

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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.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

More formal than the U.S.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Same as anywhere else.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, especially soccer, swimming and tennis.

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Expat Life:

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.

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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.

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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.

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4. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

None that I can think of?

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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.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

If I had the choice, nope.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Thoughts on saving any money.

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4. But don't forget your:

Wallet.

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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.

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San Jose, Costa Rica 02/10/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We've lived in many posts abroad.

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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?

Change planes in Atlanta, Miami, or Houston. Typically takes about 12 hours from Washington.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Currently living there.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is fine, except that Costa Rican homes generally have teeny tiny yards or gardens. There is no typical commute time, as traffic is so bad that you never really know how long it will take you to get anywhere, except that it will almost always be painful. The housing close to the Embassy is 30-45 minutes to the Embassy and 30-45 minutes to the location of the new site of the main school (CDS). The housing closer to the new school site is 45-60 minutes to the Embassy and 15-30 minutes to the school. Some Embassy staff commute to and from work very very early or late to reduce commute times. There is another school that is a good deal further from the Embassy, and there are some other smaller schools that are not quite as far.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Prices here are higher than any other developing country I've experienced. It's really shocking. Expect to pay the same or somewhat more than you would in the U.S. Fruits are cheaper; anything imported, like U.S. brands, is much more expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Everything I could think of, to save on costs. We order almost everything through Amazon.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

U.S. chains dominate fast food here, and are very common.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes are pretty common. The CDC has noted that Zika has reached Costa Rica, though the Costa Ricans are denying it, fearing the impact on tourism, I suppose.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Widely available. For 40 hours per week (not live-in), US$475 per month plus $160 in payroll tax and a mandatory 13th month equals $690 per month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, though my sense is they are as expensive as those in the U.S.

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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 accepted, though at ATMs you'll pay fees.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is really important here, unless you only exist in tourist destinations.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think living here with physical disabilities would be difficult. I've never seen anyone in a wheelchair here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are common though pretty pricey. RSO advised never to use buses due to safety risks.

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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?

In San Jose a sedan is usually OK, but outside San Jose a 4X4 with high clearance would be a big help to drive beyond the few highways and to tackle the potholes. Japanese makes are common, but U.S. makes are uncommon, so parts for U.S. makes are really expensive. Cars cost twice in Costa Rica what they do in the states, and gasoline is much more expensive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

OK Internet speed for US$50 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phone service is OK though pricey.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

More formal than in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime has increased greatly over the past few years, with drive-by assassinations and the increase in crime/murders in the forefront of news and politics.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The CDC has noted that Zika has reached Costa Rica, though the Costa Ricans are denying it, fearing the impact on tourism, I suppose. Medical care is fine, though if you needed an ambulance it could take a long time to get to a hospital, due to traffic.

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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?

During the dry season (December -April) the smog or smoke from burning trash, burning vegetation, and exhaust is quite noticeable.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I understand pollen is bad in the dry season.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

December - April it never rains, May - November it usually rains hard every afternoon. In the valley where the Embassy (and most Embassy housing) sits, it can get hot, so the Embassy runs the A/C nonstop. December - March the temperatures are pleasant.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are pretty good school choices, except that the largest international school (CDS) that was relatively close to the Embassy is now moving very far out into the countryside along a toll highway. Given the pain of traffic, I can't recommend any Embassy families that they choose CDS with its new site. Since expat kids in San Jose are spread out among several international schools, each school has relatively few native-English speaking students, and each school's student body comes overwhelmingly from Spanish-speaking families.

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2. 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?

It's good if you have a good salary and expat package to cover the high costs of living here. Or if you can live away from San Jose and enjoy the outdoors, you will probably be happy. But living in San Jose would be hard for anyone who works Monday-Friday because it's hard to escape the traffic (and the accompanying noise and insanity) in San Jose.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There is a huge American expat community, especially retired folks, though a large fraction live away from San Jose. 1 million American tourists visited Costa Rica last year. I think folks who live outside San Jose like it here, especially the large number of surfers. Among those who are part of the U.S. Embassy, I've found morale is generally low. People come here expecting an eco-paradise and they find a city and country constantly overwhelmed with traffic on very poor roads; even though it is a small country, the roads are so bad and crowded that it takes forever to cover short distances. Most things are much more expensive than they should be, and the country suffers from the same or worse problems of inefficiency and government bureaucracy that plague other Latin American countries.

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2. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I've met a number of gay or lesbian couples, and I've found their morale to be low. I think they expected Costa Rica to be a livelier place than it is.

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3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

My experience is that typical Costa Ricans are much more prejudiced against people of African heritage than typical Americans are. Gender prejudices are also much stronger than in the U.S.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

When we've been able to take off time to reach places a day's drive away, we've been to nice beaches and national parks.

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Some wood carvings. Surfing lessons.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The tourist infrastructure is pretty well developed, and there are pretty good eco-tourist destinations, though there are not very many that can be reached during the weekend.

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7. Can you save money?

No way.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How expensive it is. How bad traffic is, everywhere.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Would come on vacation, but probably not just to live here. It would depend on how compelling the work here is.

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3. But don't forget your:

Ship everything that isn't grown or produced here to save on cost.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

I think folks who live outside San Jose like it here, especially the large number of surfers. Among those who are part of the U.S. Embassy, I've found morale is generally low. People come here expecting an eco-paradise and they find a city and country constantly overwhelmed with traffic on very poor roads. Even though it is a small country, the roads are so bad and crowded that it takes forever to cover short distances. Most things are much more expensive than they should be, and the country suffers from the same or worse problems of inefficiency and government bureaucracy that plague other Latin American countries. Much of the countryside is beautiful, but the country's reputation for being eco-friendly is overstated; the rivers, air, and roadsides are polluted, and your average Costa Rican is no greener than those in other Latin American countries.

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San Jose, Costa Rica 04/13/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Second tour. Previously in Brussels.

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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?

Midwest. Connections through Houston were ideal, usually six to eight hours total travel time including connection.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Four years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses and nice apartments, mainly in Santa Ana. Commute can vary from 15 to 45 minutes or more depending on traffic, accidents, rain, and the latest bridge collapse.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Widely available and surprisingly expensive. Attention: This is not a cheap post. If you can live on beans, rice and fresh fruits and vegetables at home, then you won't spend too much. If you want decent meat, cereal, bread, coffee, beer... then it adds up quickly. Cheese, for example, is absurdly priced. You might pay US$10 for a small block of mediocre cheddar. The "cheap" national lager costs more than US$1 per 12 ounce can in the supermarket -- and is no cheaper in quantity. Meat can be expensive and is usually not great.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Cheap sunglasses? They are weirdly hard to find in such a sunny place. But generally you can find whatever you need here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

American-style fast food is plentiful, popular, and of poor quality. American-style chain restaurants like Fridays are not much better except that they add good service and cold beer. The local 'sodas' are like diners and can be very tasty, inexpensive and are an important part of the cultural experience but Americans will miss variety and spice. The real fun of Costa Rican food is in the bocas -- like tapas, best with beer, and including patacones, chicharrones, ceviche, wings, ribs, chifrijo... Lots of fun stuff.

There are tons of restaurants with New York prices. Few are worth it. Doris in Santa Ana and Furca near Sabana offer terrific dry-aged steaks for a splurge. Product C serves excellent fresh/sustainable seafood and with craft beers. In general, trying out new restaurants is an expensive gamble though -- too many 'concepts' that are all style and price with no real substance. We were burned many times.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

What kind would you like? Moths, termites, ants have all been issues. There is the occasional mutant cucaracha or freaky looking spider. We once had a scorpion hanging by its tail from the ceiling fan over our bed -- true. Mosquitoes are a dangerous nuisance in humid areas, with frequent warnings about dengue. BUT most days you don't necessarily notice any of them.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through DPO. There are few proper addresses in Costa Rica -- the cliche is a short story involving a horse or long-gone mango tree -- and how the local Correos works is a mystery to me.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Widely available, mostly Nicaraguan, and inexpensive, but of widely varying quality. Typical wage is US$350-400 per month plus legally required Christmas bonus, insurance, etc. Know the local laws on paying the Caja (Social Security) and follow them.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Plenty of gyms; not sure about costs. The Embassy has a good one. Indoor soccer facilities are popular, numerous, and inexpensive. Most condos have pools. Most embassy housing is in neighborhoods that are relatively safe for daylight walking/jogging.

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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?

Most places accept credit cards safely. There are cash-only places here and there. ATMs are not on every corner but you can find them when you need them. There is one in the Embassy plus a bank windor and cashier.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

This is a great place to learn Spanish; take advantage of the opportunity. Inevitably you will meet other expats and retired gringos who don't speak a word of it; they get by but they make life harder on themselves. Some Costa Ricans speak passable to excellent English but not necessarily your waiter, your supermarket clerk, your bank teller, etc.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Access is improving but has a very long way to go. Sidewalks are spotty at best. Elevators and ramps are scarce. Disabled parking is fairly common outside of old San Jose.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains and buses are generally safe but crowded and deemed an unnecessary risk for U.S. embassy folk. Red taxis are generally very safe -- keeping a few of their phone numbers can come in very handy. The less official "pirate" taxis are also usually safe, and cheaper, but another unnecessary risk.

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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?

4x4/AWD is not strictly necessary but recommended. Roads have gotten better here over the past decade but potholes can still appear suddenly out of nowhere. Beach visits can mean long stretches on bumpy, gravel roads that are occasionally steep. We've been thankful for our 4WD many times.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, moderately expensive. Infrastructure is improving but not great so it can be spotty.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Over the past few years it's gotten easier to get a local cell phone and number. Service quality is spotty with data plans improving.

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Pets:

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?

No quarantine and there are plenty of vets and kennels.

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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?

I think there may be opportunities for bilingual speakers. Some run small businesses. I think this Embassy has more EFM opportunities than most.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Myriad, everything from assisting the poorest families to meddling in the protection of turtle eggs from natural predators.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Relatively formal with healthy splashes of non-conformity. Suits for male professionals. Gringos love wearing shorts but jeans or pants are really more appropriate for going out. I think 80% of the Central Valley wears blue jeans every day.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is the safest country in Central America but that is faint praise. There are reasons for all the high walls, bars and razor wire. House break-ins are fairly common, but rare at Embassy houses protected by bars. Car break-ins are common too. Gang violence is becoming more common in troubled neighborhoods, occasionally spilling into nicer ones. The South Caribbean area is wonderful to visit but also plagued by crimes that target tourists.

Safety-wise, driving can be a thrill, especially in the San Jose area. The number of Costa Rican vehicle owners grew relatively quickly, and you wonder how many of them learned by watching cartoons and each other. Motorcycles present the biggest peril, coming up on your right or left indiscriminately and heedless of turn signals. You will check your left-side mirror when turning left, and your right-side mirror when turning right.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The biggest health concern is road safety. There is the occasional poisonous snake, Dengue case, or inexplicably swollen bug bite. Health care is excellent, especially at the private Cima hospital.

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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?

Moderate to good. Car exhaust in San Jose is worse than you might think but not so bad as other capitals. Environmental allergies gave me a tough time here until I found the right drugs.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry season theoretically from November through April. Early and late parts can be gray and windy but still pleasant enough. Rainy season typically means warm sunny mornings and a good hard rain every afternoon, sometimes stretching into evening. It's warmer and more humid on the coasts, while in the Central Valley you can usually wear either shorts or pants and still be comfortable. Climate can vary a lot based on elevation. Some housing is up on the mountainside, where it's cooler, somewhat drier, and A/C may be unnecessary. Those down in the valley find it balmier and run up higher electricity bills.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Several international schools get mixed reviews. Many embassy families go to Country Day. Our smaller ones go to the nearest Montessori. They love it. We like the school but get annoyed at frequent long holidays.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Our Montessori appears to do well with this. I have heard mixed things about the elementary and high schools.

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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?

There are many. About US$300-350 monthly plus various fees is typical.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, especially swimming and soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Besides Nicaraguan migrant workers, there are lots of Americans -- business people, retirees and the occasional gambler or money launderer -- as well as Colombians and Venezuelans. There are smaller groups of Europeans, including French, Germans, Italians, and Israelis. Morale is pretty high -- most people are happy to be here. The retirees can be a cranky lot; they expected a cheap paradise.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Barbecues. Pool parties. Kids' birthday parties are over the top here with pony rides and giant bouncy castles being uncomfortably common.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Better for couples and families I think. Singles may find it hard to meet people but speaking Spanish obviously helps. Couples will find plenty of romantic trips to take and families will find tons of quality beaches and swimming pools.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

They appear to get along OK. On the one hand, it's still a conservative Catholic country in many ways, and on the other hand, it's surprisingly open-minded. Gays and lesbians will experience both sides of that.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Relatively tolerant. Women walking alone or sometimes even in groups will hear whistles, absurd cat-calls, and the occasional lewd suggestion. Any response may be viewed as an invitation. Machismo in effect but probably no more than elsewhere in Latin America.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting some of the world's most beautiful landscapes. Boat rides off the Pacific Coast. Fresh seafood. Getting to know the friendly, laid-back locals.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Everyone has their own favorite beach areas. Part of the fun is finding the ones that suit you and your family. The range of hotels can be mind-boggling, from bare-bones boutiques to tree houses to swanky all-inclusives. Beaches around Peace Lodge, Waterfall Gardens all provide quality day trips on weekends.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Furniture at Sarchi, sport-fishing trips, luxury hotel resort splurges.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Weekend beach runs, fully developed tourist industry (lots to do), and Central Valley weather that is generally very pleasant.

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10. Can you save money?

No, except on the most severe personal austerity program.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Didn't realize how expensive it would be.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. I am going to miss the weather, beaches, and the people a lot.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes and hurry.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and barbecue grill, both very expensive here.

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San Jose, Costa Rica 06/10/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we have lived in Fajardo, Puerto Rico; Bucharest, Romania; Rome, Italy & The Hague, Netherlands.

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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?

Florida - 3 hours to Miami & another 1 hour to Tampa.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years, 4 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government - U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

It's a mix of apartments, duplexes and houses, and most come with very small yards. Some apartments are located near the embassy making it a 5-10 min commute, but these are typically assigned to singles or couples. Housing is typically located in Escazu or Santa Ana, with more & more housing moving towards Santa Ana due to sizes & costs. It can be difficult for large families, as it is hard to find housing with more than 3 bedrooms. Commutes from Escazu to the embassy range from 15-30 min. Commutes from Santa Ana range from 25 - 40 min. Most housing has space for maid's quarters, which typically includes a bathroom. Many families use this for additional storage space, as storage is limited. Most houses are also multi-story, making it difficult for the physically disabled. Additionally, most flooring is either tile or wood or a mix of both. Carpeting is rare due to the humidity.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

HIGH - for my family of 5 we average $1000 plus a month in groceries, school lunches, embassy lunches, and once-a-week dining out. Granted, we do maintain a diet of many American products, but we also spend a lot of money buying fresh produce. We tend to eat a lot of it, and it spoils quickly because of the humidity & heat. I order almost all my paper goods & cleaning supplies through Amazon or WalMart due to the double or triple prices locally.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Any consumables you can spare the weight for in your HHE. Liquid laundry detergent averages $50 (yes, you read that correctly) for the large 96 load jugs. All American goods are available here but at a huge mark up due to import taxes which are crazy. I order online for large packages of toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap & dishwasher detergent (they don't sell this much here, and a very small box of powder runs $10). I save about 50% by online orders. Same for clothing & toys. Bring lots of extra toys if you have school-age children -- for fiestas! We average 4-5 birthday parties per month per kid. Also OTC meds, especially for children.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything, it's like living in the U.S. but at double or triple the price. We have Cinnabon, Burger King, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Wendy's, Applebee's, Chili's, Tony Roma's, TGI Fridays, Starbuck's, KFC, Subway, Teriyaki Experience, Cosi, Smashburger, Moe's Southwest Grill, and Hagen Das.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

TONS - don't move here if you can't live with bugs. We've really only dealt with a baby-ant problem and the occasional other larger, unknown bug. However, I've heard of others with a much larger bug issue. Furniture can easily be infested with termites.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO - average delivery time is typically 5-7 days.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Good availablity but it may take awhile to find a keeper who's trustworthy & good. Cost is fairly inexpensive monthly. However, you must pay into their Social Security which runs 25-30% of their monthly salary. Additionally, you must navigate their laws, which include paid holidays, 13th month bonus at Christmas & a severance package which includes payments based on number of months/years worked for you, Christmas bonus, payment of unpaid leave, and an additional payment of any "gifts in kind" such as daily meals eaten at your residence, extra gifts, etc.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a very nice gym in the basement with treadmills, elipticals & free weights, among other things. There are also other gyms around the city, but I cannot comment on them. I think many people use World Gym in Escazu.

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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?

Safe at all places which accept them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, Baptist and an Interdenomination that I am aware of.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is only 1 English-language paper, and it's now only published online. As for TV: through our cable service we receive US channels out of Miami for ABC, NBC & CBS. A lot of other channels are US as well: HGTV, Food Network, SyFY, HBO, Cinemax, AXN, ESPN, etc. Many are in English if you use the SAP setting on your TV. The signal is NTSC, like in the US.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot. This is a highly educated society and most of those are English language speakers, however for daily dealings with the public (taxi drivers, shop keepers, household help, wait staff, etc.) you need to know a really good amount of Spanish.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot. Sidewalks are very uneven if they exist.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are off limits by RSO. And the train is not located effectively for use. Taxis are average cost. I pay approximately $16 for a 9 km trip home from the embassy to Santa Ana.

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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?

A 4x4 and a high-clearance vehicle is a must here as during rainy season. Roads will wash out in the countryside. Within the city you deal with potholes the size of a small compact car. USAA does not cover Costa Rica. You must purchase CR 3rd party insurance here. Expect to be involved in an accident during your tour here. The majority of dealerships are covered here: Land Rover, Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, Chevy, etc. Parts are expensive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is available through a couple of companies. It goes out frequently. The average for our internet & cable, which includes movie & sports channels, is approximately $120 per month. For long-distance calling, I recommend Vonage or another VOIP service.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They have several companies. I use a prepaid plan, which is cheap, but I don't make many calls.

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vet care is average cost and excellent here. Our dog died at post from cancer, and we never stepped inside of a vet office. The vet made house calls at all hours of the night and took care of everything for us. Ticos don't particulary like large dogs. Boarding will run about $15 a day.

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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?

Few & far between but possible. You must have a work permit, which the HR office at the embassy can help procure. There is a bi-lateral work agreement. If you are a professional (lawyer, doctor, accountant, etc.), work is also possible.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal to business casual. No pantyhose for ladies!

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Typical concerns as in any big city. The most prevalent are smash & grabs while you're sitting in traffic. Also, there's been a rise in burglaries at banks & pharmacies in the embassy area. Some home invasions, but they typically happen in standalone homes rather than in a gated community. There are a few areas of the city that RSO has deemed off limits. They've also issued travel warnings to a couple of Caribbean costal towns.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue fever in the coastal areas. Medical is on par with U.S. standards, and almost all doctors are U.S. trained. Additionally, this is a huge medical tourism country. There is excellent dental care at about half the cost in the U.S.

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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?

Excellent except during rainy season, when mold is present.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are only two seasons: dry & raining. The dry months are November through May. All other time is the rainy season. GSO provides each home with 2 dehumidifiers to combat the humidity.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is a very large selection of schools to choose from. Embassy families have chosen to spread their children out to many different schools that fit their individual needs. The big ones are: CDS (Country Day School, however this school will not accept childen with any type of learning disability), AIS (American International School), SEAS (only to grade 5 or 6), Lighthouse, Blue Valley, Tree of Life & Lincoln. Additional ones are Marian Baker, St. Jude, Washington School, and PanAm. There are others as well. SEAS & AIS are capable of working with learning delayed children. Most schools require an entrance exam.

We have a senior at AIS. For the most part we have been extremely happy. They have accommodated him with extra tutoring and assistance for certain subjects. In fact, they have allowed him two extra attempts to take a final in order to pass the class and receive credit.

I've had several friends state that they've had bullying issues at CDS.

Depending on your housing, school commutes can be long. From Escazu to AIS, the commute is approximately 45 minutes. For Lincoln, 45-1hr. From Santa Ana the commute to AIS is 30min. CDS, Blue Valley & Lighthouse are the closet schools to the Escazu area.

Please note that Blue Valley, PanAm, St. Jude & other schools operate on a Feb - Nov school schedule. CDS, AIS, Lincoln, and SEAS all operate on an American calendar Aug - June.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Only SEAS & AIS can accommodate mild special needs. Please contact the schools before arriving.

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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?

Excellent. We use Prodigy Kids Academy. It is a small school with a 4:1 ratio of students to teachers. It is a Montessori school and is a true Montessori school with trained teachers. Many schools here advertise they are Montessori but do not follow the teachings or have the proper equipment for Montessori. We are extremely happy with PKA and have elected to keep our twins there for their kindergarden year. PKA will take kids from 10 months to 7 years old. It is located in Escazu and is reasonably priced compared to other US preschools.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

All the schools offer after-school sports & other activities. It's hard for me to comment, because our children do not participate. I hear from neighbors that there are many activities available, but they are all in spanish: gymnastics, cheer, ballet, soccer, piano & other instruments, etc.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large - many move here for a different lifestyle or to retire.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good, I think, outside of the embassy. Poor in the embassy community.

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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?

I'm sure there's some, but we lead a very quiet life. Our social life consists of a few dinners out and a movie once in a great while.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It can be good for all, I think.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

We have several GLBT officers/couples & singles at post. The biggest issue has been that the MFA will not accredit anyone's "partner" unless they are officially married & hold a dip passport. We have one couple at post that holds a dip passport & they have received all entitlements, those that are not married do not receive tax exemption, etc. Since this is a catholic country, there's not a huge community here, but there is one.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Not many, other than taking part in the tourist trips, such as coffee plantations, rain forest & waterfall trips, the beaches, watching green sea turtles lay eggs, etc.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

This is where you will spend all your extra money. This is a beautiful country with so much to do: coffee plantation tours, beaches on the Pacific & Caribbean, white-water rafting, hiking, golfing, deep-sea fishing, whale watching, etc. This is a huge tourist destination, so there's no shortage of things to do.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Coffee from local plantations.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Tons of tourist/nature experiences throughout the country. Additionally you could conceivably swim in both the Caribean & Pacific in one day.

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11. Can you save money?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, I don't care for Latin America.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothing -- except for trips to the U.S. Also any ideas that this is paradise.

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3. But don't forget your:

Money! It's so expensive here.
And your sense of urgency -- it is very latin & they operate on "Tico Time".

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Vehicles can take 3-5 months to arrive in country get get to you due to diplomatic customs processes. This can be a hindrance for families regarding grocery shopping, etc. If your budget allows, ship two vehicles or plan to purchase one upon arrival. It is hard to live here with only 1 vehicle and a stay-at-home spouse.

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San Jose, Costa Rica 08/09/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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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

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3. How long have you lived here?

6 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy

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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.

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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.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Almost everything, it's very expensive here!

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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!

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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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.

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Daily Life:

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!

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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).

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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

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Many Catholic churches and a few International churches with Baptist or non-denominational services.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are public buses but no schedule. Some taxis are safe and affordable.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are many vets & kennels for pets.

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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?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

AIS has accomodations for special needs kids.

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are sports programs in the schools.

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Expat Life:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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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.

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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.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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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.

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11. Can you save money?

NO!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

NO!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

thoughts that this is paradise.

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3. But don't forget your:

umbrella and luggage to get out of this place as much as possible.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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San Jose, Costa Rica 02/17/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Not our first experience. We lived in Belgium (and I am from Spain originally).

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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 base is Alaska - From Anchorage AK the trip to San Jose took 12 hours (with 2 stops in Seattle and Houston).

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3. How long have you lived here?

6 months ago (since October 2009).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live in a beautiful house (single family home) in Trejos. Most embassy workers live in Escazu in big appartments or in gated communities. The houses are very nice, but have no pools.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cheap for fruits and vegetables. If you want American/European products it is of course, more expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

You can find everything here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Wendy's, Tony Roma's, Burger King...

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Lots of mosquitoes in the coasts, but none in San Jose.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We only use the embassy mail. There are no names in the streets or numbers in the houses. I am sure packages never arrive.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very inexpensive. We pay 300 dollars/month for a full-time nanny who also cleans and cooks.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Lots of gyms. The prices are a little bit high, but there are good gyms. Also you can find dance studios (merecumbe), pilates studios, yoga, gym for kids/babies...

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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 your ATM and credit card everywhere. It is safe too.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Tico Times. Lots of English channels with the cable TV (fox, cnn).

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Ticos have good English, but Spanish helps a lot.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Plenty. There are no sidewalks in the city. Even from the parking to the hospital, the sidewalk just stops. I think it is very hard to function if you are in a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are very cheap

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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?

SUV. The roads are terrible in Costa Rica. The most popular cars are the Toyotas SUVs and also Nissan.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Fifty dollars/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good. Many vets in Escazu.

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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?

Yes, plenty, although the salaries are not high. Around US$800/month.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Ticos are very concerned about security. There are guards everywhere in the neighborhoods, specially in Escazu. I haven't had any problems, but people will always tell you horror stories.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Doctors are good in Costa Rica. We go to Sima hospital and so far, the experiences with doctors have been positive. Many speak English.

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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?

Pretty good. San Jose is a small city and doesn't have pollution.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy season and dry season. The rainy season starts around April and lasts 6 months.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Most people have 1 or 2 nannies. Nannies are mostly from Nicaragua. They are super caring with babies and not expensive. Everyone I know has a nanny that also cooks and cleans. I haven't heard anything about preschool.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big.

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2. Morale among expats:

I think it is really good. Costa Rica has the happiest people on earth, and expats who live here also enjoy their country. The embassy is always organizing events, and the employees are very active and friendly.

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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?

Many restaurants, bars, events.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's a little bit sleepy, but it is a great city for everyone. You will have fun in San Jose.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. Ticos are very tolerant and opened.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Costa Rica is a Roman Catholic country and they don't have problems with other religions.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

All the trips we have done so far and just the exploring of the city/country. We love the Caribbean side and the laidback atmosphere.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

So much. Just outside San Jose you can go hiking. They just opened the freeway to the pacific beach and you can make it there in 40 minutes. Before it took 3 hours.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wood products, crafts, paintings.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with lots of places to see. There are national parks, coffee fields, beaches, nature in general. The Ticos (costa ricans) are very nice and helpful.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES, YES, YES.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bikini, sunblock and your smile.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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San Jose, Costa Rica 01/31/10

Background:

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

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

April 2008 - April 2010

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Working for the American Embassy.

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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.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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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.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO/Pouch at the embassy.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There's an international baptist church in english.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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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.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A number of buildings do not have elevators.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

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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.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Quality care is available.

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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?

View All Answers


2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Don't know.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large - tons of americans.

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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!

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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?

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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).

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, there is a vibrant gay community.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No.

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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

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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.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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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)

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11. Can you save money?

Prices are pretty comparable to the U.S, so it's hard to save much money.

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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!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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San Jose, Costa Rica 07/05/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Extensive travel experience in Mexico, but this is the first time I've lived abroad for so long.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

5-6 hours from LA (CA).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am an educator/researcher from the U.S.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Varies. I lived in three locations over three years, including a very local, typical small town, and two affluent, expat areas. If you work at the Embassy you will most likely live in Escazu and the distance between Escazu and the Embassy is not far at all, but it all depends on traffic....which in Escazu on the main road is horrendous.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cheap and plentiful fruits and produce, rice and beans. If you buy American/Euro goods at Automercado, expect to pay.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

BOOKS, and good quality clothes.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's and Wendy's if that's your thing. Costa Rican traditional style restaurants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

No address system at all - need a Miami P.O. Box with Interlink, or a Costa Rican P.O.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problem - much better than Mexico, my other basis of comparison.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

International Baptist Church, Escazu, and Escazu Christian fellowship meet in the same building, but IBC is in the morning and ECF is in the evening.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Tico Times is English language newspaper for CR and Nicaragua. TV is AMNET or CableTica (mostly Spanish stuff, but subtitled.)

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You should know at least basic Spanish to be respectful, but most Costa Ricans are very open to trying to speak English with expats.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, with all the usual caveats about no rules and crazy drivers, etc.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Affordable compared to the U.S. - YES. Taxi prices are going up along with fuel prices. Buses are cheap. Safe depends on your definition. Drivers, when asked, will say, yes, of course they have seat belts. Then the taxi arrives, and lo and behold, the seat belts are shoved so far under the seats as to be unusable. I had to learn to specify that I needed the seatbelts to be functional and on more than one occasion I asked the driver to demonstrate how he would go about using them since he insisted that they were there. Later I got a car.

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3. 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?

Extortionist import taxes prohibit anyone but the independently wealthy from bringing a vehicle. Amost all cars are standard, not automatic. Potholes are GIANT and plentiful, both in the city, on highways, and in rural areas alike. Worst roads in Central America, by all accounts. Most foreigners drive giant, gas-guzzling SUV's through the narrow streets of Escazu. Fuel in Costa Rica in Jan. 2008 was already at US$4 a liter.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Reasonable, I don't remember the exact price.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Foreigners can't get a line without a bona fide residency permit.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

Teaching english will barely allow you to live, but if you just want to surf on the weekends and really live like a local, I guess you'll be okay.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Tight jeans and tight shirts are the standard uniform for women, shorts for either sex usually only worn by foreigners. Jeans and shirts for men. One rule of thumb - everything is tighter.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

YES. I never had a problem, but I know people who did, including locals. Home invasions were becoming more and more popular in affluent Cariari, and the expat suburb of Escazu is also heavily targeted, including by people jumping drivers stopped at traffic lights. In Escazu the affluent expat houses have the ubiquitous guards with large rifles, and of course the rumors are that the guards can always be bribed. Again, I never had a problem, not once, I just heard of tragedies and misfortune from other people and read about these security concerns in the Tico times, the English-language newspaper.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rain for six months, dry for six months (in San Jose).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

From intimate knowledge and personal experience, the American International School is a real mess. There are serious controversies and challenges with the board, teachers, and parents. HOWEVER, when I was there, most of the problems were confined to the high school, rather than the elementary school, and my children had a pretty good experience there, despite all the problems. If your child has special needs, they have the best special needs program in the country. My children did not have special needs, and that was part of the problem - the school tilts heavily in favor towards this population. This is positive in the sense that there is a real need to be filled, and the other schools aren't doing as good a job. Country Day School is generally the ex-pat school of choice. It has an international population with a distinctly American cultural emphasis. Many of my children's friends went there (we couldn't afford it). It is definitely the school for the wealthy expats, and super wealthy Costa Ricans and others. They have great activities. I do know kids who had problems with a teacher, etc., but I know this can happen anywhere. Lincoln and British school have a serious reputation among ex-pat kids I have talked to as being very culturally insular and biased against American and foreign kids. They also have a reputation for excellent academics. Do not consider unless your child is young enough to learn Spanish language and culture quickly and blend in, and you have enough money not to feel like an outcast. I speak Spanish fluently, but this still would have been a problem.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Daycares are totally inadequate. This is not a problem because nannies are relatively inexpensive and certainly plentiful. HOWEVER, do your research on Costa Rican labor law before hiring one.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large - embassy of course, gaming folks, leave the rat race folks, old guys looking for Heaven downtown at the Del Rey Hotel, teachers at the international schools, the entrepeneurs, multinational execs, and retirees.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies wildly - depending who they are and why they're there.

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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?

What you make it.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It depends on what you like to do. Single men, so I've heard, can be in Paradise..., single women probably won't be far behind, (depending on age and interests - sorry but it's true!). Families with young children will be disappointed that parks are extemely sub-par. If you like the outdoors and can get out to the beach (closest to San Jose being 2 - 21/2 hours away) every weekend, then people of all ages who like the beach can enjoy it.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably - but I have no experience with this. Younger Costa Ricans are very liberal with sexual expression (at least compared to conservative Mexico), and I can easily imagine that this extends to gays and lesbians, but I don't know for sure.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

YES. I have mixed-race children, and as Latin Americans in general ALWAYS comment on their skin, eyes, hair, etc.,

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Inbioparque is fun for kids, the Children's Museum is okay, the Sloth Refuge on the Carribean Coast, and Tirimbina rainforest Reserve, Sarapiqui, Totuguero, etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Going to the beach - not really any unique local items to stock up on.

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9. Can you save money?

Totally depends on your habits.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I'd go, but no way would I go for that long. Six months is way more than enough.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

North American expectations of customer service.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bras and good quality clothes.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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