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You’d say, “What is so difficult about parking your car”? It seems simple, but let me tell you a few things. It might save you from getting a ticket, having your tag taken, or getting your car scratched all over.
Once you move to Costa Rica and drive your own car, you must find a place to park it. You can look for a public parking lot where you must pay to park your car. But with a shortage of, you will probably park the car anywhere on the street. So, this blog is about where to park and how to pay for it.
Don’t think you can just park when you’re in town, a strip mall, or even the grocery store. You’ll see a guy who will walk up to you. He will help you get out of your parking spot first, if you need assistance or not. When you come back, he will hold up his hand. You probably didn’t know it, but he watched your car while you were away. He does that so it doesn’t get stolen or broken into. We call them a guachiman, watchiman or cuidacarros.
In Costa Rica, a guachiman is an informal security guard. The word was probably invented by a Tico who didn’t know how to pronounce the English word watchman. Los Guachimanes (not guachimen) are informal guards.
To the mindset of a 1st world citizen, they are part of an unorganized mafia and specialize in ripping people off while parking their vehicles on public streets. But they’re basically honest and say they watch your car while you’re away. And they’ll assist in driving away by stopping traffic for you.
BUT, many are just honest people who are trying to make a living. That’s because they cannot find jobs in today’s world run by large companies, computers, fast cars, and lawyers. They would be starving without the system of charging you for watching your car. In Costa Rica, we don’t have a welfare system.
They each work a section of a city block, a certain restaurant, a bar, a beach, or even a strip mall parking lot. They are either totally independent or hired by the business where you will be parking. But, without a salary or social security, they depend on your tips.
The cuidacarros are regulated by Law “8395 de Servicios Privados de Seguridad del Ministerio de Seguridad Pública”. But, the law is generally not applied.
It’s also important to know who is responsible for your car when you park at the grocery store, a mall, a hotel, and a restaurant.
How much is customary? That depends on where and how long. Anywhere between ¢200 and ¢500 is acceptable (in 2023). If you don’t, he might remember you next time you park at the same spot. Some are very decent people and others will scratch your car from top to bottom. The decision is yours.
The Yellow Curb
The yellow curb is a no-parking zone. Be aware that many cities don’t allow parking in the downtown areas unless it’s a private parking lot. And that’s where you will see either the yellow painted curb or a sign that says “no estacionar” as in the second picture in this blog. If you insist on parking there, you might get a ticket or the police will take your tag.
In some cities, you will still have parking meters but the most fashionable thing now is to use Epark (see the picture above). San Jose, Puriscal, Atenas, Goicochea (Guadalupe), Cartago, and San Carlos. You can download Epark from the Apple or Google store.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, fill out the number that’s printed on the sidewalk where you parked and tell the app how long you want to park. Once you’re leaving, tell the app so that the balance will be available the next time you use it. If the city offers Epark, you will see signs all over the city,
Note that the white pickup truck is parked in the wrong direction; you will not get a ticket for that here.
Some genius who works for the city of San Jose and San Pedro felt the need to introduce cycle tracks – ciclovías – in San José. Most streets in San Jose are two-lane, one-way streets, so the cycle tracks take up most of one lane. Now, there are 13 KM cycle tracks spread out throughout the city. They also run over the pedestrian boulevards of Central and 3rd Avenue and pedestrians don’t pay attention to the tracks. The paint is already washing away (that’s what rains do when you use the wrong paint in Costa Rica). Oh, and the cost of these tracks was only ¢113M. The idea is great in a country where people are not afraid to ride a bike. Unfortunately, ours is not one of those. Meanwhile, save yourself a ticket or lose your tag, and do not park on the bicycle track.
I hope this blog was educational for you so you won’t get any tickets and find a place to park your car when going downtown.