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I always see blogs from realtors about all the great and positive things. Most sugarcoat their reporting, but I see never one that shows the cons of living in Costa Rica. I am well known for giving it straight up, although some don’t like it.
I think Costa Rica is a third-world country, pretending to be a second-world country. This is why many things might not be up to your standards. Some people love to complain; they do it all the time. Especially when they made a move here without doing their homework. Then it’s everyone else’s fault and never their own. So, before you make the step of moving here, read this article first. Then you cannot say it wasn’t your fault; you were well informed!
Of course, our beautiful country has hundreds of advantages and incredible things going for us, which is the reason for being on everyone’s retirement list. But, in my opinion, you should also know some of the cons of living in Costa Rica, so you can jump into your adventure well-informed.
This article is not a complaint about Ticos and their habits, but quite the opposite. I love it here! It’s meant to warn newcomers about the negatives they can expect to find here and to give them simple solutions. Some Ticos might not like my comments when they read this blog. For their information, I’ve been here since 1980, I’ve married two Ticas (over 30 years in my second marriage now), my kids are Ticos, and I’m fluent in Spanish, among other languages. I have had several businesses and hundreds of employees.
Let’s check these cons of living in Costa Rica out now:
1. Tico time
If you have an appointment with Ticos, they’ll usually arrive late or not show at all. We call it Tico Time. Foreigners who have lived here for a while adapt quickly and do the same.
Call to confirm the appointment a couple of hours before. Bring a book, and don’t wait more than 15 minutes.
2. Terrible driving
Costa Ricans do not have much discipline in traffic. Nobody pays attention to road demarcation, signs and lights. Stop signs are ignored, and drivers will jump a red light because it’s Sunday. Motorbikes use the double yellow divider line as a lane.
Purchase an SUV that’s big enough to feel safe. Don’t fix the dents until you sell the car.
3. Finding an address
We don’t have street names and numbers. Our address is more a description of locating a well-known or well-visible place and then so many meters from there, using cardinal points. Often we use the name of a building or a tree that disappeared 15 years ago.
Install Waze on your phone and ask the party visiting to send you the Waze location.
4. Long lines in institutions
You’ll always find long lines in banks and government institutions like the water, power, phone company, the municipality, and even the grocery store. That’s because they have more counters than attendants. Besides, who is in a hurry anyway?
Slow down; you’re in Costa Rica, and you’re supposed to enjoy life now. Bring a book, smile, and be happy! A smile will get you a lot more than getting mad.
We have many earthquakes here, in case you didn’t know. Most are not more than a tremor. In the year 2021, the National Seismological Network located 3950 seismic events. I have lived through only 3 or 4 big earthquakes in over 40 years of living here, so it’s not that bad.
Don’t live in an area that’s often an epicenter. Buy a house through one of our agents, as we’ll organize a home inspection. When you build, hire an architect and a recommended builder.
6. Rainy Season
We often don’t realize that all the wet parts of the Earth are in the Tropics. So, when it rains here, it pours. The beauty of the rain is that it keeps the country beautifully green during most of the year. But also, the rain stops us from doing what we want during a certain part of the year.
Wake up early in the morning and plan your day well. Carry an umbrella. Use a home inspector to identify problems before you buy a property.
Costa Rica’s homicide rate in 2021 was 11.5 per 100,000, while Miami’s homicide rate was 12.8 in the same year. There is a lot of petty crime in Costa Rica. Violent crime belongs in the drug sector, and if you live in a normal neighborhood, you will rarely be involved unless you watch the news on TV. We don’t have unemployment assistance, and a lot of poor people here are the reason for most of the petty crime. I agree that the razor wire and the bars on homes look terrible and give a newcomer an unsafe feeling.
Read this blog about razor wire and security issues and learn what to do.
8. Potholes in the roads
Sometimes, just before the elections, the government starts fixing the roads. But they use bad quality materials. So, after a nice rainstorm, the potholes are back again. It’s a never-ending story.
Don’t worry, be happy. Repeat the solution of con #2
9. Pura Vida
If something doesn’t function well or is not done correctly, it’s all Pura Vida. Pura Vida is a great excuse for everything that’s not how we would like it to be. That means that every one of the cons in this article is Pura Vida.
Don’t despair. Take a deep breath and another one. Now relax, and don’t scream at anyone. Don’t worry, be happy!
10. Barking dogs
Newcomers: we don’t want to be near any barking dogs. There are dogs everywhere in Costa Rica; almost everyone has one. And when one dog starts barking, they all join the fun.
Live at the bottom of the hill, and noise travels up. Or get a dog yourself; you’ll get used to the barking soon. Or, when having trouble sleeping, turn on some soft music or use earplugs.
Costa Ricans are very nice people and always ready to help friends or acquaintances. Nonetheless, they’re not service minded in business at all. When you walk into a story, the attendant won’t say good morning or what I can do for you; they’ll just ignore you until you address them directly. Most employees (and even owners) will never give you any suggestions. Waiters in restaurants and bars will be too busy talking to their colleagues to pay attention to their customers’ needs.
Be nice, and stay nice, be patient and ask for the check before you finish your meal.
12. Not my fault
Ticos (now I’m generalizing, sorry) dislike taking responsibility for their mistakes. Therefore, they don’t like to take risks, so they can’t make those mistakes. When they drop something, they’ll say, “it fell,” instead of “I dropped it.” When they broke it because it fell, they’ll say, “it broke.”
Solution: tell the locals around you that you don’t mind if they make a mistake, “se jalen torta,” as long as they learn from it.
Honking is quite common here. It’s more the driver’s insecurity (you’re going to hit me!) or despair (I’m running late!) than anything else.
Stay home, and don’t go anywhere!
Cities and towns only have sidewalks in downtown areas. Once you get out of town, there are either no sidewalks at all, or they are the ramp to someone’s carport, or they are obstructed by all kinds of obstacles. Those can be power poles, built-out carports, walls, fences, gates, cars, motorcycles, or uncovered sewers and drains.
Don’t walk, drive!
15. Gringos are rich
It’s a fact that gringos (any foreigner) are rich, so don’t even try to tell them you’re not. It’s not only the uneducated that have this crazy idea. I’ve seen it happen with judges (22 years of annual alimony raises), police, at the municipality, in stores etc. Being fluent in Spanish won’t make any difference.
Always check prices wherever you buy.
16. Fender bender
Traffic accidents are a waste of time here. Traffic court takes forever, and you might have to go several times. I once had a fender bender in Cahuita and had to drive 5 times to the Caribbean for nothing. #6 was online thanks to Covid, but I still had to personally pick up the paperwork for my insurance.
if you can fix it without involving the police and insurance, do it! If not, go with the flow. In my case, I turned every visit into a small vacation in a nice Cahuita beach hotel.
17. Noisy motorcycles, trucks, and gardeners
Noise is not seen as pollution here. Most motorcycles are dirt bikes, so they’re noisy. Truck drivers Jake Brake or decompression brake when driving downhill. Well, we have a lot of hills in Costa Rica and many trucks. Traffic law prohibits those bikes of more than 94 decibels and trucks of 96, but nobody checks them. Gardeners usually start at 7 am and use noisy weed hackers and leaf blowers that can drive you nuts.
Check for hillside roads and noisy traffic before you buy a property in Costa Rica. Install double windows in your bedroom and insulate your bedroom ceiling; it’s cheaper than you think.
18. Waiting lists at the Caja
If you depend on the CCSS or Caja for medical assistance, you might have to get on a waiting list. Some of these lists, depending on what treatment you need, have thousands of people on them, so your next appointment might be in two years
Become a member of Medismart, they have incredible discounts, and it is very functional. AND you can include your pets(s)
19. Expensive cars
Cars, and their spare parts, are ridiculously expensive because there is a high import tax on luxury goods. Everything is luxury in Costa Rica, says the tax office. The bad road maintenance, it’s not cheap to keep a car in good shape.
Buy a sturdy, easy-to-keep car or truck in the local market. Make it a common brand, so you’ll never have a shortage of spare parts.
20. Plumbers and electricians
A good plumber or electrician is very difficult to find. And if you find one, he is too busy to come. If he sees you’re a gringo, or you live in a big house, the price doubles or triples. Then, you’re back to repairing the same thing again a week later.
Become a handyman yourself.
21. Things break down easily
It’s incredible how easily things break down, even things that are not supposed to. It broke! Like shower heads, toilet flush pumps, kitchen and bathroom faucets, door locks, shutter window mechanisms, pool pumps, water backup pumps, etc. Importers have no obligation to bring spare parts, so they keep bringing new brands, and the spare parts never fit.
Learn how to do a MacGyver.
22. They can’t say no
If you ask a Tico (or Tica) a question, and they don’t know the answer, they’ll come up with one. That’s because they’re very nice and don’t want you to think they’re not, and they can’t say no.
If, for example, you’re looking for an address, and they don’t know where it is, they’ll give you the idea of a direction (which might or not might be correct). In German, they say “immer gerade aus”; just keep going straight. Or if you ask where you can find a certain article in the grocery store, they’ll point to one side of the store to give you a more or less idea of where it “might” be.
Double-check any answer you get when asking a question.
23. Ticos won’t invite you home
Ticos socialize with their family, and you’ll rarely be invited to their home (unless they have lived in another country). You can invite your neighbors and acquaintances 50 times to your barbecues, but they won’t invite you back.
They will feel more comfortable if you invite them for a beer in a bar
24: Expensive import
The cost of living isn’t as cheap as it was. I mean not in the US, not in Europe, and not in Costa Rica. To enjoy life in “paradise,” you must realize that we pay high taxes on everything imported.
Go native on your shopping as much as you can. Organize a shopping spree in the U. S. once a year and enjoy the vacation that you’ll save so much on.
25. Hit-and-run collision
If you get involved in a hit-and-run, even if you have photos as proof, don’t bother to sue unless you have serious damage. You’ll be in court forever
There are bugs everywhere in our beautiful country. We have cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes, flies, and spiders of all sizes. Some scientists estimate that there could be up to 300,000 insect species here. They were here before we were! There are more bugs in the warmer areas than in the cooler ones.
Install screens on windows and doors and fumigate twice a year.
Be aware that if you buy online locally, like on Marketplace or other local platforms, you might be scammed out of your money. If that happens to you, don’t waste your time going to the police, as nothing will happen.
Solution: When buying online locally, NEVER pay until you receive and check the merchandise, even if they say they will deliver through the local post office.
28. Bad parking
Again, road demarcation is ignored in general. Therefore, it’s quite common to see cars using 2 parking spots. The reason is that most parking sports are too tight, and people worry about not being able to get into their cars when leaving.
The best solution
Park your car facing out.
You can use handicapped parking without a handicapped sticker when you’re over 65.
Many of these cons are, I think, for lack of discipline. The population has grown very fast in the last few years, and a lack of education in sharing space with others creates many problems. I don’t think they do it on purpose; they simply don’t think about it.
I certainly hope these 23 cons of living in Costa Rica won’t stop you from moving here. I think most of these 23 cons are very easy to live with. I’ve lived with them for over 40 years, and I have friends who have done so for over 50 years, so you can too.
Looking to buy a property in Costa Rica? Then hire an expert realtor; we’ve been in business for decades.