By Sharon and Jay Brodell
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The front page is usually where crimes and other tragedies are reported. But good things frequently are overlooked because they are not news.
So here are some reasons Costa Rica is a great place to live:
Taxis are cheap, starting at about $1.10 for the first kilometer.
The new valley train and its Curridabat, San Pedro and Heredia extensions soon will reach Alajuela and maybe even Cartago.
Buses go everywhere, and to spend more than $5 the trip has to be a really long one. Most city routes are 44 U.S. cents or less
Weekend ferias contain the bounty of the earth. Vegetables and fruits are almost given away. And the flowers!
There are plenty of working class restaurants and take-out chicken outlets for the cost conscious. For the well-heeled, there are plenty of upscale eating places, and some are world class.
Even at the supermarket the Costa Rican-style diet is very reasonable. Rice and other products are priced controlled. The Costa Rican tamal is available all year long.
Upscale markets are now carrying U.S. beers and an assortment of U.S. foods for those who want to live as a Gringo.
Who can walk past a bakery without dashing in and buying great bread, sweets, empanadas, almojábanas and all kinds of crunchy treats.
The Mercado Central is a step back into the 19th century. Yet sanitation is acceptable.
This is coffee country, and the local brands sure beat the $8 export varieties.
The Walmarts, the Pricesmarts and similar have not yet taken over the Costa Rican market, although its nice to know they are there. The hidden corners of every town hold surprises for the shopper. The San José pedestrian malls have changed the face of the downtown.
When the folks up north tire of their clothes, the garments end up in dirt cheap Ropa Americana stores here. The clothes come in as bales. Where else can you get an elegant designer dress for $2?
How about all those Chinese stores where certain products like dishes and other ceramics are total bargains. Not to mention the 50-cent beers under the counter.
Those who require First-World shopping always have the malls. They are the same all over the world.
Not being confronted with ice, snow and those winter ailments is a real plus.
The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social clinics may be uneven, but the major hospitals provide excellent care. The Hospital Nacional de Niños is envied all over Latin America.
Private hospitals are more expensive but with prices far below those in the north even for U.S.-trained physicans and technicians.
Some medicines here are available over the counter instead of with prescriptions as in the north and the prices seem more reasonable. And some are available for free from the Caja.
Rents range from $100 to thousands a month, depending on the quality of the location. A frugal expat can find a safe, secure apartment for $300, but double that will put the place in a better area.
Housing prices represent a great savings over two years ago. There is city living. There is country living and all options in between. Those with a green thumb will like a rural home with garden space. Maybe room for a few chickens. Got some cash? How about a lap pool or one that approaches Olympic size?
Expats can kiss the oil and gas heating bill good-bye. Unless one seeks out chilly mountain living, nearly every place in Costa Rica does not require heating, just a second blanket a couple of times a year.
Beach living might require air conditioning, but one can survive with proper, screened ventilation even during the warmest periods.
Utilities are a steal. Where else can you get a land line from the phone company for 2,450 colons ($4.90) a month or a cell phone for 3,685 ($7.37). Toll calls are extra. The government subsidizes and controls these and other utility rates.
Television still is free, but cable is better, particularly for those who must see North American programs or U.S. sports. Internet continues to improve, and new firms are entering the market. You get what you pay for but still less expensive than elsewhere.
Expat bars are plentiful, but the beer is cheaper at a hole in the wall that caters to locals.
First-run movies are priced for the local market, and iTunes and some online services are available. Netflix says it soon will add Costa Rica to its list of countries.
No place is far from a beach.
Sponsored and free entertainment can be found in all but the smallest burg.
This is a tourism destination, and expats can enjoy these benefits.
Costa Rica teaches patience to a new arrival. The pace is reduced. There is time to enjoy the sunny mornings and prepare for the afternoon rain. The evenings are time for sitting outside with a favorite beverage.
In fact, the country is bilingual, although Spanish is required to understand the culture. Even most grade school children know some English. The government is pushing that.
What can you say about the legions of friendly, pleasant Costa Ricans who usually go out of their way to help a foreigner. Not everyone but most.
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