Trial Run, Continued

The bottom of my very long steep climb up the hill

The reasons why I moved out of my First Apartment are small examples of the sort of things you can overlook.

One negative was the distance I had to walk (or take a bus) to get to a grocery store. Being new to the country I wasn’t aware of the ‘pulperia’ concept, and I wasn’t used to going shopping every day to buy what I was going to cook for dinner. I still don’t do that, actually. The nearest midsize Pali was a reasonably long walk about half down a pretty steep hill.

I usually waited for a bus for the return trip just because of the hill. I found this inconvenient, especially during rainy season when there wasn’t room at the bus stop for everyone to hide under the little awning.

Item two was the distance from restaurants/sodas. There were two or three places as close or closer than the Pali, but most just served tipico food, which I realized I just didn’t care for. So I was condemned to my own miserable cooking, which was exacerbated by the lack of typical American convenience foods I relied on back in the States. I don’t like to cook and especially don’t like having to clean up 3 or 4 pots and pans after I’m done. One of my many faults.

Down-Town! Where all the lights are bright...

Another thing I wasn’t crazy about was the distance from downtown. I was living alone and I am not completely anti-social, so I found myself taking a lot of bus rides downtown just to get away from watching the mostly-Spanish language TV and my dial up internet.

Buses weren’t all that frequent, although thankfully I lived near a bus stop. Sometimes I would wait 15 minutes for a bus that would take another 20 minutes to get downtown. 35 minutes isn’t an eternity, but it comes to over an hour that I will never get back.

A friend I had recently gotten to know had a roommate move out and invited me to move into his place with him. It was a lot closer to downtown and cheaper, so I said sure and moved. Well, place #2 suffered from many of the same afflictions the first place did.

A real supermarket was a long uphill walk, and there were no buses here to get me there. There were also no restaurants that weren’t the same long uphill walk. When I moved I did it to be closer to downtown, without paying attention to the supermarket and restaurant issues.

I lasted about 4 months there, and finally ended up where I still live 5 years later, in an apartment right downtown. This place would definitely not be for everyone. It’s noisy, being very close to several busy bus stops and parking lots with the car alarm symphony which serenades me night and day. But for a lazy bum like me, it’s great. I have numerous places to eat within a 5 to 10 minute walk, likewise a grocery store 2 blocks away. I don’t own a car here or want to own a car here and this is perfect for me.

A sign you will NEVER see in Costa Rica

Most people who come here don’t want to live in the middle of San Jose, and I don’t blame them. But if you are going to live away from the heart of the big city, there are drawbacks I can tell you about and things you may discover that are unique to your location and who you are, what you need to be content.

You can get far away from downtown San Jose and still have noise problems, for example. I talked to a Gringo in Grecia one afternoon who was being driven crazy by some nearby (not even next door) neighbors who turned on the radio and turned it up to 11 every morning at about daybreak, and the ‘music’ continued until the neighbor’s bedtime.

I forgot to mention one other problem I had in my first two apartments, and that was the dog problem. I like dogs, but I don’t like their barking for hours on end.

Obviously not Costa Rica... no razor wire on fence

And it seems that whenever Ticos get enough space to have a dog, they get one. I have found that Ticos in general are much less sensitive to noise than Gringos (also in general).

The solution for some are gated communities or condos. Even there you can run into issues of security and convenience.

Most people who have lived here a while who didn’t buy something immediately ended up moving a few times until they found what suited them. A friend moved down here and rented a nice big place in a nice part of Santa Ana, which is a quite nice Gringo-style area.

After a month or two he was bored out of his mind. He now lives downtown and loves it. I plan eventually to move in the other direction eventually, when I grow up and settle down. But at the moment I’m still just a kid, only 61, and not ready to abandon the convenience and entertainment San Jose provides.

As far as the moving process goes, I’ll get to that soon. In the meantime I hope those considering a move here will take my advice and don’t commit to anything permanently before you get to know what you’re getting into.

Just as you wouldn’t (would you?) marry somebody you met just the night before, don’t be in a rush to get hitched to a piece of property. To quote a song by Percy Sledge, ‘take time to know her.’ You may avoid a very messy divorce.

Note: This article was Part Two in a series, Costa Rica Trial Run.

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  1. george schicker says:


    Your article was vgery informative to us. My wife and I are returning to CR for a couple of months to see if we can live there. We want to be in San Jose (we have no car) and use it as a base to explore. Downtown seems the place to begin. Can you tell us where you live or suggest any apartments in the city that we can consider?

    Also, do you plan on writing more?



    • I agree living downtown has it's conveniences but you have to be able to deal with a certain amount of noise, and carefully look at things like the distance to the grocery store, corner store (called pulperia), and nearest bus stop. Also, ask questions about Internet access and cable TV.

      I hope No.Cal will write more. This topic has been popular.