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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Living in Costa Rica Without a Car

I think that every newly arrived expat to Costa Rica should be required to be without a vehicle for two years. This will force them to use the taxis and buses and therefore interact with the Costa Ricans and pick up a lot of Spanish, not to mention Tico friends.

Well, that's what we have been doing for the almost two years we have been living here and I would not have missed this for anything. We have amassed an amazing network of taxi drivers who know us and look after us. In Atenas, our first call is to Mario/Jorge - one or the other might be driving their taxi at any time. If they are busy, they call somebody for us (probably Diego), or we call Diego ourselves. If Diego cannot make it, he calls his friend and so on. Somebody always shows up at our gate to pick us up, even if I haven't quite understood what they are saying.

I try to organize as many appointments as possible on one day when using a taxi. Recently, our schedule was as follows: depart Atenas, take our cat to her vet in Santa Ana (Ticos call it "Santana") for blood work and leave her there overnight; stop at ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica) in San José to get our mail; go to my doctor's appointment at CIMA (North American style hospital) in Escazu; have a nice lunch in the same area; go to PriceSmart (similar to Costco and next to CIMA) and stock up on meat, etc., so I can make slow cooker meals that then go into the freezer for meals later in the month. We don't shop that often at PriceSmart as I prefer to shop locally and support our town but, if we are close to one, then I will take advantage and buy a few things in bulk.

So, to begin with, I phoned Diego and asked him to pick us up (in my Spanglish) to take our cat (gata = female cat) to the vet in Santa Ana. Since he has done this run for us numerous times in the past, this was fairly easy. I just had to indicate the day and time of pickup. And that worked out as Diego showed up at our gate at the appointed time. His taxi is immaculate with the air conditioning on and he provides Spanish newspapers for us to try and read. I can read the grocery ads.

Then Lance did a stellar job directing Diego to the ARCR office in San José. I wish I could always remember the Spanish words for "left" and "right" ... I think "straight ahead" is "directo". Picked up our mail, then onwards to CIMA for my doctor's appointment, where Diego dropped us off.

When we go to Escazu, we have another taxi driver in San José who knows us and will drive us back to Atenas.

If we had our own vehicle, it would probably sit unused a good deal of the time. We're no longer commuting back and forth to jobs in the big city. We can always rent a car if we want to take some trips around the country. With taxis, we can go out for dinner, have a bottle of wine or a couple of drinks and not worry about having to drive home in the dark, and possibly in the rain, on poorly marked roads.

Then there is the cost factor in owning a vehicle. We estimate our vehicle and operating expenses in Vancouver, B.C., were about $700 CAD per month. Our taxi usage expense here in Costa Rica is about half that amount.

Will we ever purchase a vehicle here? Perhaps, perhaps not.


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