San José in Costa Rica, that is. Yes folks, we’ve moved country and this time without the crazy drama of last time thankfully.
I was a tiny bit apprehensive about visiting Mexico City. It’s one of the biggest cities in the World and it conjures up preconceived ideas largely delivered to us by Hollywood, let’s be honest. In reality, as a regular tourist, it’s so very different.
I read a BBC article recently from a couple of years back and it expressed two things that will get you nowhere in Mexico: getting visibly upset and being overly direct. Considering that the UK would probably top the list in the entire World for those two things yet we’re led to believe Mexico is an unsafe place and somewhere we should be hesitant. The writer stated that she had lived in Mexico City for about six months before witnessing somebody get visibly angry in public. And that turned out to not be a Mexican.
It’s therefore no surprise how I came to feel so strongly about this country in just two weeks. In general I really didn’t find a lot wrong with Mexico. Yes, it’s disorganised in probably every sector and it has country-wide problems like most do but then it does have one different kind of problem. It’s proximity to the United States. This means they receive a lot of Americans lol.
‘They’re just so different to the Brit’s’, Viv would occasionally observe and remark.
‘Yes dear, they really are ’.
That brings me to my second gripe about Mexico; ‘propina ’.
TIPS! Dreaded tips. Presumably another system that transcended the American/Mexico barrier!?
Don’t get me wrong, great that those in certain sectors receive gratuity but similar to how we feel back home, seldom do we have an issue offering a percentage for good service and good for but none-of-us like the feeling of being expected to pay, irrespective of the quality. Unfortunately that is the case here. Every time we ate, we left a tip, and that adds up, it’s a real pain in the arse and infrequently we received an average meal and average service. Once or twice we felt a disapproving look for giving 10%, not 15 or 20.
Anyway, back to the city. We only had a couple of days in the Big City and we used that time wisely. The first day we walked over 5 actual miles to get about and see and have a feel for the city. To have gone from all-inclusive, chilling to walking 5 miles literally the next day, well, our little feet hurt the next day. Perfect then, for us to achieve more exploration but this time courtesy of a tour bus allowing us hop on and hop off as we liked. You know the ones.
Costa Rica’s capital, San José, is a World away from Mexico City. Not in a geographical sense but for all other reasons. 20+ million people are reported to live in the Mexican capital versus a much smaller 5 million ‘ticos’. Paradoxically it’s Costa Rica that has felt more busy and bustling but I suspect that’s due to it having a much smaller land area per capita.
There wasn’t too much research required before reaching Costa Rica but what we did learn is that along with Panama, it’s the richer and more expensive of the central American countries. Also that it’s largely visited by nature and outdoor lovers as the country largely offers that in abundance more than anything. (Confirmed by the amount of hippie-looking travellers that boarded the plane). Many guitars, musical instruments and dirty feet on that flight, I tell you.
It’s not often you see a capital city surrounded by greenery and pretty much only greenery also within proximity of two large water bodies: the Caribbean Sea (part of the Atlantic) and where we had just been in Mexico and also the Pacific ocean!
Additionally we came to Costa Rica because they are one of the very few countries to have approached Covid slightly differently. This might surprise you but they’re accepting people from pretty much everywhere. Including the UK, Brazil and South Africa.
They’ve adopted a policy that they rate as both Covid-compliant yet fair economically – treading the delicate line of health versus economy. They locked down the land borders with their two neighbouring countries but reopened the air border a long time ago back in early November and they’ve not looked back! (Then consider that was before we in the UK even really started the bulk of the second wave). Their Covid stats are 3000 deceased (in total) and daily reports hover around 500. I’ve seen a lot worse.
Surprisingly they don’t require the Covid PCR test upon entry, unlike both bordering countries of Panama and Nicaragua. They require you to have medical insurance to cover you if you get ill, then you fill in a track and trace health form or sorts and that’s pretty much it. Surprised!? We were. But no complaints at our end.
Get this: if a local is taken down with Covid, the State provides them up to 2000 dollars worth of isolation cover. All so very different…
Perhaps now Costa Rica seems less of a random choice but more of a smarter one? Let’s hope it can deliver in all other areas too.
Our first impressions of San José were not good; I likened it to a dump and that the people felt a little rough around the edges. I really like the vibe a big city brings but that’s definitely not the case here. So immediately onwards and upwards to see the great outdoors then?
Yep. Wait. No.
That was plan, however we’ve been crucified due to Semana Santa (excuse the pun). Easter Holy Week to the rest of us.
We discovered the hard way that everyone flocks to the coast during their extended holiday break, not dissimilar to the Brit’s. Although we successfully purchase our bus tickets for the next day to the coast (buying tickets in Spanish isn’t easy when you can’t speak the language lol) and at the time being unaware of the holiday, subsequently we were not able to book a single place to stay! Literally everywhere that was affordable was taken! A first for me, I think. This major issue had caused us to re-think our immediate plan including scrapping the £15 bus and staying put here in this undesirable capital city until after Easter. Perhaps it will work out in the long run? Especially if by early next week prices and availability will be back to normal and we can travel to see the great outdoors this country is said to offer.
We’re a few days into our San José explorations and after some aimless wandering our opinion has softened but only a little and not enough for me to upload any photos lol. This vibe improvement came about thanks to an almost empty city courtesy of Semana Santa. Seeing the city so bare and without people shows that it isn’t overly dirty, neither is is particularly affluent with an architectural feel of neglect and dilapidation. And the people are not of similar warmth to the Mexican’s.
Here’s our two types of accommodation for our Easter staycation. A hostel the last couple of days and now an apartment with some outdoor communal space.
3.5 months later of travel and we’re finally introduced to a few “real” travellers. An eccentric Israeli, a flamboyant Spaniard and 60 year old German that teaches Tai chi all over the World. The German is on his way to the airport so we don’t have long with him to converse but in our short time he manages to tell us that when he first visited India back in 1984, he arrived on the very day their lady Prime Minister, Mrs Ghandi was assassinated.
Vivian doesn’t really “do” people so if she likes you, consider yourself honoured! 🙂 So when I clocked her participating in a lengthy conversation with a fella in our hostel kitchen, well, I was impressed and proud. She claims she was just being polite but I know I saw her enjoying it. Admit it, Vivers. Admit it.
May we find more people with the greatest jaw-dropping stories before our trip ends.