Thursday, March 15, 2012

Costa Rica by the Numbers and Our Last Few Days There

Hello again loyal fans of We are safely ensconced in our room at Hotel Mamallena in Boquete, Panamá, time for a quick update. Since we last spoke we went to Dominical. We stayed at the Dominical Info & Hostel for $10/night per person, which seemed affordable enough for the location, however after waking up the next morning with cockroaches in the bed, we determined we weren't going to stay. Dominical is a pretty rocky beach, nice waves for surfing, but not much else. It's a very small town, and it's primarily small hotels and surf shacks. After our 'incident' our first morning we decided we definitely weren't going to stay in that hostel again. We walked around the town but couldn't find anything we liked without completely breaking the bank so we decided to skip town. We caught the next bus to Uvita, another beach town, although slightly more developed. We stayed at the Tucan hotel, which is kind enough to arrange transportation to the beach for guests, about a 2 mile drive, but we are on our own for getting home. This beach is really wide and flat, great for surfing and hanging out on the sand. The first day we somehow managed to get lost and ended up at a restaurant in the opposite direction of town. Lucky for us there was a couple there already who had just called for a taxi to take them to our hotel, they had apparently gotten off at the wrong bus stop. We shared a cab, and kept close watch on the road so that we would know how to walk back the next time. The next day we went to a local waterfall just a short walk up the road. It's actually on the property of a bar and the owner charges 500 colones entry, just under a dollar. The waterfalls are very nice, there were some people who had camped there, and it was nice to be in the shade, in the water, and watch the lizards run around. We also met a few Costa Rican girls who explained to us that they were thinking of moving to Mexico or Guatemala because it was too expensive to live in Costa Rica. The last day we went back to the beach, and managed to find our way home properly.
This morning we caught the bus from Uvita to Ciudad Neily, then on to Paso Canoas on the border with Panamá. Due to the extremely good signage we managed to walk right into Panamá without any passport stamping, fees, bribes, etc. We figured it would be best to go back and get officially stamped out of Costa Rica, so we asked a man with a gun where to go. He pointed us to an unmarked white building, and when we arrived we saw that it said "inmigración" in small letters. We got stamped out of Costa Rica, and it looks like they forgot to charge us the $26 per person exit fee. They are nice enough to have a bank branch right there, so we exchanged our colones into dollars at a fairly reasonable exchange rate. We proceeded back to Panamá and asked where to go, and when we got to the window we were asked for our plane tickets out of Panamá. Apparently they are worried about people not leaving, so they ask to see your forward travel if you are a foreigner and not arriving by car. Anticipating this I had written down some random info about flights from Panama City to Colombia, with flight numbers, seat assignments, etc., however they wanted to see an actual ticket or a printout of confirmation. Eventually I gave up, and we walked back into Costa Rica (again) and bought a return ticket to Costa Rica that we will never use. We then walked back into Panamá (for the third time) showed them our new tikets, and they stamped us through. Two buses later and we are in our hostel in Boquete after eating a very nice meal of chicken, fries, and salad.

Costa Rica by the numbers. Before I begin, I should mention this country is by far the most expensive we have visited up to this point. Prices are much higher, services rendered are often of lower quality and quantities are reduced. What would be a $1 meal in a shabby restaurant in Guatemala could easily cost $5 in Costa Rica. Food in the supermarket is expensive, transportation is expensive, and even cheap beer is double the standard prices for Central America. That said, we entered the country with $68 and left with $199. We took out $1176 from the bank account. This gives a total spend of $1045 across 20 days, about $52.25/day. This is lower than some places, but keep in mind, we had free lodging for a week, and didn't pay much for our meals there either. We also didn't "do" as much, as far as activities and sightseeing, but rather spent a lot of time on the beach because most activities were too expensive. In retrospect, there is a lot of natural beauty in Costa Rica, but it seems like that can all be had in other countries nearby for a much lower cost. Additionally, Costa Rica seems to be more dangerous than countries like Nicaragua, so it's hard to say why there are so many tourists there. Anyways, we are tired after our long day of travel, check the facebook page in a day or two for more pictures.


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