We arrived into San Jose from Panama City with four nights hotel booked and no concrete plans for our next three, four, five week or whatever the length would be of our journey through Costa Rica. We are winging it alright.
We stayed at Urban Green Hotel located one block from the 2 kilometre long pedestrian mall running east/west along Avenida Central so the location was good but only during the day time. At night the area became deserted and vagrant filled and it took on a really seedy unsafe vibe.
We were actually quite surprised with what we saw.
The city was run down and in need of some TLC. There are nice areas of course, more affluent, but the face of San Jose, the down town where several museums and theatres were located was actually a little on the seedy side. The pedestrian mall was lined with a huge amount of shoe stores and others of course, a McDonald’s every two blocks with KFC’s thrown in in-between and people selling whatever from blankets strewn on the sidewalks. Somehow we had come here with a different picture in our minds. We know many Central American countries are still considered as developing but Costa Rica we thought had been a few steps ahead of the other countries. We know they are when it comes to health care and education but it didn’t look like it to us when poverty seemed to be on so many faces.
What really surprised us, and we new prices in Costa Rica would be higher than other other Central American countries (except Panama) was the cost of living here. Many items including restaurant meals were as expensive or more expensive than back home in Canada. Beer was cheaper but beer is cheaper everywhere compared to Canada!
We planned on renting a car for two or three weeks however panic set in when the only available rentals were private and they wanted payment in cash. US cash. That was not an option for us so we kept searching and finally by chance, we found a rental company with an older model Nissan 4×4 and we could use our credit card which is important because it covers any damage costs.
With the car hassle out of the way we could relax a little and spend time seeing a little bit of the city and planning our next few weeks.