Saturday, March 01, 2014

Mistakes in My Planning

When I visualized our time in Costa Rica, I imagined us living here in Zarcero using public transportation like buses and taxis to go off on adventures.  My plan had some flaws.  Here are some reflections on planning a trip like this in the future.

1.  When five people travel on increasingly expensive buses, the cost approaches parity with traveling via taxi.  The hassle of bus travel means that taking a taxi is very tempting and always wins. 

2.  Taxis in Costa Rica used to be very affordable.  Now, they are ridiculously expensive and a simple trip that used to run $20 now costs $100.  No foolin'  This puts a serious damper on our plans to go places each weekend.  Just getting ourselves somewhere that's not close by will run $200.  

3.  Costa Rica has gone and gotten itself extremely expensive.  It costs more to live here now than it does in the USA.  Food is ridiculously expensive, even if you want to eat the local diet.  Rice is twice as expensive as back home.  Coke is 3-4 times the price.  Eggs, beans, milk, butter, sugar, flour, vegetables, fruit, and snacks all cost about 1.5x the price back home.  For five people here, cooking meals at home, we're spending $35-$45 per day.  I had budgeted $700 per month for food.  Someone is getting rich, very rich, here.  Wal-Mart owns over half of the grocery stores in the country (Wal-Mart, Mas x Menos, Palí, Hiper Más, and Maxi Palí).  I'm guessing that colones are flowing en masse to Bentonville, Arkansas. Thankfully, the dollar has risen 10% against the colón in the last month, which helps us some, but I feel bad for my tico brethren.  I maintain that they should switch to the dollar once and for all and be done with trying to let their central bank sell dollars in the marketplace in order to keep the exchange near 500 to 1.    

4.   Hotels here are exorbitant now.  I'm not talking chain hotels, I'm talking tico places.  You'll pull up to a completely empty hotel with 20 rooms and they'll tell you, straight-faced, that they want $150 per room per night.  Why are your rooms empty you wonder?  If I'm going to spend that kind of money, I'm going to a swanky place for $225 a night.  The days of $35-$50 hotel rooms are gone.  But, it doesn't make any sense.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, is saying that gringos don't come here like before, and tourism is suffering greatly due to the drought of visitors. There is a massive excess in capacity without ANY decrease in price.  Call it greed, call it stupidity, call it a colossal national lack of business savvy, but I don't get it.  The fast-dime-is-better-than-a-slow-dollar mentality does not exist here. It's a shame.  If they slashed the prices of hotels in half, everywhere, more foreigners would come here.  I know how much they pay people an hour to work in and clean hotels.  They'd be making a fortune with 20 rooms full @ $45 a night vs 1 room @ $150.  Hotels that I've stayed at before for less than $50 a night now want over $125 per night for the same remodeling.  Locura es.  

5.  Not having a car was a major mistake.  For the reasons mentioned above, but also for the sheer feeling of freedom that a car gives.  Our options for travel are severely hindered by our reliance on others for our transportation.  It costs us $50 a week to go to church.  I'm considering renting a car for the month of April to see if it makes things better, but I'm not sure if we can afford it.  :(

6.  Lamps.  Most buildings here are lit by overhead bulbs in the ceiling.  Lamps are a rarity, and what ones there are (that cost about $15 at Ikea or Wal-Mart back home) run about $100 here.  Indirect light is easier on the eyes and floods a room better than the options we have here.  

7.  Our kids.  The house we're in has no yard where the kids can play.  We get no break from them except when they're in school, which is different every single day and there's always one of them home at some time early one day for one reason or another.  We needed a yard.  

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