The Top 5 Frustrating Things about Living in Costa Rica
There is no denying that Costa Rica is an incredibly beautiful country with much to offer. It has been a popular place for travelers and expats to relocate, set up businesses, and retire, for decades. The beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, the surfing is world-class, and many of the national parks are unrivaled.
However living in Costa Rica is not always a bed of roses. Let’s explore some of the more frustrating aspects of living in the land of Pura Vida.
1. Bugs Are Unavoidable
The many insects are practically impossible to avoid in most of Costa Rica. The country is covered in National Forest and protected jungles and consequently has plenty of bugs.
If insects particularly bother you, you will certainly struggle with the creatures that can often overtake your home.
Mosquitoes plague most of the beach towns, particularly on the Osa Peninsula and the Caribbean Coast. Those with sweet blood will suffer immensely without long pants and bug repellent.
Unfortunately some of the mosquitoes do carry dengue fever which make bites potentially dangerous.
Ants, especially the biting variety, are among the most offensive insects in Costa Rica. Standing on the road in sandals may leave you covered in ant bites that feel akin to tiny shards of glass.
The ants also are known for invading homes, which makes it imperative to keep your food safely stored in the refrigerator. It’s not uncommon for them to make their way into bags of sugar or swarm your counter if a drop of honey is left behind.
Termites are also big home invaders leaving piles of ground wood all over your home. After heavy rains they often hatch and fill the air.
Living in Costa Rica you may experience a slough of insects you never knew existed and witness some of the largest cockroaches you have ever seen.
2. Roads Are Poorly Maintained
Costa Rica is known for its poor road conditions. Outside of major highways and cities, most areas lack paved roads and are covered in potholes. This explains why it takes so long to travel around this relatively small country.
Street signs and addresses rarely exist and are almost never used which makes navigating the roads very difficult.
In the rainy season the dirt roads often turn to mud and can become undrivable. Due in part to the poor road conditions many buses do not take direct routes, rather most meet at the hub in San Jose.
This can add an entire day to a trip traveling across a very short distance. Cars get worn very quickly driving on the potholed roads and breakdowns and constant repairs are common.
3. Systems Are Never Systematic
If you live in the United States, Canada, or another Western nation, the odds are you have become accustomed to certain systems, rules, and formalities to follow when paying taxes, setting up utilities, shipping parcels, and obtaining business licenses.
In Costa Rica those systems are hardly static. In fact, you will likely receive conflicting instructions from everyone you talk to. It’s not uncommon to arrive to a governmental office with all of your papers in hand, only to receive new information and be sent home.
Processes that you may expect to take weeks can take years. The mail system is also unreliable and it’s not uncommon for packages you send or those sent to you to arrive months late or never at all. For these reasons, living in Costa Rica requires great preparation, patience, and flexibility.
4. When It Rains, It Pours
Costa Rica is fantasized by many as a place with warm weather year round and gorgeous tropical beaches. This is true, however several months of the year most of the country can be flooded by tropical rain.
When the rain comes it often pours so hard it might be impossible to leave your house. Roads can become flooded. Power lines may fall, leaving you without running water or electricity. Your belongings may become damp and moldy without the sun to dry them out. Many more bugs and even snakes make take refuge in your home. For this reason plenty of expats head to sunnier parts of the world during the particularly rainy months.
5. There Is Such a Thing As Too Pura Vida
For many the “pura vida” is one of the most appealing aspects of living in Costa Rica. However it can certainly go too far.
Learning to slow down, enjoy life, take things as they come, and let go of expectations are all incredible philosophies to embody.
But waiting an hour before your server takes your order, waiting months for your housing agent to fix the hot water tank, never receiving your mail, losing electricity for days while the utility company takes its time, are all frustrating realities when living in Costa Rica.
You will often end up disappointed if you ever expect something, even a governmental transaction to be fast, simple, or easy.
Living in Costa Rica means hearing the word “mañana” (literally, tomorrow) often and you may hear the same thing the next day. You will quickly learn that “mañana” doesn’t mean “tomorrow.” It just means “not today.”
These things aside, many people still choose to live in Costa Rica and are happier than ever. This speaks to what an incredible place it is. However, if any of the above are an absolute deal-breaker for you, Costa Rica is probably not where you will rest your hat.