Costa Rica’s tourism has grown quite a bit the past several years and receives nearly 2 million visitors a year, almost half the country’s population. Yet most of the visitors came here with a funny idea of Costa Rica in their mind since it’s in Central America and all you ever hear in the news about Costa Rica are sloths and renewable energy.
When I told my family and friends I was moving to Costa Rica, many of them were very excited for me but after the excitement came confusion.
“Wait, but you won’t have internet when you’re down there! How will I talk to you?” “Are there highways?” “Do people there have phones?”
I understand that growing up in the States, we aren’t taught much about the rest of the world. We develop our own ideas of what a place is like, being influenced by social media, movies and the news but it is usually completely different. As travelers, it’s our responsibility to do some research about the country, their customs and culture before visiting.
So before you come to Costa Rica, make sure you read up on these common misconceptions!
Common Misconceptions about Costa Rica
These are a collection of misunderstood thoughts Yeison and I have heard or been asked about Costa Rica. Some of these thoughts were even expressed to me by my dentist and my primary care physician! The main goal of this article is to clear up some confusion and misconceptions about Costa Rica so that you’ll get a better picture of what the country is really like.
- Costa Rica does indeed have: Wi-fi, iPhones, cars, highways, refrigerators, toilet paper, electricity (San Jose was the 3rd city in the world to have public electricity), malls, and movie theaters.
- You will not die from malaria. There were 8 cases in 2012 so there is no need for malaria pills despite what your doctor may tell you (like mine). You should be aware of dengue which is increasing every year. 14,000 cases so far in 2013, Make sure you always have mosquito repellent!
- Costa Rica’s not an island, that’s Puerto Rico. For some reason, people mix up Puerto Rico and Costa Rica all the time!
- It doesn’t snow here, it’s too close to the equator (8 too 12 degrees north) but it does get very cold in some places. During rainy season, it can get as cold as the 40’s F or 8-10 Celsius in the mountains!
- You can eat the fresh vegetables the fruits and drink the orange juice here. I was told not to because I’d get E. Coli and die of diarrhea.
- You can drink the water unless you are in super rural areas. Read more about drinking tap water here.
- Legal age is 18 for drinking, driving, and prostitution. However it is illegal to be a pimp but you can find prostitution here since Costa Rica does have sex tourism.
- Costa Ricans don’t wear feather headdresses, palm tree skirts, coconut bras or wear loin clothes.
- You won’t get eaten by a shark. There have only been 4 attacks compared to the 26 attacks in Florida 2011 alone. But you do need to watch out for crocodiles in some places like Tamarindo.
- Costa Rican food is not like Mexican food at all. Empanadas, enchiladas and tacos here are very different. Likewise, Costa Rican culture is very different to Mexican culture.
- Costa Rica is a melting pot. You will find blonde, red, brown and black haired Costa Ricans with blue, hazel, grey, brown and green eyes and since there are many immigrants here, you can find people from all over the world in Costa Rica.
- Costa Rica is unfortunately not as cheap as people think it is compared to the rest of the countries in C. America. People always assume that since it’s Central America, it’s cheap but it definitely isn’t.
- Costa Rica is much more than pineapples and bananas. The country offers many technology services and San Jose, the capital city is home to many big companies such as Amazon, Paypal, and Bank of America since many companies have their customer service headquarters in Costa Rica.
- Ticos are super friendly and love to talk to people – they’re not all drug dealers, kidnappers and murderers like how the world stereotypes Latinos. But be a jerk and you’ll find that they don’t do well with rude people. Their culture is very loving and sweet.
- Sadly the country is not quite as green as the media makes it out to be. Costa Rica does use renewable energy as their main source of energy but unfortunately there is a big problem with garbage, recycling and plastic here. The country is trying to change that and wants to be single use plastic free in several years.
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