Costa Rica has quickly become a hot tourist country loved by so many with people all over the world visiting every year. Yet most of the visitors came here with a funny idea of Costa Rica in their mind and are quickly surprised when they find out how Costa Rica really is like.
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?” “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get cholera and die?” “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 especially the news.
You don’t hear much about Costa Rica on the American news, good or bad so unless you actually do research, social media becomes your reference. Honestly, I didn’t have that many expectations when I came here because I learned the hard way that when you expect certain things, you will either get disappointed or you will end up looking a little bit of an idiot.
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.
I hope 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. Heard that place is beautiful though!
- It doesn’t snow here, it’s too close to the equator (8 too 12 degrees north)
- It rains a lot during green season – it’s not always dry heat year round
- You can eat the fresh vegetables, fruits and orange juice here. I was told not to because I’d get E. Coli and die of diarrhea. Lots of onions later and I’m still kickin!
- You can flush toilet paper down the toilet unless your hotel specifically asks not to or you are in the rural areas
- You can drink the water! Unless you are in super rural areas. If you have a sensitive stomach, then it’s better to drink bottled water. Read more about drinking tap water here.
- Legal age is 18 for drinking, driving, and prostitution. However it is illegal to be a pimp
- Costa Ricans don’t wear feather headdresses or wear loin clothes (haha)
- 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
- Costa Rica is a melting pot. Please don’t go around calling locals “Indians.” You will find blonde, red, brown and black haired Costa Ricans with blue, hazel, grey, brown and green eyes
- You need a passport to enter Costa Rica. And you need your actual passport, not a photocopy even if it is in color
- Costa Rica is unfortunately not as cheap as people think it is compared to the rest of the countries in C. America
- Costa Rica is not a “third world country” There are actually a lot of big companies here, such as Amazon, Paypal, and Bank of America. Costa Rica is quite developed.
- 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
- Costa Rica is not as much of a exotic sex pot country as some people think. There are some places you will see women wearing thong bikinis and adult only resorts but many places are family friendly (majority are Catholic).
It’s always fun to read what other people think of different countries just because we get our facts from random sources that most of the time, we never bother to check. One of my favorite facts and myths posts is about Croatia. Although I’ve never been there, I went through the list thinking to myself, “Wow I had NO idea about any of these!” I was one of those people who just based their idea off of what I heard from the media, it’s pretty amazing how jumbled our information can be!
It’s important to be at least a bit educated on the countries we visit so we don’t go there with only the stereotype in our head. That’s one of the best things about travel – you learn so much about other cultures and the world!
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