I (Vicki Skinner - aka "THE Sarong Goddess") created this blog in 2007 to share DETAILED Finds•Lists•Info•Events•Experiences to help bring more EASE to people living in, visiting or thinking of moving to Costa Rica since DETAILS are NOT easy to find!
I’m NOT an expert (an "expert" 2 ME knows 101%-NOT me). I believe in sharin info•helping where I can! And with over 2,200 entries, so some things might be out of date, so if you find old info PLEASE help each other by getting the updated info & sharing it with me to revise. At least you have some basic info to get you started.
Better yet - do you have extra time on your hands & looking for a volunteer project? Since this blog is a labor of love & RARELY does anyone share a donation (even though MANY have said how much it's helped them), I could REALLY use help updating info. Spanish speakers ESPECIALLY welcome since my VicLish can be somewhat limited at times!!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hiring a LEGAL Driver, Taxi Driver or Tour Guide VS ILLEGAL Pirata VS Self Driving while Touring in Costa Rica

Points to Consider
As a person that's been in the travel biz for over 25 years (as a Destination Specialist [NOT in Costa Rica], a Tour Operator, travel agent and a travel writer), I've been semi-surprised/VERY disappointed at how FEW people look at the BIG picture when it comes to travel arrangements (until they come home and look at their credit card bill at how much they spent!!!) as well as MOST people have NO clue on what all goes into expenses, etc. with having and maintaining a biz hence where pricing comes from.

Unfortunately I've ALSO found that MOST people don't understand the difference/advantages/points of the BIG PICTURE of hiring a LEGAL guide/driver vs. a pirata/ILLEGAL one let alone driving oneself throughout most of Costa Rica.


First there's the BIG expense in buying a SPECIAL/LEGAL Tourism Van (my driver said his van was around $30,000 [this seems REALLY cheap to me for a new 15 passenger van what it is so perhaps that's a communications misunderstanding] to say nothing of how long it takes from when it arrives to when you can finally get it on the streets with all the legal channels you have to go through when you're not making money [I know one driver it took 3 months!!]) which MUST be certified by the MOPT/Transporte Publico who provides them a special permit for transportation of tourists or students or for special trips not otherwise permitted.

Then there’s Insurance - a special MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE insurance to cover them for transporting paying customers. That’s approximately $230-$300 a MONTH for a legal average tourist van (there's NO WAY I would even THINK of hiring a tour guide to drive me that didn't have that - NOT in Costa Rica!! I've known of toooooo many people that have had accidents or worse - KILLED fools running out in the streets [I've known of 2 gringos that has happened to and NEITHER was the gringo's fault but they went through MESSY legal hassles]).
If your driver doesn't have insurance - what will happen to you if they have an accident?

These LEGAL vans MUST show some sort of contract with a MAJOR hotel or tour company - a sort of consortium. These can EASILY cost $25,000-$30,000 plus $100++/month per vehicle they have in their fleet.

Of course they also get to pay their own and their employees Secudro and INS, etc.

Gas (I believe in Costa Rica it's around $4-$5 a GALLON for gas). Driving around in traffic and the hills of Costa Rica eat up LOTS more gas than your open freeway back at home. Round trip from San Jose to Manuel Antonio eats up around $60.

If they have a website (what every PROFESSIONAL tour operator should have) they have the cost to create and maintain it, an answering machine and a phone line (and if you're REALLY professional wanting clients in Canada or the States - an 800# which is NOT cheap in Costa Rica). $$$$

Then they have uniforms (or at least they should if they're TRULY professional in my book!!), other supplies like binoculars, ice chests and things that to me a GOOD driver/guide SHOULD have if they're into GOOD Customer Service.

If you want someone to speak English - they tend to get paid more as they've invested more into their growth (hense your ease) and they of course can/SHOULD command more money as it costs the driver time/money to learn it to assist his clients properly. MOST tourists I've encountered in my exploring around Costa Rica are requiring someone to speak GOOD English to help make their vacation more enjoyable/EASY!!

If YOU choose to have them drive you just one way, they still have the time it takes them to drive back that MUST be incorporated into the price since they can't pick up another fare.

To say nothing about how strenuous driving is in MUCH of Costa Rica (ESPECIALLY for the driver who 101% of the time MUST be ULTRA alert watching for ALL the potholes that spring out of no where [even on the Pan-American Highway at times] let alone for the consumer!!). After this past trip from San Jose to Arenal (along the "back road" - not the PanAm) and then from Arenal to Tamarindo - though I've done this trip 3 times now in the past 2 years with family and friends - THIS trip I got such a new sense of RESPECT for ANYONE that drives professionally!!!

Of course with the overall BAD roads around the country - a driver also gets to pay for ALL their repairs and they are frequent here!! They go through LOTS more shock absorbers, tires, etc. Most are stick shift hence would also go through more

I know there have been NUMEROUS times I've hired a driver for 3-10 day trips that they were with us for WELL more than 8 hours in a day.

Plus other legal fees/dues.

As a CONSUMER - these are CRUCIAL points to consider for me:

#1 - If you hire an ILLEGAL driver/pirata/pirate/guide and the police stop you to check their papers/documentation (NOT that uncommon - ESPECIALLY these days with the war going on with legal/red taxi drivers stopping traffic dead in the street for HOURS in downtown San Jose on more and more of a regular basis!!)!!) and that pirata/ILLEGAL driver can't produce the proper papers, things they CAN and DO DO are write a nice ticket to the pirata, take the car plates which make it illegal for the driver to drive and/or impound the vehicle and you're caca out of luck on the streets with ALL your bags!!! Sure hope this doesn't happen to you in MUCH of San Jose (I've been in taxi's/vans NUMEROUS times where they stopped and checked).

#2!!!! The EASE!!!!
I hired a driver last month to do a family trip and I tell ya - driving around Costa Rica can be VERY strenuous - even to the consumer!! After a LONG/BUMPY/pothole infested/curvy drive from Arenal to Tamarindo - though I was quite "fiscally challenged" at the time - I decided to spend the $100 to fly back from Tamarindo to San Jose rather than that the $35 5+ hour bus!! I've decided that MOST of the time when I'm traveling around Costa Rica from now on I will probably fly!! For me it's worth the extra $$ to have the sanity/ease on my bod!!

A tour guide/driver can assist you in planning your itinerary and they know the ins and outs of Costa Rica. They should know the good tours and hopefully the more unique/better ones instead of the standard touristy ones.

Most LEGAL Tourism Vans are more spacious for you (trust me, with all the driving around, you WILL want to spread/sprawl out! There's less space of course if you have lots of luggage though luggage can go on the top). That's a BIG difference between renting one of the small CRAMPED 4x4's (those cheaper deal ones are VERY cramped and often can't fit much - especially if you have luggage. We originally saw the one we had reserved on our first trip and with just 3 gals and luggage, we would have been VERY cramped. NOT how I want to spend my vacation!! You???) or regular car I've seen that can only fit 4 people though not enough space for luggage for 4 people (especially for gals like me that bring the kitchen sink!!).

On the line of renting cars in Costa Rica - FYI - MOST I've seen are stick shift (how DO they drive those here with all the hills and potholes!!! That alone is a strenious time grabber!!) and automatics are few and far between and usually LOTS more $$$. They do NOT have power steering AND most pirata taxi's I've been in don't have good shocks (MEGA "ouch" for those of us more "well endowed" gals!!).

What are you going to do if your luggage is stolen or something? Can your pirata help you to file a police report, etc.? Are they going to go to the police if they're illegal to say they had you in their car and someone broke into that car - NOT!!!

Most drivers I know often have some clue if bridges/roads are down/being worked on - potentially causing HOURS and HOURS of delays and frustration (trust me, this IS an issue here BIG TIME)!!

NOT ALL piratas have "clean records"/are honest/good people (MANY that are piratas have some sort of "record" where they couldn't become a legal driver for a REASON!! These could include drivers into drugs, drunks, etc. (of course there are MANY GOOD/honest piratas also).

I ONLY use Frank Chicas' ENJOYING COSTA RICA TOURS for myself and my guests as they're some of THE MOST HELPFUL people I've EVER MET!!!! That's GREAT Costumer Service!!! I treat others WELL and I EXPECTED to be treated the same or BETTER!! I EXPECT a LOT - especially if I'm paying for it!!

Since the government doesn't monitor them - what are you going to do if you have a less than scrupulous driver/guide? If your things get stolen, etc.? Do you think the cops are going to have any sympathy for you let alone help you??

Of course if you're going from say, San Jose to Jaco, driving can be a breeze.

Because of the roads around Costa Rica as well as all the activities most people do here - you SERIOUSLY might want to take out Trip Cancellation/Interruption/Medical Insurance - just in case!!! I've had to use mine twice so far!! (I personally use http://AccessAmerica.com [WAYYYY COOL!! I hadn't been on their site in awhiles and I JUST noticed they now give Hurricane coverage PLUS an Expanded plan/coverage for Business-related covered reasons for TC and I insurance!!!!])

So, if a driver charging $100-$150/day or $15/hour for shorter trips (and I can tell you - I've seen MANY people email a guide/driver saying they want to hire him for X amount of days and then tie the driver up even up to that day with their indecision on what they want to do or using them for less hours than they originally committed to. Meanwhile he's waiting around PROFESSIONAL for this client hence loose $$$ [to say nothing of possibly other clients]). A SMART business person/guide/driver will get a 50% deposit (which means you REALLY want to do research on your driver before sending him $$) so he doesn't get screwed by the inconsiderate customer (trust me - there are PLENTY of those here!!).

After looking at the big picture is your driver REALLY making a lot of money at the end of the day?

When I'm on vacation I go to ENJOY and RELAX!! I don't need extra stress/frustration (as the roads in Costa Rica are [of course depending on where you're visiting]).

Hey - I've been a typical control freak gal ALL my life (I'm still working on that and am getting better but have a LONG way to go) that in the past ESPECIALLY HAD to be in control of the wheel - UNTIL I visited Costa Rica my first trip!! Now that I've discovered how CHEAP a driver/guide is (compared to MOST other destinations OUTSIDE of the U.S. where I've hired them for clients) - $100 or so a day ($15/hour - all depending on the distance/time) is the BEST investment I can see in MY sanity/ease and ENJOYMENT of traveling around Costa Rica!!

(FYI - I've hired Frank Chicas with ENJOYING COSTA RICA TOURS now OVER a dozen times in the past 7 years for bigger trips from 1-ways to Puerto Viejo to NUMEROUS trips around Costa Rica as well as MANY MANY small trips within an hour of my home in the Central Valley. His rates are what other LEGAL companies charge BUT the service I've experienced has always better than the feedback I've received on other people's trips).

We ALL have different desires/needs/experiences - I've just listed points I've encountered/my beliefs and/or feedback I've received from MANY other tourists (you KNOW how I LOVE to ask questions!!)!!

Bottom line is only YOU can determine what type of vacation/situations you're seeking in life!! I chose EASE and FUN for me!!! You??

If you want contact info for Frank Chicas with ENJOYING COSTA RICA TOURS, e- me at LivingLifeInCostaRica@gmail.com or call me at 8-378-6679.





Tuesday, December 16, 2008

GREAT website showing you Costa Rica Banks U.S. Dollar Rate of Exchange for the Day

I just found this GREAT website showing the comparison of Costa Rica Banks U.S. Dollar Rate of Exchange for the Day:



Monday, December 15, 2008

LAUNDRY SERVICES / LAVANDERIA - Coin Operated, Self Service Washing Machines & Commercial Laundry in Costa Rica


There aren't many places I've found in Costa Rica with COIN OPERATED / SELF SERVICE MACHINES - where you can go in and do your own laundry. I've posed this question on numerous message boards as well as trying to find anyone that could take my laundry to in case Goddess forbid, something happens to my washer/dryer in my guest house but so far, I haven't found many options and Dry Cleaners are out of the picture for me as they are often wanting to charge by the PIECE!!

If you know of any such places, please e- me at LivingLifeInCostaRica@gmail.com

LOCATION: Centro Escazu in Plaza Real (home to Sushi Goyi).
CONTACT: 2-228-7508 / 8-306-9124.  OWNER: Maritza Valenzuela
HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 8am-6pm.
PRICE: 1,000-c/Kilo.

I heard there's a Laundromat in Plaza Cristal.

ALAJUELA-Mall Internacional (2-443-2555)
ALAJUELA-Centro (2-443-0485)
CARTAGO-TerraMall (2-278-4189)
CARTAGO-Metrocentro (2-591-5073)
CURRIDABAT-Plaza del Sol (2-253-4468)
ESCAZU (2-201-6126) - LOCATION: MultiPlaza
JACO (2-643-2083)
MORAVIA (2-235-9174)
PAVAS (2-291-2847)
QUEPOS (2-777-0972) - 50 mts. South of Banco Nacional - Self-Service Wash 950-c, Self-Service Dry 950-c, Pickup-1100-c/kilo. HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 7am-12:30pm and 1:30-5pm.
SABANILLA (2-283-7844)
SAN PEDRO-Mall San Pedro (2- 283-4540)
SAN PEDRO-NovaCentro (2-225-0659)
SAN JOSE-Avenida Central (2-256-6961)
SAN JOSE-Centro Comercial del Sur (2- 227-4316)
SAN JOSE-Plaza de la Cultura (2-258-1100)
SAN SEBASTIAN (2-286-1026)
TRES RIOS-MultiPlaza Este (2-283-2134)

JACO - Lavanderia Puro Blanco (2-643-1025) - on the main drag, toward the south end of town.
Aquamatic Lavanderia (2-643-2083) - 150 yards further south.

QUEPOS-Central Market - Lavanderia Yara and Aquamatic Lavanderia.


LARGE WASHING JOBS like for medical offices, hotels and restaurants. Businesses that desire a sterile environments. NO personal laundry unless it’s LARGE quantity. Their machines can hold up to 60 kilos (it can fit a person in it!!) so they can do Comforters, Blankets and Pillows++!

Rainy/moldy season is over - time to do some early Spring Cleaning!!!

They also RENT Medical Clothes (blood proof) and Sterilized Medical Packages (sheets, gown+ [so you don’t have to throw away/waste!]) - 8,500-c/package.

DELIVERY included.

CONTACT: Nelson Kent (8-323-0793 / BabyFaceKent10@hotmail.com) - he’s a REAL sweetie with LOTS of energy/PASSION for what he does and speaks pretty good English

LOCATION: Hatillo Centro - behind the clinic Salon Nunez in Alajuelita?

HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 7am-3pm (later by appointment)

PRICE: Washing, sterilizing, drying and folding and roundtrip delivery - starts at 500-c/kilo.


PARTY SUPPLY RENTALS / EQUIPMENT in Costa Rica (including Inflateable Games)

(Tables, Glassware, Flatware, Dishes, Chairs, Tents, Serving & Chafing Dishes,
Chocolate Fountains, Inflatable Bounces / Games, Hot Dog Machines, Cotton Candy Machines, Popcorn Machines, Snow Cone Machines+++)

Escazu (2-228-3100 / Ventasescazu@AlquileresEiffel.com) - LOCATION: Centro Comercial Los Anonos
Curridabat (2-280-9392 / VentasCurridabat@AlquileresEiffel.com) - LOCATION: 900 mts South / 25 mts East of McDonald’s
Heredia (2-237-6607 / VentasHeredia@AlquileresEiffel.com) - LOCATION: 900 mts. West of Hipermas
(They seem to have the largest range of supplies plus they have LOTS of BIG blow up things also (Eiffel Games)!!! when your order arrives, MAKE SURE you’re getting EVERYTHING you’ve signed up/paid for!!!)

(2-249-4616 / 8-357-7430 / http://Fiestikas.com / info@Fiestikas.com)
Rentals of inflatable play gyms/bounces, popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, hot dogs, snow cone machines & iced drinks - geared towards Kids Parties!! They also have tables & chairs for kids & catering. Delivery throughout the Central Valley
LOCATION: Ciudad Colon
HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 9am-5pm

(2-289-2121 / 8-981-8989 / http://FestivaEventos.com / info@FestivaEventos.com)
LOCATION: Centro Comercial Roma - 225 mts South of Scotia Bank - 2nd Floor
HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 9am-6pm, Sat. 9am-3pm

ALQUILERES RODRIGUEZ Sillas Plegables y Mesas
LOCATION: Escazu-Bello Horizonte - 75 mts South of la Capilla

LOCATION: Escazu - Centro

Otto Gerez
Larger selection, good prices, catering
(per Gustavo at JopCo) (no one seems to speak English here)

Marta Chavez
I think she more custom makes Table Cloths, Chair Covers, Napkins+
(per Gustavo at JopCo)

Seeking a list of places/venues to hold an event for kids or big people alike, e- us (it will be coming here one day).

Here are a couple sites for more info (though CostaRicaLink.com is an old list/site). Many are for general party supply stores BUT if you contact them, hopefully they’ll be customer service oriented enough to share with you some supplies they have for rentals.

Unfortunately my Spanish is tooooo limited to update this list (I didn’t find ANYONE that I reached to speak ANY English/English-Spanglish) so if someone wants to help get details like websites, email addresses, any English-speaking contacts, details on the other list of places I have in other araes, etc. - contact me at CostaRicaResourceGuide@gmail.com

(send my invitation to CostaRicaResourceGuide@gmail.com!!)


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Office Supply Furniture Stores - Where to Find Chairs, Desks, Ergonomics in Costa Rica

I hear there’s outlet with "damaged/marred" office furniture on the street behind Pizza Hut off Paseo Colon in San Jose near Sabana Park.

(http://muguisa.net / ventas@muguisa.com)
Headquarters (2-253-8834 / 2-224-7114) - DIRECTIONS: Guadalupe, 200 metros East of Hipermas
OUTLET: Guadalupe

El Alto (2-280-1503 / 2-283-2397) - DIRECTIONS: 150 mts East of the intersection of Moravia y Guadalupe

Rohmoser: (2-290-3760 / 2-290-3772 / 2-296-4169) - DIRECTIONS: 75 mts este of Cemaco)

Sabana Sur: (2-290-5667) - DIRECTIONS: Next to Hollywood Strip Club in Sabana Sur.

Escazu (San Rafael): (2-288-5655) - DIRECTIONS: in Paco Plaza.

San Pedro (Los Yoses): (2-283-43-48) - DIRECTIONS: 125 mts East of KFC)

HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 7:30am-5:30pm
Headquarters: San Jose (Downtown) (2-222-3777 / 2-222-3516 / 2-222-3191 / metalin@ice.co.cr / info@metalin-cr.com) - DIRECTIONS: Calle 20 & Avenida 8 & 10 (75 meters North of the Iglesia de las Animas / Animas Church [in front of the General Cementery] at the light, turn left before the light on Calle 20. Near Hospital de Ninos.
San Jose-Barrio Cordoba (2-226-2596 / displaycr@ice.co.cr) - DIRECTIONS: 150 mts al Sur-Oeste/South/West of the Rotonda in Zapote - in the Centro Comercial Paseo del Parque
Alajuela (2-442-2232 / comdelcu@ice.co.cr) - DIRECTIONS: Costado East of the Museo Juan Santamaría in Alajuela

FREE DELIVERY within the Central Valley. MANAGER: Grace de la Cuesta

(http://AlternativaCR.com/main.php?pais=costarica / 2-258-0001 / info@alternativacr.com)
San Jose DIRECTIONS: 50 mts. East of McDonalds in Sabana Sur (the back street past Yammuni)


These are more Sofa Beds that tend to be more contemporary (like most of their COOL furniture) and LOTS more $$. Be sure to check out their outlet store Downtown. DELIVERY!
SAN JOSE - OUTLET - Downtown (2-223-5544) - HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 9am-6:30pm, Sat. 9:30am-6pm. DIRECTIONS: Avenida 2nd between Calles 7 & 9.
PAVAS/ROHRMOSER (2-296-2590) - HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 9:30am-7:30pm, Sun. 10am-6pm. DIRECTIONS: On the main road in Pavas, across the street and close to Cemaco)
CURRIDABAT (2-272-8787) - HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 10am-6pm. DIRECTIONS: Diagonal to Hipermas.
WAREHOUSE - LIBERIA (2-668-1313) - HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 8am-5:30pm. DIRECTIONS: Calle 4 & 5

(http://MuebleAmerica.com / 2-215-3031/ 2-215-3032 / info@MuebleAmerica.com) - Top End Custom Made
DIRECTIONS: 200 mts. north from Multiplaza Escazú, Condominio Comercial La Placita

(http://searson.co.cr / 2-520-1112) - DIRECTIONS: Sabana Sur-300 mts West of the Costa Rica Tennis Club. HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 9:30am-6:30pm, Sun. 10am-4pm

(http://TecniMuebles.com / 2-252-3086 / 2-223-6021 / 8-993-8185 / info@tecnimuebles.com) - Guadalupe - DIRECTIONS: 100 Metros South of the Centro Comercial Guadalupe