Thursday, March 26, 2015

What you should know before you "go" - Black in Costa Rica (2)

Day 2 Saturday March 7, 2015 (arrival day)

Our overnight flight to Costa Rica was uneventful save for the cramped legroom (which can make sleeping very difficult - even I was miserable) For $79 each, I upgraded our seats on the flight home and I now sit in Delta Comfort as I write this post -- with free vino to boot! (economy travelers - you've been warned!) 

Costa Rica Airport Departure Tip Costa Rica is a sovereign country and NOT subject to TSA rules. You will encounter an exit fee when you depart the country (I asked the agent when the fee would be included in the airline ticket - he just looked at me, shook his head, smiled and said "years ago" "perhaps it will be done by your next trip, who knows". There are no instructions to tell you this, but that is what that long, long line is, which runs parallel to the shorter carrier check in line - don't make the mistake of trying to check in BEFORE you pay your exit fee (like we did). You will end up standing in the wrong line and then have to go to the end of the long line - the exit fee is currently $29 and can be paid by cash or Visa/Mastercard - (credit cards processsed as a cash advance) Exit fees are common in many countries and since Costa Rica has no income tax there are fees for just about everything (including trying to get out of the country). Pura Vida!

Also after you go through the initial security check there is another security search at the gate as you board your plane. There is also the "random" search where they pull you out of line as you are boarding and do another thorough search. 

You can ask Lavanson all about that. He was searched more yesterday than you can imagine. He carried nothing but a small black over the shoulder knap sack like bag but he got the same treatment in LA and SFO. 

I used to be the one getting searched all the time due to my locs but I guess they have moved on to another terrorist profile now  - 60 year old black men with grey hair! 

looks just like a terrorist to me

But I digress - 

We landed at SJO (Juan SantaMaria International Airport) in Alajuela, Costa Rica on time. Smooth flights on the way in and the way out. Thank you Delta!

Our first task before leaving the airport was to replace the sim card in at least one of our phones so that we would have phone service.  We had all opted out of of our respective carrier’s international plans.

We knew to insert the local sim card you must have an unlocked phone.

What we found out was that none of us had fully completed the unlock procedure, so, no sim cards could be used, however we figured we would pick up a burner phone (a cheap throw away phone) at one of the Ice or Movistar locations near our hotel.

Tip If you don't have a sim or a burner phone you should disable the roaming on your phone lest you incur some pretty hefty data charges (I also put mine on airplane mode). There are lots of WiFi spots available for checking email. You can also try MagicJack (although we could never get ours to work) Get the WhatsApp and use Imessage if you have an iPhone.

Although we made several attempts to secure a sim card or burner phone, we had no luck.  However, Mitch & Donna aka the young & black expats came to our rescue and loaned us one of their phones to use for the duration of our trip!! We dropped it back off to them on our way to the airport on our way home.

Thanks Mitch & Donna! 

Lavanson, Verdette & I had some breakfast with Mitch & Donna 
@ Bread & Chocolate in Puerto Viejo
I highly recommend this litte restaurant - they also conduct chocolate tours
I ordered the chocolate mocha - they give you the coffee press and you add the 
chocolate and steamed milk 
So yummy! (Remember I am the one who does not like chocolate)

Restaurante Bread and Chocolate en Puerto Viejo from Puerto Viejo on Vimeo.

BTW- if you arrive in Costa Rica at 7am during the high season and your check in time is 3pm, don’t expect to get into your room right away.  (and of course we didn’t expect to get in) 

We spent about 3 hours in the hotel restaurant and bar. We were a little tired so we rested and had a bite to eat. They rushed to get us in and our rooms were ready about 12:30. Thanks Hotel Presidente!

We all gotta go!
BIG Tip  in Costa Rica (due to their septic system) you are not to flush any toilet paper in the toilets. Instead, the used toilet paper is deposited in the garbage can next to the toilet. Have to admit, this practice takes a little getting used to!!!

 our 1st meal out in Costa Rica

Later that evening we had a wonderful (expensive) dinner at a restaurant across from our hotel 

A Tipabout tips - A 10% tip/gratuity is already included (usually) in the bill total so don't make the mistake of tipping again - like we did (we tipped additional on top on the $190 bill (which already included the tip for the meal) Of course 10% isn't that much so if you want to tip more you can, just know that you are not expected to.

After dinner, tired but very happy to finally be in Costa Rica, we turned in early

Our tours were to begin in the morning.

We already LOVE this place!!!!
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