We flew from Havana to San Jose city, the capital and largest city in Costa Rica.
One of the most unique things about Costa Rica is that it has no army. How cool is that?
With the money they save they spend it on education and social services.
A thought. Are armies not one of the most unproductive and wasteful elements of society? If their purpose is to fight how much time do they spend fighting? Some may argue they are a deterrent to other nations … really? A human army seems to be a pretty puny option in the face of modern war technology.
Our flight from Havana arrived in San Jose city on schedule … but Carol's bag didn't. The flight was with Cubana Air a Cuban state owned company run by very poorly paid and unmotivated staff. A young Cuban later commented “if I knew you were travelling on Cubana I’d have warned you not to!”.
There are some countries where if you don’t get your luggage you feel that there is a good chance that it’ll be delivered to you. There are some others where you don’t feel so confident!
It was a Sunday. The baggage claim department in San Jose airport is independent of Cubana Air so they completed the mandatory form. The next flight from Havana would be on the following Wednesday. Despite a number of follow up phone calls and a number of promises to call back. Nada!
Eventually on Wednesday afternoon after another string of calls we got the news. The case was in Caracas in Venezuela. The earliest it would be delivered was the following Sunday.
By then we'd be in La Fortuna and moving on to Monteverde. Despite a number of emails to the sole available Cubana contact the solitary response so was an email reading “Whats the airport that we have to send your baggage? Tel Aviv?”
We were told by the San Jose baggage department that it was Cubana Air policy that the luggage must be collected by the passenger … but we’re not going back to San Jose so we’ll have to see what we can arrange.
San Jose City
We walked around the city but not much else. Excited by the most basic shopping. After Cuba where there is very little and what was available was expensive any normal shops were exciting. In Cuba you queue for everything.
The weather in San Jose city was chilly and very windy. We spent most of our time indoors catching up on admin. I was far behind in my writing and worked hard to get up to date.
We stayed in an Airbnb on the other side of town. A new condo block stuck in a slightly downmarket mixed residential commercial area. There was another incongruous new development down the road with units selling for about USD70k.
Terminal 7-10 Bus Station
The day before we were due to leave we went to the Terminal 7-10 bus station to buy tickets. To get there we walked through an area which on a site we read was considered a "red" zone. We saw why. People sprawled drunk or drugged on the pavements and others looking more predatory. Their ominous stares resulted in us bunching up and quickening our pace. Accosted by a man selling (or demanding we buy) his wooden back scratchers we ignored him and strode on.
Google and Maps.me are great apps but they don’t give any indication of the tone or safety of the area.
The terminal is new and well covered by security. With restaurants it is a veritable oasis in the middle of a slum. Walking back to town on a road which looked slightly less threatening we saw an ugly confrontation. In the middle of the street there was a guy kicking a nearly prostrate man on the ground. As we got closer the man stumbled to his feet. He lurched towards the pavement and we could see that he was very crippled. Also quite drunk and bedraggled. A few young women were screeching in Spanish. Small groups were curiously watching but not getting involved.
We went walked past as quickly as we could. Not looking back. Pushing our way past vegetable and other vendors who took over much of the pavement.
Relieved when we reached the calmer and more peaceful city centre.
We then made our way to what looked a better part of town for a Valentine's dinner at what turned out to be an expensive Italian restaurant. The food was good and afterwards we took an Uber back to the apartment.
First Impressions of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica is not a cheap destination.
- There are some very “red” areas in San Jose.
- San Jose is vibrant and there is a wide variety of shops (culture shock after Cuba!) and areas
- Surrounded by mountains often covered by clouds the town has an appealing character.
- Uber is a good option but the drivers are intimidated by the official “red” taxi drivers.