Costa Rica - "niu countri"

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Nov 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
Principe - $20, where prostitutes take their victims! Avoid

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of San Jose,
Saturday, May 17, 2008

We were up early (6.30 am) to get the 8 a.m. sea ferry out of Bocas del Toro towards Changuinola, where we could catch a direct bus to San Jose (Costa Rica). However, as we were on carribbean relaxed (medically called Carribbeanitis Relaxis disease) mode we didnt think about booking 2 seats on the sea ferry the day before and thought it would be good enough to just turn up.

We didnt count with all the backpackers on a tight schedule, or a group of 18 dutch travellers who probably booked their seats in 2001. So we had 2 options, either wait for the 9.30 ferry and miss the 10 am direct bus to San Jose, or get a ferry to Almirante and then a bus or taxi to Changuinola. We opted for the second to make sure we got the direct bus.

Luckily all the connections worked fine (ferry $4 to Almirante, taxi $12 to Changuinola bus station, $10 direct bus to San Jose). The taxi driver was chatting to us all the way about Europe. He was on "holiday" at the moment (only working on the taxi) but usually works the rest of the year in European cruises around the Mediterranean where he gets Euro 2,000 per month salary which is equivalent to about 4 months salary in Panama.The only terrible thing Veronika noticed on the way was the hairiest legs in the World (not only on one local girl, but three of them. We believe it must be some sort of post-puberty ritual on Bocas Island).

The trip to the Panama - Costa Rica frontier is along the coast from Changuinola to Sixola, with only banana plantations visible all the way...for something they call it Banana Coast.

When we got to the frontier, there was little delay at the Panamanian side who were only too happy to let us out, but there was a bit of a hiccup at the Costa Rican side. We had read and heard that in order to enter Costa Rica, apart from a valid passport, any tourist should carry an air ticket showing when they were leaving Costa Rica, or a printed copy of a bus ticket or similar.

We of course still dont have a date of exit of Costa Rica, and we were sure they would be delighted to have tourists for as long as possible spending dollars...but rules are rules. So, all the other passengers seemed to have internet e-mails with air tickets or bus tickets (which could easily be faked by changing dates if you ask us). When we got to immigration Marcos went first and when the frontier guard asked for an air ticket or bus ticket he obviously said "we dont have one".

He then asked when we were going back to Madrid. We said that we didnt know but that probably we would leave via USA which would be the cheaper flight. He told us that we needed a copy....Marcos put an innocent surprised face (puppy style after eating all the owners lunch)...and then the agent said "remember it for next time"....

Perhaps it was speaking to him in Spanish that made it but we very much doubt they would refuse anyone for not having a ticket if you can prove you have sufficient funds. But its a good excuse to keep the smelly hippies and surfers in Panama if they want.

So after being "told off" (we feel soooo guilty...not) we continued our trip which arrived at San Jose at 3.30 pm local time (one hour less in Costa Rica compared to Panama). Along the way there were a couple of police road controls which were mainly looking for electronic goods taken on board which had not paid taxes at the frontier.

Arrivals at big cities are always a bit of a struggle. You need to find your way to a hostel, and most of the time we dont book in advance. Additionally, our travel guide for Central America seems to be slighlty outdated even though we bought it in 2007 so many of the places we originally intend to stay at no longer exist or were probably just invented or misquoted by some drunk and drugged travel writer....(Mexico and Central America Footprint guide 2007 with pink cover).

So we got off the bus and started walking to our chosen hostel (about 10 minute walk) only to find out that there was no hostel there anymore, and that the area looked like a dump with some red light district characteristics to it.

We continued walking toward the centre and checking other hotels out, but nothing good enough (they mostly looked like refugee buildings). So after about 1 hour of walking around with our packs and with night time closing in, we just chose the Hostal "Principe" which appeared in our book as (quoting directly from the book):

"Principe: with bath, hot water, TV, top rooms best, quiet, friendly, includes taxes"

Well, mind our French, but "what a load of bollocks". They have never been close to the hotel!! Why do we say this:
- The reception is covered in metal bars to avoid armed robberies
- The receptionists lost their smiles years ago
- There is a night club - bar next to the reception with a large mouthed DJ thinking he has a divine voice until 2am
- They rent rooms at 4.500 Colones ($10 dollars) for 3 hours (now that should have been a hint!)
- The mattresses are made of leather (check photograph)
- The sheets on the bed were covered in stains (of the closest human type)
- The TV has a free porn channel with a big sign stating how it works (check picture)
- They have no remotes for the TV even though it is placed at 2 metres height
- They sell condoms and sex toys at reception (another obvious point)
- Pimps and drunks shout on the street all night long until they are replaced by the market sellers (and we were on the third floor so "top floor is not best")
- There was a cockroach the size of the Galactica space ship navigating in the shower curtain!

So, exactly where Footprint guide gets their reports from is a mistery, but certainly not on-site! Unless when they did their visit they removed all evidence and then built it on afterwards!

Anyway, we decided it was too late to be walking around anymore (it was a long day with lots of travel hours and humidity in the bus...) so we checked in and "adapted the room":
- Sheets off
- Pillows out
- Towles out
- We placed our camping mats on the beds
- Set out our camping sleeping bags
- Scented the room with incense sticks which we carry around for bad smelly rooms
- Eliminated the huge cockroach
- Got our earplugs out
- We used our trekking stick at physical "remote" control (see picture)

Just before dinner we walked around a bit more, and found a nice hostel a few streets away to move into the next morning!

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