No matter where you end up, at some point you’re going to need to know how and where to get the bare necessities and do basic things like buy mustard, mail a postcard, use an ATM, send your kid to school, get medicine, workout, purchase pantalones, and eat a cheap ass plate of food.
Bare Necessities in Costa Rica
In Playas Del Coco there are four different supermarkets to choose from, three of which offer the same local selection of groceries and another that specifically caters to North Americans with a wider selection of brands and foods. Since we moved here on a budget, we shop at Super Compro, a local Tico grocery store, and a couple different markets for veggies, meat and fish.
What you’ll have a hard time finding: lemons, squash, raspberries, blueberries, seedless grapes, sweet potatoes, shrimp, scallops, lettuce (very rubbery and odd), bacon (once again, just odd), eggplant, cherries, frozen meals, turkey, hummus, biscuits
What you should definitely try: pineapple, fried plantains, local beer (imperial and pilsen), any fruit you’ve never seen before
Mailing a letter was interesting. Let’s just say the post office in town doesn’t have envelopes, and neither do any of the grocery stores. Lesson: email is lovely. You’re on your own with that one.
Despite what we read online before we got here, you can open your own bank account without being a resident. All you need is $25 and a passport, and some banks even connect to PayPal to make it even easier to deposit money online. There is only one ATM in town that dispenses U.S. dollars and the rest only dispense local currency, Colones.
There are a few options for local schools in town. The school I teach at, called Green Life Academy, is U.S. accredited and teaches classes mostly in English, although students and teachers all speak fluent Spanish. I believe tuition for private schools is around $300/month.
If you’re sick, there is a small pharmacy in town where you can find most types of medication for fairly cheap. They also have the best air conditioning in town, so whenever I feel like punching the sun in the face I browse medications instead.
There is one gym in town. They even offer Crossfit classes for those of you who like to punish your muscles. If that’s not your thing, there is a large beach where you can run along and punish yourself for free.
The shopping here is… interesting. Hammocks, tank tops, flip flops, towels thinner than kleenex, surprisingly awesome souvenirs made from wood, pipes, thong bikinis, fireworks. That’s about it. If you’re looking to make a statement with your wardrobe, I hope the statement is “it’s hot outside and this is what I’m wearing.” Nobody here gives a shit about fashion.
If you want to eat out on a budget in Costa Rica, find a “soda.” They pride themselves on serving inexpensive, local food, and they usually serve enough on a plate to share with someone else. There’s even a place in town that gives you a complimentary taster of soup with every beer.
When you move to a somewhat contained, small town like Coco, they pretty much have the basics covered. They even have a print shop, computer store, hardware store and a Subway, for fuck’s sake.
“And don’t spend your time lookin’ around
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
I’ll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you.”