Monday, March 14, 2011

Addresses and Mail in Costa Rica

I remember the first time I asked my boyfriend for the address I would be living at with him in Costa Rica. I was still in the United States, but I wanted to update the address on my resume before I left so I'd be ready to start looking for work as soon as I arrived.  He proceeded to tell me that it was, "50 meters west of the Beta de Oro Bar in Miramar, Puntarenas."  I said, "Ok, but I need a formal address to put on my resume."  To which he replied, "That's it. That's how Costa Ricans give their addresses."  I really didn't feel comfortable putting this address on my resume.  I mean, would my prospective employers think I'm some kind of a lush whose best way of locating my address was in relation to the position of a bar?

Having lived in Costa Rica for a few months now, I've come to understand that most Costa Rican addresses are expressed in the same way my boyfriend gave me my new address, that is, in relation to the closest landmarks.  This landmark can be anything from a church to a local bar, as in my case.  For the most part, there is no formalized system of street addresses here.  Even in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, where the streets have names and are laid out in a grid pattern, you will find that street signs are virtually non-existent and that most locals don't have any clue about these street names anyhow.  So you can be sure that anyone you talk to will give you the address you are looking  for based on a landmark. The real fun begins when the landmark you have been given is not even in existence anymore!  An example of this is the Coca Cola bottling plant which was turned into a bus station but the area is still referred to as "the Coca Cola".

Sending and Receiving Mail in Costa Rica

I knew I wouldn't be able to forward my U.S. mail to the landmark "Tico address" my boyfriend had given me.  He didn't understand why I kept pressing him for a proper mailing address since he receives absolutely no correspondence.  There is no such thing as "junk mail" here and the telephone and utility companies and other businesses handle their billing online or by allowing you to make your payments in person at various locations.  That said, there are Ticos who do need to send or receive mail in Costa Rica and, as such, these people will have a post office box at their local town post office (the sign in Spanish will read "Correos").  I was able to mail a letter there via "regular" delivery for about 70 cents for a delivery time frame of about 10-12 days per the attendant.  Rather than opening a post office box at the local post office, however, I prefer to pay a little more and receive my mail and packages through Aeropost International Services ("Aerocasillas"), a Miami based mail forwarding service to Latin America.  It costs me about $1.50 dollars U.S. per letter to receive my mail this way and packages start at about $6.00 dollars U.S. and go up from there based on weight.  Don't forget that you'll also be charged customs duties on most items that you are shipping into Costa Rica.  The Aerocasillas company will pay the duty to customs and then charge it to you when you come to pick up your package from their office.

No comments:

Post a Comment