4 (not so) Essential Tips for Expats in Costa Rica
Change – A Poker Strategy
Costa Rica has 6 different denominations for their pocket change. First is the 2 lighter-than-air, monopoly-like money, denominations of ₡5 and ₡10. The 2 coins value is, respectively, one US penny and two US pennies.
Next up you have the heavier metal denominations of ₡25, ₡50, ₡100, and ₡500 (5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, and $1 for those colon challenged.)
The smaller value coins are not too useful – I love to unload them by paying my bus fare in mostly the ₡5 and ₡10’s – the bus driver lights up like he just hit the jackpot at a slot machine – or maybe that’s a frown. The only other place that is useful for unloading these parasitic coins is at the feria (farmers market) – where some items, like herbs, are very inexpensive.
But the best method I have come up with to get rid of them is in a friendly game of Texas Hold ’em. The whole set of coins work well as poker chips – especially for those on a budget who like to keep the antes low.
Compared to the cost of fruits and vegetables in the US, the feria (at least those in the central valley) can be incredibly inexpensive. For example I have seen 5 avocados for $2 or 4 pineapples for $2. But for those cheapskates, let’s say frugal, like me, there is an even better deal available.
The feria, typically, is only open on the weekends and is open late into the evening on the first day and closes around noon on the second day. I have found that if you do your shopping on the last day of the feria, about 30 minutes before close, you will many times get more food than you pay for.
For example, you buy 4 apples and the vendor throws you an extra one. This doesn’t always happen, but it happens enough to make it a strategy. The drawback is that your selection will not be as good as if you went earlier in the day – in fact it might be slim-pick’ins – but still, it’s free food.
The Right Way to Pour Box Wine
Not everyone in Costa Rica is on a budget, or drinks wine for that matter, but if you do fit those categories then you are probably drinking boxed wine as it can be both palatable and affordable (about $5 – $7 a liter.)
One of the most frustrating things about boxed wine is pouring a glass (or plastic cup) of wine without it clugging out of the opening, spilling its precious cargo everywhere.
The solution? Turn the thing around. Kinda like drinking from the other side of a glass when you have the hiccups, if you pour the wine with the… OK – I am having a hard time describing what I am trying to convey – so look at the picture and call me with any questions.
If you have spent anytime in Costa Rica you will have noticed that public restrooms here are an interesting creature. First, there aren’t many around, and if you do find one the likelihood is VERY high that it will not have paper in it. Not just the paper to wipe your hands with after you wash them, but paper to wipe your… uh, toilet paper.
Recently we were shopping at Maxi Pali (enter rant about Walmart here) and came across this brilliant product. This toilet paper company took the cardboard out of the center of the toilet paper roll and replaced it with a purse/pocket sized carry roll.
We bought them out – ’cause in Costa Rica you never know if a product will ever be restocked.
I hope these tips help you out.
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In addition to writing on this blog, Greg has written for other online publications and has written two popular books about living in Costa Rica:
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