We made a mistake six months ago that cost us $250.00 today. But there are positives with every experience, including this one.
We booked our flights last September - our return flight to home (Toronto) on a Monday with a 12:30 departure time seemed reasonable. We didn't check the calendar or we might have realized this would be Easter Monday, the end of Spring Break, and one of the busiest travel times in Costa Rica.
We were delighted to discover there's a direct bus from Tilaran (our nearby town) to San Jose Airport. The fare: $12.00 per person came with five choices of departure times through the week (four on Sundays).
Best of all: we found out we could reserve a seat by buying our ticket one day in advance. It's a four-hour trip so having a seat seemed rather important. By now, we're quite comfortable taking the bus. We had paid $150.00 for a taxista (arranged by our rental agent) for this same trip when we arrived 2 months ago. Returning by bus would take an hour longer but the fare is just $12.00 per person. A perfect plan! Only it didn't quite work out that way.
Being the end of Easter weekend, we were warned that the roads and buses would be extremely busy. Taking the earliest bus on Monday would be risky - we might not make our flight. No problem. Since we'd be saving $125.00 by taking the bus, we would travel a day earlier, Easter Sunday, instead. We booked a $100.00 hotel near the airport for our last night.
I was on my way to the Tilaran bus terminal by 6:00 am Saturday. I joined a long line of people, all waiting to reserve seats on an Easter Sunday bus. As soon as I joined the queue it came to a complete standstill with an announcement in Spanish: the computerized ticket system was down. This was not just a local issue; the failure extended to all the terminals in Costa Rica. Advance tickets could not be issued.
A few of us (including me) decided to wait and see if, by some miracle, the system would be fixed. Most Ticos knew better, I guess; they shrugged and left. After standing there four hours, we were told our best option would be to return well in advance of our desired departure time and hope to get a seat. That sounded like fun. Not! Especially with several rather large pieces of luggage. We might end up standing in the aisle for the entire trip. With heavy traffic expected, the trip might take five hours rather than four.
I have to give the Tico people credit. Some were visibly upset but most of the crowd accepted the situation - "It's Costa Rica. This happens. Pura Vida!"I got a lot of Spanish practice that morning - standing in line for four hours, with not one other native English speaker in the crowd.
While still in line, I sent a text to our rental agent, Coryn Wallen. She was able to immediately arrange a driver. The cost would be $150.00 but, in retrospect, it was worth every penny. We had guaranteed, comfortable seats; a knowledgeable, fun tour guide along the route, who spoke only minimal English so I had another 3 hours of Spanish lessons; and we enjoyed a great three-hour conversation (with Randy having nothing to contribute for once :-)
I wish we'd met Danilo, our driver, earlier on our trip. We really enjoyed his company and learned that his rates for local day trips are quite reasonable. As a non-licenced (taxista) driver, his costs and, therefore, his rates are far below regular taxi fares. We promised to hire him on our next trip to take us to some of the sites we didn't get to see this time.
Almost every ex-pat we met in our two months here told us it was the warm, welcoming nature of the Tico people that drew them to retire in Costa Rica rather than another country. If we have one regret, it is that we didn't interact as much with the Ticos as we might have. We will make a conscious effort to change that next time. I'll keep working on my Spanish skills until then.
This post ends with a photo tribute to the Tico people in the area where we emersed ourselves for two months. Thanks to these new Friends in Costa Rica for teaching us the value of observations without opinions.
We've connected with many great people and made some wonderful friends in our two months here. The final week provided opportunities to see most of them and say our goodbyes. Aside from regular events, such as Feria and Gringo Night, we attended two live shows at Rock River Rocks (a favorite local venue): a Burlesque show and a Female Impersonators act.
On our last night, Lynn and Cecil hired a local marimba band to entertain us at their home. What an amazing send off! We had so many people tell us they hope we will come back soon and often. How could we not? It's been nothing short of amazing.
We will be back!
Final Expense Report: (for the two of us and converted to US dollars):
Total: $4,168.45 ($33.62 per person per day)
Posted on day 62 of our 62-day trip. (Jan 27 to Mar 28, 2016)
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