1. Clean bathrooms.
Costa Rican plumbing can’t handle toilet paper, so you’re supposed to throw toilet paper into a little garbage can. This means that bathrooms are usually super clean because someone is coming in often to change these garbage cans and make sure everything is clean. I’ve used gas station bathrooms that were cleaner than a lot of Canadian restaurant bathrooms. But there are a lot of washrooms that you need to pay to use (usually about 50 cents, or 200 colones). Ironically, these are some of the worst bathrooms. They are not clean, they smell, and they don’t have toilet seats. All this in spite of the fact that there is an attendant outside and you are paying to use the washroom. But hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
2. Scented toilet paper.
Before this list becomes solely about Costa Rican bathrooms, I’ll just throw this one in: since all that toilet paper is hanging around in a little basket, this just makes sense. (Note: it may be irritating if you have sensitive skin, so it’s helpful to carry your own.)
3. Cheap taxis.
Despite the Costa Rican cost of living being very similar to Canada’s, these little red taxis are super cheap. I’m talking a 1 dollar base fee. Coming from Canada, where a taxi’s base charge is always upwards of 3 or 4 dollars, this is heavenly. And if the taxi is stopped in traffic, the meter doesn’t inch up like our taxis. We take taxis everywhere because the city buses are unreliable and terrifying, so it’s a much more pleasant way to get from point A to point B (aka home from the bar). There are taxis everywhere too, so it’s easy to flag one down whenever you want.
Also, you don’t have to stress about the right amount to tip—taxi drivers usually just round up to the nearest hundred colones (about 20 cents). Anything else is unusual and extra!
4. Produce markets.
When we got here, we were shocked by how expensive grocery stores are. Especially the produce, which wasn’t anything to brag about. Then our friend Ines introduced us to the Sunday produce market, a giant and crazy market where hundreds of local growers come to sell their products. It was a little intense at first, with all the farmers thrusting mangoes and avocados in our faces and yelling incomprehensibly, but after an hour, we had gotten the hang of it. We lugged home 4 or 5 bags of fruits and veggies that cost us a total of $20. This was crazy, considering our giant collection of produce would have cost us at least $60 or $80 at home. We happily made all the salads and soups and stir-frys and tried to only buy the essentials at grocery stores.
Also, if you don’t have time to go to the Sunday market (we go away for the weekend a lot), there are plenty of little pick-up trucks parked along the busy roads with truck beds full of fruits and veggies. They’re considerably cheaper than the grocery stores and make it handy to grab a mango and avocado on your way to work!
5. Nature. Everywhere.
This can be super annoying, like when the birds wake up at 3:30 a.m. and decide to sing to you, or when lizards camp out under your bed, but all in all it’s freaking gorgeous. Even though we live in the city, which is kind of dirty, you can see the badass mountains everywhere you look. Every day I drive Christina crazy by marveling about the mountains. Ontario just seems so flat in comparison!