Monday, January 6, 2014

Costa Rica: San Jose

Getting around in Costa Rica can be quite confusing. Buses are very cheap, however taxis are not. Also, many of the taxi drivers are not so scrupulous. On arrival in Costa Rica I had an airport transfer scheduled. It went well at first as I found the guy with my name printed on a sign, however, when he left me to go get the vehicle, another taxi driver showed up and whistled at me. Being new to the city and dazed from travelling all day, I did not recognize that it was a different guy that had pulled up. He, of course, tried to take me to a different location than my booked hostel. After arriving at the correct hostel, I finally realized it was not the same guy and ended up having to pay the outrageous $30 fee the local taxi drivers are charging for airport transfer as well as the $16 for the transfer I had already booked. Turns out, if I had just taken any bus it would have taken me straight to downtown for about a dollar and from there I could have either walked 15 minutes or taken a taxi for a few dollars. And that is how the bus system works: all buses go to downtown San Jose. This makes it very easy to get back if you're hostel is in that area, however, not so easy to figure out how to get out. 
The next day, walking around San Jose, I discovered that, despite the thorough dilapidation of every building, the parks were very nice and extremely well kept.

The downtown city center area wasn't quite as dilapidated as everything around it, but extremely busy. Considering almost every bus in the entire country goes here, it's not surprising.

A stereotype of Latin American women is that they generally have larger butts, and the mannequins in this store seem to prove it.

Here was a cool view of a park from a local museum.

The parks were definitely the highlight of San Jose. This was the very large Sabanas Park just west of downtown and was a great area for outdoor activities in the city. This running path winds around the entire park and can be close to a couple miles or longer depending on the route you take.

It even included a beautiful lake.

Scenic picnic areas inside of the trees.

Some dinosaur bones!

And a track which would be packed with runners in the early morning! On the inside is also a skating circle for competitive speed skating.

While traveling through La Fortuna later, I had found that Costa Rica was also known for it's dental tourism. Dentistry work could be done for a fifth to a third of the cost of the States. I looked into it further and settled on Nova Dental in San Jose ( as they had all the right international accreditations.
It turned out to be a highlight of my trip. I had used a coupon a year ago in Oklahoma to get a teeth cleaning and X-rays for $50 and afterwards I was told I had 3 cavities in between my teeth that would cost $250 each for a $750 total. I tried to bargain. At least take a little bit off that astronomical price. But they wouldn't. And apparently no one in the industry does. Well that price was way too steep, particularly considering the X-rays they showed me were not very clear and did not look very convincing (though I had no idea what I was looking at). I decided to hold off. Which was a very good decision.
When I arrived at the dentist office for my appointment, I was shocked at how nice and clean it was. It was just as fancy as the nicer dentist offices I had seen in the States. I told them about how I wanted to get those three cavities fixed that had earlier been identified. Well they couldn't find them. So the doctor himself came in and took several different X-rays all from different angles. And still they were not there. Then he showed me the extremely high quality images and there wasn't a bit of dark spots anywhere. These weren't blurry like the ones I had been shown in the States, these were very clear and easy to see. So either my teeth had magically healed themselves from my decision to start flossing more often or the dentist in the States was looking for money to destroy pieces of my teeth.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I did have two smaller cavities in my teeth as well as a filling that could use fixing. These were easily visible and since they were small they were at the bottom of the quoted price ($50-$90/filling). The doctor stayed with me the entire time and immediately went to work which made the visit extremely short. The total cost was $50/filling and $50/cleaning which came to $150 for a cleaning and two fillings. Overall, it was a great experience to get my teeth fixed so quickly and for such a good price!

So what I found that San Jose had to offer was cheap food, a good wooden crafts market, great dentistry, and beautiful parks with near perfect weather to match (days were typically high 70's with nights in the 60's).

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