Waiting in line – Esperando en la fila.

Through the front window of my Alajuela bus is the line of people getting on the San Jose bus.
Like I had earlier done for my Alajuela bus with all ages and all walks of life waiting patiently.
Waiting in line is a part of life in Costa Rica; buses, banks, post office, medical services, etc.
It builds patience and patience builds character. Pura Vida!   🙂
The bus broke down on the outskirts of Atenas today and in about 10 or 12 minutes another bus was there to collect us all and on to Alajuela. We arrived 15 minutes later than expected. Not bad! In more than 2.5 years this is only the second bus I’ve had to break down and both were replaced in minutes! Our buses are on time, efficient service, nice, large and modern equipment from different manufacturers. Some are labeled “Daewood” which I think is a South Korea company, but not sure. I think others are from Europe or other Latin American countries. Affordable and efficient transportation is necessary to get people to and from work, school, shopping, and in the case of one couple I met last Saturday on the bus, to go walk in the pilgrimage to the Cartago Church.
One of our Atenas buses leaving Alajuela.
Yeh, I just missed it! But there’s one every 30 minutes in afternoon.

On our Atenas Costa Rica Info Facebook Group the other day a retiree considering a move here asked the question, “Can you actually live as a retiree in Atenas without a car?” And of course a bunch of us responded that we are doing it! I’m pleased to be going on to nearly 3 years without owning a car! And the excellent bus systems in Costa Rica make it possible to visit anywhere in the country or to other countries by bus! Plus walking is good for me.

Cajero Automático & Musical Chairs Again

Atenas Branch of Banco Nacional de Costa Rica

Okay, I’m moving to a new rental and they need a deposit plus first month’s rent (in other words 2 months rent) which is expected – no problem – except my French Canadian landlord wants it all in U.S. Dollars Cash! After this I can pay my rent online through my local Costa Rica bank online, but not now. So what’s the big deal you ask?

The ATM is called  “Cajero Automático” or loosely translated “Automatic Cashier.” They are scattered around town and operate just like in the states except they are more security conscious and have a limit you can get out in one 24 hour period. So to get my new house keys Thursday, I need to make withdrawals on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from an ATM that gives out only Costa Rica colones of course. Then after my Wednesday afternoon third withdrawal, I take several hundred thousand colones into the bank to have them converted to U.S. Dollars for the next morning event. And another interesting fact is that the largest colones bill is just c20,000, which is about $40 USD. I’m talking about big wads of money needed before I can trade them for $100 bills in dollars. Glad I feel safe and secure here!

I did go inside with the musical chairs trip to a teller and learned I can get the money all at once from my U.S. debit card at a 3% fee which I refused to pay. (I’m beginning to wish now I had paid and gotten it over with!) So I went back outside to the Cajero Automático and got my first of three installments. In the meantime, I told myself that this is crazy when I have a local bank account but still have most of my money in the credit union in Nashville. So I got the form Erik gave me from the credit union to wire a large amount of money to my Costa Rica account. Should have already done this but been busy.

So today after the second installment of cash from the ATM I went inside the bank for a game of musical chairs twice! If you missed my earlier report on the bank, you wait in line for a teller or desk agent by sitting in a row of chairs. When the next person is served you all get up and move over one chair towards the front of the line. Really! (One time I sat in 24 chairs before I got to a teller.) Well, I headed for Ricardo’s desk who supposedly speaks English and helped me open my account. He was at lunch, so I read a chapter in my Happier Than a Billionaire digital book on my phone’s Kindle App while others wondered what I was laughing about. I finally get to Ricardo  and he has suddenly forgotten how to speak English. Seriously. This time he only spoke in Spanish and acted like he did not understand what I said in English. I think he misunderstood and thought I wanted to wire the money from the account here and told me I didn’t have enough. But anyway, after a bit of charades and broken Spanish from me, Ricardo sends me across the lobby to another desk where I start the musical chairs game again! I’m only number 3 in line this time, but the customer being served (who looks like a woman prison guard) has some complicated business that takes another 30 minutes while a read a couple more chapters in this book. (I’m taking a break from Lord of the Rings with something lighter and funny about Costa Rica). At least the second customer ahead of me didn’t take very long and I’m up again with another Spanish only person. “Necesito dos números por favor,” pointing to the empty spaces on the form for a Swift Code and an IBAN number. She has to take the wire transfer form back to another office and talk to someone, then returns and asks if the money is going into my colones or dollares account (Yes, I have two accounts here.) which I’m able to answer “dollares.” Then back into the office she goes and returns later with a computer printout of two numbers I can use for the transfer, so next month’s rent can be paid from my local bank account, assuming these numbers work! Whew! Another exciting afternoon! Everything’s an adventure!
But you know what? I’m learning the systems around here and even though it may not sound like it, life is simpler, more relaxed, and much more spontaneous. The birds are singing happier today it seems, maybe because of the rain. And a flock of squawking parrots just flew over! What a place!

It is also cooler since Sunday’s first rain of the season. It looked like more rain today (Tuesday) but hasn’t happened yet. And today’s laundry is already dry!  🙂  Hey! By Thursday I’ll have an electric dryer! Let it rain! 

More adventures to come!  🙂

What’s Different About Costa Rica? And My Buses…

So what is really so different from the U.S. about Costa Rica, note these interesting habits, traditions, & weird facts from an article in The Costa Rica News, one of the online English newspapers here. Just click the link above – It’s worth the time! We are different!


Here I’m waiting in line to board a bus to Atenas from Alajuela. 23 km, 15 miles.
Buses go everywhere cheaply, just don’t be in a hurry! This one is $1.43 USD,
or 715 Colones, and as a “collectivo” making local stops, takes about 45 minutes.
Nice vehicles, made in China, window for air & curtain to shield the sunshine.
One trip I had a large package and driver put it under the bus at no extra charge.

If I go to Alajuela to pick up mail at Aerocasillas or shop at Walmart, that is one day’s activity, usually just one or two things accomplished per day. That trip is usually a half day or more if I eat lunch in Alajuela. San Jose trips can take longer and I have combined the two cities for most of a day. Below is photo of bus schedule in Atenas for Alajuela & San Jose. I have this printed and on my refrigerator to check for when the next bus leaves:

Bus Schedule from Atenas to San Jose & Alajuela.
First column is Mon-Fri, Second Saturdays & Holidays, Third Sundays
Most buses are packed full to standing room only.
The most popular way to travel.