The last time you came to Costa Rica, it was a little different… yes! Costa Rica is changing, and not even Costa Ricans notice how strong and transcending these changes are.
1. Highway #27
Before it existed, a trip to the beach was a long dreadful winding crusade. The polemic “Carretera del Sol” (“Highway of the Sun”), from engineering disaster to open corruption (Due to its private financing), is a hated but rather loved project that changed the trips to the beach forever! Nowadays, we are only one hour and five toll booths away from the Pacific waves and warm waters…
2. Cellphone Network
Before 2009, having a cell phone was a myth, a long wait, paperwork, and some money. Costa Rica was in a cell phone pre-Columbian age bubble. With the liberalization of the sector and some 3G towers, we are in a very different reality. As they come out of their plane, passengers can buy a chip at the airport or get an easy international roaming signal anywhere in Costa Rica.
3. SINPE Online Bank Transfers
There was a time when getting paid or paying was hell. SINPE changed the landscape forever… SINPE is the catchy name given to the system, developed by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, allowing you to make a local bank transfer online. It launched a real-time transfer service in 2011.
4. Concerts and the National Stadium
1988… The year of the first concert in San Jose… Human Rights Tour featured in Costa Rica and for the first time, we were exposed to the vibrant sensation of a real unplugged… Now… it is expected and almost a routine to get some big ones in the new National Stadium… San Jose is now one of only a few Latin America stops on world tours of stars such as Paul McCartney, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Opeth, Justin Beaver, Pearl Jam, and Lady Gaga.
5. Craft Beer
It started with Segua in 2010 and quickly evolved into different tones, flavors, and labels. There is even now an annual beer festival. Before the craft beer revolution in Costa Rica, one company made beer- four choices, not much of a difference.
6. Apartment Towers
Shinning apartment towers started to dot the San José skyline only recently and have now become something of a fashion among the professional classes of San José; vertical has become the new horizontal. People are finding the advantages of living next to everything in San José.
7. Urban Train Service
measures at crossings, thick clouds of diesel, and the loud horn all contribute to a feeling of disruptive innovation. But at the same time, people living or working in cities other than San José can enjoy, for the first time, not getting jammed in the rush hours hell and get to work on time.
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8. WAZE Navigation App
Waze is a savior for anyone driving in the GAM (Great Metropolitan Area… A.k.a. Central Valley). The travel industry has become an indispensable tool for finding better routes and not having the passengers sitting for hours and hours in the middle of nowhere on a tour or the airport.
9. Brazil 2014
Soccer, World Cup 2014. During June and July 2014, what Costa Rica lost in economic productivity, it gained several times over in happiness, self-confidence, and beer sales.
Now any soccer fanatic knows that Costa Rica exists. The fact that the Sele (Our national soccer team) beat the Unbeatables in a group called the Group of the Death. None could ever recover from the surprise and the party of those magical weeks!
10. Online Registro Nacional (National Registry)
Whatever you do in Costa Rica. It would be best if you had a piece of paper with a stamp. Before 2010, when the online service Registro Digital was launched, you had to stand in a long line at the National Registry, or an attorney would bill you for the boring and useless task. Now you can download and print a certificate from the comfort of your desk. Business and investment truly smile at these changes.
11. Walking in San Jose
Now you can walk in San Jose! There was a time when walking in San Jose was a fight between the crowds, the terrible, narrow, and uneven sidewalks, and the aggressive drivers. With boulevards all over the city, San Jose is slowly becoming a nice walking area, with sculptures and open skies here and there.
12. Safety in San Jose
There was a time when walking in San Jose was a daring adventure. You would walk as fast as possible grabbing your wallet or purse as tight as you could and not talking or seeing anyone. There was an overwhelming fear sensation that was hard to go through… Nowadays there is the police… all over the city! There are towers and security cameras for them to watch, and for the first time, you can actually walk with your camera hanging from the neck and eating an ice cream… cool and easy.
13. The Jade Museum.
Amazing is a small word to talk about this brand new museum in San José. In the city’s heart, right next to the National Museum, it is a great place to start or finish a trip! With five floors of pre-Columbian wanders, the new jade museum grows as a fantastic alternative for the people who decides to stay a day or two in San Jose.
14. Airlines coming to Costa Rica
By 2017 and on both airports, we have 26 different airlines coming into the country, moving more than 2 million tourists (Half the Costa Rican population) a year. Over the past few years, the government has made a strong effort to create more and more aerial routes coming to our country.
15. Exit Visa included in the air tickets.
There was a time when you were checking out a group, and it would take hours to gather all passports and buy all exit visas. There was a time when you had to make long lines to get it. There was a time when you had to have the cash with you before getting into the airport. Those days are gone! And now exit visas are part of your airline tickets (In mostly all airlines!).
Written by Olga Sáenz-Carbonell for Camino Travel.