An alphabetical orientation guide to help you enjoy your stay in Costa Rica at ILISA Language Institute.
For your convenience, a PDF version (118K) of our orientation is also available. You will need acrobat reader to read the file. If you don’t have Acrobat reader, download it free by clicking on the icon to the right.
Associations and Clubs
Books on Costa Rica
Embassies & Consulates
Entry and Exit
Gays and Lesbians
Junk to Bring
Newspapers and Magazines
People at ILISA
Preparing for an Immersion Program
Finding your way around in downtown San Jose may look a little confusing at first. The “New Key to Costa Rica” includes a useful chapter on getting to know San Jose. Here are some important facts:
Example: An address that’s given as Avenida 1, Calles 3 and 5 means that the place is located on Avenida 1 between Calles 3 and 5.
Addresses are nice, however don’t expect “ticos” (that includes most taxi drivers) to use avenue-street descriptions when going somewhere, especially outside the city center. They tend to use landmarks instead. They’ll say that such-and-such-a-place is “two blocks west of the central post office and half a block north, next to so-and-so’s coffee shop” (100 metros = 1 block). Even more confusing for tourists is when “ticos” use a point of reference that no longer exists. Don’t worry, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Regarding the address of our Institute, the reference point is the church in San Pedro. Our complete address is “de la iglesia de San Pedro, 100 al este, 400 al sur, 25 al este a mano derecha” (from the church of San Pedro, 100 meters east, 400 meters south, and 25 meters east on the right hand side). A good reference point to know is that the entrance to nearly all churches face west.
American Express (tel. 223-3644 or 295-9357) has a counter in San José at the Banco de San José on Calle Central between Avenidas 3 and 5. It’s open Monday through Friday from 8am to 7pm. If your travelers checks are lost or stolen, call 0-8000-110039.
When traveling by plane, you’ll arrive at Juan Santa María International Airport. Your first stop after debarking the plane will be at Immigration. The airline should have given you two forms, one for Immigration, and one for Customs. If you are only bringing into the country your personal belongings, just write down “personal belongings” on the customs form. The immigration form asks for your intended address in Costa Rica. Just write down: “familia de ILISA Instituto de Idiomas.” Have both forms ready along with your passport.
After passing Immigration, you will arrive in a hall with 2 baggage transport belts. On one of these you should be able to find your luggage. This can be difficult because several flights sometimes use the same baggage transport belt, so be prepared to search around a little to locate your luggage. Be aware that to avoid too much congestion, baggage handlers will remove luggage from the belts. This means that if you don’t see your items on the belt, they are probably already on the floor. There is a counter for lost baggage, if by chance your bags are delayed or lost.
Your next stop is Customs. If you have two bags or less you can usually just walk on through. For those with more than two bags there is an area where you must push a button. If after pushing the button the light turns green, proceed on through Customs. If the light turns red, you will have your luggage examined. (note: Customs can check any bag or individual they desire.)
After passing through Customs, walk out of the main aiport building. An ILISA driver should be waiting for you behind a yellow barrier on the sidewalk just in front of the door leaving the airport. Just look for somebody with a white ILISA sign with blue lettering and your name on it. We will take care of the rest. (note: see “Z last word” at the end of orientation)
Costa Ricans are well known for their interest in culture and the arts. The Ministry of Culture sponsors theater, choral music, opera, dance, literature, poetry, art, sculpture and film.
Museo de Arte Costarricense, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 to 4 p.m., $2.00
Museo de Oro, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10:00 to 4:00 p.m., $.75
Museo Jade, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:00 p.m., $2.00
Museo Nacional, Tuesday through Sunday, 8:30 to 4:30 p.m., free with your ILISA ID
Museo de Arte Moderna, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:00 p.m., $2.50
Alcoholics Anonymous – in Manuel Antonio, call Jennifer (777-1954) or Bill (777-1461); Anchor Club in San José, call 222-1880, 267-7126; Gringo-Tico Group, call 222-1880, 2223804; AA at Unity in Escazú, call 228-6051; Jacó Beach, call 643-3287; Puerto Viejo, Límon, call 750-0080.
Al-Anon, call 228-6051, 282-6391.
All Canadian Club, call 289-8659, 289-6089
American Legion, Post 10 in Escazú, call 228-1740; Post 12 in Golfito, call 775-0509 or 775-0567.
Amnesty International, call 282-6214, 236-3561.
Coffee-Pickin’ Square Dance Club, Call 236-2517, 531-1079.
Lion’s Club, call 221-0636.
Rotary Clubs, call 222-0993.
Triángulo Rosa: Gay and Lesbian Club, call 234-2411, 443-6969.
Be prepared for a bit of a culture shock when you come to San Pedro. Costa Rican people have very different ideas about many things. But the best thing to do is to realize that you are the visitor, and that the burden of cultural adjustment is upon you. Even though the Costa Rican style of life is not completely different from your own, there will be significant changes to which you will have to adjust. Besides, if everything were exactly the same as what you are used to, where would the fun be?
For instance, the issue of communication can be a very real problem. Literal translations of English idiomatic expressions can be dangerous. A woman from the school once said to a shop owner in San Pedro when he quoted a price, “I can’t believe it.” What she meant to say was that she was surprised at how cheap the item was, but the owner felt that she was calling him a liar, became very upset and nearly threw her out of the store. Don’t assume that you will be able to transmit a message easily and always try to express yourself as clearly as possible with the words that are the most correct for the situation. We all know about the problems of communication even between members of a family; be aware that in a foreign country the problem is that much greater.
With this example in mind here are some other differences you should be prepared for. Quiet and peaceful households are a rarity. Whether it is dogs barking, roosters crowing, street noise, neighbors or relatives visiting or a señora banging around the kitchen making a meal, much of Costa Rica is noisier than what you might be used to.
Another thing is that families in general stay together much longer than you may be used to. It is common for three generations of families to be living together under the same roof. It is a way to increase the household income and to help one another. In addition, most young people don’t leave home until they marry and doing so is often interpreted as a lack of love for their parents.
Lastly, in Costa Rica time takes time, lots of time. Punctuality may be a concept of the future. “Hora Tica” is different. (This is not the case for your ILISA classes and if you will be visiting business colleagues or potential clients, arrive on time!)
These are just a few examples of the multitude that you are likely to encounter when you come here. Remember that Costa Rica is a less developed country than the one that you might be used to. It is not a good idea to focus on the negative aspects of the life here. If you come wanting to tell the people about the necessity for more trash cans on the street, or lecture them about the ineffectiveness of the bureaucracy here, you are likely to miss many of the positive aspects that the country has to offer. Once again, Costa Rica is a place of difference. Try to look at the difference as something to learn from, or something to enjoy. If you have this attitude, we can assure you that Costa Rica and its people will not let you down.