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Costa Rica: A Place with Few Street Names

Updated on July 3, 2012
Yes, the restaurant is 100 meters south of the Coca Cola sign near the Avon sign.
Yes, the restaurant is 100 meters south of the Coca Cola sign near the Avon sign.

I wonder how a GPS would work in Costa Rica? Or would it? Getting around from point A to B there has all been by landmarks and other points of reference. Why? Until recently, that is how the locals do it. Instead of an XYZ address, it would be "it is across from McDonalds" or "50 meters west of the glass house near the fountain". Just recently, because most of the four million residents live in and around San Jose, the city has decided to begin naming their streets, which up to now, had no official names. The cost will be $2 million dollars but the cost of not doing it is $720 million in lost revenue by returning mail.

Not all of San Jose has streets with no names, some do, but many pay no attention to them and don't know them. Even the President of the country does not know the name of the street that his presidential residence is on. She just knows it is in the well known Zapote neighborhood. In San Jose, a city of 300,000, somehow mail and businesses survive with no address. The postman usually can figure out cryptic notations for an address, if they can't, it is returned. To get the residents to buy into the naming streets, they are naming them.

It is all very odd to tourists. So many get lost. But they adapt by using reference points and landmarks to find there way. Emergency services often are delayed or get lost also, depending on how well the person describes the landmark or location, if no street name is present. Sometimes, a reference point, like a tree or building, is no longer there, yet still used. All this simply adds more to the confusion! Can you imagine medics calling in for directions, "Is it the Jacaranda Tree that use to be near the corner where the fish store is?"

I guess Costa Rica is like a Three Stooges movie. You just have to sigh, laugh, and say, "whatever".


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      I think its time to have street signs LOL!

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 5 years ago

      I grew up on a farm and am used to using landmarks.

      Today when people ask me where I live most times they are given landmarks. As the city is constanly changing that can be challening at times.