Street directions in Costa Rica: beware!

Street directions are quite important, they are significant in order to get to places on time so that we won’t miss a movie, or a date, they’re important especially if you’re hungry and you want to get to the burritos place soon.

So what happens when you suddenly find yourself traveling to Costa Rica?

The first suspicion came up when I needed to pay for my hotel and the sales representative goes like:

“Please send your payment amount to the following bank: HSBC, 15 N Subaru Autos, San José – Costa Rica”

After a few seconds I asked the person:
“Excuse me, just a question… What does the N stand for in the address?”
“N is ‘next to’, our bank branch is located next to the Subaru Cars Distributor”

When traveling to a new place for many people can be a challenging experience even for the most experienced travelers. Where for many places the language barrier is one of the most typical brick-walls you can find, in Costa Rica you’ll find a complete different mindset when it comes to giving directions. According to the maps I carefully looked at, when you see street numbers that are clearly marked, such as Calle 15 or Calle 3, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are likewise clearly displayed on the streets.

And this makes perfectly sense! While my bank transaction had to be addressed to Calle 15, it needs to put as reference the Subaru Cars Distributor.

When it came to pick the hotel, the issue became even more intriguing and peculiar.
The Hotel that my colleagues and I chose is Hotel Jade, and this is the direction indications to reach the place:

• 25 km from International Juan Santamaria Airport – Approximately 30 min. by car
• 5 min walking from downtown San Jose
• Located in an upscale quiet neighborhood
• 1 min walking dist. from “San Pedro Mall”
Exact Address:
250 mts. North of Autos Subarú, Barrio Dent Los Yoses, San Pedro, San José, Costa Rica

So, travel and driving directions in Costa Rica can be confusing and hilariously fun. Many foreigners are accustomed to road names and road signs, which in this case are all but non-existent.
As I came to learn, Tico (colloquial term used to refer to Costa Ricans) cultural tradition is to think of roads and streets as a pathway to a Final Destination, whose directions are explained with reference to a distance from a milestone.

My team and I are one week from the mission trip, good luck to us!