A newcomers guide to finding a reasonable apartment in the city

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson At the supermarket or just somewhere along the street, locals seek renters.

Online sources are great but some are dangerous.

You are fresh off the plane, umbrella in hand for the rainy season and awe struck by the towering mountainous skyline: A true Gringo ready to make the best of the Costa Rican Pura Vida motto. Now what?

When thinking of moving to a new country, the first question to ask is “Where do I live?” Many find the task of searching for a home or apartment daunting. However, with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.

Here is my findings as I journeyed across San José on the apartment hunt.

The cyber world

The world tells you anything you want can be found in the classifieds. This generation knows the Internet is the place to begin any search, especially if you don’t have any knowledge of the area. Combine them both together and you end up with Craigslist. The Costa Rican Craigslist has updated listings everyday from individuals and businesses. Prices for apartment and room rentals are listed along with contact numbers. Use pictures and Web sites, as well as personal judgement to weed out the creepies and choose what is trustworthy.

The local English-language publications, www.ticotimes.net and www.amcostarica.com, also have specific sections for rentals. Real estate agents advertise here, so the rent can be costly.

The truth is, no one knows the area better than the Ticos or long-time residents. Forums such as Costa Rican Living on Yahoo allows you to post a question, and local expats will respond with questions. Also sites like www.couchsufers.org and www.airbnb.com will allow you to send direct messages individuals who share your interest of travel. With luck, they may have a room to rent.

The streets

Once you have overloaded your brain with information, scribbled down countless phone numbers and addresses, accessed every site possible, and ruled out things that does not fit your budget, it’s time to get out in the streets and explore your options. However, before you unleash yourself to the Costa Rican wild, there are two important things you should know. The first, addresses are given by landmarks and not street signs. Coincidently, streets are not marked at every intersection, but with signs sporadically placed on businesses. This means unless your map gives you sodas instead of calles, you will get lost.

The other thing to know is “walk signs” are few, and to cross the street you must put yourself out there and hope you don’t get hit. While walking the streets, it’s useful to stop at supermarkets and check telephone poles for locals advertising rooms. Also, at language schools you can find host family options or check with students to see if they are looking for people to share space.

The bottom line

The hierarchy of places to live by price runs hotel, apartment, hostels, room in a house. Each place offers you the basics: a bed, lights, water, wifi and cable. Breakfast can be included depending on the place, and usually laundry for $10 extra. That’s way more than you can ever have in the States, so you are already in a good situation.

My findings show that the average place will cost you around $400 a month. If willing to share your space, and use a little charm, you can get the price down to around $250 at a hostel. Most places are willing to negotiate, because their bookings are down, and they need to fill space. For example, newly opened Hostel Urbano in San Pedro had less than 10 borders Tuesday. The bright side to that is you may be able to pay a dorm price, and get a room to yourself. The lowest price for a room was $150 a month. That had a shared bath.

Hostels may sound scary, but in retrospect they can be quite cosy. For example, Kaps Place in San José features rooms with vibrant colors and an atmosphere that owner Karolina Bermúdez V. refers to as “like family.” Also, Pangea in downtown San José features a rooftop pool and restaurant.

Use your instinct, follow your signs, and don’t be afraid to talk. As consumer, the ball is always in your court.

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