I had absolutely no problem with Costa Rica or even San Jose (which has a bit of a bad reputation) but my time in this capital city was a bit of a nightmare. On the Nicarguan/Costa Rican border I wanted to get money out of a bank as I only had about $20 left but I couldn’t get cash out of the ATM because my bank had blocked my cards and I needed my passport (which the bus staff had to do the visa stuff) to get money out over the counter.
Once in San Jose I shared a taxi with a very nice American guy called Kenneth who I had been hanging around with after meeting him in the Granada bus terminal. I got out at Hostel Pangea and had to pay cash for my dorm room which, at $16, was the most expensive in Central America. I tried again to get cash out of a nearby ATM as I was aware that the following day was a Sunday meaning that the banks would be closed. I just had to go to bed and hope that something would sort itself out in the morning.
On top of all this I was aware that I couldn’t get a bus from San Jose to Panama City on the Sunday night as I wanted. With it being the New Year the buses were all booked up for the next week and a bit. Of course I could have done the journey using local buses but as I wanted to actually have a day or two in Panama City I had no option but to book a flight for the Monday morning which I thankfully managed to do (at great cost) using the same Mastercard which had been rejected by the ATM’s.
Of course I also had to pay for an extra nights accommodation but with only a few dollars left in cash I couldn’t afford it and the money grabbing hostel (albeit one with a great Star Wars mural on one of the walls – below) would only let me use my card for a private room. I went to Western Union in a nearby supermarket but got nowhere there and was then worried. The situation was really ridiculous as I had two credit cards and 90,000 yen cash on me but couldn’t do a thing with it! Luckily, a guy overheard my English in the supermarket and told me that the only place with banks open on Sundays was at a shopping mall outside of the city centre. He very kindly drove me there saying that as long as I had half a dollar or so I could get back by local bus. It was 10.30am when I arrived at the mall but the banks didn’t open until 11am. The first one rejected me but thankfully the second one gave me $250 cash whilst doing something with my Mastercard and passport.
The nightmare was over and from then on I could actually get some food, pay my rent, book the morning airport bus and get out to see a capital city with a bit of a bad reputation. I walked for hours round San Jose in the afternoon and though pleasant enough and not as bad as most people said it wasn’t too much to write home about. I was just happy to have some money in my pocket and thereby a heightened chance of being mugged!!