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Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

Minneapolis, MN
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Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

We're looking into a visit in March for some pretty extensive dental work for myhusband--implants and crowns. The work would be done by a dentist whose office is near la Sabana park. Frankly, from what we've read about the San Jose area, it doesn't sound too exciting. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is sounds as though the city itself is not particularly interesting, dirty and noisy. The upscale suburbs where many people also lodge are replicas of American suburbs with the same type malls and restaurants as the US. Our preference would be to be in an area that is more natural with opportunites for a couple hour hike in the afternoons when we're free, but, from what I've read, there doesn't seem to be anything like that in the areas we'll probably be limited to for somewhat easy access to the dental office.

I am wondering if I'll be bored to tears because there is nothing to interest me and nothing to do during the times when my husband is having the work done. And, since I am assuming he'll want to be out and about other when in the dental chair, we'll both be bored when we do have time together. We are not shoppers, and we don't frequent American chain restaurants even here at home much preferring more unique type places.

What was your experience? I guess I should add in here, we are very experienced international travelers who don't need (or even want) things to be just like home. Thanks in advance.

Nowhere
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1. Re: Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

While you have a pretty good grasp of San Jose, things are actually not quite as bleak as you suspect. Sure enough, there is crime but you likely won't be affected by it if you stay in the busy sections of the city and limit your exploration to the day time. At night, San Jose can be very intimidating, some areas more so than others.

Still, there are things to do and see - the recommendation to skip San Jose that you have probably read over and over has more to do with the fact that the area is not as interesting as many other major cities. Also most tourists to Costa Rica are interested in nature - and thus, being in San Jose is antithesis to that idea.

No need to be bored to tears. You can easily and safely explore downtown, including the fantastic museum and the Teatro Nacional. Just be aware that pick-pocketing IS a major problem. Don't take a bag, have nothing in hind pockets, etc.

If you are there on a Sunday, head to La Sabana Park - there's usually a lot going on and a lot to see. If you are the seasoned travelers you claim to be, you likely won't be intimidated, either. In a way, it's San Jose's Central Park and there are plenty of interesting characters around that make a stroll quite interesting.

Being in SJ, you also have access to some very lovely areas close by - such as the Orosi valley. Additionally, you can visit Zoo Ave, Lancaster Gardens, Poas and Irazu Volcanos, etc.

No need to be bored...or scared. I actually quite like SJ but it certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea...

Tampa, FL
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for San Jose, Costa Rica
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2. Re: Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

First of all, I'm not sure everyone would completely agree with your descriptions of the upscale suburbs as being "replicas" of the US, but I do see where you're coming from with that. There are certainly those tendencies, particularly along the Hwy through San Rafael de Escazu, which is just minutes away from La Sabana by car and where you'd otherwise most likely choose to stay and which definitely has much more than its share of US chain operations. The main "old" town of Escazu has some of that too but is not nearly as bad. Plus, there are plenty of more "naturalistic" areas around and between these main population centers which, while still not exactly rural or rife with hiking opportunities, can have pleasant grounds in which to hang out during down time and in between outings to other areas.

There are actually a WIDE variety of guided tours, both full-day and half-day, that can pick you up from your hotel in La Sabana area or wherever else in the immediate SJ area you choose to stay and will take you to many interesting and natural areas outside the city. Most of the organized half-day tours depart in the morning, so you might want to try to schedule his appointments in the afternoon if you can for any day you plan to do those. One example of a great morning tour that you can do is to one of the nearby volcano tops (Poas or Irazu). Coffee farm tours are also very possible and can easily be combined with the Poas volcano tours (assuming that leaves you enough time to get back for any appointments your husband might have). On the Irazu side, you could combine that with a visit to CR's "religious capital" of Cartago and/or hikes around the Orosi Valley area or the grounds at Lankester Gardens in Paraiso. My personal favorite all-day tour to do is white-water rafting, which I'm sure you'd enjoy much more if you can do it with your husband, but can also be done solo (at least I have once or twice) as you'll be in the company of fellow gringo tourists who I'm sure will make you feel like part of the group. Granted the city of SJ itself is not particularly interesting, but there is at least enough there to occupy you for at least half a day or even a full day or possibly more if you really had to (including several interesting museums, leafy parks, a few old and interesting buildings and a colorful Central Market in which to shmy around ).

As for free hiking opportunities in natural areas (another thing I take regular advantage of), it is not so difficult to hop on a public bus and be far outside the city in natural areas within an hour or 2 or even less. For example, in addition to hiking around the 2 volcanoes and valley that I already mentioned, you could take a tour or possibly a bus to head out to the indian ruins at Guayabo Nat'l Monument (not sure but you might actually need to take a cab from nearby Turrialba to get there) about 1.5 hours by pleasant bus-ride from SJ. Or from Turrialba you could also go on a hike along the abandoned railbed of the old "Jungle Train" (just be very careful crossing any old trestles). And if you stay in "americanized" Escazu, you'll still be very close to your dentist's office in La Sabana but also really close to Ciudad Colon which is in a more rural area up in the mountains (and the location of La Universidad para la Paz or Peace University) with nearby hiking opportunities around that rather nice little town.

I don't know if you plan to rent a car or not. Driving one around the urban areas of the Central Valley can be a real pain to put it mildly (particularly finding safe parking in the city itself), but it can be a real boon for heading out of the city (drastically cutting down on the travel time of public buses as you eliminate the need for frequent stops to let on and off local passengers). With the new highway complete heading down to the coast, in a private car you could be there in under 2 hours making a visit to the beach much more practical for even just a day trip out of San Jose. And, unless you opt for a group tour, which can be pricey themselves and much more restrictive as to to times, a car would also greatly simplify getting to some other destinations which would otherwise be lengthy or require making connections by bus and/or taxi (such as Guayabo as I already suggested but also Lankester Gardens and the Orosi Valley). If you opt to stay further outside of the city in a more rural location, not as well served by public transportation, you could also use the car to drop off your husband at the dentist before heading out for your day's activity, saving money on cab-fare and partially offsetting the effective cost of the rental.

I'm actually planning a "dental trip" myself for next week to have 2 crowns done. I'm arriving next Monday morning, have an afternoon appointment and am leaving Tuesday open in case the dentist discovers any extra "build-up" work she needs to do. And then, since it takes a few days for the permanent crown to be ready anyway, I hope to get out of SJ for at least a night or 2 (probably hop on the bus to La Fortuna) before heading back to SJ at the end of my short trip to put in the permanent crowns. While "stuck" in SJ, I figure I'll do the rafting 1 day (or possibly on the day I come back from La Fortuna instead of taking the bus) and maybe another afternoon hopping on the bus to Tarbaca for my regular "pilgrimage" to Donde Alcides (though I'm not sure if my temporary choppers will be up to the task of eating their delicious puerco asado no matter how tender and juicy they may be), purchase some fresh Tarrazu coffee at a nearby shop and do some walking around up there to soak in the fresh mountain air before returning to the city for the night. Personally, I don't figure I'll have much time to get bored.

Minneapolis, MN
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3. Re: Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I now have a much better picture of the reality of the area and the options for doing different things.

From previous travels we know (and practice) the entire drill about money belts under your clothing, not using backpacks or easily opened purses, leaving all jewelry at home, not carrying around our passports, making copies of them etc. And, we are pretty cautious about our surroundings too. One of you mentioned crime. Is it any worse here than in other areas of the world or Central America? We've been to Nicaragua which is supposedly about the safest country in Central America and Guatemala which is way up there on the not so safe scale. Incidentally, everyone's favorite developed country France is the place where we've had the most issues with crime.

I have another question about driving and renting a car. In Nicaragua and Peru we hired drivers because it was not much more than doing a rental. I assume prices in Costa Rica make this prohibitive. Just how bad is the driving in Costa Rica? We've driven ourselves in the Yucatan, Romania, Turkey, LIthuania, Czech Republic and some other places where some say the driving is terrible, and we were fine. So I'll have a frame of reference, is this comparable to what driving in Nicaragua would be like?

We are typically do-it-yourselfers and don't sign up for those pricey organized tours for tourists so would want to follow up on these suggestions on our own. I know enough Spanish to be able to handle basic communications but nothing further. Thanks again.

Nowhere
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4. Re: Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

Well, crime is everywhere, including Costa Rica. I don't think it is particularly bad - most crime committed against tourist is opportunistic and non-violent, meaning that you can't leave any of your belongings out of sight. I have never had anyone steal anything from me - but my car has been broken into a few times at the suspicion that something valuable might be inside.

Driving in Costa Rica isn't particularly dangerous, frightening, or crazy. There are some crazy drivers and drunk-driving can be a popular past-time on Friday night out in the middle of nowhere. People also love to pass trucks - in blind curves. You don't have to participate in any of that - in fact, you should make sure you adhere to all traffic laws.

I have never felt the need for a driver nor have any of my friends or family ever hired one.

That said, some people think that driving here is akin to having suicidal tendencies. Then again, some people think that driving on the German Autobahn is plain old nuts or that driving in Paris and Rome should generally only be attempted by locals. All in all, it's really up to your own comfort level - if you feel very comfortable and in control at home, you'll be fine in CR. If you freak out on a two-lane highway back home when there's a car broken down on the shoulder, you need to hire a driver.

Tampa, FL
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for San Jose, Costa Rica
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5. Re: Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

I've been to both Guatemala City and Managua and can tell you that, as much as some people around here like to complain about crime in SJ, personally I've never (or at least very rarely) felt on edge anywhere in SJ like I did when I was in those other Central American cities. Walking most anywhere you're likely to want to go during the day in SJ is reasonably safe as long as you practice all the usual common sense precautions that you already seem to know about. Walking around at night, particularly after the stores close, can be a bit riskier, although I sometimes do it and have as yet to have any really bad experiences. Besides, with cab rides downtown costing only a couple of bucks, its really no big deal to just hop in a cab at night if you want to be pretty much absolutely safe.

Re: renting a car vs. hiring a personal driver, I realize there are a lot of advocates around here for going the personal driver route and it does provide some possible advantages (like having a translator or a "guide" even though its not like these guys are actually as formally trained in CR history, botany, etc. as true professional tour guides might be). However, IMHO and as you yourself just pointed out, in CR these driver-"guides" charge a pretty hefty premium over the cost of renting a car and driving yourself considering the average income in CR is just $30-35/day. Given the fact that you're already accustomed to crazy drivers (and sometimes bad road conditions) and that you speak enough spanish to manage quite well on your own, I wouldn't bother with a driver if I were you.

If you do decide to rent a car, I'd try to pick a place a) not in the heart of the city (as you seem to be already planning to do anyway) so that you can minimize the amount of heavy city traffic you'll need to deal with and b) that provides a secure place to park your vehicle while you're not using it. Also, I'd limit your driving in the city to driving through it to get to wherever you're planning to go outside of it or to picking up and dropping off your husband at his dentist. In other words, avoid situations where you'll need to park downtown. And, as Framptonian already pointed out, avoid driving at night when visibility s not as good and more drunks may be out on the road. If you do all that, you'll avoid most of the the worst possible problems of driving in CR.

Edited: 31 January 2011, 16:12
San Jose, Costa Rica
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6. Re: Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

Agreed with prior post...I drove many of the places that you mentioned...and honestly I think Costa Rica is even better...once you are outside of the metro area...is fun to drive a lot of fun...

You can also look at Atenas great area to spend some quality time...nice weather...people from Atenas are very humble...they say they have the best weather in the world!

I really think that New York City...Chicago...Los Angeles...San Francisco...etc...are in many way more dangerous and dirty than San Jose.

roadadvisor

7. Re: Non-dental question for those who've had dental work done

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