Thursday, January 24, 2013

Costa Rica, Where the Streets Have No Name

First off, let me start by saying that the Costa Rican lifestyle must be starting to stick. I woke up this morning with a great idea for a blog post, "The Top 5 Things that You Didn't Know about Costa Rica." I scrambled to type up a short list of fun facts on my smartphone. Would you believe that I actually came up with 11?!

Well, fast forward to this evening and my original idea seemed way too ambitious. Plus, who wants to be overwhelmed with so much information in just one blog post?

So, in light of my newfound laziness, I've decided to just pick one fun fact and talk about it here. Let me tell you about Costa Rican addresses, or rather, Costa Rica's lack of addresses.

Did you know that Costa Rica doesn't have traditional street addresses? Most of the roads are unnamed, making it muy difícil to assign street numbers. So how the heck do you find anything? You use a combination of local landmarks, rough distance estimates, and cardinal directions.

Por ejemplo, here is the address for Epson, the printer company, in Costa Rica:

In English, the dirección is: 100 meters south and 300 meters west of the American Embassy, San Jose, Costa Rica. Well, that's helpful, as long as you know where the Embassy is!

Does someone actually measure the number of meters in these addresses? Of course not! The rule of thumb is that 100 meters is approximately one city block.

Want to see a couple more? Here's the address for Unilever, another international corporation:

Translation: From the cross in Belén's San Antonio district, go 400 meters west and 800 meters north.

And here's my favorite! It's the address of a local potato chip company:

The company's located in Ciudad Colón. To find it, head to the old folks home (Hogar de Ancianos), then go 100 meters south, 400 meters west, and another 100 meters south. Apparently, the initial southbound road that runs next to the old folks home doesn't go through, since the directions tell you to go south twice.

Now, I haven't seen it with my own eyes, but rumor has it that some addresses are given in reference to landmarks that don't exist anymore, like the old fig tree.* Talk about confusing!

All I can say is that if it weren't for Google maps and our trusty GPS, we'd be totally lost. I think that the Costa Rican government should give each citizen a GPS, then implement a new address system using latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. On second thought, maybe I should be careful what I wish for... do I really want to say numbers like N9° 56' 37.84", W84° 7' 23.89" in Spanish?! Aye Dios mio!

* The old fig tree (Antiguo Higuerón) is marked on Google Maps. It's coordinates are N9° 55' 52.02", W84° 2' 48.07".


  1. Sounds like where I am from! Can't stop smiling. Just might move there to feel at home.

    1. You just have to learn to laugh about it and roll with the punches! We never knew how easy we had it in a town like Phoenix, where there's not only addresses, but a grid system and straight, nicely paved roads!

  2. HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Love it!! Greetings from Costa Rica! Pura Vida!!

  3. EPSON Costa Rica is 200 (not 100) meters south and 300 meters west of the American Embassy :) Just kidding, THANK you for all the info !! Mucho gusto

  4. EPSON Costa Rica is 200 (not 100) meters south and 300 meters west of the American Embassy :) Just kidding, THANK you for all the info !! Mucho gusto