Arriving in Costa Rica (part 2)

The Airport Currency Converter, Entering the Chaos Outside the Terminal, Getting a Taxi, and the Your Introduction to Latin American Traffic
The Airport Currency Converter, located to the left side of the concourse once you have left Customs and exited a double wide door and turned right at the car rental places, is located to your front left. “What a brilliant idea,” you think, “I don’t have any of the local currency and I know I’ll need it. This place is so convenient I’ll just change some greenbacks into local dough right now.” It may seem like a good idea but trust me; the Currency Conversion business at the airport makes Bonnie and Clyde look like Robin Hood.
Their rates are roughly 10% off the going rate for Colones, the Costa Rican national currency. They will offer you a “special deal” if you exchange more than $130 U.S, which cuts the robbery down to maybe 9%. Do yourself a huge financial favor and keep walking past that place and pay for your airport taxi in dollars. In another column I will walk you through where to get the best exchange rates for your money.
When you see the Currency business you take an immediate right and then a left to exit the airport terminal. Peace and quiet have now been left for absolute pandemonium. There are dozens of people, maybe more, screaming at you at the same time. Most of them, I believe, are taxi drivers. Taxis are highly regulated at the airport so if you follow these instructions you will receive a fair price on transportation to your hotel.
I usually pick out the most honest looking of the drivers screaming “Taxi!!!” at me…I wish I had a better method for you…and proceed directly left to a window where you will buy a taxi ticket to your destination. I usually stay downtown my first few nights and the taxi fare runs between $15-25, depending on currency fluctuations and such. They accept dollars. Just tell them what you where you are going, pay the money, and give the ticket to the driver. (It’s also a good idea to write down the address of the hotel so they, and the taxi driver, know exactly where it is located.)
Speaking of the driver, do not let him take your belongings to his taxi immediately after you choose him. As in any big city, things have been known to disappear. Keep your belongings by your side until you can physically accompany them to the taxi with him. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
If you are staying downtown, the drive will take somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on traffic. When you are safely in the taxi and on your way, be prepared for a new driving experience. Cars weave in-and-out-of traffic as if there are no lines in the road and come within inches of collisions every few minutes, if not more often. To say it takes some getting used to be a huge understatement. Thankfully, I’ve been here seven times and arrived at my hotel in one piece every time. It is just the normal way of driving in Latin America.
Also, you will hear a symphony of horns blowing. I think it is one of the national pastimes. There are a number of different honks; the beeeep, the beep-beeep, the three beeps, the two short beeps, and a number of others. I’m sure they each have their own meaning but I have yet to decipher many of them. The long beep means you cut me off and I’m not happy. The two short beeps signals another car to change lanes in front of your vehicle, a nice gesture. When I find out the meaning of the other ones, I will let you know!

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