Posted by: baropbop | April 11, 2010

San Jose

Day 2 in San Jose started with me leaving the shady hotel and hitting the streets of downtown. You definitely get some interesting looks when you are walking among commuters with a a backpack on your chest and another on your back. The streets of San Jose are essentially on a grid. However, the grid does some zigzagging and the streets are very poorly labelled. All addresses are given as either the name of a street and an approximation of what other streets it’s between. Or, the location is referenced by its distance from a landmark. Places will literally give their address as “500 meters east of the casino.” It was an adventure and a challenge so I decided that there was no way I would pay for a cab. After about  3 hours and around 3 miles, I eventually found the hostel and saw a good bit of the city. One thing that was alarming to me was the presence of massive potholes and even missing grates on sidewalks and streets. There was onc place right at a sidewalk that had a hole that was at least five feet wide and ten feet deep. No warning.

Eventually I made it to the Costa Rica Backpacker’s hostel. It’s a very nice place, with an extremely helpful staff and a decent location. I hung around the pool for a while and went to a cafe for lunch.

At 7 P.M. I was supposed to be picked up to go get a rental car. At 7:30 P.M. I called to see where they were and there was some confusion about exactly where I was, but they said they would be on their way. I was very glad that I called, because I needed to be at the airport in a matter of hours. After I made my reservation with “U-Save Car Rental” I began emailing one of their employees in order to discuss a variety of potential issues. After working in the rental car business for several years, I knew there could definitely be some potential issues. Especially since I would be attempting to rent the car with a debit card. Despite saying things like, “What will the total charges (including deposit) be at the time of rental, I don’t want any surprises, what are the compete charges, etc” the rental car agent showed up and there were a few surprises. He tried to get me to sign 2 blank credit card receipts, one for the rental and one “in case of any damages”. I said there was no way in hell I was going to sign a blank check and then I proceeded to walk him through all of the email messages that I had sent. In the end I tore up the receipts and he left. That completely ruined the entire plan for Costa Rica and luckily I found a nice shuttle driver through the hostel to take me to the airport.

The next morning after many phone calls to various parties involved and other rental car companies, the guy at the counter of the hostel said he would see what he could do to help. He found a guy who would rent us a car for “$400 in cash.” I assumed that it was just a buddy of his who was lending us his personal car, but I was o.k. with it. It was even to be a SUV with 4 wheel drive and though it was double the original price, it was worth it we decided. So we set out to find ATMs that could give us both the US dollars and Costa Rican Colones that we neeeed to get the trip on the way. After a million different ATMs that said they were out of dollars I eventually got to one that said “insufficient funds.” I knew that I had more than enough in my account, so i decided to head back to the hostel to get on the internet and see what was wrong. U-SAVE car rental had charged my debit card almost $900!!!!! I did not give my debit card number at the time of rental, so the only possible way that could happen is if the guy went back to the office and charged my card, AFTER I refused the car and tore up the receipts. Needles to say I was livid. For the first time ever, Bank of America was actually good to me and I think we have the problem solved, but I still need to check and see if they have tried to charge me again. They didn’t even just try to charge a cancellation fee, or the amount of the rental, or anything even half way reasonable. They charged me the entire amount that was almost 4 times what they originally said it would be. This is fraud.

Eventually I get moneys and the guy comes with the car. He fills out the rental car contract and gives me his cell phone number. Despite broken English I find out everything I need to know about the car and come to the realisation that even though I have a rental contract, this deal is being done completely off the books. That’s the thing I love about central america. There is a solution to every problem. Someone is  always willing to take your money, even if it is a little shady. So we finally hit the road and started heading toward La Fortuna. The SUV has a USB port built in to the stereo and even though my ipod would not work, i happened to have a flash drive loaded with music that works great. My mood was instantly elevated and after picking up some beers for the drive, I was grinning ear to ear and finally on the Interamericana.

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