Sunday, December 16, 2007

Post office in Costa Rica

Someone recently asked me a question about addresses in Costa Rica. This is a theme that pops a lot with foreigners trying to make sense of mail in Costa Rica.

The question was about the word 'Apartado'. In the following address example, think of it as a PO Box number that you'd see in the US:

John Q. Appleseed
Apartado Postal 34-1000
San José
Costa Rica

This would be the post office box number (address, although not a physical one) for Mr. Appleseed. The 34 is the number of his box and 1000 is the code for the post office in San José. This last number is the only thing used in Costa Rica that resembles a zip code.

Keep in mind, though, that Costa Ricans don't actually have physical addresses with street numbers and the like. The following is an example that you'd likely see in a small Costa Rican town:

Juan Semillero
50 mts. al norte de la Iglesia Católica
Santa Fe de Guatuso
Costa Rica

This is no joke. Costa Ricans simply describe the location of the residence or business with respect to nearby landmarks. This example would be for Juan Semillero, who lives 50 meters north of the Catholic Church in the town of Santa Fe, which is in the canton of Guatuso, in the province of Alajuela, and (obviously) in the country of Costa Rica. It's pretty wild, I know, and even after two years I never got used to it. People could never agree on the exact distances between two points, and often couldn't even agree on the basic cardinal directions!

Some may find this hard to believe, but take my word for it--Costa Ricans don't use addresses. Yet another thing that makes this place unique.

Pura Birra

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