Expat Diary: What is Life Like in Costa Rica During Lockdown?

Kathleen Evans, IL Costa Rica Correspondent

What is Daily Life Like at the Moment in Costa Rica?

I live in the popular surfing and tourist town of Tamarindo on the northwest Pacific coast. Life here came to a screeching halt when the government officially closed our borders—by air, land, and sea—to visitors on 18 March through at least to 12 April. Expats living here on tourist visas are allowed to stay beyond their expiration dates. There are still a limited number of flights departing through the end of March for those trying to leave; however, it is recommended to check with your airlines to verify they are still flying.

In an announcement made by President Carlos Alvarado Quesada on 23 March, any legal foreign resident or foreigner with migratory status, who leaves the country, will lose their residency.

As with everywhere, regulations and mandates are changing at lightning speed. I commend the Costa Rican government for taking bold steps to try to flatten the curve quickly by declaring a national state of emergency on 16 March. All schools and churches are closed. The national parks, museums, and tourist attractions are closed, too. The ripple effect has seen hotels, tour companies, and restaurants temporarily closing. This will have a staggering impact on a country relying on tourism for 13% of its direct jobs, and even more indirectly.

With Semana Santa (Holy Week) looming, initially multiple municipalities across the country had closed their beaches through Easter—but as of 23 March, it is now a national mandate. This is the time of year when thousands of Central Valley residents typically flock to the coast for parties and concerts (think spring break in Florida and Texas). Certain municipalities and provinces have utilized the ley seca (dry law) to temporarily ban the sale of alcohol to cut down on large gatherings and help keep order. Vehicles are now restricted off the roads from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. (except for emergency vehicles).

A police vehicle drove through the community on 22 March with a large megaphone telling us, basically, the town is closed.

Is Costa Rica Prepared for Coronavirus?

There are several Gold Coast clinics open 24/7. The head doctor at one of them is a calming voice online though their Facebook page. She assures us that they are there for us and that the medical community is ready to take on the virus. However, as we know the ultimate results are unclear.

How is Your Community Working Together?

The community is coming together to help those less fortunate. An expat singer-songwriter- restaurant partner is set to perform a daily variety show online at their (closed) beach restaurant to help raise funds for those less fortunate. We are also seeing food drives and locals with vehicles volunteering to make deliveries for those who can’t get out.

Many condos and gated communities in the beach areas are vacant, as many are vacation rentals or owned by part-timers who have gone home early. Fortunately, I live in a complex with nearly all full-time residents, so we have come together to look after one another as best we can. Our common areas have not yet shut down so we can still enjoy the swimming pool and some fresh air with social distancing.

Can you go to the Store?

Our grocery stores, clinics, and pharmacies are open. There are also a number of restaurants staying open for pick-up or delivery. I took a walk to a local grocery store to pick up a couple of items yesterday. Stores are all fully stocked and I have not witnessed any hoarding. However, that was not the case in San Jose, where I saw photos of some panic buying at the big box stores.

How are you Passing the Time?

I find comfort at the beach. It is now silent except for the tranquil sound of the waves in the distance. Regenerating. Echoing a soothing message that we will get through this.

How are you Communicating with People?

We use Facebook groups to get local information from community leaders and business owners.

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