Let me tell you a little story about how much i’ve been stupid in Costa Rica some weeks ago. Which lead me in losing all my photography equipment the first day of my vacations there. If you plan to go to Costa Rica for vacations, and rent a car, this story is for you.
Time shifting is not your friend
My girlfriend and i took a plane from Paris to New York with American Airlines. Eight hours of flight without screens, 2 rows of 3 seats only, small plane, i didn’t knew by then that they were almost out of business. We arrived in snowy New York (20PM / -9 degrees) for 22 hours to visit @alioutta & @lmc. The next morning, we walked in central park, then we took our second flight from NewYork to San Jose. Still American Airlines, still no screen, still small plane, the only good point was that flight was “only” six hours.
We had booked a car in advance with Thrifty. A guy from the company came to pick us at the airport, took us to their central office nearby, and 25 minutes after some paperwork we had our rental car (Suzuki Jimny). This car, and most of the rental 4WD from Thrifty don’t have alarms.
We had only one hotel booked in advance, the one for the first night.
This hotel was in Alajuela, it took us almost one hour and a half to get there, because we got lost several times. We arrived there @11:00PM.
The next day, we got up early because of the time shift, and started to drive to Quepos @9AM. We arrived there @12:30PM.
We looked for a normal parking spot in the “main street”, because i could remember some warnings i’ve seen at the rental car office :
- 1400$ if you got your car removed.
- 680$ if you are 20km/h & more above the speed limit.
So we parked on a regular parking space, in the main street.
Quepos, like all the coastal cities in Costa Rica is just a very small town.
Our original plan was to grab some sandwiches nearby, find our hotel, throw every bags in the hotel room and go to the beach to relax from those two days of travel. Pretty basic. But the plan got changed a little.
When you are tired, you just take bad decisions
So we took all of our valuables out of the car with us : phones, wallets, cash, tablet (thanks #Nexus 7 for free GPS), passports, etc.
At this point, we had traveled :
- 16 hours of plane.
- 5 hours of car.
- (- 8 hours) of time shifting since two days.
- We were at -3°C in Paris, -9°C in New York, 32°C in Quepos.
First real stop, we could almost feel the holidays starting, so we decided to take a little walk after being seated for so long, and left our cabin bags & big bags in the car, locked, time for us to grab a sandwich nearby. Anyway, we will stay around and our hotel might be just here in this street. What could happen in 15 minutes ?
So, this is how your brain is working after you got tired.
I thought it was possible to left bags in a locked car in Costa Rica for 15 minutes and get around. How stupid i was, but couldn’t realize that, the first day in this country.
Once we found some food, we asked the waitress where the Big Mouth Frog Hotel was. According to her, it was some blocks away, a five minutes walk. By getting out of this place, we could see the car in the street, and decided to walk a little more to the hotel, and if the hotel had a free room, we will get back to the car to bring it in. The car was 200 meters away and i would rather walk a little than to drive all around this little town with a 4WD, i really need a walk without all my bags on me for 15 minutes.
We were never more than 300 meters away from the car, and for less than thirty minutes overall.
Here what’s happened to our rental car while we decided to get away :
Gone in sixty seconds
Some people from Costa Rica, or nearby countries, (Nicaragua and Panama) according to different sources, police and local people, are getting rental 4WD in San Jose, then, they just go to tourists areas (San Jose is in the middle of the country, and there are plenty of tourists areas everywhere nearby in all directions), to open cars and steal bags. It’s kind of a specialty over there. I have to admit that they are skilled at what they do.The thief had a rental DAHIATSU TERRIOS (white) and he was able to :
- Spot the car
- Force the door
- Steel bags discreetly
- Getting away (almost) without getting noticed by anyone.
All the above within almost four minutes. If you want to know some more stuffs, keep reading, it’s pretty fun, if not:
Be careful in Costa Rica, don’t ever let anything in a locked car, even for five minutes or less they are too good at robbing cars.