Costa Ricans are still waiting for street signs on every corner

“Give it to the guy next to the shop. You know.”
“Give it to the guy next to the shop. You know.”
Image: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate
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Costa Rica is still getting around to introducing a national system of street signs and addresses. To find a house or a shop, instructions often go along the lines of “It’s 150 meters west of the dentist” or “Try opposite the McDonalds.”

Reform has been long in the works. The country decided to introduce signs on every street in 2005, districts received post codes in 2007, and the 1.4 million people living in San Jose started to get 22,000 brand-new signs in 2012.

Before the signs were put up in the capital, the head of the postal service said almost a quarter of the mail in Costa Rica is undeliverable, leading to $720 million a year in lost revenue. Postmen especially have trouble with the old system. ”We once got a letter addressed to ‘the guy who is sometimes outside of the post office’,” one carrier told the Wall Street Journal.

While not the the only country lacking in conventional postal addresses—in many parts of India, local landmarks serve the same purpose—Costa Rica may be among the slowest to do something about it. Many expats use P.O. boxes to bypass the system, though that’s not perfect either. “I have a P.O. box but I don’t go to check it unless the postmaster shouts that there is something waiting when he passes our house on his bike for his lunch break,” Sara F said on Trip Advisor.