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A worker tries to decipher an address on a letter at the post office in San Jose September 27, 2012. Costa Rica, unveiled plans on Thursday to install its first street signs, so residents will not have to cite local landmarks like fast-food chains or gas stations when giving directions. Municipal workers will install about 22,000 signs and plaques on street corners in the city, home to 1.4 million people, where the current informal system is tolerated by residents, but creates headaches for visitors and the post office. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate (COSTA RICA - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS) - RTR38ILQ
Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate
“Give it to the guy next to the shop. You know.”
SPECIAL DELIVERY

Costa Ricans are still waiting for street signs on every corner

Kabir Chibber
By Kabir Chibber

Journalist

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.

 

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