MOOVIT Phone App

The App

I took the airport bus back from SJO airport to San Jose, and I was delighted to discover the new app, Moovit, which I had loaded on my iPhone was working.  Earlier, when I opened the app from home, it would never show any bus routes which interested me.  I think Moovit is a “crowd-sourced” app like Waze, which depends on users to input all the information and my area must not have been entered yet.

 

The Moovit app can be downloaded from the Apple store and is free.

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The Moovit app below is orange with a white smiley face.

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The App in Action

So, here was the surprise: when I opened the app while on the bus, instead of an empty screen with no routes found, I saw the screen below.  What is really cool is the app knew my location and offered me a choice of two bus routes that use the route I was on.  So no scrolling through lines of routes that don’t pertain.  I was on Route 200 going from the airport terminal in Alajuela to San Jose, so I selected the first choice on the list.

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After the selection, another screen comes up with (1) the route, (2) the stops, (3) the estimated times to each stop and (4) where you are along the route.  So the apps says I have eight more stops and should arrive at the terminal at 1:37 pm in 14 minutes.

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Ok, a few caveats.  Costa Rica traffic is notoriously bad and these estimates are wildly optimistic.  I guess it would have taken at least twice as long at the pace the bus was going.  I think the program takes my GPS location and uses my rate to calculate the bus’s speed like WAZE does.  Second, the stops listed do not include every place the bus stopped. Personally, I am never quite sure about stops in Costa Rica since it seems to be flexible.  So, if no one is at the stop and no one rings the bell to get off, the driver keeps on going.  Likewise, if someone wants to get off between stops and the driver is in a good mood, he may stop and drop people off.  Like I said, it seems flexible.  I am not even sure the app lists just the major stops.  The bus stopped at about twice as many places as listed, which may be the source of the bad ETA.  I am sure the algorithm will get better as more people ride and add information.

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At this point, I decided that I wanted to get off at Crown Plaza by Sabana Park instead of going all the way into San Jose.  All I had to do was click on the blue circle with the pencil to edit my information.  I chose Crown Plaza this time and the screen updated with a new map and my location on the map and an new ETA.  So, now the program estimated I would arrive at 1:39 pm or in 7 minutes (previously was 1:33).  Note the small blue dot on the stop’s window indicating my current location almost to Hospital Mexico on the screen shot above.  So the program gave me two indicators of my position – the small blue dot on the map and the small blue dot on the list of stops.

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The next picture below shows where I was as I got close to my final destination – Crowne Plaza.  On the map, you can see the constantly updating blue dot that indicates my current position along the orange route with the final destination indicated by an orange box.  Note: previously the program estimated I would arrive at Crowne Plaza at 1:33, then 1:39 p.m.; and below at 1:43 p.m., I was supposedly 2 minutes out with an updated ETA of 1:45.  Really, I enjoy the program and am in no hurry to get to my destination, so a few minutes error in ETA does not impact me but is merely an academic interest.

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At this point the program is getting me prepped to exit the bus.  The program made  a sound and popped up a window to alert me that I am one stop away or 0.6 miles.

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I don’t know why, but I started getting tense.  Costa Rica moves rather slow sometimes.  The bus will actually stop and let you get fully off before leaving, so there is no rush to push to the front of the bus to get off.  I heard another ring with a 0.3 mile warning.  By this time I can see the stop, so I really don’t need the phone alerting me, but I can see this alert feature would be useful if you are unfamiliar with the route.

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The app gives me the one minute warning that my stop is coming up and when I arrive, it sounds loudly and announces I arrived and to get off.

Finally, ETA 1:47 pm.   If you are a seasoned New Yorker, the erroneous ETAs might drive you crazy, but in CR where time runs slower and many things will happen mañana (tomorrow), this is a big jump forward dealing with minutes.

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Also, I can see the advantage of alarms if a person falls asleep and needs to be awakened when they reach their stop.

Reversing the Trip

Later I had occasion to go to the airport and thought I would try the app from where the bus starts to the airport (SJO).  The Bus TerminalTerminal is across from Parque de La Merced. I think the cost from SJ to the airport was c550 or about one dollar US.

 

I opened the app and the nearby choices were offered and I choose “200 San Jose to Alajuela.”

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Again, the app lists the route, stops, and estimated times.

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I selected the airport stop from the list and the app refreshed with a new map.  Note the estimated time to arrival was 11:43 when I started.

The bus arrived at 11:57 versus the original 11:43, so again, take the ETA with a grain of salt. Pura Vida.

 

In case you were not aware, the airport bus stop is located where the red arrow is pointing below, just opposite the terminal on the other side of the parking deck.

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In summary, I am excited to use this program.  It works: it gave me the major stops, does a fair job of estimating ETA, alerts me that my stop is near, and is free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting a Copy of my Costa Rica Marriage Certificate

Hot damn!  Sorry to cuss, but this process so far exceeded my expectations that I am still in awe an hour later.

My wife and I got remarried in Atenas, Costa Rica on Valentine’s Day, 2016.  While I had been wanting to renew our vows after 35 years of marriage and this was a great event to do so, the main reason to get married in Costa Rica was for immigration.

We are temporary residents and need to renew our credential every two years.  One of the required documents for renewal is your marriage certificate.  Initially, we ordered our marriage certificate in Georgia and had it notarized and apostilled while still in the US.  Those forms are good for six months when making your initial application.

When we renew at the end of the year, we will need a new copy of our marriage certificate (notarized and apostilled again) but it can no be more than 30 days old, I think.  For us, that means probably flying back to the US just to get a fresh copy with all the approvals, which is time consuming and costly.  A local service will do it for us for $250.  Trying to do it by mail can cut it close to the 30 day limit.

Some innovative gringos came up with a work-around by getting married in Costa Rica.  My wife and I traveled to the central park in Atenas and participated in a mass wedding with 70+/- other gringo couples. With a CR wedding, getting a marriage certificate means simply going to the a government office and picking up a copy versus having to fly back to the US for the US marriage certificate.

So my task today was to see if I could get a copy of my CR marriage certificate before I need it at the end of the year when my renewal comes due. I had a lot of coaching from Pat Wegner who, along with her husband John, organized the mass wedding in Atenas.  She instructed me on what to do and where to go. Rafael Valverde of Outlier Legal, who officiated the mass wedding and recorded our certificates,  also gave me some pointers.

The Online Request

The instructions on how to get a copy are on the Tribunal Supremo De Electiones website.

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Initially, I had some trouble entering my name.  I kept entering my first, middle and last name, but the form just wanted my first and last name – Vaughn Evans.

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So the result above is all the people matching the input data.  Luckily, I am the only one with that name. An aside: the webpage is in Spanish, but my Chrome browser translates it into English on the fly, which is why you see the mix of Spanish and English above.  Also note: it returns Vaughn “Will Not” Robert Evans, which I think means they know I do not have an extra family name like Ticos have.

The site responds with instructions and caveats.  A few notes: #1 – the clerk provided the stamps at no cost; #2 – Note the timing restrictions so you do not show up before it’s ready.  Personally, I have heard people just walking in and getting the certificate, so I am not sure how important pre-ordering the certificate is. Maybe, if things are crazy, it helps.

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After reading the notes, press “Continue” and you come to the screen below. Note, the “Will Not” and “Do Not” entries.  Do not worry about them.  Select the number of copies you want and press “generate Application” button at the bottom.

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Note on the bottom of the screen shot above, there is a pull-down box for where you prefer to pick up the certificate.  You can see my choice was “Central San Jose” which I will give directions to below.  If you do not want to come downtown, pick a location closer to where you live.

The next screen tells me my request was successfully submitted and the detail of that request.  I printed this form and took it with me to the office and handed it in to the clerk.

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Picking up a copy of the certificate

“Central San Jose,” the pickup location I selected above, translates into the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones building in the center of San Jose. Map

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The building is well known to taxi drivers and easy to find.

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When you enter the building, you first pass through security and a metal detector.  There is an information booth up front and in each section of the building to direct you to the right area.  For marriage certificates, you go to the right and keep going until you are at the back of the building.

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“Certificaciones” is the area where the marriage certificates are issued.  I arrived at 8 a.m. on a Thursday and they were not busy.

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Head to the back of the seats and you will find a ticket machine to get your number for service.

 

If you are a senior (+65), you can choose the third button for the senior line, but if younger, press the first button for “usuario general.”  There were not many people there when I was, so it probably made little difference in wait time.

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Note, I was given K003 and when I sat down they were on K002.  It looks like a DMV in the states, it’s really easy to navigate, and the service was quick.

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After a minute (!!!) my number came up and I went to window 28 and handed the clerk my request form. She went to the back where I assume they had printed my marriage certificate beforehand, brought it back to her desk and attached two stamps and stamped the paperwork.  I had heard it cost some small fee but when I offered money, the clerk said there was no charge.

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So this is the final product–a computer printout with two pasted-on stamps and three rubber stamps.

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So back to my cussing at the beginning.  I think the entire process took 3 or 4 minutes.  I had loaded up my phone with an hour’s worth of reading, but I was in and out before I knew it.  Here is a picture of the room, which you can see is almost empty.  I guess they would not have all those chairs unless they needed them, so maybe it is crowded at times.  For reference, I went there on a Thursday morning at 8 a.m.

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I want to mention the building is beautiful.  It is well laid out with great signage, easy to traverse, and architecturally interesting.  I would enjoy working here.  Also, there is a cool park out front you should take the time to enjoy.  And finally, the train station to Cartago and Heredia (Estación de Ferrocarril al Atlántico) is by the park for folks who might like to come into town by train to pick up their certificate.

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I noticed that this is where I would come for a replacement cedula, and birth and death certificates too. Again, you can see everything is clearly marked.

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Overall, an easy and great experience.

September 8,2016 update

I changed clinics and had to get an updated marriage certificate.  You know the whole can not be older than 30 days rule.   So, I followed the process above again but they through a slight twist in the mix this time.  I went to the counter like always and this time the clerk told me to go to the last window where a woman appeared to have all the requested out ready to go.  Last time, the clerk must have walked down to the last window and gotten the paper for me.  Second change up was this time the clerk directed me to the Caja to buy a stamp while last time the clerk got the stamp and did not charge me???  It was c50 (10 cents) for the four stamps for the two copies I had requested.  I took the stamps back to the last window clerk who affixed them and stamped them and I was set to go.

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Last window clerk has folders of internet requested certificates ready to be stamped.
Here is the window where you buy your stamps

Finally, I noticed this warning for gringos who might go crazy dealing with Costa Rican bureaucracy.

2016-09-08-08-51-00 Dear Users Threat to an official shall be punished with imprisonment from one month to two years who threatens an official cause of his duties, addressing him personally or publicly, by written, telegraphic or telephone communication through official channels. amended by Law No. 8224 of 13 March 2002, repealing the offense of Contempt) Article 309

Lastly, I was curious where the date stamp was such that the clinic knew it was less than 30 days old.  The date you request the form is shown at the bottom of the form spelled out in words