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Flush the paper down the toilet in Costa Rica

Flush the paper down the toilet in Costa RicaOnce in a while, people who visit me in my office, ask if they can use the restroom. Some, who have been staying in an older hotel or Bed & Breakfast or live in a rural location, open the door of my restroom, peek in and ask “can I flush the paper”?

For an outsider, that is a very weird question. For an old Costa Rica hand like me, it’s one of those things that gives me a chance to show off that my bathroom is built to the latest standards of decency. If you read on, you will understand why this weird or even shocking question is being asked after a peek into the bathroom.

When I moved to Costa Rica, quite a while ago, I wondered why everyone had paper basket next to the toilet. At the time, pedal flip waste baskets didn’t exist, so everyone had a regular open waste paper basket in the bathroom with a plastic supermarket shopping bag in it. It takes a while to get used to this tradition and for sure you learn how to empty the basket a couple of times a day.  To understand the need for the waste paper basket you need to learn a bit about the sewage system in Costa Rica.

Before condominiums existed in Costa Rica, where they install a wastewater treatment plant, every home had its own septic tank in the yard. Homes constructed before 1975 had mostly clay pipes connecting the toilets to the septic tank and toilet paper would get easily stuck in those pipes, even though Durman started to import PVC pipes in 1963.  Toilet paper, in those days, would not dissolve as easily as it does now, but I wouldn’t run the risk flushing it down the toilet in such an older home if I were you.

This is how a toilet waste bin would look like in the old times

This is how a toilet waste bin would look like in the old times

You will still find homes in the older areas of Costa Rica, like downtown areas of the cities and quite a few farm houses in rural areas that still have those clay pipes and an old septic system. If you live in one, you don’t want to be calling a plumber every week, so make sure you have one of those modern stainless steel auto sensor waste bins. If you live in a modern house like I do, you will have PVC pipes leading to your septic system and you don’t need to bother with the waste bin and you can just flush the paper down the toilet.

The old clay sanitary pipe in Costa Rica

The old clay sanitary pipe in Costa Rica 

And let me throw in a Spanish lesson while we’re talking about toilets. If you would like to use the correct words for restroom in Costa Rica, you have two choices:

  • El baño (el banyo) means bathroom. This is used when asking for the restroom or powder room if you are in someone’s home.
  • El servicio sanitario means sanitary services. This is used when you ask for a restroom in a commercial location like a store, a restaurant, a mall or at the airport even though you will be perfectly understood if you use the word baño.

So if you purchase a Costa Rica house for sale, make sure you ask your realtor for the age of the house, a good and educated realtor in Costa Rica will be able to tell. If the house was built before 1975, ask the home inspector and if the sewage pipes are PVC or clay. That way you can just flush the paper down the toilet with no worries. When you are a guest in a home or a B & B where there is a sign in the bathroom that says “por favor no tire el papel higienico en el inodoro”, please don’t.

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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. I know you all meet people on the plane, in the supermarket, at yoga, at the gym, at the Blooms ladies club, at the potluck organized by your community. Please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, when you meet someone who wants to purchase one, we appreciate it.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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