Come On Feel The Ruido: Speaker Cars

“You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.”
–Norman Douglas,South Wind

I’m not sure how “deep” that quote is, but I like it. As we saw in a previous post about “shock and awe”-style advertising campaigns, if you want to sell something in Costa Rica, it’s best not to be too subtle in your techniques. Grab a hold of that microphone, turn the volume up to 11, and go to town –just keep shouting until you force potential customers into submission (and into your store). But what if it’s a slow day and there aren’t any customers walking down the street in front of your store? Well, then you can take the show to them!

My friend Dustin shot this video when he and his wife Sam visited us a few years back, and it’s brilliant. It shows the Costa Rican “Speaker Car” in its natural element, and in all its glory. And the Speaker Car is quite an exotic species, indeed. In fact, I’m not even sure what to call these things; I’ve tried different searches, but not really come up with anything substantial. Could I possibly be the only one out there who thinks these things are weird?

In any case, Dustin’s video is wonderful because it shows all the elements of a quintessential Costa Rican Speaker Car:

-It has between 2 and 4 speakers, to disperse sound properly and penetrate every eardrum within a 200-meter radius
-The speakers are mounted on top of a crappy early model white or gray Hyundai (preferably an Excel, but an Elantra will also do nicely, thank you)
-It’s screaming about a sale on cell phones
-It repeats the words “San Ramón! San Ramón!” which is also the very city it’s driving in at that exact moment
-The announcement also includes a short sample of a remixed sub-par 90’s dance anthem
-The announcement continues ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

These cars are all over the place here, but they’re surprisingly hard to get videos of. I may have just been in the wrong place, but this is the best I could come up with after about a dozen recent attempts in Palmares:

Not bad, but not great, either. I need to figure out how to adjust the volume on my camera’s microphone because –believe me– that car was loud in real life. In any case, I used to live in San Ramón, in a cul-de-sac. The speaker cars would sometimes go into our cul-de-sac to turn around, their messages blasting me awake at 9:30 in the morning (I guess you could say I’ve always been a bit of a late riser). At the time my Spanish was very limited, though, so it was simply loud gibberish; I never knew if Nicaragua and Panama had joined forces to conquer the country once and for all, or if there was just a sale on feminine hygiene products at a local drugstore.

Even here in Berlín de San Ramón, a decidedly very rural community which I’ve lovingly referred to as a “mountainous slum,” I’m still not safe from speaker cars. Sometimes they’ll come by with public service announcements (“THE ELECTRICITY WILL BE SHUT OFF FROM 6 PM TO 8 PM ON SUCH-AND-SUCH A DAY FOR LINE MAINTENANCE!!“), but just as often they’re merely selling more crap (“COME DOWN TO PALMARES! PALMARES! PALMARES! TO THE SINAI SECOND-HAND STORE! SACKS OF CLOTHING FOR ONLY 3,000 COLONES! SATURDAY! SATURDAY! SATURDAY!“)

What about you? If you live in Costa Rica, what’s the most interesting, bizarre, or amusing thing you’ve heard blare from the horrible metallic lungs of a speaker car? If you don’t live in Costa Rica, are these things common where you live? Or as I rhetorically asked before, could I possibly be the only one who finds these things strange?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

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Just One Monkey On One Of Infinite Typewriters at Costa Rica Outsider
Hello, and welcome to Costa Rica Outsider! My name is Ryan Sitzman. and I'm the proverbial "man behind the curtain" for this site. I hope you like it, and I'd love to hear any comments or feedback you may have. I also have a language learning blog at, or you can check out my personal site at Thanks for stopping by!

5 thoughts on “Come On Feel The Ruido: Speaker Cars

  1. The speaker “Ruido” cars.. Do they really have a name from whose we could call them? Since I was a child they have always been around us, and I don’t know if I have gotten accustomed to them yet =/

  2. Yeah, that’s basically what I say, only less vulgar. Thanks for checking out the page, Ricardo. Remember, if you ever feel like writing a guest post (“Costa Rica Insider, by Ricky Tico”??) tell me.

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