Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!
In This Issue:
- So, What’s Up with the Yeatmans? Our monthly update to answer the #1 question people ask us, “What do you DO all day?”
- Our July 2013 Cost of Living
- Paul’s & Lance’s Monthly Weather Report for San Ramon & Atenas – July 2013
- Highlights of Costa Rica’s Residency Requirements AND a Discount on Residency Services
- Come to the Fiesta!
- Beginning our Third Year in Costa Rica, by Diana Miskell Turlock
- Costa Rica in 1947
- Crime and Security in Costa Rica: Do Bars and Barbed Wire Work?, Reprinted from The CostaRican Times
Our monthly update to answer the #1 question we get…“What do you DO all day?”
We’ve had an eventful month since our last newsletter! The highlight, though, was a long-anticipated visit from family. My sister, Toni, brother, Joe, and sister-in-law, Carol spent eight days with us, enjoying the tranquility of our home, touring the country, and spending time in San Ramon.
Headed to the beach
We started off with a beach day at Playa Dona Ana, our first in months. Why did we wait so long? Could we be too lazy to go to the beach? (Wow, that would be really lazy!) And, I hate to say it, we have been busy. I think it’s just that we’ve been enjoying being at home with our kitties. We’ve been so content, right where we are. Since the rainiest months are just ahead of us (September and October), we may wait until November to schedule the next beach day, but we promise all the folks who enjoy our beach days that we’ll get back to scheduling them on a regular basis again.
When we went to the beach with family, it was a beautiful day. We barbequed hamburgers on the grill, saw the newest litter of puppies of one of the beach dogs, but didn’t see a single monkey. Que lástima! (what a shame!) And unfortunately, it wasn’t a great day to swim as often happens in the rainy season. The water was a little brown from the rain waters rushing down from the Barranca River, but Paul and I did get in for a while and Paul, especially, enjoyed the wave action. Still, it was a pleasant day spent on a shady beach, with good company, good food, and sunshine. What’s not to like?
On to the Feria
Next stop, San Ramon’s feria (farmers’ market), where we bought flowers and the makings for dinner that evening. We ate just-made chorreadas and pupusas for lunch and drank agua de pipa (coconut water) from fresh, green coconuts.
Who would have guessed that Carol, my sister-in-law, would run into an old acquaintance there? Turns out, our neighbor, Jim, and she went to the same high school. It really is a small world! Jim was at the feria selling organic rice, beans, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, coconut oil, Himalayan pink salt, cacao, and more through his business, Pura Comida (Pure Food). You can check it out on facebook here.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
One of the highlights of their visit, for all of us, was our day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. We left at 7:00am for the just-under-2-hour drive to the gardens, located near the Poas Volcano. We wanted to be there by 9:00am for the morning hummingbird feeding time. Twice a day, La Paz staff takes down the hummingbird feeders and gives visitors hand-held feeders for some up-close-and-personal time with these jewel-colored wonders. What a cool experience!
Some of the other highlights were the flower-laden butterfly garden – the butterflies seemed to like Paul’s yellow jacket – and the toucan house where we all got to experience having toucans sit on our shoulders and heads. And, of course, we saw the waterfalls which, thanks to the recent rains, were flowing forcefully. If you live in Costa Rica or plan to visit, La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a must-see and a great place to take guests. It’s quintessential Costa Rica, all in one location.
We did and saw a lot during my family’s visit, but the best part was just being together. It’s the first time in six years that we’ve all been together in the same place at the same time. It was fun sharing meals, watching the sunsets, and catching up.
The day before our family left to return to their homes in the States, Paul and I were scheduled to speak at International Living’s Fast Track Conference in San Jose about our experiences living in Costa Rica. It was a lot of fun having our family in the audience as we talked to a crowd of 250 potential expats. One of our favorite things is talking about Costa Rica and we got to do it both on-stage and in the exhibit hall. Thanks to my brother, Joe, we have a shot of both Paul and I chatting with folks at our table during a coffee break, as well as a photo of our new Retire for Less banner.
Something else exciting happened last month as well. On the morning of July 16th, Paul asked me to check our website as there appeared to be a problem. Our stats were showing that 900 people had visited our website by 9am that morning. Since we usually get much less than that on a normal day, we couldn’t figure out what had happened. Turns out that an article we had been interviewed for a month or so prior by the Wall Street Journal’s Money Watch had been published. We ended up on the first page of the online article, as well as in the printed paper. How cool is that? That day, 3,500 people visited our website! Click here to read the article, entitled “Retire Here, Not There: Costa Rica – U.S. expats flock to one of Latin America’s safest places.”
This was a busy, but fun, month for a lot of other reasons as well. We joined many of our friends for a birthday party for two of our neighbors who happen to have the same birthday. Oscar & Liz were crowned king and queen for the day and, later, we were all serenaded by a local mariachi band. Of course, there was lots of good food, wine, and dancing. Feliz cumpleaños Oscar and Liz!
And, as part of Costa Rica’s annual International Jazz festival, we went to a concert at the Jose Figueres Ferrer Cultural Center. Boston’s Joel LaRue Smith Jazz Trio played to an audience of over 100 music lovers in our very own San Ramon. Friends from Zarcero met us in town for dinner first, followed by the concert, then an overnight at our house.
And other fun stuff
We also had another trip to Tortuga Island which was enjoyed by all. Since the weather patterns in the rainy season are different on the Pacific Coast than in the Central Valley, the weather was sunny all day and the water was clear and blue for both snorkeling and swimming. Our guests got to see lots of animals as well, including parrots, scarlet macaws, peacocks and peahens, and the resident boars, horses, and sand crabs.
While Paul was on the Tortuga Island trip, I was back in San Ramon monkey-sitting for our friends at Spider Monkey/Howler Monkey Rehab. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. The two baby howlers know me well enough to climb right up on me and settle on a shoulder, an arm, or even my head. They are such sweet little creatures, I can’t seem to stop kissing them. Venecia likes to suck my finger and lick my hands. Marisol likes to climb on my head and chew my hair (as you can tell by the state of my hair in the photo). Go figure. Maybe they do that with their mothers in the wild?? But there’s just something about animals – interacting with them and holding them – that’s good for the soul.
Yesterday, August 15th, was a national holiday in Costa Rica, one of the most important. It was Dia de Mamá – Mothers Day. All around town, we saw women walking or in cars, holding a single rose or a flowering plant given them by their child. The stores were bustling with loved ones buying last minute gifts. Even I was given flowers by Coopenae, our credit union, as were their other female clients. When we told them that I wasn’t a mother (except to our two kitties, of course), they said it didn’t matter.
Despite all that’s been happening this last month, we have taken time to enjoy the sunsets, another one of my favorite things. I have to confess that I sometimes don’t take notice because I’m usually busy preparing dinner, but Paul reminds me to stop and look. Here’s a photo of just one of the many beautiful sunsets at our house, though how do you pick just one? There is so much beauty around us and for that, and many other things, I am thankful.
No matter how you look at it, July was a more expensive month than normal for a few reasons. First of all, we renewed our Costa Rican Residency, which cost us $263.00. It was our intention to apply for permanent residency but we were not aware that it could take over a year for approval. So, once more, we renewed our temporary residency in order to be legal while waiting for our permanent residency.
The other reason that our expenses were higher is that we made our semi-annual trek to PriceSmart to stock up on some of the items we can’t get in San Ramon or which are less expensive to buy in large sizes. Our average grocery bill is about $345.00 and you can see, we spent lots more than that in July, to a tune of $571.22. We got a lot for our money, but it’s always a shock when just about every item you buy is $10 or more! At least we don’t do it often.
Were were also getting ready for a long-anticipated visit from family, so we also stocked up on goodies and filled the freezer with the makings of homemade pizza, pasta (I am, after all, Italian), fish, chicken and breads. As my mother would have said, “Abbondanza!”
Here’s a breakdown of what we bought at PriceSmart and what we paid, along with a photo of our purchases:
As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months:
- Our Costa Rica Food Budget Breakdown
- Our 2012 Cost of Living Summary
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Vacation the Retire for Less Way!
July marks the veranillo de San Juan (little summer) in Costa Rica when it often rains less, schools close for two weeks, and many people take vacations. The veranillo can last as little as one day or last all month and beyond. Sometimes it’s associated with el niño or la niña, although NEITHER has played a part in our weather this year. In comparing the weather between San Ramón and Atenas, at least between our specific areas of Atenas (2760 feet elevation, about 500 ft. above the town of Atenas) and San Ramón (3,000 ft. elevation, about 450 ft. lower than the town of San Ramón), you have to remember that micro-climates are major weather and comfort factors in Costa Rica. Altitude and topography play the major parts in this phenomenon. 500 ft. can make a significant difference in your comfort level regarding temperature, rainfall and wind. Nonetheless, the weather will be predictable within each micro-climate. Where we live, we get some rain from the northeast but also some from the Central Pacific. We only had three days where the temperature hit 80 degrees or higher. It’s remarkably steady. If I had to pick any one thing about the weather, it’s the temperature. Never too hot, never cold, always between 60°f and 80°f, almost every day on our mountainside at 3,000 ft. just outside San Ramón.
As usual, we took the temperature at 6am, mid-day, and 6pm daily, as well as rainfall totals for the previous 24 hours, measured at 6am. All temperature readings are taken in the shade (just like official meteorologists do). If taken in the sunshine, the temps are usually 8-10 degrees higher. You also have to take into account the altitude — the higher the elevation, the cooler the temps. It gets warmer by about 4-5 degrees per 1000 feet as you descend in elevation.
Following is our rain and temperature data, at our home in San Ramón at 3,000 ft. elevation, for the month of June 2013:
- 8.0 inches of total rainfall on 17 days
- 1 day measured 1.25 inches of rain and one day measured 1.0 inches
- 5 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 9 days with zero rainfall
Here’s the rainfall trend since the first of the year 2013:
- January – 0 inches
- February – .05 inches
- March – .15 inches
- April – .15 inches
- May – 14.85 inches
- June – 14.9 inches
- July – 8 inches
Total rainfall year-to-date: 38.10 inches
Click on the map to the right to enlarge it and check out the average rainfall for the towns you are interested in. Remember that the areas shaded in darker blue tend to be higher and also the places most expats choose to live.
- 6am average: 64.9°f (lowest reading was 61°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 75.6°f (high of 81°f on 1 day & the lowest high of 71°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 68.0°f (lowest reading was 66°f on 2 days and highest was 70°f on 1 day)
To give you an idea of the difference that elevation has on temperatures, here is the breakdown of temperature data from July 2012 when we were living at 3,950 feet elevation, about 1,000 feet higher than we’re living now:
- 6am average: 62.9°f (lowest reading was 61°f on 4 days)
- Mid-day average: 73.4°f (high of 78°f on 2 days & the lowest high of 65°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 65.9°f (lowest reading was 64°f on 4 days and highest was 68°f on 2 days)
Our friend, Lance Turlock , recorded day-to-day overnight low temperatures and daytime high temperatures at their home in Vista Atenas at an elevation of 2760 feet:
“You might observe that since June our elevation has risen from 2700 feet to 2760 feet. This is not due to a rise in the land mass. It is thanks to Google Earth which recently mapped the Atenas area with much higher resolution than before. You can now see and click on the roof of our house.
The rainfall report now indicates the number of days of measurable rain. It may be noteworthy that for the entire month of July Atenas had less rain than Philadelphia had on a single day (July 28). For the entire month, the rainfall in Atenas was less than half that in Philadelphia. For details, Google “record philadelphia july rainfall”.
It may also be noteworthy that during the entire month of July Atenas was not once inflicted with a stifling combination of heat and humidity like that which was imposed on the eastern U.S. and Canada for several days (including Philadelphia). But, caution, the weather in Atenas is a microclimate and it cannot be assumed that it represents the weather elsewhere in Costa Rica.”
Atenas Temperature data from July 1st to July 31st (31 days)
- Overnight lows (about 6am) Average: 68.5°f (lowest reading was 66.0°f & highest reading was 71.4°f)
- Daytime highs (about noon) Average: 82.3°f (highest reading was 87.3°f & lowest reading was 75.4°f)
- 6.4 inches of total rainfall over 16 days
- 15 days with no measurable rainfall
We’ll continue the weather info next month.
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2011
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2012
- Our Weather in San Ramón & Atenas Costa Rica – 2013
- 15 Days
When we decided to file for legal residency in Costa Rica back in 2008, we polled the expats we’d met regarding who they used to help them through the process. Based on the glowing recommendations we received for Residency in Costa Rica, we chose their services, and now we recommend them without hesitation to those interested in legal residency here.
Since that time, there have been major changes to Costa Rica’s immigration laws (effective March 1, 2010). The new law was then enhanced, or “fleshed out” with the passing of the Reglamento on May 17, 2012. This Reglamento contains the guidelines, rules, and interpretation of the law which Migracion uses to apply and enforce the Immigration Law.
Thanks to our friends at Residency in Costa Rica for providing us with the highlights of the residency requirements per the 2012 Reglamento. The requirements contained in the 2012 Reglamento apply to all applications that are filed after May 17, 2012.
Pensionado – Income (no changes made)
The monthly pension income requirement is US$1,000. One pension allows both husband and wife to apply for residency
Rentista – Income (important changes)
The Rentista monthly income requirement is US$2,500. The exact same amount of US$2,500 per month applies to all applicants, whether or not the applicant is single, married, or married with children.
The new requirement is that applicant must prove the ability to receive $2,500 monthly income for 24 months (2 years), instead of the 60 months (5 years) mandated under the prior requirement. The income can be proven by a bank letter stating the applicant has an account with a balance of at least US$60,000.
Inversionista – Investment Amount (important changes)
The investment made must have a registered or verifiable value of at least US$200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand dollars).
Type of investments: The investment can be made in any type of business, commercial real estate; and (new) non-commercial real estate.
Non-Commercial Real Estate (new): This type of investment can include the purchase price of a home in Costa Rica, and the purchase of land to be preserved for ecological, environmental or watershed preservation purposes.
Return of the Tree Farm Investment (reinstated): The 2012 Reglamento allows an investor to make an investment of at least US$100,000 in a qualified Forestry Plantation project. Typically, the investment is made in a Teak, or similar genus, farm.
Mandatory Membership in “La Caja”
All applicants are required to become members in Costa Rica’s medical system, La Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known simply as “La Caja.” The applicant must show proof of membership in La Caja at the time the residency identification card is issued.
Location where applications can be filed
Applications can be filed abroad, in the applicant’s country of origin, or directly at Migración y Extranjería in San Jose, Costa Rica. Residency applications under the Vínculo Program can only be filed in Costa Rica.
Applications for Vínculo Status by Spouses of a Costa Rican citizen
Under the new law and Reglamento, spouses are granted temporary residencies for the first three years AND must attend an interview at Migracion at the time the application is filed to verify the marriage.
- For trusted help with legal residency in Costa Rica, contact Residency in Costa Rica
- Investing and Residency
If you live in San Ramon, you’ve been watching the annual building of stages, food stalls, and display areas around the Church and parque central. If this is your first year in San Ramon, you are in for a real treat. The Festejos Patronales San Ramon 2013 (Festival of the Patron Saints of San Ramon) will soon kick-off. There will be parades, music, dancing, booths with items for sale, and lots of traditional food. The fiesta begins on Friday, August 23rd and continues through Monday, September 2nd. Click here for the official program of activities. It is in Spanish, so have your ‘google translate’ ready. Come join the festivities!
“It was a dark and stormy night” – actually, it wasn’t stormy but it was dark and raining. Two years ago, on May 31, 2011, at 8:30 pm, our plane landed at Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela, Costa Rica. We set foot on Costa Rican soil for the first time ever and thus began our adventure of living in a new country with a new language and new culture.
We knew no one but had a San José hotel booked, our immigration lawyer selected, our cat boarding with an excellent vet in Santa Ana, we knew the town we wanted to live in to start with (Atenas), six suitcases and were eager to start this exciting new chapter in our lives. We had left Vancouver, B.C., but had arranged it so we could easily return there if we decided Costa Rica was not for us.
Looking back on the past two years, we are very happy we made this decision to relocate here. Costa Rica suits us well. It is incredibly beautiful, of course, and the Ticos (as the Costa Ricans call themselves) are truly wonderful people – welcoming, generous, content, hardworking, innovative. I think they have the capacity to enjoy life more than many others. The tropical weather is another attraction, as are the incredible numbers of plant, bird and animal life here. The abundance of year ’round fresh fruits and vegetables is another plus. We have lots of seafood from the two coasts – the Pacific and the Caribbean.
We still have so much to see of this country but have been delaying any trips of more than a few hours because of our elderly cat, Genny. With failing kidneys, she needs to be monitored to ensure she is eating and drinking lots of water. We don’t mind – this is all part of the responsibility of pet ownership. Costa Rica will always be here.
Chile and Equador are two other countries that we hope to visit one day and of course now we are perfectly positioned to do that.
I often think that, if we had not done this two years ago, we would still be sitting in Canada saying to each other, “We really should try this”. Time passes by and, in the blink of an eye, it is too late to try anything except the next insipid meal at the rest home.
In the past two years, we have made many friends, both expats and Ticos. Yesterday, we received an invitation to a Tico wedding in November and are really looking forward to this new experience. The network of expats in Atenas and neighbouring towns is exemplary. We share information about where to find different foods, butchers, doctors, dentists, gardeners, vets, the lady who does clothing alterations, new restaurants, when a road is closed or when it has reopened, etc.
There is a Facebook page entitled “Atenas Costa Rica Info” where information is shared. It is open to the public and is interesting reading for those thinking of relocating to our small town.
I heard a phrase the other day that sums up what we and other adventuresome types have done. It is “Life Reimagined.”
- Link to original posting on Diana’s Costa Rican Blog (June 4, 2013)
- A Different Form of “Due Diligence” by Diana Miskell Turlock
Take a step into the Way-back Machine to get a look at Costa Rica 66 years ago. This video has already made it’s way around several of the Costa Rica blogs, but if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely worth a view.
Reprinted from The CostaRican Times
Sounds like I am talking about living in a communist country during the cold war or being in jail, but I am not. The real purpose of this article is to try and dispel the fears of many potential retirees who have visited Costa Rica or who have seen information about the following subject on line.
On my monthly relocation/retirement tours it is inevitable that someone always asks questions about the bars and razor wire that are visible in many homes here. Well the truth is that the bars have been part of Spanish colonial architecture for centuries. Made from iron, cast iron or steel verjas or rejas (window bars) are hand-made to order to suit individual customer requirements, sizes and designs. Some of the styles I have seen are very ornate and simply beautiful.
Seeing homes with bars on windows and barbed-wire fences may make you feel uncomfortable and unsafe. However, this phenomenon is found throughout Latin America. As soon as you cross the border with Mexico you will notice that most home have metal bars in their windows. Many people from the U.S. are only use to seeing window bars in ghettos, war zones and crime-ridden areas.
Burglary and petty theft are the main crimes in Costa Rica. Not everyone gets burglarized and not all people who get ripped-off are foreigners. Most of the victims are Costa Ricans. Many gated communities and condo complexes in Costa Rica have metal gates, restricted access and no bars on the windows…So if you don’t like the eye-sore of having bars in your windows or feel like you are in prison, look for a gated community that has homes or condos without bars.
Razor wire is a different story. Many business and homes in poorer neighborhoods use razor wire. I admit that razor wire is unsightly but in some areas people can’t afford burglar alarms, bars on their windows or security guards so razor wire is a cheap solution.
In my 34 years of living in Costa Rica I have observed that electric fences, neighborhood watchmen and companies like ADT seem to work a lot better as a deterrent than bars in windows or razor wire. You have to realize that people here are slightly paranoid and go overboard when it comes to home security. I don’t live in a gated community so my home has gates and an ADT monitored alarm system but no razor wire . Knock on wood! I have never had a problem here. The whole idea is to put as many barriers between your home and the bad guys which serves as a deterrent.
Believe me I would not be living in Costa Rica if I thought the country was unsafe or that my family was in danger.
- Link to original article in The CostaRican Times, written by Christopher Howard
- The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: The Truth About Crime in Costa Rica
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What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Our June 2013 Cost of Living
- Meals Out – A Budget Breakdown
- Tracking the Weather in Atenas
- Costa Rica Climate: Incredibly Diverse and Tropical
- Appreciating the Mist
- Cooking Class in Oaxaca Mexico – Muy Sabroso!
- CPI, For a Great “Spanish” Vacation
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Vacation the Retire for Less Way!
- Schedule for Mandatory New Costa Rican License Plates
- 9 Tips to Find Your “Perfect Place” in Costa Rica
- Why You Shouldn’t Move to Costa Rica