May 27 2018

Our April 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

April was a busy month for us. We did several relocation tours for clients, mostly in the western Central Valley towns of San Ramon, Grecia, and Atenas, and one of our healthcare tours. Plus, my (Gloria’s) sister came for a visit from Maryland. The month was interesting and fun, and it went by quickly as oftens happens when you are busy. We are pleased that we came in under our goal of $2,000 for the month.

Here’s a look at what we spent in April:

Transportation – $166.45

Other than an oil change ($52.49) and a car wash ($12.32) so our Toyota 4-Runner looked nice for my sister’s visit, the rest of our transportation expenses were for gas, tolls, and parking ($101.63). Because we did some sightseeing, we spent more for gas than on a normal month when our car stays in the garage most of the time. More about where we went below in the “entertainment” section.

Groceries – $384.22

Our grocery bill remains closer to $400 than to $350. We did pay a visit to PriceSmart in Alajuela just before picking my sister up at the airport, spending about $82 on food. We bought a large block of feta cheese in brine, a bag of shredded parmesan, a wedge of asiago cheese, two large bottles of extra virgin olive oil, a bottle of balsamic vinegar,  a large bag of walnuts and a gallon bottle of white vinegar.

We also shopped at “La Pescaderia” Distribuidora Fernandez  seafood distributor in San Ramon to buy frozen wild caught salmon and corvina (a local mild white fish), spending about $28. Salmon is expensive here but not much more so than in the States. For .64 kg, we spent 7,873 colones (about $14) and for .72 kg of individually wrapped corvina, we spent 6,120 colones (about $11). I also usually buy frozen wild caught shrimp there but didn’t need any this time.

Meals Out – $203.13

We spent more on meals out in April than our normal $50-$100. Here are a few of more memorable meals we had.

After picking up my sister at the airport around noon, we took our hungry selves over to expat favorite Jalapenos Central in Alajuela. Norman and crew did not disappoint with  their tasty Tex-Mex food. For two, we spent 11,220 ($19.96).

My sandwich at Kula

During my sister’s visit, we spent the day in San Jose to visit the Jade Museum and the Namu Gallery.  We wanted something a bit different for lunch so we tried Kula, a restaurant I had found on TripAdvisor. The salads, sandwiches, and arepas at reasonable prices lived up to all the praise. Give it a try next time you are in San Jose. For two, we spent 12,200 colones ($21.69).

My sister, Toni, Addie, and me

In April, we had another great meal with my sister at Savory A La Thai Tailandesa. It was a nice afternoon at their new location in their home. They are normally open from 11am to about 9pm, Thursdays to Sundays. But on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, if you call ahead (like we did) and let them know you want to come, they will be happy to serve you if they will be home. They are still finishing up the dining room construction but the kitchen is open, the view is lovely, the peace and quiet is so nice, and Addie and Gerardo are as gracious hosts as ever! If you want to call ahead, their number is 6012 7722. They are located in Piedades Nortes. Just put the restaurant in WAZE or Google Maps and let the app direct you there. It’s definitely worth the drive! We shared an order of fresh spring rolls, Paul had the yellow curry chicken and I had the pad thai, for 11,200 colones (about $20.00).

We also stopped by San Ramon’s Crispy Wings for dinner one night. I’m not usually a wings fan but friends raved about the new ice cream parlor there. So, after a day at the beach, we headed to Crispy Wings for dinner and dessert. In addition to chicken wings, they also offer trocitos de pollo (pieces of chicken breast deep fried like wings) and wraps. The food was delicious, though not a bit healthy. After dinner, we headed to Ice Crispy, the ice cream parlor in the front of the restaurant. I remember hearing about ice cream parlors like this in the States, but this was my first experience. It was good, and again, not a bit healthy unless you count the strawberries in my ice cream!

Healthcare – $227.70

In addition to our monthly Caja payment ($44.69) and the pro-rated monthly expense for our MediSmart membership ($15), we had a couple of doctors visits in April. Paul saw an orthopedic traumatologist (for a lump on his shoulder which turned out to be benign) through MediSmart. Cost for the 1 hour appointment was 20,000 colones ($35.56). I had a follow-up visit with my gynecologist for 9,000 colones ($16). We each had prescriptions — bioidentical hormones for me ($50.53) and a collagen supplement for Paul ($21.92). The rest of our spending in April was for our normal supplements at the macrobiotica (health food store).

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $762.34

There were no surprises in this category. We paid rent, utilities were normal, and we paid our housekeeper for four times (10,000 colones or $17.61 for four hours of work each week).

Other Hardware/Household – $61.06

Living in an apartment in town means no more line drying clothes in the fresh air like we did at our last rental. It also means using the dryer all the time, which can get expensive. So we bought a clothes drying rack to help save on dryer time and the subsequent higher electricy bills. We also bought a new set of queen size sheets, both at Walmart. It used to be that higher thread count sheets were not to be found in Costa Rica. For the most part, those days are gone. However, we elected for 300 thread count sheets and are happy with them. Total cost was $61.06.

Personal Care/Clothing – $48.42

The bulk of the expense in this category was for a new pair of pants for Paul. Since he’s 6’2″, it’s hard for him to find pants long enough for him in the stores. Since moving into town, we’ve gotten to know Sr. Willy, a local sastre (tailor). He has made Paul four pairs of pants now, all of them beautifully done. The latest was a pair of olive green khaki’s for 25,000 colones ($44.01). It’s less expensive than ordering from Lands End and no worries about shipping or customs duties!

Vet/Pet Supplies – $29.77

On our recent trip to PriceSmart, we bought more Fresh Step litter for our kitties. Fresh Step is the only clumping scoopable litter we’ve found here. They recently changed their packaging to four smaller bags inside of one big package (instead of the previous big 40 lb. bag) and are charging more for less. Cost is now 10,195 colones ($18.27).

The rest of the expense in this category is for cat food and treats. We wish we could find a cat food that both kitties continued to like. We tried a different brand this month and neither Tori nor Laura were fans. We will just keep trying to find something that they enjoy and is healthy for them.

Entertainment – $19.78

We did a lot for very little money in this category.

During my sister’s visit, we spent a day in San Jose, visiting the Jade Museum. While my sister paid her $15 entrance fee for tourists, Paul and I were able to get in for free as we are both permanent residents and over 60 years of age. It was our first visit to the Jade Museum in its new location and it was wonderful. There are lots of English translations now, which helped. We learned a lot about the indigenous culture of Costa Rica. There is much more than jade here, though the displays and videos about how the jade figures were carved are fascinating.

Of course, we had a beach day at Playa Dona Ana.On the way, we stopped at the grocery store and bought the fixings for burgers on the grill and snacks. More than 20 friends joined us that day. The water was warm, the day was sunny and breezy, and there were lots of monkeys in the trees. It’s an inexpensive day, costing about $7.00 for three of us, including parking: 

We also spent a day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is probably our favorite place to bring visitors to Costa Rica. Even though my sister had been there before, she asked that we go again. It has everything — waterfalls, lots of green, hummingbirds, toucans, butterflies, monkeys, jaguars, oxen, orchids, hiking trails, a “traditional Tico house” and restaurants. We always arrive around 9:00am so we are in time for the hummingbird feeding, one of the highlights for us and our guests. The staff cover up the hummingbird feeders and give visitors hand-held feeders which you can see in the photo below.

Feeding the hummingbirds at La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Paul, me, Toni, and our toucan friend

Entrance fees are $44 per person. Lunch in their restaurant is extra. However, since Paul and I do tours and bring guests there regularly, we did not have to pay the entrance fee.

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months. If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:

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