Jul 20 2019

In the Mailbag: New Taxes, VPNs, and MediSmart

We always get lots of responses and questions from readers, both newsletter subscribers and on Facebook.

Hi Paul & Gloria,

Much confusion seems to exist about the new taxes and reporting requirements. Also, the financial condition of the country given the increasing debt and a lower GNP are problematic. Yet many positive articles also exist, despite the increasing costs of living there and the very long residency process. What say you guys? Thanks for the truth!
Chuck G.


Hi Chuck,

Thanks so much for your trust in us. We don’t take it lightly.

You’re right, there is confusion, along with a lot of hassle, both for buyers and sellers of goods and services. When we pay our rent, for instance, we used to get a hand-written receipt which was just fine. Now we have to wait to receive an electronic receipt and when we don’t receive it, we have to follow-up and wait again.

We also have been concerned about the financial condition of the country. But, we think the new taxes are needed for Costa Rica to continue providing needed services — especially in the areas of healthcare and education — to its people, and that includes us as legal residents. We do not mind paying the additional taxes. Costa Rica certainly isn’t perfect but they do an awful lot right for a small country with limited means. We would much rather that taxes go to support services instead of bombs.

Last year, there was a lot of talk about the devaluation of the colon, the national currency. We had money invested in certificates of deposit in colones since 2011 and have always been delighted by the rate of return we’ve received. We couldn’t have done anywhere near that in the U.S. But when they were talking about the colon maybe going to 700/$1 USD, we decided to cash in our colones CDs and move them to a USD CD. It turns out that the devaluation never happened and the colon has been between about 580-605/$. When it comes time to renew our CDs again, we will most likely put the money back into colones. We don’t know what the future will bring, of course, but we have no intention of bailing on Costa Rica. That being said, we do spend part of the year in Mexico because we love it there as well. But Mexico has its own problems…

The cost of living has increased in the 10 years we have lived in CR. But we are still finding it affordable, as evidenced in our monthly cost of living reports. It all depends on the choices you make. For us, renting an affordable place has been a better option than buying or building, especially in light of the new taxes.

The residency process IS long and can be expensive. Our rationale is that if you don’t apply for legal residency, then you have to leave the country every three months, and that costs something. We have never regretted getting legal residency here, especially after Paul’s cancer experience last year and the great care he received, and is still receiving, from the Caja.

Overall, our view is that the good far outweighs the bad. No place is perfect so I think that if you can say that, it’s saying a lot. Others might not view life here or the current circumstances in the same way as we do, however. So much of how you perceive reality is, as Paul says, “between the ears.” Costa Rica has been a great home for us for more than 10 years now, and we are grateful.

Hope this helps,



Hi, You said you gave up on your American Netflix because of unreliable VPN. Can you tell me which services you’ve tried? I  have US Netflix, Prime video and Pandora that I would like to keep moving to CR. Thanks.

Hi Marco,

Thanks for getting in touch. Most recently, we used Pure VPN which I was very dissatisfied with. In the past, we used Wytopia which we liked but began having a problem accessing US Netflix. Right now, we’re not using a VPN as we are happy with what we get from Latin America Netflix and don’t feel the need.

My suggestion, if you are on Facebook, is to post on one of the expat sites asking for recommendations. I suggest Expatriates in Costa Rica. Also, if you let me know what you find out, I will include it in the newsletter for the information of others.

Warm regards,

Paul and Gloria,

Thank you for the always enjoyable newsletter. I find it helpful and it reminds me that living on a budget and being retired are not all that bad and that although there are always things I have a hard time getting used to, it’s sometimes better and more affordable to live here if for nothing else but for affordable and quality healthcare.

I too have the Caja but I recently needed to use Medismart for a knee injury which required outpatient surgery. I retired from the Healthcare industry so I am very familiar with that world in the US. I just wanted to share with you that my surgical experience from diagnosis to post-op has been phenomenal. I am recovering now but it has all gone well and one very important fact is that the private healthcare here in Costa Rica is very affordable. It’s even more affordable with a plan like Medismart. I know I could not have afforded to pay this out of pocket back in the US. Even a good expensive self-pay plan and the deductibles back in the US would have been three times more than what I paid for this procedure here. As I said I’m not always crazy about living here sometimes and it’s hard at times but clearly, there are advantages here for Expats versus living in the USA. We get this with all the beautiful nature. I am a homeowner and we do not plan to leave so it’s positive experiences like this knee surgery that make life better for those of us living on a budget.

I hope your health continues to improve! Pura Vida!  
David S.

Permanent link to this article: https://retireforlessincostarica.com/in-the-mailbag-new-taxes-vpns-and-medismart/

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