Apr 13 2012

Newsletter – Mid-April 2012

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Paul & Gloria


In this issue:

  • Real Estate $150,000 and Under
  • Where to Stay: Costa Rica Secluded Retreat B&B
  • Crime in Costa Rica
  • The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: The Truth About Crime in Costa Rica (Reprint)
  • Featured Article: On Community Service and Integration
  • Featured Article: Celebrating Earth Day 2012



New on Our Website! Real Estate $150,000 and Under

Though we recommend you rent, rent, rent when you move to Costa Rica, we realize that some folks will still choose to buy, either early on or after they’ve been here for a while.  Though we are not realtors, we recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell.

At RetireForLessInCostaRica.com, we often run across real estate opportunities that fall within our “Retire for Less Philosophy” — in other words, properties that offer more value for less. So, we will bring you homes for sale that are $150,000 or less, and lots that would allow a modest house to be built on it for about the same price. Of course, upgrades will always cost more and are at the buyer’s discretion.

The properties we show you will be at elevations where neither heat nor air-conditioning is needed — part of our “retire for less philosophy” — so most likely no beach properties. We’ve started with a few properties but there will be more to come! To view them, just click the Real Estate link in the top menu bar.

We will feature properties regardless of the realtor or builder involved.  Our disclaimer is that we cannot personally vouch for the individual properties; we are merely passing on what we see as good values under $150,000. If you are interested in more information about any of the properties, you can contact the realtor, owner, or developer directly by filling out the contact form below each property listing.


Where to Stay: Costa Rica Secluded Retreat Bed & Breakfast

Paul and I recently visited this beautiful Bed & Breakfast secluded in the peaceful hills of Bello Horizonte, Escazu, Costa Rica. We think it would be a great place to recover after medical or dental procedures in the San Jose area. It’s also convenient to the International Airport as well as to private hospitals.

You can rest assured that anything we recommend falls within our “retire for less philosophy” – less than $100 per night, generally closer to $50. We only recommend accommodations that adhere to our standards of cleanliness and budget, further proof that “less is more.”

Following is some information from the owner, and your host, Darren Oeschler.

Our unique retreat features expansive tropical gardens, amazing art and exotic furnishings from around the world for our selective guests to enjoy during their relaxing stay with us. You will be treated to colorful butterflies, amusing song birds, a large variety of flowers and fruiting trees of all kinds.

Unlike a typical crowded hotel with impersonal service in noisy San Jose – we offer a maximum of only five comfortable rooms – all with windows overlooking our colorful gardens. Our attentive staff will welcome you here and insure that your needs will be met with prompt and courteous service.

You will also enjoy unlimited access to all of our common areas which include:

  • Full-sized kitchen w/ refrigerator, ceramic-topped stove, central island, coffee maker, toaster oven, microwave, blender and all cooking utensils.
  • Beautiful wooden-beamed, high-ceiling dining room w / bar-height counter top, wicker bar stools and a 6 person dining room table.
  • Large living room w / 42 inch plasma TV with digital cable, DVD player, 200 movies on disc, stereo w / CD player, fireplace, and a 4 person bamboo bar for your entertainment.
  • Shaded outdoor deck w / large bay doors, 2 wicker sofas, 4 person wicker table w / chairs all featuring both garden and beautiful mountain views.
  • Guest foyer w/Laptop / WI-FI and a desk for your away-from-home computer and communication needs.
  • Lush, well-manicured tropical gardens, stone-lined Koi pond (in-process) and numerous relaxing areas for you to enjoy the great outdoors.

I look forward to answering any questions that you may have for me. I welcome you here as both our guest and friend during your vacation here to beautiful Costa Rica.

Contact Darren to receive more information including rates and availability, by completing and submitting the form at this link.


Crime in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country the size of West Virginia or twice the size of Maryland, and it has a population of 4.5 million. If you are thinking about retiring in Costa Rica, in doing your “due diligence,” one area of great concern should be crime. Although we don’t have current data on all crimes committed here, we do have reliable data on homicides, assaults, burglaries, and home invasions. This information was in an article in A.M. Costa Rica on January 27, 2012 which you can read in its entirety at this link: Judicial stats show fewer persons murdered in 2011. It shows a comparison between 2009, 2010, and 2011.

The benchmark for safe vs. unsafe countries is 10 homicides per 100,000; higher than 10 is considered unsafe. To put this number in perspective, the U.S. is approximately 5 per 100,000, while some major U.S. cities like Baltimore, Washington D.C., New Orleans, and Miami exceed 30 per 100,000. Yet if you live in the suburbs in any of these cities, the incidence of violent crime drops markedly. Interestingly, although my home town of Baltimore has a homicide rate of over 30 per 100,000, if you are white, over 50, and not involved in the drug trade, your risk is negligible.

Costa Rica is similar in this respect. If you are a foreigner, not throwing money around, and not involved in the drug trade, the risk for you is much lower than the Costa Rican average of 10 per 100,000.

The following is a reprint of our previous article about crime in Costa Rica from June 2011:

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: The Truth About Crime in Costa Rica

So first, the good…I feel safer traveling around Costa Rica, and in our town of San Ramon, that I did in downtown Baltimore, or even at the local Mall at Christmas time when we lived back in the States.

And now on to the bad…we received an email from a friend the other day about a string of robberies in a neighborhood nearby.  It’s a residential area that has been relatively free from crime, until now.  Two homes and a school were robbed.  In the first home, the robber stole the microwave and filled it with portable items like binoculars.  The second home was empty of furnishings, so the thief helped himself to the copper wiring in the house itself. Perhaps the most upsetting of the robberies was the one at the school.  They took everything of value that could be removed, including appliances and food. This is the third time this school has been hit and I think it takes someone pretty low to steal from children. In 2009, there was only one murder in the entire canton (county) of San Ramon.  Here, I rarely feel concerned about my personal safety.  But like anywhere, you have to be smart.  Be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk alone at night.  Don’t carry a lot of cash or credit cards or flash expensive jewelry.  And don’t leave anything of value out in the open in your car, not ever, especially if you are in a rental car.  You can’t leave your common sense at home, here in Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world.

Unfortunately, this kind of crime of opportunity is pretty common in Costa Rica.  Many of our friends’ homes have been broken into.  Usually the thieves are after things like laptop computers, GPS units, televisions, cell phones — anything of value that can be sold for cash.  We have many friends who won’t leave their homes without someone there at all times and if they go on vacation, they hire a house-sitter to be sure that their homes and belongings are safe.  We also know a few people who have been robbed multiple times and who have decided to move back to the States.

It’s pretty common to see homes in Costa Rica surrounded by bars, razor wire, and signs that say Peligro! Perro Bravo! It’s part of the culture in Latin America.  But when we gringos move here, we don’t want to feel like we’re in jail, so often we don’t follow this tradition when building our homes.  But we are the ones who are most vulnerable.  Even if you are “retiring for less” in Costa Rica, you are still seen as rich by many Ticos.  And this is a culture where is it acceptable, to some degree, for those who have less to take from those who have more.  And in those instances when the offenders are caught, they are given a slap on the wrist and released.  “Pobrecito, it is society’s fault that you don’t have enough and were driven to steal.”

So if you move to Costa Rica, you should take the following precautions at your home:

  • Put good locks on your doors and windows
  • Install bars in all slider windows and doors to prevent them from being opened
  • Consider installing an alarm system that is monitored
  • Get to know your neighbors & start a neighborhood watch if one doesn’t already exist

We have been lucky.  We have been here for two years and have never had anything stolen from our home or car.  But we have taken precautions, one of which is to live in the Cabinas where all of the above precautions have been put into place.

Then there is the ugly…which fortunately we don’t see a lot of where we live.  The police are increasingly concerned about drugs and guns, even in the quiet coffee towns like San Ramon.  There are known drug gangs from San Jose that are trying to establish a presence in the outlying areas.  They are responsible for armed assaults, stealing cars, and selling drugs.  In the last month or so, police in San Ramon have arrested more than 15 individuals suspected of being involved in these activities.  Do I think that Costa Rica is as dangerous as most cities in the U.S.?  No, I don’t.  But there is crime here, and as in most other places, illegal drug trafficking is at the bottom of much of it.

We refuse to live in fear, to let the “bad” or “ugly” of society ruin our enjoyment of this beautiful country.  But we try to be smart and do what we can to minimize our risk.  In our experience, the police here are generally sincere and helpful.  It’s not unusual to be pulled over by the police here as they do random car searches to check for guns or drugs.  We are always happy to comply, smile, show our residency cards and drivers licenses, and thank the police for their efforts to protect us.  In Costa Rica, you need not fear the police.

We know of two organizations that are trying to make a difference in this area. One is the Community Action Alliance’s Citizen Security Committee The other group, active in Dominical, is CAP on Crime: Crime Awareness & Protection.  Check out their websites for more information.


Featured Article: On Community Service and Integration

Those of you who have been reading our newsletters for a while know that we are involved in an organization called the Community Action Alliance. We have proudly served as members of the Steering Committee for the past two years. The Alliance is built around a set of core values that include: a focus on action and results; the importance of service and volunteerism; putting aside differences, belief in the strength of diversity; and building consensus and working toward the collective good of the community. The following article was written by Mike Styles, who is not only one of the founders of the Alliance, he is also our good friend and neighbor.

As an ex-pat residing in a foreign country I have found one of my greatest pleasures to be helping other extranjeros integrate into, and providing service to, our new community — our new homes.  Right or wrong, prior to moving to Costa Rica I spent much of my life caught up in trying to make a living and did not “find” the time to give back to my community.  I am now in a position to do so and have realized this is a deeply rewarding part of my life that I have missed.  I also realize there is so much I can do.

It’s not so much that anyone needs my help; or that my way of doing things is better than others.  My motivation is purely selfish: it is about me and what I get from truly helping.  This is important to understand because we should not, and ultimately cannot, impose our values or culture on others.  Identifying who to help and how to help is part of the learning experience; one that all but requires making mistakes along the way to truly make that connection with people.  I have made more than my share of mistakes.  Most relate to trying to do something that either others don’t agree with or that should be done by others.  I have also learned from those mistakes and this is the key.

So where does this story of community service begin?  In September of 2009 a friend and I began hosting gatherings of ex-pats who were operating small businesses and were frustrated with learning how to navigate Costa Rican laws and business culture.  So much has happened since that time that I cannot possibly begin to cover and therefore will not try; however, from these humble gatherings we have ultimately evolved in to what we believe is one of the most effective ex-pat based community groups in Costa Rica: the Community Action Alliance.

One of the best ways to demonstrate this evolution is by looking at our upcoming Gran Venta de Libros (book sale); our second in the past six months.  Yes, it is a book sale: how hard can that be?  Well the fact that it is not hard by definition is one of the reasons for its success.  Another is the fact that “reading” is an act that is unquestionably good and universally accepted: it is not controversial and Gringos do not own the right or the patent on reading.  Yet another reason for success, and this is the key, is the number of groups and institutions we are involved with to ensure the success of the event.

The Book Sale will take place on Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Museo Regional de San Ramón, a gorgeous historic building located adjacent to the Central Park in the heart of San Ramón, and will benefit the Regional Museum and the Hogar Para Ancianos (senior center) de San Ramón.

Donation of books and other educational materials: Click here for drop-off locations.

Along the way, we literally are in touch with hundreds of organizations. This requires the full participation of our own organization and thankfully our experience has shown that there is usually a high level of interest and participation in fundraising events: people get excited and involved.

If you have any questions regarding donations, the book sale, or the Community Action Alliance, please contact me, Mike Styles at mike@styles.com or 8333.8750.”

Celebrating Earth Day 2012

Living in Costa Rica, I feel we are naturally living much closer to the earth. We live our days based on the season and the weather. When the hard rains come in September and October, we run our errands in the mornings and nap or read in the afternoons. While we can get fresh produce year-round, there are times certain things like tomatoes and watermelon are larger and more plentiful. We are learning from our Tico neighbors about the medicinal value of plants and herbs. And we are more aware of the subtle changes around us, like the flowering of certain plants, the appearance of certain insects, and the nesting cycles of various birds and turtles.

As Earth Day approaches this year (April 22, 2012), I’ve been reflecting on our daily habits and how they impact the environment. All in all, I’m pleased. My motivation in some actions, I must confess, wasn’t so much to save the earth as it was to duplicate some of what we were able to buy in the U.S. or to save money. But let’s give credit where credit’s due…in the long run, we are leaving a smaller “footprint” than we did when living in the States.

So here is some of what we’ve been doing, not so much to pat our own backs as to give you some ideas of what you might be able to do, wherever you live.

  • Banana Bread & Granola Bread

    Eat more food grown locally and in season. For us, that means shopping more at farmers markets and buying fewer products that are imported. We also try to eat some vegetarian meals and stay away from fast food.

  • Buying less packaged products and cooking more “from scratch.” On a regular basis, I:
    • Make fresh yogurt from local milk
    • Cook dry beans instead of buying canned
    • Bake all of our bread
    • Make natural peanut butter and sesame tahini
    • Prepare fresh chicken broth instead of buying packaged (which is hard to find here anyway, and expensive when you do find it)
  • Paul washing dishes in his Baltimore Ravens apron

    Save energy. Here are some things we do:

    • We chose to live in an area where we don’t need heat or air-conditioning
    • Use energy-saver light bulbs
    • Turn off lights we don’t need (actually Paul is much better at this than I am)
    • Wash dishes by hand – our only dishwasher is Paul!
    • Wash laundry in cold water (okay, this is one of those things we have no choice about, but it does save energy)
    • We try to take the bus, especially when going into San Jose, instead of driving our car
  • Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle. We tried to do this in the States and continue here in Costa Rica:
    • We recycle clean paper, plastic, cans, glass, and even Tetra-Paks at our local recycling center. In San Ramon, the recycling center is run by the women’s cooperative, COFERENE (Colectivo Femenino Rescatando Nuestra Ecologia) which educates the community about the importance of recycling, collects and sells recyclable materials to companies which use them, and brings a source of income to the women who work there.
    • We just purchased BPA-free water bottles to fill and take with us to the beach instead of buying bottled water
    • Use rechargeable batteries
    • Rinse and reuse plastic bags as long as they are serviceable
    • Compost coffee grinds and produce trimmings
    • In the dry season, we are conscious of how much water we use and limit things like watering plants and washing the car

San Ramon Tree Planting

When people think of Costa Rica, often they think of a country that is “green,” both in terms of its rainforests as well as ecologically. In fact, Costa Rica is much like the United States was in the 1950s. Its people are gradually becoming more aware of the importance of being good stewards of the incredible resources with which they have been entrusted. But it is still a developing country. Farmers still burn their fields in the dry season to prepare them for new planting, and to battle the tropical insects, most still use insecticides. People still throw trash along the roadside and in streams.






But this is changing. School children are learning the importance of preserving their environment and they are taking those lessons home to their families. Recycling centers and collection points are found in more and more locations. Communities are planting trees to reforest the land. I am proud to say that San Ramon is leading the way by trying to become the first “carbon neutral” canton (county) in the country. As a matter of fact, our Community Action Alliance has been working closely with the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce and Earth University on this initiative.

We can all do something and it all counts. If you would like some additional ideas for this Earth Day and beyond, visit the “Billion Acts of Green” project at http://act.earthday.org/ and make a pledge to do something, big or small. My pledge to is buy organic produce whenever possible, and to keep doing what we’re already doing. Just imagine the difference that a billion acts of green can make in our world!



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    That’s all for this month, but we’ll be back in touch soon!  If you enjoy our newsletter, please share it with your friends.  We hope to see you online!

    Gloria & Paul Yeatman
    San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica

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