Jul 18 2015

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – July 16, 2015

Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:






Retire for Less Visits Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca is a magical place for us. We went there on our honeymoon almost 12 years ago. We have so  many wonderful memories of our time there and this visit added so many more. Two things especially stand out about our visit to Oaxaca.

The first was attending my third cooking school in Oaxaca. This year’s choice was El Sabor Zapoteco in the Zapotec village of Teotitlán del Valle, offered by Reyna Mendoza in her private home. Here’s a pic of Gloria grinding rice and cinnamon for horchata on a metate in Reyna’s open-air kitchen:


And the second was a great day touring with En Via in Oaxaca. They give micro loans to women to start or grow their small businesses. We met a woman who raises and sells chickens, two families of weavers, a woman who makes beautiful embroidered aprons, and had a wonderful lunch at a comedor run by another of their loan recipients. It’s amazing the difference small amounts of money can make in these families’ lives. Here is a photo of the Zapotec woman we met who uses her micro-loans to raise chickens and turkeys:


We hope to show you more photos and videos from Oaxaca in upcoming newsletters.


Our June 2015 Costa Rica (& Mexico) Cost of Living Expenses

2015_JuneJune was a big travel month for us which meant lower than usual Costa Rica living expenses — Less than $900. (We were traveling in Mexico for almost the entire month, leaving on June 2nd and returning on June 30th.  More about those expenses later.

Costa Rica Fixed Costs

But back at home in Costa Rica, as you would imagine, many categories totaled zero or next to nothing. Such were Groceries, Transportation, Meals Out, Other Household, Entertainment, and Miscellaneous.

A couple of categories were about the same.  On the healthcare front, even though we were away for almost the entire month, we still had to pay our monthly Caja payment and still needed the same medications. Therefore our monthly healthcare spending was as normal.

And since our rent still needed to be paid, as well as the monitoring on our home security system, phone, and Wifi, our “Rent/Phone/Utilities” category was close to normal. We also paid the electric and water bills since they were for service in May. There are two reasons the total was a bit lower. We had wonderful house/pet sitters while we were away (thanks again Barb & Bill!) and they paid for any propane they used (for cooking and hot water) and for the cost of our housekeeper who comes four hours every week.

The only other expenses to note were pet food (under the “Pets”category) and a manicure and pedicure for Gloria in the “Personal Care”category.

Now on to our Mexico expenses…olé!

If you remember from our last two newsletters, our trip had three parts:

  • Cancún
  • Mexico City
  • Oaxaca


We were invited by International Living to speak about our lives in Costa Rica at their Ultimate Conference again this year, which was held in Cancún at the JW Marriott. They paid for our airfare as well as hotel, food, and travel expenses for that part of the trip. The only negative was that the closest we got to the beach was looking at it from our room!

The view from our room at the JW Marriott in Cancún

The view from our room at the JW Marriott in Cancún

We flew into Mexico City, then continued on a connection to Cancún. After the conference, we flew back to Mexico City but delayed the leg back to San Jose, Costa Rica, until June 30th when we flew home. Because it was basically the same flight, our “delay” didn’t cost us any extra in airfare. So, the first five days of our Mexican adventure cost us $0. That’s always a good thing.

Mexico City

MesicoCityHostelAfter arriving in Mexico City on Sunday afternoon, we checked in at our hotel in the historic district. We’re always looking for good, clean, inexpensive places to stay and this time we tried the Mexico City Hostel. The reviews we read sounded great, as was the location, just 150 meters from the Zócolo. And the price was right at 600 pesos per night for a private room with private bath. That came to $38.64 per night for three nights. As promised, it was clean and included breakfast each day.

DOMuseoWe spend one day exploring the historic district and sampling the local foods. On Tuesday, we hired a driver to take us to two attractions outside the city. The first was the Dolores Olmedo Museum which houses the largest collection of artworks by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It is also home to a multitude of peacocks, peahens, and their chicks who roam the expansive grounds. Since we went on a Tuesday, admission was free instead of the normal 75 pesos (about $5 USD). For Frida Kahlo fans, this museum is a must.

Our driver waited until we were finished exploring the museum, then drove us to the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco. Xochimilco (pronounced, sochi-milko – in Aztec meaning ‘place of the flowers’) is a network of canals and man-made islands originally used by the Aztecs.

In pre-Hispanic Mexico , in the valley where Mexico City stands was a lake called Lago Texcoco, which now has long been drained. The Aztecs, on its edge, long before the Spanish came, dug a series of canals, whose mud they heaped on the earth around the canals or on anchored reeds atop the water. These plots of land, appeared like floating islands called chinampas – hence, their name ‘floating gardens’.”                     Source: gonomad.com

Admittedly, it’s a tourist attraction but I had never been. And yes, it was a bit kitschy, but we had a great time. We rented one of the gondolas (called a trajinera), had lunch on the water prepared by a floating comidor, and listened to the Mariachis floating by on neighboring gondolas. Families and other groups of revelers were also enjoying the day, but you have to see it to believe it:

Our costs for the day’s tours totaled $139.66:

  • Private transportation by van: 1200 pesos ($81.36 USD)
  • Boat rental: 500 pesos+40 peso tip ($36.61)
  • Lunch on the boat: 320 pesos ($21.69)

A couple of tips to bring the costs down:

  • Go with a larger group as the price of 500 pesos is the same, whether it’s 2 people or 20
  • Bring a picnic lunch


Getting There

The next day, it was time to continue on to Oaxaca where we would spend just under three weeks.  We took an executive class, direct bus which cost 1346 pesos ($87.40 USD). They gave us a discount coupon for our return bus from Oaxaca to Mexico City, so our return tickets only cost 596 pesos ($39.01 USD).


We stayed at our home-away-from-home in Oaxaca, the Hotel Las Mariposas. It’s the third year in a row that we’ve stayed there and we love it.

The main courtyard at Hotel Las Mariposas

The main courtyard at Hotel Las Mariposas

It’s clean, relatively inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and in a great location. Since we were coming in the off-season and staying almost three weeks, were repeat guests and willing to pay in cash, we were able to negotiate a great nightly rate. We stayed in a suite, which gave us a refrigerator and cook-top, so we were able to make some meals there, most often breakfast and lunch.


We spent a lot of time exploring Oaxaca City by foot and by local bus, as well as visiting nearby towns using all kinds of transportation — taxi, colectivo, and even a mototaxi. Public transportation is very inexpensive in much of Mexico and Oaxaca is no exception. Colectivos are taxi’s the run a specific and regular route from outlying towns into Oaxaca City and back. The usually cost 12 pesos (about 80 cents) per person with a total of 6 people, including the driver, along for the ride so it’s a tight fit in the small sedans. They pick up and drop off riders along the route as well.


Mototaxis are often available within the outlying towns and are basically a motorcycle with a cart attached or built-in. Our per person cost for a mototaxi in the town of Zaachila was 15 pesos ($1).


Mototaxis in Zaachila, Oaxaca

Local buses are another bargain; most of the time we paid only 6 pesos (40 cents) per person. Regular taxis within the city of Oaxaca cost 40-50 pesos (about $2.70 to $3.30). Not including the round-trip first class buses Mexico City to Oaxaca, the rest of our ground transportation for 20 days in Oaxaca cost a total of about $108.00 USD.


PiticoSince we had a small kitchen, we did buy some groceries while in Oaxaca. All over town, you will find small grocery stores, some small and some larger, called Pitico. We were able to buy fresh fruit, yogurt, granola and bran cereals, and the all-important Microdyne to disinfect the fresh produce. Paul loves his morning smoothies and we bought fresh bananas, pineapple, and papaya which I cleaned, cubed and froze.

The rest of our meals were in restaurants and ran the gamut from smaller, family restaurants called comedors to fine dining restaurants — one of our favorites is Las Quince Letres where we enjoyed a four-course comida corrida for 90 pesos ($6.00) each. Comida corrida in Mexico is a meal of several courses at a fixed price eaten between about 1 and 4 p.m. The food is always fresh, homemade, and the entrees vary daily.

We had so many memorable meals in Oaxaca, there are too many to talk about. But one of our favorite things to do there is to enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants in the Zócolo, watching the people go by. It’s a party every day. Vendors selling jewelry, shawls, clothing, folk art, and more come by your table constantly but they are part of the fabric of this tourist town. We’ve even gotten to know one or two of them over the years.

Oaxaca is a great town for foodies and has something to offer for everyone. Here’s a quick look at some of the foods we ate while in Oaxaca:

During the 20 days we spent in Oaxaca, we spent about $45 for food in the grocery store and $334 for meals out.

Mexico Trip Spending Summary

2015_MexicoThere are a couple of other areas of note. The first is health care. While in Oaxaca, I ate or drank something that was contaminated with bacteria. After several days of not straying far from the bathroom, I went to see a doctor. He prescribed antibiotics (which I only wanted as a last resort), some Imodium, and an electrolytes drink. The doctor charged 400 pesos (about $28.00) and the medications, including those I took before seeing the doctor, cost about $32.00, for a total of $60.00 USD. 

The other thing to mention is that when traveling for a month, we only bring enough clothes for 7-10 days. Public laundries are readily available and they are inexpensive. They charge by weight and the clothes come back clean and neatly folded. We had our laundry done about six times in all. Additionally, Paul had two shoeshines and had his watch repaired. The category of “laundry/repairs/shoeshines” came in at $36.40.

Our total spending for our Mexico trip was $2,100.60. Remember, we did not have to pay for our airfare. If we would have, it would have added $900 to the total, bringing it to $3,000.  

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:


Related Articles:


Our Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica

Our newest tour is the Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica. When asked what he liked best about our healthcare tour, one of our guests wrote, “the wide variety of places we saw, the experts that Paul HCTOUR_030arranged for us to meet and talk with, and an emphasis on all aspects of health, not just doctors and hospitals. Mental health is just as important as physical, if not more so.” HCTOUR_008

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over five years and have used the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system extensively, as well as the private system, when needed. We’ve learned the system and have been referred up the ladder to see specialists in the maze that is the Caja system. Gloria’s even had surgery here.

Our blend of personal insights and on-the-ground experience combines to answer your questions about whether or not Costa Rica’s healthcare system could meet your individual needs.


But, while it is focused on healthcare, you will learn a lot more about living and retiring in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Most of the second day of the tour takes place in the town of San Ramón where we live and use the services. And you will come to our home for lunch that day to listen to two of our featured speakers. Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time. Our goal is to show you the possibilities and to try to demystify Costa Rica’s healthcare system. Our tour lasts two days and 1 night and includes lodging, transportation, meals and non-alcoholic beverages.

Sample Itinerary

You’ll visit:

  • At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)HospitalMexico
  • An insurance broker for a presentation on the various supplemental health insurance options, including public, private, and international plans
  • A senior living retirement community
  • CPI language school for a presentation about how learning Spanish increases your options for healthcare and some basic medical Spanish.
  • Our local hospital here in San Ramón
  • A local EBAIS (community clinic)
  • A local private medical and dental clinic
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A pharmacy
  • A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!

EBAISStaffYou’ll learn:

  • If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needsand put your mind to rest, once and for all, about this sensitive subject.
  • About the public system and how it works, about the private healthcare system, and how you can use a combination of both to your advantage.
  • About the EBAIS – where healthcare starts in Costa Rica.
  • Approximately how much you would pay for Caja.
  • About medical tourism in Costa Rica.
  • About home health care in Costa Rica.

Introductory prices: $550 for a couple, $450 for a single.

Please contact us if you are interested in booking this tour. Space is limited.

Related Articles:


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