Aug 22 2017

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – August 22, 2017

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 



Cooking in Costa Rica

I’m so excited to announce that my new book, Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica is now available on!

When you move to a Spanish-speaking country, it can be daunting to stock your kitchen and cook meals when you don’t know what your ingredients are called in Spanish. And even when you know the Spanish translation, it can be a challenge at times to find what you are looking for.

You can download this practical, comprehenive guide and on-going reference tool on your smart phone or iPad so you have it with you whenever you shop. The table of contents is interactive, so you can easily click through to the meat section when you are at the butcher shop (carnicería) or to the dairy section when you are standing in front of the dairy case. Here’s what you will find inside:

  • A little bit about me, our life in Costa Rica, how and where we shop for groceries, what we spend, and some insights about grocery shopping in Costa Rica.
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary, broken down into the following sections:
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Meat & Poultry
    • Fish & Seafood
    • Grains, Nuts, Seeds, & Baking Ingredients
    • Dairy & Eggs, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods
    • Beans, Canned & Prepared Foods
    • Herbs, Spices, & Seasonings
    • Condiments
    • Beverages
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary in alphabetical order.
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary of things you find in the kitchen.
  • A Glossary of cooking terms and helpful adjectives to use when buying and cooking food, ordering in a restaurant, and reading recipes in Spanish.
  • Recipe substitutions for when you can’t find familiar ingredients here in Costa

    Chipotle Beef Chili


  • Recipes which I have adapted to use with ingredients found in Costa Rica, plus some favorite recipes of other expat cooks in Costa Rica.
  • A U.S. Measure to Metric Conversion Guide for temperature, volume, weight, and length.
  • A resource section with links to expat cooking blogs, Facebook groups and pages, specialty products, and other food-related things.

The Kindle version is available now on and a print version is in the works. I will let you know as soon as it is published. In the meantime, you can buy the Kindle version through this link:

I hope you enjoy my book and find it useful!


Our July 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living

This is the first time in many years that we don’t have a Costa Rica cost of living breakdown to share with you. We spent the entire month of July in Mexico, and during this time, a friend lived in our apartment, paid the rent and utilities, and even took care of our cats. Instead, we are showing our expenses for the previous three months. If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:

Related Article:


Banking in Costa Rica: Our Experience, by Rob Evans

Jeni & Rob Evans

In January of 2014, we attended the monthly seminar offered by the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR). As members of ARCR, we learned that we qualified for ARCR assistance in opening an account at Banco Nacional (BN) for a fee of $20. After hearing about so many problems experienced by other expats, I was glad to pay for this convenience.

We had to bring:

  1. Passports.
  2. A letter from my credit union saying I was a good customer.
  3. An electrical bill from ARCR to use for our address. I know, weird.
  4. Money – I gave them $100 to open two accounts (colon and dollar) and $10 for a token to online access (more below).

The ARCR employee led us to the BN branch next to their office in Sabana Park. She accompanied us to customer service and presented all the paperwork above and we opened an account in 30 minutes. We came back the next day to pick up our debit cards ($10) and token.

A few considerations:

  1. We learned there is no real thing as joint accounts.  My wife can sign a check; withdraw money, etc., as my beneficiary, not as a joint account holder. Where that comes into play is if I die first. ARCR told us if anything happened to me, that my wife was not to tell the bank since they will immediately freeze the account until they receive all the official paperwork on the death, which could take a long time. In the meantime, my wife would be without funds. ARCR suggested my wife first go withdraw all the money from the account BEFORE updating the bank on my passing.
  2. I opened the account using my passport. Why that is important: you need to present the ID you opened the account with when dealing with the bank (in person). That means you must carry your passport with you every time you go to the bank. Personally, I like to leave my passport safe at home if I can. Once you get your cedula (residency card), it is better to switch the bank ID from the passport to the cedula to avoid future problems. Some of those problems include not being able to access your account AT THE BANK if you ever get a new passport. (You get a new passport number when yours is stolen or renewed.) Note: you can still do online banking and use the ATM without showing an ID.

    Banco Nacional (BN)

  3. We opened two accounts at BN – colon and dollar. I am not sure why, but everyone else before us did, so we did too. I think the reason is that money wired from the US needs to go from a dollar account to a dollar account. Otherwise, you can move money back and forth and pay bills from either account. BN does the currency conversion when moving money between your colon and dollar accounts, but I am not sure how favorable the exchange rate is.
  4. We left Costa Rica after the seminar and opening the bank account and did not return for ten months when our residency was approved. When I returned, I learned my accounts were frozen due to inactivity. I went to the bank and reactivated them with no problem.

    Banco Costa Rica (BCR)

  5. There are two main national banks – Banco Nacional (BN) and Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) – plus many private banks like ScotiaBank, Davivienda, etc. There is much consternation and discussion in the gringo community on which bank to use since each bank has advantages and disadvantages. Since ARCR was offering to open the account at BN, that was good enough for me and I have not thought much about it since BN does everything I need.

Online Banking Access

First, the BN website is in Spanish. Scary? It shouldn’t be. Google Chrome browser translates the pages, so I have not had much trouble and most people could navigate the site in Spanish since banking is universal.

Notice below how the webpage is translated into English so I know where to enter my ID and the button to press to sign in. I enter my banking ID, which I changed from my passport to my cedula, in the ID area on the left and press “sign in.” 

Here is where it gets strange. BN pops up a screen to enter your password, which has to be a special series of letters and numbers. The password screen requires you to type in the letters on the COMPUTER keyboard and the numbers by selecting them from the KEYPAD. I have never encountered that security feature before. BN makes me change my password every 90 days, so I put it on my calendar to be ready.

Another interesting security feature is the “token.” After entering your ID and password, BN will require you enter numbers displayed on a token.

You get the numbers to enter above from a little device called a token, which you buy when you open your account.  The token has millions of numbers in it that correspond to numbers associated with your account. The “token” device serial number is entered into your profile at the bank when you open your account and the numbers from the token matched to the numbers of your account to verify your identity when signing in.  These security features, while a little troublesome, should make you feel your account is secure.

The token, shown below, is small enough to connect to your key chain.  Pressing the grey button pulls up one of the millions of numbers that are associated with your account.

So after the password and token are entered, we finally get to the banking screen.  You can see Google has translated the page to English and the actions like checking your balance are on the left and along the top. On the screen below, I selected “My Payments” which brings up a screen with bills I frequently pay online – phones, CAJA, and electric bill.

When you first start, you follow the prompts to enter whom to pay and are given the opportunity afterward to make the payment a Favorite so it will come up automatically under My Payments next time. For bills like the electric bill, BN computer queries CNFL and displays how much I owe. Sadly, there is no automatic payment option for “set and forget.” On the other hand, I have to enter the amount myself when I recharge my phone. For all you 24/7/365 people, it is not unusual to not be able to pay a bill on the weekend when they take CAJA or electric company computers down for a siesta. The workaround is to try again mañana.

Mobile Banking

I also use the BN mobile app. Unfortunately,  language translation is not available on the phone app like on the web, but surprisingly you may not need it once you have used the web interface.  The good part is the phone app does not need the token to authenticate, so I can leave the token at home when we travel and still pay bills from my phone.

Here is what the main screen of the mobile app looks like:

Residency Renewal

Finally, having my account at Banco Nacional makes renewing my residency easier. When you renew your residency, you need to provide proof you are bringing money into Costa Rica. My residency approval requires I deposit $1,000 a month. So every month, I write a check for $1000 against my credit union in the US. The funds typically are withdrawn in 3 days, but they stay frozen at BN for 20 days.

When the time for residency renewal rolls around, I go to the BN customer service and have them print my monthly statements showing the required $1000 deposit and they stamp each page to make it look official. I take those 12 statements to the interview and breeze right through.

I know many gringos go through agony trying to open a bank account in Costa Rica but it does not need to be hard when you deal with ARCR and Banco Nacional.

Other Articles by Rob Evans:


Featured Property: 3 BR House in Naranjo with Amazing Views on a Budget – $125,000

8646-1_0Property ID #8646

Price: $125,000
City: Naranjo
Neighborhood: Lourdes

Construct. area: 1 100(sq. Ft.)
Meters Squared: 775
Acre – Lot size (sq.Ft): .20 acres
Year Built: 2000
Bedrooms: 3
Full Bathrooms: 1

8646-3Phone lines: 1
Cable TV: Satelite or Broadcast
Internet Connection: WiMax
Added Security: Fence


Get your great views without spending a million dollars!  Gorgeous, tranquil, and affordable in Lourdes de Naranjo!


This ranch home is located in the heart of coffee growing in Lourdes de Naranjo.  Only 15 minutes from downtown Naranjo and minutes to restaurants and stores this house is convieniently located.  With views of Naranjo, and most of the central valley you will enjoy sitting on your porch enjoying the sunsets and nearly perfect weather this area has.  With coffee and cows as your neighbors you will experience real Costa Rica country life.  The neighborhood is tranquil and mostly farmers.


The house is large and with some minor adjustments could be a really nice home.  The construction is block and drywall so some areas can easily be opened up to make more spacious rooms as well as install an additional bathroom.




The kitchen has views to the valley and plenty of counter space. walls between the dining, kitchen and living can easily be taken down as they are wood to make one big great room.



If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing, affordable retirement, this house could be yours.


Property ID #8646

Click here for more photos and to contact the realtor for this property.

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. We recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell. Though we are not realtors, we work with trusted realtors who have many other properties in this price range available. The homes we feature are just a sample of the properties the realtors we work with have, both above and below $150,000.

Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.


Paul and Gloria in Mexico: Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza Extravaganza

If you’ve been reading our newsletter for a while, you know that we have been traveling to Mexico each year for the past several years. This is the first year we visited in July and were able to experience the month-long festival of the Guelaguetza, Oaxaca’s celebration of the culture, traditional dancing, crafts, and food of its eight regions.

One of the biggest parades during the month is the Desfile de Delegaciones where dancers and musicians from each of Oaxacas regions are represented. One of the highlights, and my personal favorite, is the Baile de la Flor de Piña which you can see in the video clip below.

One of our favorite things about Mexico is all the color. It’s everywhere!

Festival de Antojitos (Snacks)

Street Vendor

Street Vendor

Indigenous Women Vendors at the Tlacolula Market

Fruit Display at Tlacolula Market

Belts for Sale at Mercado Benito Juarez

Woven Rugs Gallery near Santo Domingo Church


Our Ultimate CR Healthcare Tour

We are proud to offer 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 eight 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 presentations.

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)
  • The office of our dentist in San Ramón
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A pharmacy
  • A local feria (farmer’s market) where you will see the abundance of fresh food available.
  • The local Cruz Roja (Red Cross) to learn about their services and programs.
  • A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!


You’ll learn:

  • If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needs and 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.

Prices: $650 for a couple, $550 for a single.
Please contact us if you are interested in booking a tour. Space is limited.

Related Articles:


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