Retire for Less in Costa Rica – July 14, 2018

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 


Our June 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

June was an expensive month for us, especially in the categories of Transportation, Meals Out, and Healthcare. We came in about 20% higher than our target of $2,000/month. But some months are like that. Here’s the breakdown:

Transportation – $280.83

For us, during a normal month we fill up our Toyota 4-Runner just once. In June, we needed three fill-ups averaging about $60 each. We took lots of trips to San Jose and Alajuela throughout the month, and as usual, we tried to do several things each time so that means several stops along the way. From San Ramon, it takes us about one hour and 15 minutes to get to San Jose if traffic is good and about 55 minutes to Alajuela.

In addition to a higher than normal gasoline expense, we also had some minor car repairs. A front end alighment, balancing of the front tires, and a new light bulb came in at under $20. Later in the month, our mechanic fixed an oil leak in the front of the car which included replacing a part. Total cost was about $67.00.

Add in tolls and parking and that brings us up to our monthly total of $280.83.

Groceries – $305.55

Our total grocery bill for the month came in a little lower than average, even with a visit to PriceSmart. The biggest reason for this is that we ate out quite a bit more than normal as you will see below. 91% ($278.96) of our spending went towards actual food items, with the remaining 9% ($26.58) for non-food items like cleaning products, paper goods, candles, etc. Dinner is our favorite meal to have at home. Every evening we set a nice table, light candles, and listen to music while eating our meal. It is a relaxing and lovely way to share a meal together, whether it’s just the two of us or if we have friends joining us.

Meals Out – $198.10

This was the shocker of the month for us. In fact, I went back and double-checked everything to be sure I didn’t have any errors or misplaced decimal points! In a normal month, we spend $50-$100 on eating out, but in June, we at least doubled that. It was all the trips to San Jose and Alajuela — they were usually long days where we needed to eat at least one meal out or we got back late and I didn’t feel like cooking dinner. We also joined friends on several occasions to share a meal.

Some of the meals were at local sodas (small, family-run restaurants serving typical Tico food) and other were at nicer restaurants. Of all of our meals out in June, our favorite remains Savory a la Thai, Chef Addie and husband Gerardo’s restaurant that recently moved into their home in Piedades Norte de San Ramon. (NOTE: Their phone number, hours, and location are on their Facebook page. And they now accept credit cards.)

We also tried an Italian restaurant in Naranjo that we had heard good things about. However, the food was underwhelming at best and we were both disappointed. Maybe we would have enjoyed it more had we ordered differently — the food at the next table looked good. Unfortunately, it was also the most expensive meal out of the month so that was doubly disappointing.

All in all, we ate either lunch or dinner out a total of 10 times and breakfast out a couple of times. It was an unusual month which we hope not to repeat any time soon.

Healthcare – $470.87

Other than Rent/Phone/Utilities, we spent more in June on Healthcare than in any other category. A big chunk of this went to an eye exam and new bifocal eyeglasses for Paul. Total cost for lenses, new frames, and the exam came to $166.64 which we were really pleased with. For years, we have used Ópticas Rosán, a family business with two locations in San Ramon. We have always been pleased with their service and prices and highly recommend them.

As always, our monthly spending includes our Caja (about $46) and pro-rated MediSmart payment of $15/month. We purchased supplements at the macrobiotica and one prescription at the farmacia. The rest of the spending was for a blood test ($24.81) for me and two appointments with specialists ($42.52 through MediSmart, and $88.67 not through MediSmart) for Paul.

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $769.06

No surprises here. Rent and Internet remain the same. Phone varies little month to month for our two cell phones with Kolbi pre-paid sim cards and our Vonage line to the States — a bargain at $50 for all that. And we got our house cleaned four and a half times during the month for about $80. The half time was an emergency that Flor, our wonderful housecleaner, helped me out with. I discovered, to my horror, a termite infestation in our built-in chest of drawers and office closet. Our landlord’s worker came by to spray but he left a huge mess. Not only did we have to clean up everything but we had to wash all of our clothes that had been in the drawers as well. We got it all done in a day, thankfully, and I appreciated the extra help.

Other Hardware/Household – $40.86

The termite infestation in our office closet destroyed a cardboard box filled with memorabilia.  Unfortunately, we lost a lot of the contents but were able to salvage most of the family photos, reminders of our earlier lives, and diplomas we had stored there. No more cardboard boxes! Before replacing things in the closet, I purchased several new plastic bins with lids to keep things safe. Cost for one large bin, two medium ones, and a small one was $18.66.

We also bought a cushy new kitchen mat for in front of our sink when we were at PriceSmart for $14.21. I saw a similar one in a local store for almost double the price. While I always prefer to buy from local businesses whenever possible, this was one time the price difference was too great to ignore.

The balance of spending in this category was for light bulbs and bug spray.

Personal Care and Clothing – $22.28

Hair cut and color for me for 10,000 colones ($17.83). The salon I have gone to for over a year now has closed due to rising expenses. Yohanna’s landlord raised the rent 30% and she could not afford to stay — unfortunately, this is pretty common in Costa Rica. Luckily, Yohanna is now working out of her home in San Juan, just 10 minutes away, and her prices have remained the same.

Paul also bought a “new” shirt at MegaRopa, one of the many ropa americana stores in San Ramón. The cost was 2,500 colones ($4.46).

Vet/Pet Supplies – $65.21

A PriceSmart visit always means picking up Fresh Step kitty litter. A 42 lb. bag costs almost $18 and this time we bought two bags. Just recently, I’ve begun seeing Fresh Step in local stores but the cost is about double, so this is one more thing we will continue to buy at PriceSmart. It’s the only clumping litter I’ve ever seen in Costa Rica.

Our kitties are also eating a new, more expensive cat food, which also accounts for the higher spending in this category.

Miscellaneous – $164.93

There were two main expenses in this category. First off, we renewed Paul’s U.S. passport. It was a simple process. Just go to the website: and click on  “Adult-Passport Renewal.” Download and print out the required form and click the link to set up a appointment. There is also a section on this webpage titled “Passport Passback with correos de Costa Rica” where you can set up the mailing of your new passport to your local post office. A post office box (apartado) is not required to use this service. Cost was $7 USD, payable online (note: this expense was included in the “office expenses” category).

On the day of the appointment, bring the completed form, one 2×2 black and white passport photo, the completed form, your old passport, and $110 USD payable in cash or credit card. We had the passport photo taken across the street from the embassy for 2,550 colones ($4.55) and headed into the embassy for Paul’s appointment. I was surprised that they didn’t ask for our names and check us off a list before allowing us to enter the embassy. However, they no longer allow purses or bags of any kind in the building so we had to return to our car to leave my purse behind. The appointment was easy, the staff helpful and friendly, and we received Paul’s passport at the local correo in about a week.

The other main expense was for our PriceSmart membership. After nine years of borrowing membership cards from friends, we finally got our own! Our friends never minded and always refused when we offered to split the membership price with them. But we decided, for convenience sake, to bite the bullet and pay the $35 membership fee ourselves.

Other expenses in this category were a birthday tip for our favorite guachimán (guy who watches your car when parked on the street) and our monthly contribution to Cruz Roja’s Programa Familias Contribuyentes San Ramón.

Services – $5.90

Services, generally, are a bargain here. Paul has been taking his watches to the same shop for many years. He just had the battery changed on one of his watches and Hector also cleaned the watch for him…all for 1,300 colones ($2.32). We also have a local lady iron his shirts. She did five long-sleeved dress shirts for 2,000 colones ($3.58).

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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Featured Property  in San Ramon: Small Casita with Additional Building Site-REDUCED to $85,000

Property ID Number: LA1215


Bedrooms: 1

Bathrooms: 1

Home: 800 sq ft

Lot Size:  7000 sq mt

Year Built: 2006


This wonderful piece of property is down in a little area of its own with very few neighbors to speak of, despite being in a desirable neighborhood with private roads and only one entry/exit. Choose to live in the one bedroom home, or stay in it long enough to see your dream home be built right next door. The size of “plantel” for construction of main home is 186 m2 (2,000 square feet).


This does not even begin to cover the paths, gardens, small stream, and other fruit trees that make up the remaining property.  This charming existing house and additional building site for sale in San Ramon Costa Rica is yours to design from the ground up.

The casita itself is well built, has beautiful hardwood ceilings in the bathroom, a nice sized kitchen, and an open and very well lit sitting area, even a screened in porch for your eating area!



It’s really quite a sweet little home, and is conveniently located near the charming village of Los Angeles Sur and only 10 minutes from the center of San Ramon.

Amenities include:
Fully furnished and equipped kitchen for 4 people.
Washing machine/spinner included

The house and additional building site for sale in San Ramon Costa Rica has great investment potential as it’s presently rented by full-time tenants.

Property ID: LA1215

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

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


Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating 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! Here are a couple of my 5 star reviews:

“Outstanding. I have been looking for a book that would tell me where to buy certain items that are not available in the local Costa Rica stores and I found all of that and more. Information such as translation from English to Spanish and of course Spanish to English. This is helpful so when I am shopping I can find what I am looking for using the translation. There is a break down of measurements and substitutions that was helpful. I like the few recipes that are included, and can’t wait to try them. This is a great book with so much information to help you learn about cooking in Costa Rica. I love the layout of the book and the clear explanations, and its easy to locate what I am looking for without going through an entire book. Also the resources in the back have been super helpful. Thanks so much for the book.”

“Practical as well as scholarly, this is a must-have guide for any man or woman who commands a kitchen in Costa Rica. Wonderfully readable and quickly useable for whatever and whenever you may need to know all things culinary in Costa Rica. And if that were not enough, what an amazing tour guide for English-speaking lovers of food in a Spanish-speaking culture, where the recipes you know and have always loved can come alive in new and exciting ways. I just feel smarter having read it!”

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 Rica.

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.

Buy the print edition on

Buy the Kindle edition on

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for your iPad or computer at this link.


I hope you enjoy my book and find it useful!

The Adventure Inn-Our “Go-To Hotel”

The Adventure Inn has been our “go to hotel” for the last 4 years. It’s where we pick up our Healthcare Tour guests. We recommend it for anyone coming to Costa Rica, especially if you want a hotel convenient to the San Jose airport. You can get an inexpensive tour right at the hotel or use it as your first & last place in Costa Rica, coming from or going to the airport.

The Adventure Inn also offers a free breakfast and a free shuttle service to and from the airport.

If you mention the promo code “RetireforLess” they will give you 10% off, plus if you pay in cash, you’ll get another 10% off. Also, always ask if they have any other additional discounts.
We’ve stayed there many times ourselves, & love their rooms & service.


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_008David and Donna H. recently too our healthcare tour and had this to say on one of the expat Facebook groups: Donna and I just finished the medical tour that Paul and Gloria (Retire For Less in Costa Rica) offer. It was excellent! Two days of information and tours around hospitals and clinics as well as educational and cultural centers and even information on some of the banking. The tour is designed to introduce a new arrival to the Costa Rican system of health care that includes, not just the body but the whole person. I highly recommend this tour to anyone that is new, or relatively new in country, especially to the people that live in and around the central valley. Paul taylors the two days to the groups needs as far as their ability, including any and all physical limitations, and his own experience and contacts with the people at the various institutions makes this tour extremely personable and pleasurable. It is a really great opportunity to learn more about the health care and how you can tailor it to your own needs, and learn more about what is available to enhance your experience while living in Costa Rica.”

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over nine 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 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.

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