Mar 23 2018

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – March 23, 2018

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 



Our February 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

Here’s our February 2018 spending breakdown:

Transportation – $319.63

When you have an older car, like ours, repairs are part of life. Our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner has always been a reliable, comfortable car. We have used it for our tour business as well as for personal use, and it doesn’t show any sign of letting us down. However, minor repairs seem to be coming more frequently.

In February, we had the following maintenance repairs done:

  • $57.19: front brake pads (18,000 colones), brake fluid (4,424 colones), & labor (10,000 colones)
  • $89.16: replace 2 front ball joints-parts (30,643 colones) & labor  (20,000 colones)
  • $4.75: replace front turn light bulb (2,700 colones)
  • $17.61: front end alignment & balance 2 front tires (10,000 colones)

That brings the expense for car maintenance to $168.71. The balance of our transportation expenses for February went towards gas, parking, and tolls, totaling $137.08.

Groceries – $305.79

Our spending on groceries for February was a bit below average. Of the $305.79 total, 87% was for food items and 13% was for non-food items. Non-food items, for us, mostly include paper products, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. Anything that clearly falls within another category gets put there instead.

In February, we did not visit PriceSmart, which kept our spending lower. We did pay a visit to Mayca, a restaurant supply store in Alajuela, to purchase a large bag of hard winter wheat flower for baking. Since our visit to the Alajuela store, a location has opened right here in San Ramón, which will be much more convenient for us in the future.

Meals Out – $103.79

We ate out in restaurants six times in February. The most noteable meal was “The Whole Enchilada Mole and Tacos Festival,” held at Choco-Tour Costa Rica in La Garita. Alex Corral the owner of Choco-Tour CR is a chef from Mexico City. This event was the first of, hopefully, more similar events to come.

About 30 people shared a wonderful meal which consisted of three different kinds of mole served over enchiladas, guacamole, quesadillas, sopes, lamb barbacoa, beans, rice, sauteed mushrooms, fish, and incredible desserts. My favorite part of the meal were the several spicy salsas that Chef Alex made to accompany his dishes. Muy saborosos!

In addition to eating lots of beautiful food, we also learned all about mole — it’s origin, ingredients, and the culture surrounding it.

Since this was the first event of it’s kind, Chef Alex charged an introductory price of $15 per person, a bargain to be sure! To learn about future events or to contact Chef Alex, check out the Choco-Tour’s Facebook page.

Health Care – $245.81

In addition to our normal monthly Caja and MediSmart expenses, we had two large expenses that raised our total healthcare expenditure for the month. First was an order of supplements which cost $92.

And second, I had a gynecologist appointment at Hospital Metropolitano through MediSmart. I will be writing more about our recent MediSmart experiences in the next newsletter, but for now, here are the basics. Through MediSmart, the cost of my doctor’s appointment was 80% off the regular price, only 9,000 colones (less than $16). The doctor also did a PAP test and an IU ultrasound right in her office. The total cost of the visit was 30,000 colones ($52.94). We loved the doctor; she spoke perfect English which is always a plus, and spent about 45 minutes with me.

The same day as the gynecologist appointment, I also had an X-Ray done at Hospital Metropolitano. The cost was 22,784 colones ($40.22), 40% off the regular price since we had it done through MediSmart.

Rent, Phone, and Utilities – $758.21

Here’s the breakdown for this category:

Expenses in this category were normal, though our electricity spending was a bit higher than we would like. Our hot water heaters (we have two, one for downstairs and one for upstairs) run on electric. We try to remember to turn off the hot water heaters once we have showered (upstairs) and done dishes (downstairs), but we often forget. We are pretty good about turning off lights when we leave a room (Paul is especially good at this!) Our clothes dryer is electric and, since we don’t have any outdoor space to dry clothes in our downtown apartment, this is another contributor to higher electric bills.

Other Hardware/Household – $27.25

Two new bed pillows, a drain stopper, and some cute napkin holders cost us a total of $27.25.

Personal Care & Clothing – $81.51

I had my hair cut and colored at the Shine Salon near our apartment for 10,000 colones ($17.61). Yojanna always does a great job. Paul also got a haircut from Maria at the salon in the Central Market where he has been going for many years. Cost for his cut was 2,500 colones, about $4.40.

In terms of clothing purchases, Paul had a pair of shoes repaired for 5,500 colones ($9.58). They will last him another year, at least, he says. And he bought a dress shirt at one of the local ropa americanas for 2,800 colones ($4.93). I purchased a new change purse for $3.69.

Entertainment – $25.92

In addition to our NetFlix payment of $11.65 and Paul’s subscription to the Baltimore Sun Online ($3.96), we also had another beach day at Playa Doña Ana. For a full day at the beach, it costs us entrance fees of 1,500 colones for me, 750 colones for Paul since he’s over 65, and 1,000 colones to park in their secure lot — a total of less than $6 USD.

In February, we spent six days in Mexico City for business, exhibiting at International Living’s first Mexico country conference. As many of you know, we spend part of the year in Oaxaca and we have developed a Oaxaca retirement and relocation tour. (You can read all about it on our sister website, Since our trip expenses were business-related, we do not include them in our Costa Rica cost of living reports. But I will include what we spent on entertainment in this month’s newsletter. We didn’t have very much free time during our brief stay in Mexico City, but we did get to go to the Diego Rivera Mural Museum to see Diego Rivera’s famous mural, “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda.” One noteable feature of this mural was Rivera’s inclusion of “La Catrina,” the lavishly dressed skeleton which later became a symbol of Day of the Dead. The museum was a short walk from our hotel near Alameda Park. The cost for both of our entrance fees and permission to take photos was only 75 pesos ($4.26).

A portion of Diego Rivera’s mural, “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda.”

On our one free day, we walked a lot around Mexico City’s historic district, visiting the San Juan Market, Chinatown, La Ciudadela crafts market, and the Biblioteca de México “Jose Vasconcelos,” all of which were free.

San Juan Market

Biblioteca de México “Jose Vasconcelos”

Chinatown cart

There were no other expenses of note in February.

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Immigration News for Those on a Tourist Visa and Temporary Residents

Costa Rica’s immigration ministry announced yesterday that they will begin enforcing fines for visitors who overstay their visas. As of April 20, 2018, foreign persons who remain in Costa Rica beyond the period permitted by immigration shall be fined $100 USD for each month they overstay in the country, or in their absence, they shall be prohibited from entering a period equivalent to three times the time of their overstay. This law applies not only to tourists and non-resident foreigners, but also to foreigners with temporary residency who have let their DIMEX (Migratory Identification Document for Foreigners) expire.

This is not a new policy but one that was not enforced in the past. Article 33 of the Migration Law in Costa Rica states that “Foreigners have the obligation to exit the country when their term as authorized by the migration authority expires, unless otherwise authorized through a request in the change of category or an extension granted by said migration authority.” This same article decrees that if the foreign person does not leave the country before their visa has expired, he or she will be fined $100 per month of their overstay in the country.

If the person does not pay the fine, he or she will not be able to enter the country again for a term equivalent to the triple of their unauthorized stay. According to a March 22nd article in The Costa Rica Star, this article in the law was not being implemented because of an executive decree that delayed the implementation of the same, but this extension comes to an end on April 19.

These fines can be paid in agencies of Banco de Costa Rica, online through the Migration site, and in other locations nationwide.

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Featured Property in Grecia: Affordable 3BR 2BA Home in Gated Community-$115,000

Property ID Number: 35698

Geographic Area: Grecia and Naranjo areas
Neighborhood: Grecia
Bedrooms: 3
Full Baths: 2
Year Built: 2009
Construction (sq. ft.): 1500
Property Size: 314 Meters Squared or Hectares
Price: $115,000 USD
Condo Fee: $67


This affordable home in a Grecia gated community is located just 10 minutes to Grecia, and 10 minutes to the Pan American highway.  It is in a small gated community of 85 properties.

The home in a Grecia gated community features 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  The master bedroom has it’s own en suite bathroom and closet area.  The dining and kitchen areas are combined and the kitchen has lots of counter space for cooking. There is a tv room or office area off of the dining room and a sliding glass door that leads to the back yard.

The laundry room doubles as a huge workshop or storage area and opens up to the private back yard.

The size of the yard is perfect for a small garden and a couple of fruit trees.

The gated community has HOA fees of about $67 a month which includes maintenance of the private well, the roads, 24/7 security and a really nice pool and party area in the community.

Property ID Number: 35698

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!


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 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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