Sep 10 2015

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – September 10, 2015

Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:



Snapshots of Life in Costa Rica

This issue’s header image is from one of the highlights of the cultural year in our town of San Ramón de Alajuela. It’s from the Oxcart Parade which is part of the annual San Ramón festival. The festival is centered around the patron saints of towns big and small that are part of the county of San Ramón. Every year, the Oxcart Parade is led by a team of oxen pulling a painted oxcart carrying the statue of San Ramón Nonato, our town’s patron saint. So here’s a photo of that particular oxcart, as well as a closeup of the little boy, dressed as a campasino (farmer), who was chosen to ride with San Ramón Nonato. Pay close attending to his upper lip!


Our August 2015 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2015_AugAugust finally brought a low spending month! The savings were due mostly to being busy and not having the time or inclination to spend money. It was a busy month for tours, with both customized tours and one of our healthcare tours. As a result, Paul was on the go and I was home on my own a lot of the time. This led to our grocery budget and personal transportation costs being lower than normal. We also spoke at International Living’s conference in Costa Rica and they paid our expenses for three days, so our food and transportation expenses also decreased a bit for that period.


There was only one notable expense in this category for August. In preparation for our car’s year’s Riteve inspection in September, Paul bought two new tires for our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner. They were good quality tires from China and cost $199.43 for the pair. We have found the best prices at Tire Center Miroba (Centro Llantero Miroba), located on the Autopista (Rt. 1) between San Ramón and Palmares.


We saw a small reduction in this category. In August, our only phone expenses were our cell phones:

  • Paul’s monthly “post-paid” phone plan: $29.71 (15,685 colones)
  • Gloria’s “pre-paid” phone: $9.47 (5,000 colones)

vonagelogo2There was no charge for our Vonage VOIP phone service last month because a lightening strike disabled the device. We contacted Vonage and they agreed to replace the device at no cost, plus give us a month’s credit while we were awaiting the new device. The only negative was that they only ship within the U.S. Luckily, our friends (thanks Carlos & Tricia!) were leaving for the States for a few days and they offered to bring the device back for us. So, our U.S. phone number is back in service. A bonus is that Vonage also offered to cut our monthly billing in half (when we were discussing us possibly cancelling our service), so future months will cost $15 compared to the $30 we were paying.


The only other item of note were the walking shoes that Paul purchased. When you are a size 12 or so, it’s hard to find shoes in your size in Costa Rica. So when a new shoe store opens up in town that carries larger sizes, word gets around. Thanks to Dean Killian for recommending “Zapato Americano,” located on “out street” immediately across the street (south) from the side of George Washington school, right on the corner. Paul was able to find a pair of “slightly used” Timberland walking boots in his size for about $66.00.

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:


Due Diligence – Our Take on It

We were having a nice lunch at the home of new friends and recent expats to Costa Rica, Janet and Don Morley when the conversation got interesting. “Repeat what you just said,” Don said to Paul, “and this time on camera.” So we talked and Don recorded the following video (and gave us permission to use it).

Lots of folks place a lot of emphasis on “due diligence” while, from what we’ve seen, that doesn’t always guarantee success of one’s move to another country. It’s not that we are against “due diligence.” It’s just that some of the folks we’ve met who have done the most “due diligence” are the ones who have returned home for one reason or another; and others who did very little research ahead of time are extremely happy living in Costa Rica. So, here are some of our thoughts about the topic. Let us know what you think.


In the Mailbag: Residency and Buying a Car


Our newsletters and posts generate lots of discussion, on our website, in emails, and on facebook. Here’s a glimpse into our mailbag.

From Lynn T., a long-time reader of this newsletter:

Going through the residency application process can be a daunting endeavor, and I strongly recommend that anyone serious about getting their residency in CR consider hiring an attorney to guide you through the process. Spending the money to have someone who knows the process can save you a lot of time and frustration.

Residency in Costa Rica

Residency in Costa Rica

My husband John and I were very fortunate that we learned of Javier Zavaleta through this blog and from friends here in Costa Rica, and we are overwhelmingly pleased with his representation.

We hired Javier in September 2014 and received our CAJA and residency status today, in about a year. As of today we are legal residents of Costa Rica and have access to the CAJA, all with Javier’s help.

What’s even better is that Mayanaye, who is Javier’s sister and a para-legal, does all the legwork, and she’s a force to be reckoned with. She is well-known in Migración circles, and makes sure that even though things might not work with the Costa Rica laws, they work for the client – in other words, she cuts to the chase. No one is ever bribed and she never breaks any laws. She just works with rational thinking, and in that, she is a master. She’s also a spot-on diplomat. It also helps to have someone who is bi-lingual to help with the process.

We are totally delighted to have had Javier and Mayanaye represent us through the many steps we has to traverse to become residents of CR.

Thanks Lynn! We also used Residency in Costa Rica highly recommend them. To read about our experience, and get your “Retire for Less Discount,” click here.

And from John L. comes a question about buying a car and residency:

We are new to your site but love it so far, especially the weather info and the gardening tips. My wife and I will be making our second trip to Costa Rica next week and will be doing some comparison house hunting in advance for our planned retirement there in 2 years. The plan is to rent for about 6 months before buying a house. We plan on applying for one of the residency programs as soon as we get there but I have a question that I haven’t seen addressed before.

I heard that you can not buy a car or get it insured until you have residency. Is there an alternative to renting and paying the high mandatory insurance on a rental? We have 2 years to figure this out but it is one of the many questions we have to find an answer to. Thanks for any help you can give and look forward to your reply.

Our response:

Hi John,

Thanks for getting in touch and for your kind words. We are glad that you are finding our website helpful.
First off, I have never heard that you can’t BUY a car until you are a legal resident and I highly doubt that it is accurate. But to be sure, I am copying our residency expert, Javier Zavaleta, with Residency in Costa Rica and hopefully he can supply a definitive answer. What IS accurate is that you can’t get a Costa Rica driver’s license until you become a legal resident and are in the country at for least 91 days afterwards. That means you would have to leave the country to get a new tourist visa in order to stay valid driving on your current drivers license. Crazy law, I know.
And the follow-up response from Javier Zavaleta with Residency in Costa Rica:

Hello, Gloria and Mr. Loesche. In response to Mr. Loesche’s concerns:

“I heard that you can not buy a car or get it insured until you have residency.”

Gloria’s answer is correct. There is NO residency requirement in order to purchase a vehicle in Costa Rica. In fact, there is no such requirement to purchase real estate or any other asset in Costa Rica.

A couple from California moved to Costa Rica last April, even before we filed their applications for residency. Within a week of their arrival they bought 2 vehicles and had them registered and insured that same afternoon.

“What IS accurate is that you can’t get a CR driver’s license until you become a legal resident.”

Gloria is, again, correct. You cannot get a driver’s license without a cedula.

“…and are in the country at least 91 days afterwards”

I would like to address the 91 days rule.  Let’s say you arrive in Costa Rica on October 1, 2015, your application was approved  January 1, 2016 (the application had been filed back in May 1, 2015, so the approval was issued about 8 months later but you arrived in Costa Rica on October 1 — 90 days before the approval).  Those 90 days count toward the 90 days of residency for the purpose of getting the driver’s license issued.

Some clients go to Migración on Monday, for example, and depending on their age and other circumstances, we may be able to get their cedulas issued that same day. And, if they have been in Costa Rica for at least 90 days, on Tuesday morning they go to the DMV and get their driver’s licenses.

The answer above also points out a question not specifically asked:  Can you file the applications prior to your moving to Costa Rica?  Yes, provided you have a qualifying pension in effect at the time the application is filed.

I hope these answers are of help. Feel free to request additional information.

Saludos cordiales,


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!


You’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:


Featured Property: Cute House in San Ramón for Sale ($85,000) or Rent ($400/month)

MaritaHouse11152338_10210153261855027_4271650241158738445_nProperty ID: Marita House

Sell:$85,000 USD

Rent: $400/month USD

Construction: 150 square meters (1600 square feet) “under roof”

Lot size: 700 square meters lot (7500 square feet)

MaritaHouse11110520_10210153260975005_7197846342400491570_nAdditional features:

Located in a safe Tico family neighborhood in Concepción de San Ramón (north of the center of town). Owner’s family lives next door.

Combination kitchen/dining room with breakfast bar in kitchen

MaritaHouse10339631_10210153259974980_3254544526568180907_n2-3 bedrooms (master bedroom can be divided into two rooms with separate entrances)

1 bathroom

Large covered back patio

Back yard with banana plants and fruit trees

2-car gated carport



Click here for more photos and information and to contact the owner of 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.


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