Aug 27 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – August 27, 2014

Welcome to our Newsletter!

Paul and Gloria

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:



Monkey Rescue Misadventures: Mal Tiempo, Buena Cara

by Gloria

The Mission

“Retirement” in Costa Rica — you just never know what each day will bring. Our adventure started with a phone call from MINAE (Costa Rica’s Ministry of the Environment and Energy) to Spider Monkey R & R (Rehabilitation and Release). They planned a raid in the morning to confiscate a 3-year-old spider monkey and some parrots and parakeets, and they wanted us there at the time of the raid to take the monkey. The person keeping them didn’t have a license, so he wasn’t authorized to keep wild animals on his property according to Costa Rica law.

MINAE office in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí

MINAE office in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí

We made plans to leave early the next morning for the three-hour drive from San Ramón to the MINAE office in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí in order to meet Juan Alexis, our contact, at 9:00am. Michele (owner and chief monkey mama at Spider Monkey R&R), Alexa (our Tica friend and interpreter), and I left at 6:00am, armed only with an animal crate, some fruit to lure her into it, and a few umbrellas. The umbrellas were a necessity we each remembered because it’s the middle of the rainy season here.

Getting There

And it did rain, all day, as Michele drove on highways and muddy mountain roads. Between the three of us, we also had a GPS, 3 cell phones, an iPad, and some Ritz Crackers to ward off hunger. We rode to the other side of the continental divide through a tunnel in the mountain, through the spectacular Braulio Carrillo National Park, and through original, first-growth jungle.

Technology Troubles

So, let’s talk first about the breakdown of technology. I couldn’t get an up-to-date reading with the navigation program on my iPad to determine where exactly we were and where we needed to go. The GPS was helpful but far from perfect (more about this later). Also, getting a cell phone signal was spotty at best. We had a very difficult time getting in touch with Juan Alexis for specific directions or with our spouses to report about our travels. (Okay, so part of the problem with reaching Juan Alexis by phone, we have to admit, was that we were calling the wrong number… multiple times. But once we found the right number, we still had a hard time getting through because of no cell signal.)

Michele Waiting For Paperwork

Michele Waiting For Paperwork

Getting Ready for the Raid

We arrived at MINAE just after 9am and spent the next two hours getting the paperwork done for the transfer. Their office was in the middle of the jungle, along a river bank and it was quite beautiful and peaceful there. And wet… did I mention that it was raining? We could even see a troop of howler monkeys resting in the treetops and a huge iguana on a branch below them. While we were there, we asked Juan Alexis for his permission to name the spider monkey “Juanita” after him and, with a smile, he agreed.

Following the MINAE truck

Following the MINAE truck

Finally, we were off to do the raid and get the monkey. We followed the guys in the MINAE truck through rough, muddy roads and, first, made a stop to pick up “Mary,”a young woman who used to work for the man whose property was being raided – to make it easier to catch her, we all thought. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.

The Raid!

We entered the property through a barbed-wire gate and parked about 50 meters from the cages. We saw parrots in small cages and a bunch of bananas hanging from a tree, at-the-ready for the birds and monkeys. The owner of the property wasn’t home, so the two MINAE employees gave the seizure paperwork to a caretaker who was on-site. We gave them the watermelon, bananas, and guavas we had brought and they, along with “Mary,” headed into the cage with the animal crate to get Juanita. It was only then that we realized they didn’t have an animal net, thick gloves, nor anything else to catch her with — and the cage was BIG, originally designed as an aviary.

Juanita's cage

Juanita’s cage

Rain and Bugs

Alexa went with the group over to the cage and frequently came back to report to Michele and me who were sitting in the car, out of the rain. This is the point where OUR lack of preparedness became glaringly obvious. You know how I said it was raining, and had been raining all day? Lots of rain makes lots of mud, and none of the three of us had brought boots. We did have umbrellas, but raincoats and hats would have been a GREAT idea. And the other important thing we neglected to bring? Insect repellent! The bugs were fierce, small black flying insects and mosquitoes biting all of us without mercy. (After we returned home, Michele counted 58 bites on her arms and legs, which promptly began to swell up and turn red!) So, we sat in the car, in the rain, with the windows up to keep out the bugs. And every few minutes, when it got too hot and humid, Michele rolled up the windows and put on the air conditioner to cool us off.

The Thrill of Victory??

Finally, after about an hour, Juanita was lured into the carrier with a banana placed inside, and “Mary” closed the door. (Yes!!)

But wait… she neglected to fasten the crate door and, quick as you will, Juanita escaped!  (Noooooooooooo!!!)

By this point, we were all wet, itchy, and disappointed. The caretaker brought out a wire trap to try to catch Juanita, but spider monkeys are SMART! No way was she going to fall for that and, instead, stayed high up in the cage. After another 30 minutes or so, at 12:30pm, we all gave up. Catching Juanita would just have to wait until another day.jumpercables

Car Woops #1

The MINAE employees packed up the parrots and parakeets they had confiscated. Michele started the car to leave and… whoops… the battery was dead – too much running of the air conditioner to keep out the mosquitoes with the car not running. Luckily, the MINAE guys had jumper cables and room to pull their truck up beside us to charge the battery.

Heading Back Out

We were on the road again for the three hour trip back to San Ramón, but the first order of business was to find a place to stop for lunch. All three of us were wet, tired, and hungry. Alexa was especially wet because she spent a lot of time outside the car, over by the cage (unlike Michele and I, who were wimps). Michele was especially tired as she had done all of the driving, so I Casadooffered to take over for a while. After I was driving for about 10 minutes, I pulled into a soda and the three of us ordered casados con pollo, all around. Before eating, Alexa went into the restroom to change her clothes because they were soaked through. Kudos to her for thinking to bring a change of clothes! But when she put on her dry pants, the button flew off and disappeared into who knows where, and she spent the rest of the day holding up her pants.

Car Woops #2

We happened to glance over at the car, and saw that the headlights were still on.  Whoops again… another dead battery, this time on my watch. We found Michele’s emergency road kit (required by all drivers in Costa Rica) which had never been used (or even seen by Michele) and had to cut the strap open with my tiny manicure clippers to get to the jumper cables inside.

We asked a Tico sitting at the next table if he would give us a “hot shot” and he very nicely agreed. He pulled his heavy-duty truck over to our car, connected the jumper cables, and charged our battery for 15 minutes while we all ate lunch. When Michele offered to buy his lunch, he declined, saying it was his pleasure to help us. I just love Ticos!

Call Paultexting

We hit the road again after lunch, with Michele driving again, and as soon as we had cell phone reception, she asked me to “call Paul” to confer about our best route back to San Ramón. FYI, she and I are both married to guys named Paul, so I proceeded to call my Paul. When he answered with a sleepy voice, I said, “Oh, did I wake you up honey?” Knowing that I wouldn’t call her husband “honey,” Michele then realized that I had called the wrong Paul.  Afterwards, I tried calling her Paul, but with no luck.  The phone kept going directly to voicemail. So, while we were stuck in traffic for 10 minutes at a green light, Michele sent him a text message to “Call me.” It was several hours later when he called back, somewhat confused. The message he received said “Caktjt” and, since he didn’t know what that meant, he called Michele to find out.

Going “Home”


Hotel Grano de Oro, AKA “Home”

Left to our own devices, Michele programmed the GPS to “go home” and we resumed our ride. But soon, we were a bit confused when the GPS directed us into downtown San Jose. Huh? Yet we followed the very specific directions to our “final destination” – which turned out to be the Hotel Grano de Oro, Paul and Michele’s favorite restaurant! As far as the GPS was concerned, the Grano de Oro WAS home. Let’s return to Lesson Learned #1, shall we, and bring a map next time. You can’t always rely on a GPS. Traffic was at a standstill by this time (about 4:00pm) as rush-hour had begun. (When we got home, we saw a US Embassy alert that there would be a “peaceful protest” about something or other at 3:00pm, right where we had just driven through, which explained the severity of the traffic problem.  Eventually, we found our way to the Autopista, but sat in traffic there as well.

MalTiempoBuenaCaraMal Tiempo, Buena Cara

By now, 10 hours after we left that morning, we were frustrated, tired, thirsty, and we were going home empty-handed. But we tried to keep up each others’ spirits, making jokes and laughing as we reviewed the events of this screwy day, and decided that we needed an “Official Monkey Rescue Kit” to make sure things run more smoothly next time. I volunteered that it needed to contain some “comfort food,” maybe some Chunky Monkey ice cream? As we laughed, Alexa said, “Mal tiempo, buena cara.” That means, “Bad time, good face.” That’s what we were doing, not letting the challenges and disappointments of the day cripple us. We chose to put on a “good face,” to laugh instead of being angry about our misadventures in the rainforest. We finally arrived home at 5:30pm, after an 11 ½ hour day. And we vowed to be better prepared next time.

Post Script

Even though we didn’t get Juanita that day, she joined our growing troop of spider monkeys about a week later! But this time, we waited until she was put into a carrier, ready for (Michele’s) Paul to come to pick her up! The monkey gods continued to smile on us in other ways, as the week also brought three more new spider monkeys to Spider Monkey R & R (Rehabilitation and Release) to join Chiquito and Lolita. Introducing DoritaAnita, and Pancita! And then they were six!
























Baby Dorita

Baby Dorita












In the Mailbag

Here’s a sampling of some of the email we’ve received lately. (Note: all mail used with permission.)

First, a comment about our article on fighting mold and mildew in the tropics:

Howdy Gloria, Just read the latest newsletter article regarding m & m. The remedy regarding the use of lights reminded me of my time in Guam many years ago. Every home had at least one closet which was known as a “Hot Locker.” There was always a low wattage light bulb glowing in there, and it worked amazingly well at keeping the m & m at bay. It was also noted that anything not secured in hermetically sealed canisters would develop the blue green pallor. To this day, I recall those days in Guam and often remark about the use of hot lockers. In fact I spoke to a few folks about that very subject (recently).” ~ Don

A Reader Learns Spanish at CPI

If you’ve been reading our site for a while, you know we recommend CPI immersion language school. It’s the school we take lessons at and we think they do a great job. They have three locations in Costa Rica. We go to the Heredia school, but one of our readers spent some time at their school in Monteverde. Here’s what she had to say:

I’m writing to tell you of my experiences with CPI in Monteverde. I had researched several Spanish language schools in CR and in Nicaragua and decided to try CPI upon your recommendation. Oh wow, I was not disappointed for an instant. The entire staff are friendly and ready to help. I had some difficulties with my homestay family (it was a matter of personalities, nothing more), and within a few short hours Muni found another place for me that suited my needs perfectly. My teacher, Sylvia, allowed me to move at my own pace, yet she kept my feet to the fire, which I really needed. She was a pure delight. The lunch that you can opt to buy at CPI for around 3,000 colones was ample, delicious and nutritious. There’s a wonderful panaderia just down the street, Jiminez, that serves some of the best coffee I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something in Costa Rica. They have breakfast, sandwiches and sinful desserts. I visited them frequently, and my waistline will prove it. They also have WIFI.

CPI Monteverde Campus

CPI Monteverde Campus

The buildings and grounds are stunning and extremely well kept. Directly across the street from the school is a vista of the Gulf of Nicoya and the Nicoya Peninsula; on my last day of class there was a huge rainbow that framed the entire view. It just so happened that I was the only person in my class, and while being “on” for 4 hours with only a 20 minute break was exhausting, CPI did not cancel the class because there were not enough students. CPI has connections with several tour companies, so there is never a shortage of things to do after class. I took the canopy tour and was delighted to discover that it was the same place I had taken the zip line tour when I first visited Costa Rica 10 years ago. It brought back many exciting memories. My only regret is that the week ended so quickly. I will definitely come back to CPI, probably in Heredia next time. With the discount offered through Retire for Less in Costa Rica, it was a very affordable opportunity to immerse myself in the language. I cannot say enough good things about my experiences with CPI, and I very highly recommend them. They are professional and friendly, and their primary goal is to make your stay as comfortable and rewarding as they can. They certainly did so for me.

~ Lynn

Related Articles:

Questions and Answers: Getting Residency in Costa Rica and Joining the Caja


Hi Paul and Gloria, I have a couple of what I think are simple questions I can’t find answers to. What do you do for insurance until you become a permanent resident? Can you get CAJA with a tourist or temporary resident visa? When do you apply for temporary residency? Can you renew a tourist visa? We will get travelers insurance for January. Thanks for your help. Learning a lot from your website. Best, Mary


Let’s take one question at a time. FYI, we consulted with residency expert, Javier Zavaleta, on these answers.

1) What do you do for insurance until you become a permanent resident?

When we first came down, we had COBRA insurance from the job I left behind but we never needed to use it. And once that expired, we just self-insured. It’s a scary prospect until you realize that you can actually AFFORD healthcare here, without insurance. If something major would happen and you needed to go to the emergency room, it is mandated by law that you will be treated, whether you can pay or not. Doctor visits, lab work, and many diagnostic tests are extremely affordable. Read some of the articles in our “healthcare” at this link for examples: There are two things a person can do to bridge the coverage cap between U.S. coverage and Caja coverage:

  1. Purchase temporary insurance from INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros), or from private hospitals like CIMA or Clinica Biblica.
  2. Purchase international traveler’s insurance from a broker.

2) Can you get CAJA with a tourist or temporary resident visa?

No, not with a tourist visa, but you can (and in fact, must) join the Caja (Costa Rica’s national medical system) as a condition of legal residency.

costa-rica-residency-card3) When do you apply for temporary residency?

Whenever you feel certain enough that you want to live here and are willing to spend the money necessary to go through the process. You can apply for permanent residency after three years of temporary residency. A couple of benefits to permanent residency is that you can get a work permit and it can make it easier to apply for Costa Rican citizenship. But there are other benefits. (For more detailed information on the requirement for residency, we always recommend Javier Zavaleta with Residency in Costa Rica. You can read more, learn about the special “Retire for Less” discount, and contact him through this link.)

4) Can you renew a tourist visa?

You renew a tourist visa simply by leaving the country before your current visa expires — usually 90 days — and then re-entering and getting a new stamp for another 90 days. The Immigration Law says that a tourist who was originally issued a visa of less than 90 days can buy a visa extension of 30 days by paying $100 to Migracion. However, most visas granted to U.S. and Canadian citizens (as well as most Western Europeans) are valid for 90 days. Therefore, those tourists do not qualify to “buy” the extra 30 day extension and must, instead, exit and re-enter Costa Rica with another 90-day visa.

Related Articles:


The Truth about Living in Costa Rica: The Good, the Bad, and the Muddy

by Josh Linnes (Originally published by Viva Tropical on August 8, 2014. Used with permission.) Also includes annotations by Paul and Gloria in green. Photos by

It’s easy to find tons of articles and information out there highlighting all the great benefits of living in Costa Rica. PuraVidaBeachBut it’s also easy to read those blogs and marketing pieces and think, “Yeah, it sounds great and all, but can it really be as perfect as all that yoga and ‘pura vida’ and dazzling sunsets I keep hearing about.” Yeah, it can. But that doesn’t mean that living in Costa Rica is without its share of annoyances and headaches. It is after all a developing country, albeit a breathtakingly gorgeous one with a relaxed vibe and some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet. To help you decide if it’s really the right place for you to work and live and play, we’ve unpacked the whole truth about living in Costa Rica. Our intent is not to discourage you from making the country your expat home. Costa Rica is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world for a reason. It’s because the amazing benefits easily outweigh the bad, in the minds of most expats. What we do want to do is to give you a clear picture of what you could expect in your day-to-day life living in Costa Rica.

For some, pura vida can be an acquired taste.

Meaning “pure life,” pura vida is the unofficial slogan of Costa Rica, or at least the country’s collective philosophy. This laid-back attitude is one of the main characteristics that draws many expats to the country in the first place. Yet it’s also one of the ones that frustrates North Americans the most, after the honeymoon phase wears off.

This concept of slowing down to enjoy life, letting things just roll off your back, and relaxing your expectations is a great outlook to adopt. It’s likely one of the reasons Costa Ricans are among the healthiest and happiest cultures in the world.

Side effects of a pura vida overdose

Living and doing business in a pura vida culture can involve things like not receiving your mail for unexplained reasons, waiting days for your power to be restored after a minor outage, or even having a string of multiple repairmen fail to show up to fix your roof. One big contributor to the pura vida frustration is the phrase “mañana,” which you probably thought meant “tomorrow.” It doesn’t. At least, not usually. It could mean Friday, next Tuesday, the beginning of October, or even never. However, the one thing it does always mean is “not today.” The same relaxed approach to getting things done applies to most services and government operations as well. Most infrastructure is poorly maintained. The roads are in poor condition. Street signs and building numbers rarely exist. And buses are somewhat unreliable since they change their routes depending on road conditions, especially during the rainy season.

The steps you were told you needed to take last month to get your visa or a building permit may be completely different than the response you get when you go back to the same office with that first set of paperwork completed. It’s even worse than your worst experience at the DMV. Processes that should take weeks can take years, and that can be incredibly frustrating to someone who’s accustomed to much more consistent and systematic ways of doing things. Your best bet? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. If you go into the process knowing what to expect, you can be better prepared to roll with the punches, remain patient and calm, and just keep moving the ball forward at every opportunity.

Losing your temper and blowing up at the underpaid, overworked immigration employee or customer service representative will get you nowhere. A deep breath, a polite “gracias,” and a smile can work wonders.

When living in Costa Rica, you can’t escape the country’s untamed natural surroundings.

beach_monkeysCosta Rica’s economy is heavily dependent on ecotourism. And if you’ve even seen so much as a single photo slideshow highlighting the country’s natural beauty, then you can easily see why. This Central American country literally has it all, with terrains and eco-climates ranging from long stretches of undeveloped coastline to towering volcanoes to dense jungles and rainforests to lush valleys to waters teeming with all sorts of exotic marine life to inland lakes, streams, and rivers with cascading waterfalls. We could go on and on. These wild and rugged settings form a backdrop for all manner of tropical species. And you don’t have to go to a nature preserve to see them, because they’ll come to you!

Sounds awesome, right? Well, not always.

This could mean everything from spotting monkeys and toucans in your garden to finding scorpions in your house or even bats in your toilet. Normal mosquito in Costa Rica Among the most prevalent unexpected guests are insects. There are crawling critters in Costa Rica of which you’ve never seen the likes in North America. And, unfortunately, they’re unavoidable. The humid beach towns, particularly along the Caribbean coast, are often plagued with mosquitoes, which can carry dengue fever. Ants are a problem everywhere, and they bite. So clean kitchens and secure food storage are essential to ward them off. Termites can also invade and cause considerable property damage. And you might see cockroaches as big as your hand.

What can be done about these unwelcome intruders? Not much. However, they do seem to be more prevalent (and grow quite larger) in the coastal areas. So, the less humid mountainous regions might be a better fit for you if you’re someone who loses his cool over the tiniest spider sighting. Outside of trying to find a spot less populated with critters, just do your best to be on the lookout for them. Check your shoes before you stick your foot in. Shake out blankets and sleeping bags before you curl up in them. Things like that.

The weather is great most of the time, but when it rains it pours.

In North America, the way you choose your desired temperature is by adjusting your thermostat. In Costa Rica you can tweak your weather by carefully selecting your location and, more specifically, your elevation.

Are you looking for a year-round consistent climate with temps in the low 70s and the anticipated daily shower each afternoon? Try the Central Valley, near San Jose, which thousands of expats already call home. Are you OK with enduring a little more heat and humidity in exchange for the laid-back lifestyle of one of the country’s amazing beach towns? Then try a quaint little village on the coast.

A word of caution, though. The country’s rainy season runs from May to November. And, depending on where you live, “rainy” could mean anything from the aforementioned afternoon shower to torrential downpours that go on for days on end. The Caribbean coast gets more rainfall than the Pacific, particularly the eastern slopes of the Central Cordillera mountains.

How bad can a little bit of rain be?

Here’s how that plays out in real life. As we mentioned, Costa Rica isn’t known for the quality of its roads. Add 10 or more inches of rain in a month’s time, and that situation doesn’t exactly improve. The roads, as well as your own property, will at times be a muddy mess.

The rest of the country’s infrastructure can also fail, with power and water outages being quite common. And the utility companies’ attitudes towards affecting a speedy restoration of service can be enough to send an impatient North American right over the edge. The persistent rainfall, plus the lack of sunshine to dry things out, can result in a lot of your belongings (think outdoor furniture and patio cushions) becoming moldy. Oh, and all that nature we talked about? The rain and flooding often send select members of it (think bugs and snakes) right inside your home looking for refuge.

How can you combat these issues as a newcomer? For starters, use care when selecting your destination city and make sure to experience what it’s like in the wet season before you buy property. Outside of that, there’s not much you can do. Except rest in the knowledge that once the balmy summer weather arrives (December to April), the downpours and flooding will all just seem like a bad dream. Until next year.

You’ll love the many opportunities for adventure, but you won’t be the only one.

ArenalVolcanoPACosta Rica’s [mostly] great weather and amazing natural beauty have made it extremely popular as an expat and tourist destination. As a result, there are tons of ways to experience the outdoors and get your adrenaline going. You can go deep sea fishing and reel in a record-breaking catch, soar through the canopy and see the rainforest via zipline, go whitewater rafting on a raging river, hike to the top of a volcano, learn to surf on some of the world’s best waves, or even just enjoy the exotic flora and fauna that’s all around you. It would be wrong to keep all this a secret. With so many great opportunities to enjoy nature, there are understandably a lot of visitors to Costa Rica. So much so that some expats complain that it’s a bit too touristy. It really depends on your preference whether or not that presents a problem for you. Some expats welcome the constant influx of individuals from all walks of life. Some would rather feel more like pioneers who were the first and only ones to discover such a hidden gem of an expat destination. The general consensus? Most people who’ve settled in Costa Rica for the long haul agree that the varied and diverse culture is part of what makes the country so great. The welcoming, anything goes approach affords a lot of chances to meet new people and learn about other cultures. The country’s popularity as a tourist destination can also be quite profitable for entrepreneurs living in Costa Rica. All those visitors need food, lodging, tour guides, and other niche services that savvy expat investors are more than willing to provide. It’s a great investment opportunity.

Costa Rica is incredibly safe, as long as you use good sense.

Compared to many of its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica is extremely safe. Its homicide rate is 10.3 people per 100,000, second in the region only to Nicaragua at 8.7. Violence like rape and hate crimes are almost unheard of, even though–when they do occur to visiting North Americans–you’re very likely to hear about it on the news. Due to the country’s peace-loving nature and stable government, there are also no riots or other political uprisings. In fact, it’s often referred to as the Switzerland of the Americas.

No country is immune to the increasing global crime rates.

That being said, Costa Rica still has its share of petty crimes. The good news is that much more of them are property-related. Homes, particularly those that are only used seasonally, are frequently broken into. Tourists are often pick-pocketed. And leaving items unattended in an unlocked vehicle or lying around outside your home is a good way to ensure they won’t be there when you come back.

Prevention is key for those visiting or living in Costa Rica. If you’re a tourist, try not to look or act like one. Don’t wear loads of flashy jewelry, accessories, sunglasses, etc. Limit any excessive carrying of electronics like camera, smartphones, iPods, and other devices. And, whatever you do, don’t go waving around wads of cash, particularly large bills. As long as you use common sense and stick to the more traveled and well-lit thoroughfares, especially at night, you should be just fine. If you’re a resident, don’t leave expensive items outside your home. Lock up any outbuildings. And install a security system on your home, especially if you don’t live there year-round.

The cost of living is good, but not the best in the region.

dolares-colonesA major perk of becoming an expat in Central America is the low cost of living, compared to the price of the same goods and services in North America. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some great health food options, are widely available. They’re also extremely affordable. Some great properties can be had at a fraction of what a comparable sized home (in the same incredible setting) would run you in the U.S. Utilities are cheap, as in many areas you don’t even need to heat or cool your home. Indulgences like a hour-long massage might cost as little as $10. Taxes are also low, with property taxes rarely exceeding a few hundred dollars. There are also significant tax savings for foreigners. Two of the biggest savings for those living in Costa Rica are domestic help and health care. The services of a maid, gardener, or other domestic worker can be as low as a few dollars per day, a luxury most people could hardly afford in a first-world setting. Health care, while arguably first-world caliber, is also a great deal. Costa Rica has a state-run health system whose quality has been ranked higher than that of the U.S. The hospitals are clean and modern. Most doctors are U.S.-trained and English-speaking. These are some of the reasons Costa Rica has become a popular destination for medical tourism.

How could there be a downside to this?

Well, there isn’t really. Except for the fact that there are definitely cheaper places to live in Central America. So, while Costa Rica is not the cost leader, it makes up for any higher prices with its exceptional quality. If cost is a driving factor in your decision-making process, then you might want to look at some other destinations in Latin America. However, just remember that the old adage about getting what you pay for is true more often than not.

There are a lot of North American expats living in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has long been a hotspot for North American expats, and it shows. The North American influence is everywhere. There are large, well-connected expat communities in most of the more popular towns. They have gardening clubs, gringo poker night, food and wine tastings, and other social gatherings. There are even programs specifically geared towards helping newcomers acclimate to their expat home. You could literally find something to do every night of the week if you wanted to.

Why is this a problem?

This type of North American-influenced lifestyle is precisely the reason that many expats left in the first place. As a result, it may be a turnoff to some. Again, it really depends on your preference. Decide now what level of expat community you’re after. The good news is that it’s easy to gauge your tolerance for a high density of other expats. Just visit the place and see what you think. If you want more opportunities to immerse yourself in the authentic culture, without having English constantly spoken to you or receiving flyers about the latest production at the expat theater, then choose a less-developed spot with fewer North Americans.

If you think being around other folks who’ve walked a mile in your shoes might help you and your family better transition to your new life, then it’s as simple as looking for posters announcing the next meeting of the expat group or finding a forum where you can get connected before you even make the move. Also take into consideration your other family members, like your children, and their needs. Having English-speaking friends can make a world of difference in those all-important first weeks and months in a new place. While many of these and other factors about living in Costa Rica may seem like a lot to sort through, most all of them can be easily weighed by just scheduling a trip to bring your family down and decide for yourself.

Worst case scenario? You’ll have one of the best vacations of your lives. Best case? You could find the home you’ve always dreamed of.

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 June’s 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.

HCTOUR_004 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 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.

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

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

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