Jan 17 2015

Retire for Less Newsletter – January 18, 2015

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Paul and Gloria

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:




Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, Quepos, & Near San Isidro de General – December 2014

Costa Rica Rainfall Map

Click to enlarge.

You’ll notice that we show rainfall and temperatures for five towns in Costa Rica. This isn’t weather forecasting. We report after the fact to give you a much better picture of the weather in each of these areas.

You can click on the map to the right to enlarge it and check out the average rainfall for the towns you are interested in. Remember that the areas shaded in darker blue tend to be higher and also the places most expats choose to live.

Paul’s San Ramón Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for December:

  • December was the coolest month of the year, with an average low of 62.5° F and with 6 mornings registering 60° F.
  • We live in a beautiful place in Costs Rica but our valley, Magallanes de San Ramón, gets a lot of rain. Total rainfall for the year was 120 inches, with 48 inches in September and 40 inches in October.
  • We live less than 4 miles from San Ramón and their rain total was probably closer to 80 inches.
  • Microclimates abound!
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 111 inches and 2014 total was 120 inches.

Lance T’s Atenas Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for December:

  • The dry season is upon us. Rainfall has been trivial. During December, overnight temperatures have been dropping, but nothing like that for the folks up north. It can be chilly in the mornings and I am sometimes driven to put on a sweater – but not to adjust a thermostat, or to turn on a room heater, or to feed a fireplace (none of which we have, want, or need in Atenas).
  • The overall weather in Atenas for 2014 was unremarkable and can be summed up as follows:
    • Rainfall: Total rainfall during 2014 was about 74 inches. Some parts of Costa Rica got less. Other parts got much more. Some of the rain came in mid-day deluges.
    • Temperatures:
      • Average daytime high: 83.9 °F
      • Hottest daytime high: 92.1 °F (March 30)
      • Average overnight low: 66.9 °F
      • Coldest overnight low: 61.0 °F (February 4)
  • The above temperatures are ambient air temperatures. But there is a difference between ambient air temperature and “feels like” temperature. Humidity is the main culprit which makes the difference. Throughout the year in Atenas, humidities ranged between a desert-like low of 11% and highs above 90%. The maximum heat index or “feels like” temperature was 94.1 °F. This occurred on a couple of days (April 29 and July 15) when the air temperature highs were 87.3 °F and 86.7 °F, respectively. The corresponding humidities were 61% and 64%. At no time did air temperatures and humidities in Atenas combine to produce anywhere near a 100° plus “feels like” temperature as often happens in the USA and Canada, especially during the summer months. A 100° plus “feels like” temperature might happen from time-to-time on the beaches in Costa Rica, but rarely if ever in Atenas.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 63.84 inches in our area of Atenas. 2014 rainfall-to-date is 73.59 inches.

John’s Nuevo Arenal Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for December:

  • Happy New Year everyone from Chalet Nicholas and the Lake Arenal community!
  • We are looking forward to a busy 2015 tourist season. If you are planning to visit us, remember to ask for your “Retire for Less” discount.
  • We had a record-breaking 185 inches of rain  for the year 2014. Total rainfall in 2013 was 164.75 inches in our area of Nuevo Arenal.

Lance M’s Central Pacific Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for December:

  • December started off without much excitement at the Millers but the closer to Christmas we got things began to get hectic around our house. On the 13th we were working at the Paws booth when I got to feeling bad so my wife took me to the clinic we use and the doctor took my blood pressure and did a EKG then promptly put me in an ambulance and I got a ride to Quepos hospital ER. They did a series of test which took about 5 hours. released me and told me to have my doctor check me again Monday. Monday we went back to our doctor who did another EKG and told me she needed to make a phone call. When she returned she told use she had made an appointment at Cima hospital to see a Cardiologist at 8 am on that Wed the 17th. The EKG showed that I was in a soft afib. So off to Escazu on the 16th since from Quepos to Escazu is about 2.5 to 3 hour drive without any backups on the highway. We saw the doctor at 8 that morning she did another EKG and an Echo Cardiogram in her office then sent me over to the lab for blood work and told us to come back at 2 to see her. After the test results were in she looked at my medications and adjusted them because she wanted to raise my blood pressure a little because it was a little low and raise my heart rate to about 78 to 80 instead of 50 to 55. She made me an appointment for the 26th to put a halter monitor on for 24 hours to see how my heart was doing since the medicine adjustment. I must say my wife and I were very impressed with the Quepos hospital, not fancy but very efficient. We were also impressed with Cima and my Cardiologist.
  • In between all of this we had guests from Germany for Christmas eve dinner.
  • I want to thank Paul and Gloria for the recommendation to Jason Holland from International Living to contact us for a possible interview. We will be meeting him on the 13th to talk about living on the southern coast.Map_Quepos_SanIsidro
  • 2014 rainfall for the Quepos area of the Central Pacific was 73.54 inches (as of February 2014 when I started measuring it for this newsletter).

Gordon’s Quebradas (San Isidro de General) Observations, Facts, & Tidbits for December:

  • The rainy season is certainly over! – 3-3/8″ of rain in 9 days compared to 19.5 inches last month in 18 days.
  • Interesting to note the average low and high were both 1 degree cooler in December than November!
  • Altitude makes a big difference! Although we are only 15 minutes up the hill from San Isidro de General, one day when it was 91 degrees in town it was only 79 degrees here – makes the drive worth it!
  • We hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We have friends from Cold Lake, Alberta visiting us, and are having a great time showing them around. Having a great time with all our fiends down here – even got in a beach day for our Alberta friends to enjoy!
  • Have fun everyone …….make the best of each and every day!




Our San Ramón Weatherman, Paul Yeatman

Meteorology has been Paul’s lifelong hobby.  As a child, he devoured books about the weather and earth sciences vigorously. Later, he took a few college courses in meteorology, and still later, he served as a meteorologist for the U.S. Army in Vietnam.  Now, Paul gets to practice his avocation in Costa Rica, albeit on a very small scale with just temperature and rainfall data, probably the two most important factors regarding the weather. He wanted to include weather info on our website to help people decide where to live, although weather is just one of many factors to consider in determining where to relocate. Current weather data is from our current home at about 3,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón. Weather data prior to December 2012 is from our previous home at about 4,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón.

Our Atenas Weatherman, Lance Turlock

Lance and his wife, Diana, moved to Costa Rica about 2 years ago after living 30+ years in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (Vancouver and environs). They live in the Central Valley near the town of Atenas and are at an elevation of about 2700 feet. They have no need for air conditioning or heating. Overnight low temperatures are comfortably cool (low 60’s). Daytime highs can be relatively hot (high 80’s, low 90’s), but rarely uncomfortably hot.Lance started to keep track of daily temperatures and rainfall in order to have factual ammunition to help disabuse friends, relatives and acquaintances of any misconception that the weather must be like that of a tropical jungle.

Our Nuevo Arenal Weatherman, John Nicholas

After many visits to Costa Rica, John and Cathy Nicholas moved from New York to Costa Rica in 1991.  They chose Arenal for its sacred, majestic beauty, its lush wildlife, its relaxing lifestyle, and its proximity to activities and sites such as the Volcano Arenal and the beaches. They own the B&B, Chalet Nicholas, which has been in operation since 1992. Temperatures and rainfall are measured at Chalet Nicholas which is located at approximately 2,200 ft. elevation and 1 mile west of the town of Nuevo Arenal.

Our Playa Mantapalo Weatherman, Lance Miller

LanceM2I was born in a very small town in northwest Iowa and raised on a farm. When I was 18, I joined the service, in which I spent 22 years before retiring in 1990. For the next twenty three years my family and I lived in south central Pennsylvania. After having a stroke in 2012, I was unable to work and that is when my wife and I began talking about retiring. Thanks to your newsletter and a website we found about San Isidro, we began looking at Costa Rica. We came down in March 2013 and looked around for a week. Went home, packed up, and moved here in April. We settled in a small village called Playa Matapalo which is located between Quepos and Dominical. We later moved to Quepos. The word Playa means beach. It is so nice to lie in bed and listen to the ocean. Pura Vida. We will continue the weather info next month.

Gordon_photo_croppedOur Quebradas (15 minutes north of San Isidro de General) Weatherman, Gordon Stanley

Gordon and his wife Bea moved here from Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada, where he used to track the correlation of the winter hoer frost and the spring/summer rains. After 30+ years as a Purchasing Agent for a retail lumber yard/Homes Manufacturing company, he decided to say “Adios” to the snow and ice. They arrived in Costa Rica Oct. 3, 2014, and live in Quebradas, which is a 15 minute drive North of San Isidro de General, at an elevation of about 3600 feet. There is a stream that runs behind the hill in their back yard, so are “forced” to listen to the sound of running water 24/7. Ahh the tough life! They are totally enjoying their new found retirement freedom in this wonderful land that they discovered thanks to this newsletter.

Related Articles:




In the Mailbag: Residency, Caja Payments, and a Question about Diabetes Care in CR

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


After reading Norman Seigal’s article, Alajuela to San Ramón, Another Adventure, in our January 8th newsletter, Merry had this question:

How were Norman & Frankie able to STAY in CR after their first visit past the 90 day-limit? We thought temp residency takes a year to secure.”

We went straight to Norman and he provided the following explanation:

Hi Gloria,

To answer the question of staying in the country past the 90 day visa is a simple process. We arrived on Jan 28th. In the beginning of February, we contacted our immigration attorney, who met with us and gathered all the papers we had brought with us from the US. Our long form birth certificates, marriage license, letter from Social Security showing that we were in permanent retirement status, and police report showing that we were not wanted for any crimes. He then took all the papers and had them translated into Spanish, then filed the proper paperwork with the immigration courts on March 3rd.  We received a copy of the filing papers for legal residency. With that paper and our passport, were legally allowed to stay in the country without leaving every 90days. Fortunately our attorney used to work for the immigration service, so he knew the in and outs of the process; we got our residency within 6 months and never had to leave the country.

Norman & Frankie”

Caja Payments

Laurie H. wrote:

Hello I would appreciate your help if you can. My understanding of CAJA is that it is a percentage of the money you come in with. For my husband and myself it is an annunity. When figuring the percentage of money for the CAJA do I have to double it for him to be insured or is it a percentage and it covers us both?

Your website has answered so many questions for us that we feel like its sped up what we needed to know by a couple of years. Due to this we are now planning when to send my husband there to start exploring different areas.  Making it two years sooner than we thought.

Thank you so much for all that you do,

Laurie H.”

We replied with the following:

Hi Laurie,

We’re happy to help. We know how many questions folks have, especially at this stage of the journey!

ccss-logoThere was some confusion recently about expats having to pay for Caja separately after a memo that was incorrectly interpreted. (See article mentioned below.) The resolution is that expats, just like nationals, can join the Caja as a family, not as individuals. This means that you and your husband should be able to join the Caja with one monthly payment, not two. And yes, it is based on a percentage of your declared monthly guaranteed income. It is usually between 9% and 13%. I believe that they also take age into account and it seems that the younger you are, the more expensive your Caja payment.

Most younger folks come as rentistas and their Caja payments are figured differently. Those under 55 can pay about double what pensionados pay. We have friends that were paying about $400/month but it went down somewhat when they turned 55. So much of this info “just depends” on lots of things, like the law at that moment, what town you join the Caja in, and who signs you up at the Seguro Social office. It’s really hard to give absolutes on any of this. But with pensionados, it would be, say, 9%-13% of the $1,000 for both of you, not $130 each. At least that’s the way the law is being interpreted today. It is accurate I think because immigrants are to be treated the same way as nationals when it comes to this.

Hope this helps.

Paul & Gloria”

Diabetes Care Question

Since we have no experience with care for diabetes in Costa Rica, we’re passing the question on to our readers in hopes that someone can help. One of our readers had the following question:

What has been the experience of anyone with type 2 diabetes treatment with CAJA? And also, without CAJA?

I need to add that I am an insulin dependent type 2.  Although, with better diet and living habits – I work in front of a computer 8 hours a day – I might get off insulin.”

Related Articles:


The Best Way to Live for Less in Costa Rica (or Anywhere)

by Rob Evans

RobEvansRecently, Greg Seymour gave me a great insight into living in Costa Rica. We were talking about expats’ obsession with the cost of living analysis, and Greg mentioned the best money saving idea he discovered was not to spend money. What? It took a little while to sink in, but eventually it made so much sense. Greg explained that without the convenience of a car or stores, he had less opportunity to spend money. Many of the articles about the cost of living in Costa Rica center on how much less is typically spent on healthcare, certain food items, and property tax. The cost analysis approach assumes expats are going to live the same lifestyle after moving to Costa Rica. So the cost of living articles line up the cost of eggs, a car, gas, etc. in Costa Rica and compare the unit price to the US price to demonstrate that living in Costa Rica is cheaper.


What Greg was telling me was the least expensive strategy was NOT to spend the money in the first place, which turned the cost of living discussion on its head. It is not the cost of the items, it’s is the change in lifestyle: when you don’t have a car and you rely on the bus, you don’t need to worry about the cost of gas, insurance, or inspection. If you rent, you don’t

need to worry about property taxes, home insurance, or alarm costs. If you can only get to the store once a week, there is no pizza delivery, and Amazon cannot find your home, you limit the opportunity for instant gratification and impulse buying.

I mentioned to Greg that, in the States, we would go to the grocery store for food many times a week; to the drugstore for batteries, paper, ointments; and to a department store for storage needs to hold all the stuff we bought. At the end of the month, we would always be a few hundred dollars over budget from frequent less- than-$10 charges buying “stuff we needed.” And when we started to move and began purging stuff and found all the pens, poster board, ointments, nail clippers, plastic crates, screws, picture hangers, poster board, expired super glues, and batteries that have accumulated over time, it finally hits me how much I spent (wasted) in small purchases over time.

Greg helped me see that if you cannot satisfy your consumer desires easily because you rely on a bus, you will find an alternative or you will realize you really don’t need it. For example, we often came home tired from work and would order a high-cost, high-calorie pizza; but now, living where we do in Costa Rica, going to get one (no bus after 4) or having one delivered are not options, which “saves” us $15 or more per week. Not being able to get to the hardware store or the storage store has “saved” us $20 per week. It is amazing how those “savings” add up over a month from just not spending the money in the first place.

CrackHouseSaving money by not spending it in the first place is something everyone could do in the US, but being habituated to the convenience of a car, multiple 7/24 stores, Amazon next-day delivery, and a consumer climate is hard to shake—it’s like trying to get off drugs while living in a crack house. Moving to Costa Rica can be like going into rehab. One day, Amazon drones may find me and offer to deliver, but not now.

When my father helped me open my first checking account, he told me the goal was to use up the deposit slip before the checks. Living here without a car and with limited access to impulse buying options has helped us achieve that goal of depositing more often than withdrawing. And we have discovered the best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place. Thanks Greg for the insight.

Bio: Rob and Jeni Evans moved to San Ramon from Raleigh, NC, in November 2014 after three years of unloading all they owed. Rob worked for IBM for 32 years and Jeni was an English teacher who homeschooled their children. Their goal now is to live fully and to see as much of Costa Rica as walking, buses, and taxis allow.

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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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