Jan 24 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – January 24, 2014

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!

Gloria, Paul, and my "Machito hat"


In This Issue:




Our 2013 Cost of Living Summary

It’s time, once again, for our annual cost of living summary. Some of you will find this interesting, but others, not so much. That’s okay— Just read the section below that describes your level of interest.

Related Articles:


So, What Would It Cost ME to Live in Costa Rica?

Updated 01/01/2014

So, what would it cost YOU to live in Costa Rica? Well, the realistic and safe answer is, “it all depends on you, on your lifestyle and how you want to live.” People have asked us the question, “Can we live on $3,000-$4,000 per month?” In response, Gloria and I look at each other, chuckle, and say, “Of course you can.” Again, it all depends on how you choose to live. We manage to save over 30% of our U.S. monthly budget and we think we live pretty well. If we followed more of our own tips, we could possibly further reduce our expenditures. Our goal is to live on less than $2,000 per month, and that has been easily achievable. But if you want to live in an expensive home (either a rental or to purchase) and shop exclusively in the “American” stores (Auto Mercado and Pricesmart), it can actually cost you more than in the U.S. If you purchase an expensive car and are looking to live in luxury, than that $3,000 target may not be achievable.

First, let’s look at our previous “big three” monthly expenses:

  • Healthcare was over $1,000, now $160/month
  • Rent or mortgage was $1260, now $500/month
  • Heat and air-conditioning was $250, now $0/month

Other areas of savings for us include:

  • Groceries
  • Eating out
  • Telephone
  • Car insurance
  • Transportation
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Pet care

Look at our budget totals for the last three months. You can see that our car expenses are a big chunk of our monthly living expenses. If you choose not to buy a car, and take public transportation instead, think about how much you could save.

Often people will say they wouldn’t want to do that, you HAVE to have a car. It’s just not true. I know more than a few people who don’t have cars. It simplifies their lives greatly and saves them money. They walk, take buses and taxis. It’s the one thing you can do to easily simplify your life and cut expenses. But remember, without a car, you’ll do less, ergo spend less.  You can always try going without a car for six months and buy a car later if you so desire.

Another way to keep your budget down is to rent a house or apartment for $300-$700 per month. Two of our expat friends moved into in a small two bedroom apartment in town. It’s unfurnished, clean but cute, and they are paying $300/month rent, plus utilities. Since they live right in the town of San Ramon, and don’t own a car, their transportation costs are about $20/month. They walk a lot, take buses and taxis. Living in town, they are also immersed in the culture, have a lot of Tico friends, and speak a lot of Spanish which helps them to learn the language. They may not have that big view that we expats like, but everything’s a trade-off.

It’s not just about saving money. It’s that fact that when you own less, and need less, life is more simple and stress free. It’s all about your choices.

Related Articles:


Coming Soon! Our New Healthcare Tour

We’re putting the finishing touches on our newest tour, the Ultimate Tour on Health Care in Costa Rica.  We’ve lived in Costa Rica for five years and have used the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system, extensively, as well as the private system, when needed. 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. Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time.

Our tour lasts two days and 1 night and includes lodging, transportation, meals and beverages.

You’ll visit:

  • Two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries here)
  • An insurance broker for a presentation on the various supplemental health insurance options, including public, private, and international plans
  • A senior living retirement community in Escazu
  • A language school for a presentation about how learning Spanish increases your options for healthcare (you can do this).
  • Our local hospital here in San Ramón
  • A local EBAIS (community clinic)
  • A local private clinic
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A dentist
  • A pharmacy
  • A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!

You’ll learn:

  • If the healthcare system is sufficiently up to your standards, that you could live in Costa Rica.
  • If the healthcare system can meet your individual needs.
  • 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.

Cost $550 for a couple, $450 for a single.

Watch for more info coming soon, but feel free to contact us if you think you might be interested in our healthcare tour.


Bringing Your Dog or Cat to Costa Rica

This is the most popular time of year for folks to visit Costa Rica, especially those experiencing the “polar vortex” up north. And many people wouldn’t think about traveling without their pets. Here’s a good place to start to find out what you need to know to bring your dog or cat into Costa Rica. The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica has published the requirements for importation and exportation of cats and dogs on it’s website. Here’s the post:


The dog or cat must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, and endorsed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Veterinary Services (VS) veterinarian. That endorsement needs to be done by the APHIS Veterinary Services Area Office in your home state. Contact information for that office can be found on the  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), then clicking on, “Travel with my pet”, on the right side. Additional information shall include:

Certification Statements

  1. The dog/cat was examined and found to be healthy and free of any clinical signs of infectious disease. This examination should be conducted within 2 weeks of the departure date.
  2. Dogs were vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies.
  3. Cats were vaccinated against rabies.

Vaccination Requirements

  1. See Certification Statement No. 2 above.
  2. Animals over 3 months of age must be vaccinated against rabies.

Other Information

  1. It is recommended that an International Certificate (APHIS FORM 7001) for Small Animals be used.
  2. The health certificate should be made out in duplicate.
  3. The health certificate does NOT need to be signed by a Notary Public, nor does it need to be stamped by the Costa Rican Consular office.
  4. Animals exported in commercial lot numbers must be accompanied by an Import Permit. Personal pets (dogs or cats) do NOT need an Import Permit.
  5. The official rabies vaccination certificate must accompany the health documents and is valid for the period of the vaccine (1 or 3 years).
  6. The dog/cat and supporting documentation will be inspected/reviewed upon arrival to Costa Rica.


(Of course, if you are returning to a country other than the United States, you should check with your embassy.)

  1. You will need a Certificate of Good Health from your veterinarian in Costa Rica and an authorization issued by the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture (SENASA-Departamento de Cuarentena Animal).
  2. Normally, your Costa Rican veterinarian can take care of all the required authorizations. If he/she does not, you will also need to visit the Ministry of Agriculture directly to obtain the authorization. The Ministry (SENASA- Cuarentena Animal) is located in Barrial de Heredia, Jardines del Recuerdo, 2 Km West, 400 Meters South, Heredia. Telephone number: 2260-8300 Ext. 2024 or 2093 or 2260-9046.
  3. You will need to take with you to the Ministry the following stamps, which can be purchased at most book/stationary stores: one “fiscal” stamp of ¢25.00 and one “archivo” stamp of ¢5.00.

To pay the required fee, you must deposit ¢4,717.00 (please confirm the correct amount with SENASA before depositing since amounts change frequently) into one of the following accounts:


Banco de Costa Rica 001-262585-7 COLONES Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal 1520100102 625857
Banco de Costa Rica 001-259744-6 DOLARES Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal 1520100102 5974467
Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal 161-010-089-1-019474-1 COLONES Servicio Nacional  de Salud Animal 161010089 10194741
Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal 161-010-089-2-001776-5 DOLARES Servicio Nacional  de Salud Animal 161010089 20017765
Banco Nacional de Costa Rica 100-01-061-000890-1 COLONES Servicio Nacional  de Salud Animal 151061100 10008909
Banco Nacional de Costa Rica 100-02-061-600392-3 DOLARES Servicio Nacional  de Salud Animal 151061100 26003920
Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago 105519621 COLONES Servicio Nacional  de Salud Animal 15302001055 196219
Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago 105519622 DOLARES Servicio Nacional  de Salud Animal 15302001055 196225 


It takes approximately ONE to TWO working days for the Ministry of Agriculture to issue your authorization.
This should be done within 30 days of your trip to the U.S.

TEL. (506) 2290-4548, FAX (506) 2296-3556.

Related Articles:


Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, & Nuevo Arenal  – December 2013

You’ll notice that we are now showing rainfall and temperatures for three towns in Costa Rica and in a format that makes it easier to compare the data and, perhaps, decide where you would like to live. Do you track the weather data for your town in Costa Rica? If so, we’d like to talk to you about including it in our monthly report.

You can still 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:

  • It’s getting chilly in San Ramon. It was only 60° F on December 28th at 6:00 a.m.
  • In December, This year‘s windy season, or “Christmas winds” as they are called, began in December. They are far less intense than we’ve experienced in our previous 5 years in Costa Rica.
  • It’s much warmer in the sun, plus 8-10 degrees at 3,000 ft. elevation and 9 degrees north of the equator.
  • San Ramon is 3 hours from Nuevo Arenal and Chalet Nicholas B&B
  • We only had 1 day with rain, measuring only .1”

Lance’s Atenas Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • Consistent with the dry season, there was only 1 day with measurable rain (~ 0.1 in.). On a couple of other days there were some sprinkles, but they were sun-showers lasting only a few minutes.
  • The Year’s Weather:
    • Christmas day had the second coldest overnight low of the year (60.4 °F). The coldest was in February (59.7 °F).
    • The hottest day of the year was in March (94.1 °F). However, that temperature was accompanied by low humidity (29%) – so the heat was a not too uncomfortable dry heat.
    • Since late May when we got a rain guage until the end of the year the total rainfall was 64 inches.

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

    • December 2013 had 40% less rainfall than the previous two Decembers. It’s much too early to tell if this is the beginning of a dry trend, even though 2013 had more rainfall than the previous year.
    • For a couple of weeks this month, a coatimundi (an animal in the raccoon family) visited our bird feeding stations and ate quite a few bananas. So did a Gray-necked Woodrail (for the bird-watching enthusiasts).

    Click to enlarge.

    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.

    We will continue the weather info next month.

    Related Articles:


Featured Properties

When people ask us our advice, we recommend you rent, rent, rent when you first move to Costa Rica. But we realize that some folks will still choose to buy, either early on or after they’ve been here for a while. Though we are not realtors, we recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell.

At RetireForLessInCostaRica.com, we often run across real estate opportunities that fall within our “Retire for Less Philosophy” — in other words, properties that offer more value for less. So, we will bring you homes for sale that are $150,000 or less, and lots that would allow a modest house to be built on it for about the same price. Of course, upgrades will always cost more and are at the buyer’s discretion.

We’ve just updated the listings on our website and added quite a few more. There are properties in the Central Valley towns of San Ramon, Grecia, Puriscal, and Sarchi, as well as properties at Lake Arenal and one in Cartago. You can get in touch with the realtors/developers directly through the contact form on each page. Here are just a few to give you a taste of what’s out there:

San Ramon: New house with Beautiful VIews Volio $89,000

San Ramón: Great Location, Comfortable 4Bedroom/1Bath Home $130,000 Price Reduced!

Grecia: Private Furnished Home on 2.5 Acres-$135,000

Puriscal: Bajo Burgos Spec House-$135,900

Lake Arenal: U.S. Style home with Lake Arenal views $145,000

Lake Arenal: Charming Home with Artistic Flair Comes With Car $45,990

Cartago: Enchanting Rural Retreat Above Cartago-Drastically Reduced to $99K


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What’s New on the Website

Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:

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