May 22 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – May 23, 2014

Welcome to our Newsletter!

Gloria, Paul, & “Machito” – Yes, that’s a MONKEY on my head!


In This Issue:


What’s Coming UpShipping.4

Lots of folks have written to ask us about our experience shipping our 13 boxes of belongings to Costa Rica after we sold our house in March. Now that all of the expenses have been tallied, we’ve written an article on our research, our experience, and all of the costs involved — both for the option we chose AND the options we could have chosen. So, stay tuned to our next newsletter for our article on partial container shipping.


Our April 2014 Costa Rica Cost of Living and Relocation Expenses

If you read our last couple of newsletters, you know that we traveled back to the U.S. to finally sell our house and deal with all of the “stuff” we had stored in the basement for the last five years. Therefore, our expenses for March were broken down into our Costa Rica living expenses and our expenses for the trip to Baltimore (see graphic at the end of this article). We returned to Costa Rica on April 1st, exactly five years to the day that we moved here originally!

There were some relocation expenses that did not appear in last month’s expense, including our travel expenses on the first of April and, more substantially, expenses associated with our decision to ship 13 boxes of our belongings to Costa Rica which we paid for in the month of April. Let’s talk about these expenses first.


Our relocation expenses include the following:

  • Super Shuttle to Baltimore airport: $49.00
  • Meals in the airports: $22.08
  • Extra Baggage Fees: $380.00
  • Tips in San Jose airport:$13.21 (7,000 colones)
  • Shipping expenses: $2058.44

There are a couple of things to mention about our shipping costs. First, we are working on an in-depth article about research into methods of shipping, the choices we made and why we made them, and lessons learned. The second point is that the shipping expenses above include customs duties and related expenses, though we didn’t actually pay them until the month of May. It just makes more sense to show them together rather than broken down by month paid.

Now on to our Costa Rica living expenses for April.

Our rental house in San Ramón

Even though we were in Costa Rica for the entire month, our overall expenses were a bit lower than normal, mostly because our trip to Baltimore left us exhausted so we pretty much stayed home. Our “household” expenses were higher than usual because we paid to have the windows of our house cleaned. You can see from the photo that there are some windows that are too high for us to safely clean. So, it was a no-brainer…hire someone who’s done this before. We hired a Tico who works for the local window glass company and had assured us that this is what he does. We expected him to arrive with special equipment and possibly safety gear of some kind. What were we thinking?? He arrived with a ladder and…nothing else. We provided the hose, bucket, squeegees, liquid detergent, rags and everything else he needed. Paul was so concerned for his safety that he helped him the entire time, holding the ladder and handing him whatever he needed. (Luckily, for our peace of mind as much as anything, we had purchased the Costa Rica equivalent of “Workmen’s Comp” insurance the month before to protect our housekeeper and any other temporary worker at our home.) Though it wasn’t what we’d expected, we have to admit that the windows looked MUCH better and it was well worth the 40,000 colones ($74.07) that we spent.

The only other notable expense for April was the $49.00 we spent to renew our Witopia VPN account for another 12 months. While we mainly use our VPN connection to allow us to access U.S. programming (Netflix, network television, Hulu, etc.), there are a lot of other reasons you may want to consider signing up for a VPN connection which you can read about here.

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months:

2014_FebRelated Articles:


Paul Gets a CAT Scan Through the Caja

For our healthcare needs, our first stop is always the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system. We’ve learned how to use it, both in our town of San Ramón and beyond when the need arises for more advanced or specialized care. If you’ve read our website for a while, you know that we have paid privately for certain tests and procedures to speed up the process. We understand how to make the system work for ourselves and others. And our goal is to demystify the Caja so that you also can learn to use it when you retire in Costa Rica. (That’s why we’re offering our Healthcare Tour which you can read about below.)

Recently, Paul has an appointment at Hospital San Rafael in Alajuela for a CAT scan. We were impressed with the facilities, the equipment and the staff. Luckily, we were allowed to shoot some video to show you what it was like:


Integration 102 – Speaking Up at the Hospital

by Paul

Today I went to the hospital in San Ramon to make an appointment for an ultrasound. I just had a urology appointment the other day and the doctor wants to see me again.

I had to wait 30 minutes to schedule the appointment. There were about 8 other people waiting with me to schedule appointments. While waiting, I did what I always do, observe the people, learn the system, and strike up a conversation with someone. In this case, a woman sitting next to me. Since arriving in Costa Rica, I’ve realized how few people in the smaller towns speak English. It’s different in the more touristy areas, but here, you really need to know some Spanish to communicate with the general public and with your health care provider.

Costa Ricans are always willing to do this, play along and talk to strangers. We spoke about the appointments and the Caja system. I asked her if she was happy with the public medical system. She said she was. I informed her that many foreigners have little faith in the public system and use it sparingly. I also mentioned to her that many Costa Ricans don’t have much faith in the public system either and prefer to use the private system. She replied that they were the same doctors, so why not use the public system? I then let her know that we were happy with the Caja and that our local EBAIS is excellent. I believe that joining and using the Caja is a great way to meet Ticos and begin to integrate. You will rarely see another expat face. Use your Spanish, even if it’s just a few words, though often, they will want to practice their English with you!

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Starting in June and July: Our New Ultimate Healthcare Tour!

We’re busy putting the finishing touches on our newest tour, the Ultimate Tour on Healthcare 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. We’ve learned the system because we’ve had yearly checkups, 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. Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time. We also want to show you what is possible if you choose to retire in Costa Rica.

Our tour lasts two days and 1 night. Prices include: lodging, transportation, meals and non-alcoholic beverages.

HospitalMexicoSample Itinerary: You’ll visit:

  • Two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)
  • 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 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!

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

Our Introductory Prices are: $550 for a couple, $450 for a single.

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


Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, & Playa Matapalo – April 2014

Click to enlarge

You’ll notice that we are now showing rainfall and temperatures for four 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 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:

  • April is usually the warmest month of the year in our part of the country.
  • April precipitation average is usually 2.0 inches. This year we got 1.9 inches. A couple of years ago, we got 11 inches of rain in April!costa-rica-map_cropped4
  • On the last day of April we got 1.25 inches of rain in less than 2 hours.
  • Most mornings are bright and sunny, giving way to clouds later in the day, with rain often in the afternoons.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 110.95 inches in our area of San Ramón.

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

  • After a 108 day drought, the rains returned in April. They began with an unmeasurable sprinkle lasting not more than a couple of minutes on April 4th, and ended with 2 inch and 1.7 inch afternoon downpours on April 26th and 30th. Three other days had a small amount of measurable rain.
  • Otherwise, the weather in Atenas remained typical of the dry season – daytime temperatures in the upper 80’s, usually with comfortably low humidity; and nighttime temperatures in the upper 60’s, usually with moderately high humidity (cool and good for sleeping).
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 63.84 inches in our area of Atenas..

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

  • We have had eleven Great Danes, called “The Noble Dog,” since moving here twenty three years ago. One of our current Danes, Muki, keeps setting new longevity records. She is now ten years and seven months old. None of our others lived more than nine years (average). We attribute this to a new and healthier nutrition regimen which we began several years ago. Danes are loving and protective friends.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 164.75 inches in our area of Nuevo Arenal.

Matapalo map

Lance M’s Playa Matapalo Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • NOTE: there is no weather data for April for Playa Matapalo as I was out of the country for most of the month.
  • Playa Matapalo is a small village, located between Quepos and Dominical on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.
  • The word Playa means beach.
  • Our home is a stone’s throw from the beach.
  • Playa Matapalo is 122 km. from the San Jose International Airport and 220 km. from Arenal.
  • The southern Pacific weather region receives approximately 150 inches of rain per year.

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.

Our Playa Mantapalo Weatherman, Lance Miller

I was born in a very small town in northwest Iowa and raised on a farm. When I was 18, I joined LanceMiller_smthe 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 Pa. 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. 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.

Related Articles:


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