Monday, 3 August 2020

[BLOG] Foreigner – Be Aware!

This is the time of year that it is cold, I mean really cold north of the equator. Even Florida shivers making Costa Rica feel like paradise. Ergo, we tend to get sold or perhaps suckered into warmer climates that have been advertised as permanent locations to retire.

Be careful!

Certainly other countries offer much more but deliver far less than Costa Rica. However, Costa Rica (CR) also exaggerates its values, especially the value of real estate, the weather and our cost of living.

To catch up on typical day-to-day life and the dangers of this place called paradise, you need to read to our national news, not international and live here for awhile not as a tourist but as a potential resident. (Anyone with a computer and Internet knows about the NSA issues, the Christie scandal, the Obama reply, the European economy and the fear of Winter Olympics terrorism, plus sports scores and trade rumors of which nothing has to do with CR.)

- paying the bills -

However, knowing Costa Rica is not so simple as an Internet “click”.   “Yes”, you can live on less money than in the United States and far less than Europe. That is if you are willing to eat local foods, a lot of rice + beans, eggs and less meat, even fish or poultry.

Electricity is sacred and keeps going up at what seems like a monthly tradition along with gasoline prices. Even a low-end Scotch has recently increased by 30% to $15 a bottle. (Walmart).   Why, another “100 pesos”? However, in part, “why” means a larger earned income from import duties and sales tax for the government.

Everything from protection of proprietorship to rape is up in the air in this little piece of paradise. It is a quagmire between reality and what has been readily advertised for at least the last 50 years. Some call it hypocrisy, some call it Disneyland.

If you wish to have legal residency or any kind, you will need to join the Caja, a type of universal Medicare system. A friend who has 1st stage emphysema received an appointment, last week with a specialist but not until February, 2015. He/she could be dead by then!


- paying the bills -

Purchasing a home is a roll of the dice. How do you know if there is sufficient water in the area, sanitation, electricity and most of all value in that paradise abode with a spectacular view, fruit trees and river?   You do not!

You need an expert that you can trust and that is not a real estate agent. Probably the person I would most trust is the self promoting Christopher Howard. (And I have no affiliation with Howard. People just tell me he is “straight” and competent.)

Keep in mind that Costa Ricans would rather hang on to an empty home or condo rather than lower the price simply because….I do not know why? It makes no economic sense. (Present value and future value of money is not an option here.)

Buying a car?

The cost is double the U.S. and Europe.   You need to look carefully if the automobile is a U.S. insurance right-off or the product of a recent flood. Reversing the odometer is an art and is done with great care. I know first hand and got screwed.

In home ownership or rental, the further from San Jose the lower the rent or sales price per sq. meter. Just go to to get an idea. However, living out of the greater metropolitan area will require giving up creature comforts. It’s a trade off.

- paying the bills --

Finally, health and health insurance.

Okay, you find the right place to live but you must, I mean absolutely must consider your primary healthcare server provided by CR’s answer to social security. The first level of primary care is Ebais and and then a full service nearby hospital. Where are they and how crowded? ALL public hospitals are crowded and lack aesthetics. They are not The Mayo but a place to go if you are in an emergency situation. In times of crisis, typically the care is good; however, the ambiance is not.


“Yes,” as often advertised you can live on a limited budget and rent a nice two bedroom apartment for $600 a month. But, what will you eat?   Gallo-pinto with an egg, platano (Fried banana) and maybe an uncured, tough as nails beef steak with an Imperial beer is sufficiently less costly than the U.S. But how long can you live on that?

Boneless, skinless chicken runs abut $6.00 a pound. Cat food (Friskies) runs about $1.30 a can, gasoline is well over $5.00 a gallon, a small tuna can over $2.00 or electricity which comes to about $0.15 per KWP.


Who knows? It is a guess since many local water agencies, which are really sub contractors of the major water supply company AyA, charge whatever they like.

Most expats want to see and hear English television. Very much like Latinos prefer Spanish language in the U.S.A. Without cable or a dish, watching English speaking television is not possible. For the “newbie” be careful of what you want: 200 channels of every language in the world or just happiness with  ABC – CBS – NBC and CNN in English for a reasonable price. It is a comfort question because seeing and hearing “The Big Bang Theory” looses a lot in translation.

An Internet contract will offer “A” speed and always deliver “C”. It is life in the tropics. On the good side, the cost is usually much lower than developed countries.

In short, be willing to give up many things not critical to your life style, be prepared to pay more than expected and embrace what might be a whole new life cycle and you can be happy in Costa Rica! But you must give a lot of value to green hills, puffy clouds and warm days with cool nights pretty quick or return to the homeland, which most people do.

The views and opinions shared within this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The Q Media. Bloggers are free to express their opinion – without censorship – on Readers can use the discussion forum to counter-point, express their views and make comments on any article. Open and free expression is the cornerstone of the Q!

Juan Sebastian Campos
Juan Sebastian Campos
An expat from the U.S., educator and writer in English and Spanish since 1978 with a doctorate in business administrations (DBA) from the United States and Germany. A feature writer for ABC News, Copley Press and the Tribune Group with emphasis on Central America.

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