Ticonuevo's blog

Why is MacGyvering a must in Costa Rica?

Why is McGyvering a must in Costa Rica?In this blog, I’d like to recount an experience I had recently that is indicative of the way you’ll find product availability in this country. My story is about buying lumber. It is not particularly important taken at its face, but it exemplifies why “MacGyvering” is so prevalent, even a way of life here, why you may sometimes wonder why Ticos are resigned to settling for the second-best solution and, perhaps, why Costa Ricans can be counted among the world’s most patient people.

If you were to buy wood for a project in North America, you’d most likely head to the lumberyard or big box building materials store. There you would find a wide selection of all kinds, sizes and lengths of lumber. Except for EPA, there aren’t many big box stores in Costa Rica and the local ferreterias will typically have even fewer choices, some carry no lumber at all.

How Ticonuevo got his Dimex residency card in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Dimex Residency CardOur “moving-to-Costa-Rica” travails are pretty much behind us. Our recent focus has been getting our DIMEX residency cards (cedulas de residencias) making us official full-time retired residents of Costa Rica. It was the biggest item and the one that has also taken the longest, has just been completed.

It has taken far longer than we planned to make this a reality. Since I covered some of this more than a year ago, I’ll recap the “before” and “during” highlights for you here.

We were referred to an immigration lawyer and had our first appointment to see her the day after we arrived at the end of February 2013. Our lawyer presented all of the required apostiled documents and copies of other docs shortly thereafter to Costa Rican immigration and we were approved for the process of being granted “pensionado” residency status, being given an in-process letter and number in May 2013.

Low cost of labor makes it affordable in Costa Rica

Low labor cost makes it affordable in Costa RicaIn this blog, I will cover some specific examples of shopping for items and services that are inexpensive by comparison between Costa Rica and North America. Pretty much every inexpensive good or service mentioned in this blog is a result of Costa Rica having such a low cost of labor. There are many more solutions that involve a high percentage of labor compared with a smaller percentage of raw materials; putting the resulting cost below that of getting it made or repaired farther up North.

In the States, we always wished that we could afford a housekeeper. We just never could find a way to fit it into our budget, even if only twice a month. Here we are retired in Costa Rica and it wouldn’t it be nice to finally be able to give my wife and me a break, eliminate the sweat and drudgery, and free up our time for more creative and productive endeavors—well, we can and do. Not just twice a month, but Kathy comes every week for a monthly expense of less than one domestic helper’s visit in the States.

Gringo food I cannot find in Costa Rica

Gringo food I cannot find in Costa Rica

This week, I’m going to continue with a partial grocery shopping list of our hard- or impossible-to-find gringo food items.

Again, I expect to elicit a sizeable reaction from readers informing me where they found gringo food items I said we couldn’t find or couldn’t afford.

If you missed my blog from 2 weeks ago, I’ll repeat that, in general, grocery shopping in Costa Rica is less efficient and requires many more stops than in North America for the same reasons mentioned in my previous blog. For that fact, it can also be more challenging, but more fun. Getting to know the local feria vendors, the butcher and the neighborhood fishmonger is certainly more intimate than getting watching the scanner at Walmart’s checkout.

Can I buy my customary delicacies in Costa Rica?

Can I buy my customary delicacies in Costa Rica?

If you are going to reside in Costa Rica, there is one adjustment you are probably going to be required to make. It is learning to find or invent substitutes for things that don’t exist here, are so obscure or are so expensive that spending the time to find them and the money to acquire them just doesn’t make sense.

My wife and I have only lived in Costa Rica a little over a year. Over this time, we’ve put in many hours and put on many kilometers searching for all kind and manner of “stuff.” My wife’s a bit of a gourmet cook and a good deal of our shopping trips around the Central Valley has involved searches for food ingredients for her latest recipe.

If you have been reading my blog all along, you know I’ve also had my challenges finding specific building materials and hardware for my projects.


My medical specialist appointment in Costa Rica and medical exams

My medical specialist appointment in Costa RicaAs we left off last week, I couldn’t connect with a recommended English-speaking specialist to see me for a troubling medical issue, and so I am on my Plan B attempt to get in to see a GP in the town next to mine. I called the office and the receptionist connected me with an English-speaking associate GP who had me come right over. When I got there, he ushered me into his office right away. We had a brief discussion about my condition and I thought he would, at least, perform a lab test or two that I had read would be a necessary part of arriving at a diagnosis of my condition.

Surprise: he refused to treat me (or charge me for that matter) and said I should go to a specialist right away. He recommended one about a kilometer from his office. When I got to the specialist’s office just before noon, they were closed and the sign on the window said their hours were 2PM-6PM. I wrote down the office phone and drove back home to have some lunch and wait to call for an appointment. I called at 2:00 to discover that the phone number painted on the office window had been disconnected.

Looking for a medical specialist in Costa Rica

Looking for a medical specialist in Costa RicaWhile we’re here in Costa Rica still waiting for our “cedulas de residencia” as “pensionados,” we’ve kept our MediCare in the States in force in case there is a real medical necessity. If something major required a return to our old home State, we would be covered. In addition, my wife’s and my MediCare supplemental policies include emergency medical coverage for the first 60 days each time we leave, so this feature renews each time we exit the States.

This international coverage doesn’t cover non-emergency doctor’s visits and un-prescribed drugs and we’ve also heard that it is difficult to get reimbursed for emergency care provided outside of the U.S. even when inside the 60-day window. This is due to the differences in the billing codes and the different types of care provided for similar afflictions, but in any case we do have a bit of a medical security blanket.

However, we have no coverage whatsoever once that 60 day period expires. It’s pretty simple and not too expensive to receive non-emergency, non-specialized medical attention when you need it. Just make an appointment or simply walk into a private physician’s office (“clinica”) or the local CAJA medical clinic (part of the Costa Rican national health system) and wait to be seen.

TicoNuevo figures out how to pay his Costa Rica utility bills

TicoNuevo figures out how to pay his Costa Rica utility billsI’ll start this blog with a disclaimer. My chosen topic for today’s blog, paying utility bills in Costa Rica, is a bit like an unfinished symphony: the final stanza has yet to be written. It also reflects my own personal experience and may be nothing, at all, like the experiences of others. With that said, let me begin.

The Costa Rican utilities at our casa consist of one pay-in-advance cell phone, one cell phone on a fixed-rate account, a landline phone, three electric meters, a domestic municipal water account (our twice-weekly trash service is coupled with the water bill), a local WiFi Internet service and a satellite TV service.

All but the pay-in-advance cell phone are paid monthly. So far, pretty normal—just like back in the States. Well, sadly that’s just about where the similarity ends.

It seems that here in Costa Rica you typically don’t get monthly statements or utility bills. However, the WiFi service is paid annually to take advantage of a pre-payment discount and the satellite service, which is headquartered in Mexico City, is billed monthly to our Stateside credit card, and the fixed-rate cell phone does generate an invoice sent monthly to me via email.

Living in Costa Rica on a pending residency and legally drive your car

Living in Costa Rica on a pending residency and legally drive your car If you decide to settle down and start living in Costa Rica or are giving it an extended tryout, you’re going to have to leave the country every 90 days for a bit of time. I previously mentioned this awhile ago, that within any government, sometimes the left hand and the right hand don’t always agree.

The Costa Rican immigration department says once your application for legal residency has been accepted it is your right to be living in Costa Rica without leaving for as long as it takes to get your “cedula de residencia” (the official legal residency card).

Very true, but with the other hand, the Costa Rican transit authority says that your visa stamp on your passport validates your driver’s license, which in turn also keeps your Costa Rican automobile insurance valid. Costa Rican visa stamps are good for only 90 days and are renewed upon each re-entry to Costa Rica.

Therefore, you’ll need to exit every 90 days so that you can return through immigration, get your visa renewed and continue to drive and be insured here legally. (If you plan to walk or only take taxis and buses, you’ll never have to leave once your residency application is in process.)

TicoNuevo dodging obstacles at the horse parade

TicoNuevo dodging obstacles at the horse paradeA little-known fact for novice “topegoers”: you can actually rent a horse and join the riders in most Costa Rican topes. We had this offering at our parade and some of the renters, to be delicate, “detracted somewhat” from the aura surrounding my vision of participating in a horse parade.

Some topes have also gotten a bit of a bad reputation for public drunkenness among both “topegoers” and riding participants—a few of them were from the horse rental crowd, I’m sure—thankfully there was very little blatant insobriety.

However, I had been warned to watch out for obstacles: other horses that were not as well-mannered as Bronco, potholes and obstructions that your mount might stumble into or onto. I was to also keep my distance from one of the other horses on our team, Junior (Bronco’s grandson) as the two did not get along. (I guess family squabbles are even present in the horse community.)

There was a bit of a challenge in keeping my distance from Junior as this was the first time I’d ridden with this team: the first time in 50 years that I’d ridden with other horses; and the first time ever on a public street crowded with people.