La Georgina and the Hummingbirds at 10,000 feet in Costa Rica

road sign
Villa Mills. Blink and you'll miss it. 

It is not much more than a broad spot in the road. Harder to miss, just beyond the blue sign, is a crisp-looking red and white restaurant, which may have several cars and a bus parked in front depending on the time of day. That's La Georgina, founded in 1947, just a year before the 44-day Costa Rican civil war that sparked the abolition of their army and instigated several social reforms that carry on today. Must've been interesting times for this spot, since a lot of the fighting occurred up here on Cerro de La Muerte.

La Georgina restaurant
 I have doubts whether this place was ever in any danger of being obliterated by that war, but in any case we're certainly glad that it's still in operation. It's a spacious place and has restrooms built for no-waiting. The food is the usual Tico buffet, not bad, but not terribly creative either. The main attraction for us is in the back.

Feliz Día De Mamá in Costa Rica


August 15th is Mother's Day in Costa Rica. Here they celebrate it with style.

Unlike Father's Day, which is synchronized with the same day in the U.S., mothers in Costa Rica get their own special day, which falls on August 15th regardless of the day of the week. Costa Rica is unique in the world for celebrating Mom's Day on that date, which you can see on the map below signifying on which day per country mothers are celebrated across the globe.


map of mother's days around the world
Days around the world on which mothers are honored
Costa Rica Mother's Day is a bona fide national holiday, which means many stores, the banks and government offices including the post office are closed.


To help celebrate, I offer up these lyrics from "Gracias Mamá:"

Thank you Mother, for praying for me each night
Thank you Mother for being with me if I am sick
Thank you Mother for consoling me with your kisses
Even though you are not here with me, you are not far
You have given me and I will give you love eternally.

Which Lifestyle Would Cost Our Family Less - Oregon or Costa Rica? - Part 1: Taxes

Gringo expats decide to retire in Costa Rica for a wide variety of reasons. Topping many expats' lists of desirable advantages would be maintaining their living standard at a lower cost or enjoying a higher standard of living for the same cost. That goes for adventurous, frugal younger expats as well as older expats such as myself stretching their retirement dollars.

Costa Rica can certainly offer terrific savings, especially in the areas of health care and housing. Many other daily expenses, however - automobiles being the most egregious example - are higher than what most norteamericanos are accustomed to. Depending on your financial status, lifestyle choices, goals and ability to adjust, the comparative financial equations we all go through at some point before moving here will each have their highs and lows.
calculating living expenses in Costa Rica and Oregon
Taking Stock of Expat Living Expenses


One Constant Is That Things Change

As we approach a new phase in which our own income will shift to primarily U.S. Social Security, our calculations are changing. In fact, just in terms of cost of living, we find that it may actually be cheaper for us to reside in our previous home state of Oregon. I'm not going into all the gory details of that calculation, but this two-part article does hit the high points. Hopefully, it provides additional food for thought to those considering moving to Costa Rica

Can Going to the Dentist in Costa Rica Actually Be Fun?

I'm not sure I could ever say that going to the dentist anywhere could be fun as in large round wooden containers of primates kind of fun. Just having to go to town in the middle of my day for the appointment is annoying in itself.

Compared to trips to the dentist in the States, however, I'll take the Costa Rica variety of dental care any day over that. First of all, all the equipment here is identical to that in the States and the education level and experience of the dentists are likewise.

Dentist examining teeth in Costa Rica
The requisite cleaning, painless, quick, ends with  a smile
There are several more reasons, however, why I prefer dentistry here:
  • Most Costa Rica dentists, it seems to me, are women. I can't tell you why, but I prefer female hands groping around in my mouth better than larger male digits. The women have a lighter touch. By the way, I made that assertion about the high ratio of female to male dentists to a female dentist and she thought not, but at least in La Zona Sur I see a lot more "Dra." signs than "Dr." signs.
  • There are no pesky hygienists. 80% of the time, I visit a dentist to get a cleaning and the dentist does it herself. I've been to three (and I like them all, btw) and it is always the dentist doing the cleaning. One time there was an assistant who did just about nothing but run out to answer the phone or fetch supplies. The dentists here do it all.
  • It takes far less time. Having the dentist do the cleaning means there is no downtime as in the States when the hygienist finishes and you wait for the dentist to give you another exam. Also, they are faster about it. Some use ultrasonic, some use hand tools to scrape the plaque, all have polishers, but they are not endlessly scraping and scraping the way U.S. hygienists do it.

Savoring an Elusive Romantic Getaway in Costa Rica through Art

Even paradise wears you down after a time, especially if you find yourself bogged down by the normal daily routines of life: transporting the kid to and from school, shopping for groceries, yard work, cooking, cleaning, etc. We have found since moving to Costa Rica that we seem to take even fewer vacations or weekend trips than we did in the States in order to break up our domestic monotony.

So, even though our original motivation to stimulate demand for Tamara's well-known mosaics was admittedly pecuniary, this trip turned out to provide us an excellent opportunity for an amorous getaway hours from the finca working together to bring Tamara's art to someone new.

A scintillating and enthusiastic art lover, Judy Fried, responded to my posting on a Costa Rica expatriates Facebook group showing off some of Tamara's past works. She had the perfect spot, a front door gable, where she wanted to display an original mosaic featuring a Quetzal, local plants, butterflies and hummingbirds with a symbolic representation of their gorgeous view over Costa Rica's Pacific mountains down the Gulf of Nicoya.

concept color sketch of mosaic
One of the original mosaic concept sketches

Which Lifestyle Would Cost Our Family Less - Oregon or Costa Rica? - Part 2: Non-Tax Expenses



Comparing Non-Tax Expenses


In this part, I include estimates of monthly costs for food, medical, vehicles, utilities and housing. Part 1, about tax costs, is here.

Food Prices

Comparing food prices between Costa Rica and the U.S. is a complex business. Most expats experience sticker shock in part due to the included 13% sales tax and the fact that so much food in Costa Rica is imported. Want a box of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios? That’ll be about six bucks please. Can you get by with 1-minute oatmeal? Good, because that’s only about 75 cents for a 200g bag. If you look at food here in a 1-for-1 comparison to U.S. products, Costa Rica loses.
 
cut block of costa rica cheese
Costa Rica Farmer's Cheese, available everywhere
Dairy products are about the same or higher than in the U.S. because producers are protected by steep tariffs on imported milk, etc. from, say, Nicaragua. About the best you can do by weight is local farmer cheese at $2.15/lb. but it’s only aged 30 days. We found one store with what we consider a smoking deal on run-of-the-mill sharp cheddar at $6/lb. Many other cheeses are 50-100% more, especially artisan cheese.

Judging by a flyer from our once-local Fred Meyer store in Oregon, I’d say meat prices are on a par in each country, but canned tuna here is out of sight. You have never seen more ways to can tuna than in Costa Rica. They mix it with almost anything to reduce the actual fish content and lower the price.

Eliminating the Worry of Shipping Your Car to Costa Rica


Are ready for an extended stay or retirement to the Land of Eternal Spring and have already decided you prefer to enjoy the freedom and convenience of driving your own vehicle while living in Costa Rica?


Buy a Car Inside Costa Rica or Bring Your Own?


checking out a used car's tires
Always check the tire quality!
We'll assume you already hashed out the pros and cons of vehicle ownership in Costa Rica. The next question is whether it’s wiser to buy a vehicle in-country or ship your current vehicle from North America. From my experience, if I had to do it over again, I’d bring in my own car without hesitation.

Why? Well, if you add up all the costs including shipping and import fees, you probably come out about even, but you’ll have one overriding advantage, which is complete confidence in your vehicle. That is something not available when purchasing a used car in Costa Rica.

Thrilling Flight on Sansa and Pleasant Experience Using Uber

Ever since one of the local airlines, Sansa, announced last December that they were instituting flights between our area's biggest town, San Isidro de El General, and San Jose International, I've been itching to try it out. Not only had I not been on a plane since around ought-9 but I was anxious to get a lay of the land in our part of Costa Rica that can only be seen from an aircraft. It is a satisfying feeling to finally have air service to our part of the country, which seems considered an unwanted step-child to the rest of the country at times.
Our terminal companion
An excuse to try the new flight arose when I  glanced at my passport a few weeks ago and found that it was already expired, which requires a trip to the U.S. Embassy in San José to rectify. So, I booked tickets online for Tamara and me for yesterday, the 11th.

They fly between SIG and SJO three times a week, with two flights each of those days. Tickets are not exactly cheap, being $70 each, one-way for residents however. Turistas pay $100.

San Isidro de El General airport runway
San Isidro Runway: lengthened, repaved a few years ago thanks to a grant from Germany

Arriving at San Isidro Airport

No parking at the San Isidro airport is available unless you want to leave your car on the road outside the fence. So, we dropped Sean at school, left the car at a downtown public parking lot and hailed a taxi to take us to the airport. Judging by the driver's perplexed look, it was clear there are not many requests to be taken out there. About 15 minutes later, through what passes for rush hour in San Isidro, we pulled up to the short cyclone fence surrounding the runway.

Squeezing Colossal Returns from Your Retirement Kitty in Costa Rica

I've been aware of the enormous interest rates on savings in Costa Rica since we moved here, but until recently was unable to take full advantage of them because spare cash was tied up in other things and, I must admit, the big returns made me gun shy. I mean, there has to be a catch right? Yes, there is a catch, but looking back over our 7 years residing here, with the absolute clarity that 20-20 hindsight provides, I wish we'd taken the plunge sooner.
Typical CD Rates in Costa Rica for Colones Deposits

As you can see from the chart at the right, phenomenal rates can be had on Certificates of Deposit denominated in Colones. Rates for U$D deposits are dramatically less, but much higher than in the U.S., up to 3.5%.

For deposit amounts in five figures or higher, you can actually negotiate slightly higher rates as well. We were able to get 12% with a quarterly payout of interest on one CD.

The highest rates are not universal. These quoted at the right are from a local credit union. Bank CDs yield 2 or 3 points lower and National Banks even lower. The latter provide something like the FDIC insurance coverage enjoyed in the States however.

Which brings us to why you might not want to invest in such CDs:


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