You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers.

So, this is just an “answering questions” post… some questions sent to me by my subscribers (which I love, keep ‘em coming!).

What is the exchange rate?

It is currently approximately:  500 – 1.  Example in converting colones to American dollars:  ₡ 30,000 = $60.00; or ₡ 2,500 = $5.00 – approximately.  This is using Jen’s easy method of “approximate” calculating – move the decimal point to the left 3 places and double.


$2.00 = ₡1,000
$4.00 = ₡2,000

What are some prices of items in Grecia, Costa Rica:

Pineapples:  4 (medium size) for $2 (this is at the farmer’s market, otherwise will be more expensive)

Avocados: 5 (medium size) for $2 (again, at the farmer’s market)

Cheese:  Mozzarella $8.39, Gouda  $10.50 (this is for a good size block, see picture below).  Also, you can see a very slim chunk of cheddar is $6.00 (or ₡ 2,980).  We have been trying to stick with the “Tico” cheese for $2.80 (₡ 1,400), which is no cheddar, let me assure you, but it is cheap(er), has a little bit of flavor, and does actually melt.  As a Wisconsin cheesehead, I truly enjoy good cheese, so this is hard for me… but I know it’s also healthier for me (I’m not eating as much cheese as I was in the states, for sure!).


Gas – current gas price is about $6.00/gallon

Dorito’s – this is a smallish/medium size bag (not the large normal size) – $5.00(!)


Milk is $1.09 for 1 liter, and comes in a box like this most typically (although I have seen it in a gallon size as well).


What is the price of cars in Costa Rica vs the USA?

IMG_0461I don’t know too many details, except cars are MUCH MORE expensive here than in the states.  So you say, I’ll just ship mine over from the states?  Well, the problem with that, is it can be quite costly:

1.  You have the expense of shipping it.

2.  Then you have payment of import tax, which I’ve heard can be up to 75% of the value of the car.  Also – Costa Rica determines the value of the car.

3.  Also you have the risk of something happening to it while being shipped (stuff being stolen or damage to the vehicle – in loading or shipping).

Once you own a car here, you then have to register it and pay an inspection fee and insurance each year.  Along with high gas prices, and maintenance, this is why we are NOT buying a car.  At least not yet.

There are tons of old Toyota Land Cruisers here, some have been rebuilt (engine and transmission), most of them being FJ40’s.  The FJ40’s were made from 1960-1984, but most of the models here are mid 70’s – early 80’s.  I had read somewhere that they are so plentiful here, because between 1978-1980, the price of coffee beans hit the roof ($3.50/lb.) – they have not been that high before or since.  The coffee plantation owners, with all this newfound money, of course wanted new vehicles, and the Land Cruiser was the car to get.  Because there’s so many of them, this means parts and maintenance, which you KNOW you’ll need, are plentiful.  My husband is dreaming of having one of these FJ40’s, of course, and I must admit – they are super cute…  although I have been warned that wearing a sports bra while driving one, is a must.

Residency/Money Matters

How do you get residency?

Keep in mind there’s a difference between becoming a citizen and a resident.  For us, we will not become “citizens” of Costa Rica, but we have applied for what is called “Rentista Residency” (which is different than for someone of retirement age, which is called “Pensionitto Residency”).  Once we obtain our residency, we will still (and always be) citizens of the USA, but will also become “temporary residents” of Costa Rica.

How long is the process going to take y’all? 

Ah, a very good question.  I think I’ve mentioned “tico time” before.  Everything just – well, takes time, here.  “Manana” is the answer that is said often, meaning “it’ll get done tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, etc.”  The process for residency takes different amounts of times for everyone…  some people get it as quick at 9 months, others 2 years.  We are being patient and will see how long it takes.  See my San Jose post – where we went to San Jose on July 25th to meet with our attorney and started our application process. He told us probably in about 10 business days from that initial meeting, he’d be contacting us to come back to take our fingerprints (at police station) and open a bank account.  It ended up being 19 business days later (not bad…), and we are now scheduled to go back to San Jose  on August 29th.

Must you leave the country every 3 months once you are a resident? 

Nope – in fact, once we get our “folio #” (which is our number that states we have begun the residency process), we will not have to leave the country every 90 days anymore.   Interestingly, our attorney emailed us yesterday, with our folio #’s, but I noticed  my husband’s last name was spelled wrong.  When I questioned our attorney, he replied “Yes I saw the typo, don’t worry, it will be corrected upon completion”.  Ok….  no worrying will be happening here…  I will update you on when we flash our “folio #’s” at the custom’s agent next time at the airport, and see if they let us in to Costa Rica without having a flight out of the country within 90 days.

Can you vote?

Only if you’re a citizen of Costa Rica (which is different than having residency).

Can you have a firearm?

Only if you are a permanent resident (which you can start applying for in your 3rd year of temporary residency).  Better yet – just get a machete.  🙂

Did you “take” all your money with you?  Or are you still investing in the USA? 

We took cash with us, to live on until we can start the residency process (which includes opening a bank account here in Costa Rica).   We have our money invested in the US, and once we start the residency process here (should be “any day now”, but hey – tico time, baby…) and open a bank account, we’ll transfer $60,000.00.  This will cover us for a period of 2 years, and be deposited into a CD here in Costa Rica.  Once a month, the bank here will transfer $2500 from said CD into a normal “checking account” where we can withdraw and use that $2500 each month for our living expenses.  However – we do not have to use ALL of the $2500, so we can reinvest this as we see fit.  After 2 years, we will have to do this again for another 2 years (another $60,000).  However, in this 3rd year, we can start applying for permanent residency.  Once we receive permanent residency, this will eliminate any income requirements (finally!)…

IMG_9717Bear with me for a second, while I go back to my favorite subject – food.  It’s hard to find  instant jello or pudding, but FLAN?  There’s a whole wall of instant FLAN flavors…   Also, I don’t know what the deal is with TANG, but it  seems to be very popular.  Again, a whole wall of it…

That’s all for now folks!  Peace out! – JenJen

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11 Responses to You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers.

  1. Love ~ Love ~ Love this Blog! All my questions answered at once.
    Thank goodness I am pretty good with a machete. Not sure I could last 3 years..
    I roughly calculated that I could survive for 17 years on the budget you have listed. If I could scale back to $15,000 a year, last 34 years. That would put me living there till 74.
    Future blog ~ health care. Is it free, what happens to the elderly. In Switerland, the elderly live for free in homes and are cared for.
    Thank you for sharing the pictures. It helps put things into perspective. Also, what we take for granted in the USA.
    Oh ~ schools for Levi. How does their system work? We have k-5, 6-8 then 9 thru 12. We pay for College. how is there structure set up?

    • Thanks Dana! And thanks for the further questions, I will research for ya! I’ll also be doing a post on a the budget we’re currently doing for August, so that will give you an idea on what you can live on here, as well (if you’re like us, and want to scale back… but we’re not really denying ourselves too much either).

  2. You left out one of my favorite sections of the grocery store…the mayo aisle! You ave different kinds of mayo (although the types are limited in CR vs. other Latin American countries). Most popular is “con limon” (with lime), but you also will see some with tomato, spices, garlic, and other things.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find a (small) section of true salad dressings, including the US staple of ranch. In other contries I’ve visited, they squeeze fresh lime juice or use vinegar (various types…often red wine or balsamic) and maybe oil for salad dressings.

    Although, my favorite of all Tico dressings still has to be Salsa Lizano…it is inescapable and the must-have item for anything you cook. It is the one item that is NOT “all-natural” as so many of us are trying to achieve with the CR lifestyle. But it is SO good! I don’t know if Jen has written about it before, but it would be the US equivalent of ketchup–you put it on everything! Eggs for breakfast, gallo pinto, casado, salad, grilled chicken, grilled steaks, salads…there is very little I would NOT put it on, and we even have our less adventurous family addicted to it! It is a great cheap souvenir! This last trip, our gift for my inlaws was Cafe 1820, Cafe Rey, and a bottle of Lizano…total of under $10. Can’t beat that!

    As for the questions on education, that is actually my field…not to hijack Jen’s blog, of course! My husband and I are in the process of transitioning from TX to CR and finding the right business opportunity. I’ve visited public CR schools for several years and have looked at some of the (highly priced) private schools. I’m trying to figure out something for expats that would be less expensive yet still give them a quality education that would be accepted by universities in CR or the US. I will get in touch with Jen to see about how we can possibly get in touch to discuss these options…without overtaking her blog!

    ~Juanita, TX Certified Educator K to 12 with experience in English as a Second Language, Spanish, Special Education, Dyslexia, and Gifted and Talented / Masters in Linguistics with emphasis in Second Language Acquisition

    • Hello Juanita, and thanks for reading and commenting! My hubby is addicted to the Lizano Tabasco sauce – he puts it on EVERYTHING! It is not “true” tabasco like in the states, he says it is less spicy (which therefore causes him to use more of it). He loves it. And, yes the mayo aisle… lol we are not huge mayo eaters here, and for our salads I use olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette… Thanks for the school comment as well (with us not having kids, we have not learned too much about the school systems here). 🙂

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