Internet

I.C.E. on a Sunday?

I.C.E. on a Sunday????
by Best of Costa Rica
So today I got a bug up my butt about my internet provider metro wireless. I had to reset my router about 50 times today and its been acting stupid for about a month or more now. I even swapped the ro…

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Costa Rica Expensive? What? Part I Housing Costs

This will be post #100 on my blog! Wow I had no clue I have made this many posts! Thanks to everyone who has read what I have to say! You guys are great!

So I have had some discussion as of late about the cost of living in Costa Rica. Is it expensive? Well here is the truth from one expat to another. We have lived here for over  a year now and I can tell you that yes it can be expensive, but not as expensive as when we were living in the US. It can also be cheap if you know where to shop, how to shop and if you are willing to give up those things you are use to from your old life in whatever country you come from. So lets break this down into a number of different areas and talk about each one in detail. I will take different aspects of living in Costa Rica and break them down into individual posts. Today we are going to talk about:

 

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Housing Costs

 

There are a number of factors that you have to consider when you are talking about housing costs. What size home, what area, what amenities the house has, Gardener? will you have a housekeeper?, will it be in a gated community with fees? There is really no simple answer to any of these questions as far as costs go, but I will try to give you the range so you can figure out where in that range you want to be.

  • Electricity is expensive here. so I.C.E. is the electrical power supplier in Costa Rica. The current rates at the time of writing this blog are about .37 per kwh. Now this equates to anywhere from $40 a month to $2K a month in electric bill. The size of your house, the number of toys you have, like computers, laptops, iPad, TV’s, etc. Do you have a pool? Do you need A/C. Yep there you go the bill just went up even more. When you add a pool, a big screen TV, a couple of electronics and A/C you are talking big bucks. Do you have an electric water heater? Electric water heater is going to jump the costs as well. An on demand systems will be a little lower, but not much. Going propane for water heater I am told is much less expensive. Do you have a hot tub? Now that will jump your bill. I found that out the hard way. I did convert it to solar heating system with a propane heater to keep it hot at night when in use. That took off about $150 from my monthly bill. If you have a clothes dryer that will jump you bill. These are all things we don’t think about in the states until we come here. Oh and if you live way up high in the hills where it is cold a heating system will also increase your bill. If you are up there you won’t really  need A/C,  so its kind of washes out cost wise. OK, lets just say you have a 2500 sqft house with one large screen tv, a couple computers, couple  laptops, a pool, washer and dryer, electric water heater and A/C and or heat and that is going to run you about $1200 a month in electric. It could be more I have heard stories of $2K a month in the beach areas.  Now take that same house  with a number of TV’s and laptop and such, and a pool but no A/C, an on demand hot water system and it will cost you about $400 a month. A smaller house with 1 regular size tv and one computer and one laptop, no pool and no A/C, no dryer will run you about $50 a month. Things you need to think about when doing a budget. Estimate high for your bill, be pleased when it doesn’t reach that, and adjust your lifestyle when it goes above! Unplug anything that is not in use. Items like TV’s, computers and almost anything that plugs in draws energy as long as it is connected.
  • Water believe it or not, is not that expensive compared to the states. When I lived in the states I had a well on my property so pretty cheap, but before that I used public water and our quarterly bill for 2 adults and 2 teens was about $100. Here my bill is about $35 on average for 2 adults. I do have a pool and sometimes it is higher and gets even higher when you have to fill your pool because of a earth quake splitting the pipes and the pool going empty. That is another blog. Or your Gardener leave the hose run in a part of the yard you don’t go visit and its on for almost a day. Those are very unusual so water cost isn’t much of an issue for a budget. It is however an issue in some areas as you will have water outages a lot in dry season which is from Dec. to about May. My current house is on a well for the community so we have very few outages. The only time it goes out is when someone makes a mistake. One time they were getting service to a new lot that was being built on and they cut the line and had to shut it down. Another time someone left the valves open on the tanks and drained them so they had to cut it off to let the tanks fill. A friend went without water in one of the areas of Atenas (public water system Aya) for over a week. Others tell stories of it being out form like 8pm until 8am every day. So even though it isn’t expensive it could be a challenge. I have been lucky and I know it and count my blessings!
  • Renting is an option for a lot of people here. They like to move around to the different areas of Costa Rica and or just don’t want to be tied down. Again size plays a factor in what you will pay. You can find some very nice homes for as little as $300 a month (very small tico style home) to something with a little more room for $1800 a month. All depends on what you are looking for. Many of the rentals will include utilities such as cable and TV. Most won’t do the electric, but some do.
  • Buying a house in Costa Rica can be tricky and exciting and expensive or cheap. You have to 1st figure out what can you afford and go from there. Now I will leave most of this to the experts at Remax who will be doing an article for me. I will tell you this much don’t buy unless you know 100% that Costa Rica is the place for you and only go with someone you know or someone who you know, knows and trusts to take you though this process. Now if you are buying there is always going to be more costs associated with it vs renting. As an example my house has a lot of wood and every so many years it will all have to be sanded and re-varnished. This can be expensive. Keep maintenance and upkeep in mind when you are doing your budget and looking at the house you will buy. Don’t let the WoW factor of your house overwhelm you and cloud your judgement on what you can afford or the maintenance that will be involved in the upkeep of that house. Costa Rica does have unique maintenance issues not found in other countries.
  • TV and Internet  I am not going to talk a lot on this point just going to refer you to my blog post about this. https://bestofcostarica.org/2014/03/20/buffering-buffering-buffering/ In that post I talk mainly about internet and how you can get it. I also talk about you can get all your TV via the internet and have no need for real cable television. In my opinion this is a better option. Now for TV you can go with any number of services if you want real cable. The cost will vary greatly on the service plan and the service provider you use. I pay $30 for Cabletica as it is only a basic service, see my blog why I even have it, as I do not use it. Claro is running about $28 for basic cable and if you go with the movie channels and the HD service it is going to cost you about $55 a month. I know my cable TV with all the movie channels (now we had a lot more channels in the states mind you) and HD ran about $175 a month on Comcast. Comcast basic TV is running about $55 a month now.You will need un-block.us to use all the services out there.
  • Pool service isn’t too bad here. If you have a pool and don’t want to service it yourself you can get it for fairly cheap. Well here in Atenas anyway. I’m not sure about other areas what the costs is, I pay about $64 a month for the service and than chemicals add about another $20. This is the cost for service once a week. They come clean, treat, fill the pool and our hot tub which is attached to the pool. Now in the states I was paying $80 a service plus chemicals. So for service alone I was paying $320 a month plus chemicals. Now some people here allow their gardener to service their pool. Not a good idea people, but I guess if you have him trained by someone who knows what they are doing it can be OK, but most gardeners have no clue about pool maintenance.
  • Housekeepers are everywhere and just about everyone has one and it doesn’t  matter if your house is 1k sqft or 10K sqft. Some come once a week, while others come every day or like me I have our here on Mondays and Friday.I use this schedule to help with clean up before the weekend parties and than clean up after  the weekend parties! 🙂 So your cost will vary on the number of times you want your house cleaned. They do everything from the floors, to the windows and even laundry. Pretty much almost anything you need them to do while they are here, and they are willing to do it with no issues or additional costs unless you are asking them to stay later or come another day. So cost is about $3 an hour. Yes you heard me right $3 an hour. There are other costs involved as well such as Caja (gringo speak Health insurance) Costarricense del Seguro Social (gringo speak Social Security) and than there is vacation pay which I believe is 15 days a year and holidays. There is also something they call 13 month pay in December. This is where  you pay them 1 months salary before the end of the year. So, its like a year end bonus that is required. There is also workers comp insurance you can get that runs between $80 and $150 a year.  So once you factor in all those costs and if you want to do it right you are talking under $15 a hour. It can be a lot under in most cases, but that’s a pretty good number to do it right. You compare that to costs in the states of $45 to $90 an hour or higher and you now know why almost everyone has one. If we are being honest here most use housekeepers who are not legal and get them for $3 an hour flat or less. That is just how it works here for some people. I don’t suggest doing this, but people do all the time doesn’t make it right, but I pass no judgments. My advise is to use a service or share with a friend who knows what they are doing as all the rules get confusing and its not like it is in the states. If you fire them it can be a huge mess of bills for you and the cost can be high. Some people will put the money away each year into a CD just in case they have to fire them. If they quit not an issue. While others pay it at the end of the year for that years service. So, its like firing them and rehiring them on a yearly basis.
  • Gardeners are even cheaper than a housekeeper. You can get them for about $2 an hour or less again depending on if the are legal or not. All the same things apply for the Gardeners as the housekeepers. So the cost will be more once you add all the additional costs, but still going to be way cheaper than if you had one in he states. Especially in some areas. I know I pay almost $100 an hour to have a company come in and take care of my property while I am not there.
  • Community Fees vary from community to community. Some have no fees while others have many fees. Depending on the area and the house you are looking to rent or buy check into the fees! Not everyone or every agent will tell you about these fees upfront. They are not trying to deceive they just don’t think about it. So be sure to ask!  Our house is in a gated community, but the only fees we have is for the security guard at the gate which we pay about $40 a month for. In addition to that we have a trash pickup fee of $8 a month. Now we do not have this and other do pay what would be the equivalent of HOA fees in addition to all of  those. It can range from $10 am month to $100 a month. It all depends on what is offered by the community or what the builds want to make off of you each month. Again you must ask as they won’t always tell you. Is there a pool, playground, shared community center? All these things raise the price of the fees. There is one community here that offers nothing outside of your house and the lot and they still charge a fee for nothing. I guess it is for the privilege of living on the developers land.  Community fees are really no different here than in the states and I think these fees are pretty much the same and or lower. I owned a house once and the HOA fees were $125 a month and they really didn’t have anything to offer. Now if you are buying you are fully responsible for those costs. If you are renting you may want to verify all those costs are included in your monthly rental fee.
  • Homeowner or Renters Insurance like in most countries is a necessary evil. Doesn’t matter where in the world you live you have to have a number of types of insurance. I pay about $1200 a year for my homeowners policy and other have stated as low as $250 a year. I think I may be getting ripped off. My research for this article has me thinking. Again this varies with the house value and the options you select on your policy. This will be covered in full detail when we get our article from the owners of the Remax here in Atenas. Now I will say I was talking to some people in a Facebook group to get what they pay and the responses were “Whats insurance” So I assume not everyone has this. Some said too expensive for what was covered and etc. So same complaint we have anywhere in the world when talking about insurance. In another blog I will detail my 2 claims that I have had so far this past year. Not sure it is worth having really, as I have not been happy with what I have to do and how long it takes to finish a claim out. I’m stilling fighting with them over an issue that happened back in Oct. of 2012.

So that just about covers it for housing costs. We will go into more detail on some of these points when Remax does a write up. So look for that one in the coming weeks. This concludes part I. Just remember that living in Costa Rica sometimes requires you to make adjustments to get the most out of your life here. Some are easy and others are very hard, but Costa Rica is worth the changes you may have to make to your life. Not sure yet how many parts this piece will have, but we will see. My next post in this series is going to be on transportation costs and groceries. I guess it really all depends on how much I have to say, and as we all know by now I always have a lot to say! So to wrap this up Electric is high, water comparable to the US if not cheaper (but can be a challenge), renting can be cheaper than buying,  and buying is way cheaper when you look at what you get here verse  what you can get in the states for the same price. TV and Internet cheaper but slower, but more than what you will need to do the things you will do. Pool service, housekeepers, Gardeners are most defiantly cheaper here by a lot! Insurance is pretty much the same as it is in the states. It can be cheaper here, but claims are just as difficult to collect. .So over all housing costs in Costa Rica as compared to the US it is much cheaper!!!!! What do you think? Am I right or do you have a different opinion? Let me know what you pay for this by leaving a comment on this post. If you do state the area you live in and as much info as possible along with what the costs are. This will help people be better informed and get real life data. Not just variables and ranges. So I give Housing Costs in Costa Rica 3 seashell1out of 5. Only because of the Electric costs and the water outages some people will have to face. Otherwise it would be 4 if you move to an area that doesn’t have water issues and you don’t need A/C or heat.

Pura Vida!

 

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Internet, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Why do Gringos make things so difficult?

So I just read an article on the Costa Rica times and it got me to scratching my head. I am going to pull specific points that I want go go over and explain how I feel he made it harder on himself. I had this same issue and it was nothing to fix it. Easy and was done in 24hrs.

“I hate calling customer support in Costa Rica as it ends up being a complete waste of time and energy so I thought I would circumvent this nuisance by going to the office in Jaco and speaking to an actual person to explain my problem.

I think I decided to make my errand running day on the hottest day of summer at the beach, Checking the temperature it was 89 degrees but felt like 107.  After picking up a couple of packages at Aerocasillas I went by the Cable Tica office at about 12:30.  I expected it to be closed as it was lunch time but the sign on the door said “We will be back at 2:30″. I can normally kill 30 minutes to an hour but killing 2 hours is not all that easy.”

1st you may hate calling them, but you can do it from the comfort of your own home and you would not have had to stand out in the heat of the day and or kill time. Especially when you know it is going to feel like 107 outside! That is insanity. I don’t know about you, but I know that if they close for lunch, which mind you they all do why would you show up at 12:30? You expected it to be closed. So why go there? I’m confused by this. Again I know that most places that close for lunch I assume won’t open back up until 3pm. So you leave your house, you do an errand you could have done on the way home not on the way there an you arrive at lunch time when you knew they would be closed? You think it is their fault? So that was your 1st mistake here. You should have made it your 1st stop when they opened. Actually your 1st mistake was not calling customer service.

“The answer was one that most of us living in Costa Rica have received……that is not my job, here is the number of customer service.  I tried desperately to have her arrange a technician to come to my home……..the answer was no, there would be no thinking outside the box nor proactive client support.”

Well of course this was your answer. Its not a matter of them thinking outside of the box it is a matter of the way things are done. In the states you can’t just walk in and say I need a technician to come out to the house and they will send one. Just doesn’t happen. You call the customer service number. Again if we did do mistake #1 by not calling them in the 1st place this would not have been an issue.

“I wonder how people that do not speak Spanish get to the English menu on the customer support lines in Costa Rica. “Para ingles marque dos” – if you do not know Spanish how would you know to push 2 for English?”

Ok so you come to  a country and you expect it to be in English? ok another mistake. Here is the thing. I don’t have a lot of Spanish, but I knew a few things before i got here. If I made a call and I heard that I would have picked up Ignles and Dos, Which I think 99% of English speakers would know to press 2 for English from that. I know that on my cabletica its 9.

” I then went through explaining my problem in Spanish after which he said please hold and hung up on me.  YAY!!!!”

Yes because this never happens in the states at all when you call big companies. I can’t tell you how many times I would spend a ton of time on the phone with someone telling them my issue and they go, “Please Hold” and the call is disconnected.

“Can you please send someone out to my house to check the signal for more than 3 seconds?” I begged.

“No…let me tell you how to reset your modem.”

I hung up as I was not in my house nor did I want to hear her anymore.”

OH my god really? This is what they all do. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me in the states. It is part of their check list and it is what they have to do in order to go though it. Why did you call when you were not at your house and couldn’t do what she asked? Again you mistake not theirs.

“I returned home that evening and spoke to a friend of mine on Skype during which the call dropped about 6 times in a matter of 20 minutes. I asked him what can I do to get someone at my house. The answer although ridiculous I knew was true. When I called customer service I needed to unplug the modem and tell them that the lights were on but that there was no Internet.

This is Costa Rica, it is just one of the games you have to learn to play to adjust to life in the country. I still love it here but sometimes I need to vent.”

OK this isn’t ridiculous at all. I have had to do this in the states a number of times to have them come out.

This experience would have been no different in the states if the writer did this same thing. He would have went thought all the same stuff. So no Costa Rica is no different in this regard than anywhere else in the world!

Now let me tell you how I handled it when our got hit by lightning here and it wasn’t dead, but it was having issues. So I unplugged it and I called the customer service number and pressed 9 for English. Now I had to hang up and do this a couple times as it still gave me Spanish options, but that is ok I was in the comfort of my own home so no worries. I did get someone who spoke English. I than told them my problem and he said, “let me walk you though resting your modem” I did not move off my couch. I said I did it all and he said, “Ok we will send someone out”. I than said, “Can you send a new modem with him it seems the lights are all non-functioning so I think it should be replaced.” He than said, “Yes sir that is not a problem” Guess what the next day someone was here with a new modem and my issue was fixed!

Ok so why do we make things so hard on our selves? Really if you don’t know how things are done here and have been here more than 3 months you should know. If you don’t know maybe call a friend or ask someone on Facebook who has lived here. Check out one of the many Expats groups that have a ton of information on just about everything when it comes to living in Costa Rica. This guy was just looking to cause himself more problems than what was needed.

Have a great day!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Internet, Rants, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buffering….Buffering…Buffering

netflix-bufferingThis is a screen that many of us in Costa Rica are use to seeing. this blog I am going to be talking about the internet, providers, and various services and tips to help you navigate the world wide web  in Costa Rica. There are a lot more then you would think. In my little town of Atenas we have I.C.E., Cabletica, Crwifi, Metrowireless, Kolbi, Sky, and Claro. Other areas have other services like Tigo, Japi, and many others. I can’t speak to all of these services in this blog, but I will try to touch on them all. I will however speak to a couple that I am using and testing here in Atenas and what others have said about them.

So where to start? Lets start with what services like Neflix you can get in Costa Rica. NONE! Nope None! Well that isn’t true. You can get a modified version of US Netflix in Costa Rica. You however can not get any of the major TV stations like ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. You can nto use amazon or hulu either. Now wait before you say, “Oh hell no I am not moving to visiting Costa Rica!” There is hope. There are a number of services you can use that will make it look like you are in the US or some other country. Is this legal well lets just say no one is coming after anyone yet so it seems to be a big business. I have tried two of these services. One I was happy with and than Hulu and Amazon figured it out and I could not use them any more. The other I have been with and happy for a long time now. That service is called unblock-us. Don’t let the name fool you as it unblocks everywhere. I watch BBC shows from Costa Rica using this service. It is seamless and I have not experience any slowdowns. Some of these VPN services slow your system down and you are already going to be slower then you are use to so you don’t want this. Now some of these services say they are free, but they are not. Don’t be fooled. Nothing in this world is free. unblock-us at the time of this cost $4.99 a month. It is well worth the price. If you are tech savvy you can change your router settings and every device in your network will be able to access any and all services anywhere in the world. You can also use it to change settings on your device as well. This is great! Lets say you go to the local Cafe and want to stream a movie while you are there. If you don’t have the settings on you device then it won’t work. This service allows you to do both ways! Its great! I am not being paid to say this. It is the service I use and I love it!

So now you know you can get these services with a little help from our friends. Now you need to decide what is the speed you need?  Back in the states I had over 175Mbps dowloand and 75Mbps upload. I was a faster is better type of person. Get that the hell out of your head now! You are not getting those speeds in Costa Rica. You are not even going to get close.

Now my history. I am a huge gamer. I play everything from Facebook games to MMORPG’s like WoW, Rift, ST:TOR, Guildwars, etc. Right now my main game is Rift. So yes with the right provider and speed you too can still game. Don’t expect a FPS of 27 or a ping rate below 100. I do everything from PvP to Dungeons and raids and have little to no issues. So what are  you going to do? I game, stream video, take video conference calls, skype, use vonage (us phone number), and I have even live streamed to Facebook my dogs playing in the back yard! 🙂 So yes there is hope! You may do some of these things or all of these things. You can do them. So here is a chart that explains what they say you need to use these services.

Note: Internet speeds listed represent Download speeds.

0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed

1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed

3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for DVD quality

5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality

7.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for Super HD quality

12 Megabits per second – Recommended for 3D quality

I currently have two services in my home. I have a company called Cabletica at 5Mbps and  Metrowireless at 2Mbps. I have streamed on the 2Mbps Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and a few other services at HD quality. I have not tested 3d and I have no clue and have not seen anything listed as Super HD quality. So I can’t speak to those. You can bet they will work on less if I can do HD with 2Mbps when it is 5Mbps recommended. Also keep in mind I stream a movie and play a video game online all at the same time with the 2Mbps and the 5Mbps and I have seen no difference in the quality. Now your results could vary from mine. There are so many factors. So let me explain how I got to where I am.

When I first moved to Costa Rica I had Cabletica at 10Mbps. We had all kinds of issues. Stops, starts, buffering, and outages. So needless to say I was getting frustrated. I couldn’t even stream youtube without an issue. You are then going to say, “But you still have cabletica?” That is correct I do. I will get to why in a minute depending on how fast you read. So, I decided to start looking for other services. I heard about a company called CrWifi. Great! So I call and talk to them. I explain I am a heavy user and wanted to be sure they are an unlimited services. They told me yes. I then spoke to a couple friends who have or had them and they tell me No. If you use to much bandwidth they will call you and complain and start to slow you down and even cut you off. So not really an unlimted data plan. So I called back to verify this for myself and this was true. So I had them put a router in my home to test our usage and see what they would charge me. Was I surprised? Oh hell yes. I was looking at a 12Mbps service at bursting. You don’t want a bursting service. They came back with a monthly total for my usage at $500 a month! Yes I said $500! They were crazy. So my search continued. So I found Metrowireless in my search. They seemed reasonable with their prices. I called and verified their prices and what they had was unlimited and it was. So I started out with them at 6Mbps. Now I decided and glad I did to keep the cabletica until I was sure metro was better. Well it wasn’t! So now I have 10Mbps and 6Mbps and can’t even get 8Mbps combines between the two. So I was paying for service that I wasn’t not getting. So I was not happy. So I began to use speed tests on each service at various times of the day. Yes your service does change depending on the time of day. You have to remember that your service is being shared and there is a finite amount of bandwidth. So my average on each servuce was 5Mbps with Tica and 2Mbps with metro. I down graded my services to those numbers and have been very happy. You experience could be different with the higher speeds. The only way you will know is get the higher service and if it doesn’t work out, test your speeds and then down grade like I did.

Now why 2 services? Well that is simple. When one goes down the other is up! I have yet to have both services go out at the same time. I pay $55 for Tica and $33 for metro. Now tica will only give you internet if you have TV as well. I pay about $30 for the Tv service. So my total monthly is about $125 a month with taxes and fees.

In the states most people pay more than this for TV, Phone and Internet. Now granted their internet speeds are faster, but to be honest I don’t notice the difference. I still do all the things I did in the states here. Now uploading video and pictures and such is a little harder. All of these services do not offer very fast uploads. I have .5Mbps on cabletica and 1Mbps on Metro. So uploading is a but of a challenge. Large video’s are an over night thing. So I try to keep my video’s to a min or less in length. Pictures are not too bad. If you do have large files I would suggest put them in a Que and let them run all night while you are sleeping. 🙂

So lets look at how much this really is. unblock-us $4.99, Hulu 7.99, Netflix 9.99, Amazon prime (free streaming) $7.00 and Cable Tv and internet with two providers is $125. So for me to stream and watch all my TV shows it costs roughly $155. I get all my TV and movies. When I look at what I was paying back in the states it is cheap. In the states I had all the channels and the fastest speeds available and it cost me over $250 a month so $100 a month cheaper and my life is no different when it comes to my TV and internet habits.

So if TV and internet is important to you then expect to pay for it and expect to have slower speeds then you are use to. Like I said my wife and I are heavy users and we found a system that works for us and I am sure you can find a system that will work for you as well.

So lets wrap this up. Slower speeds, Higher prices, and outages should be expected. Streaming TV and movies, playing online games, skype, video conference, telephone and other services do work. So yes you can have a good experience with your internet here in Costa Rica if you are willing to change you mind set!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Internet, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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