Posts Tagged With: Visa

Costa Rica starts imposing immigration law from 2010 as of 8/1/14

Costa Rica News – Seems that Costa Rica has finally decided to start getting imposing laws in regards to illegal immigration and visa status in the country. The $100 a month fine for over staying your visa is finally being implemented. There are also fines for hotels and landlords that are housing those that do not have legal visa status.  The question is will this have a negative effect in Costa Rica down the line?

nicaragua-costa-rica-border 1On 1st August, the Director General for Migration and Immigration announced that from that day forward, they would be imposing fines on employers with workers in either construction or the domestic service if they couldn’t prove the legal residency of these workers.

Kathya Rodríguez, the General Director of Migration, explains that the penalty range between ¢798.800 to ¢4,8 million, depending on the degree of the breach of the law.

This is how the General Migration Law is set up, which became valid on 1st March 2010. However, collection of these imposed fines was often not properly organised; firstly due to an amnesty, and then due to an extension period which lasted around 2 years.

Rodriguez and the Government’s vice-Minister, Carmen Muñoz, explained that they were awarded a new extension, but one which would apply only to employers in agricultural industries.

Businesses in this sector would have from now until the 31st January 2015 to put themselves down on a special register. Following that, they would have a year in which to work through the entire legalisation process.

Migration Police, by paying attention to complaints and general disruption, will be working to detect any sorts of irregularities surrounding migrant workers.

In the case of domestic workers they will be assessing their treatment, if they are receiving minimum wage and any bonuses or benefits they may be receiving; not just their own immigration status. The higher the number of breaches found, the higher the penalty to the employer will be.

For cases outside the agricultural sector, Migration will keep the same entry policy as normal. During past extensions, it was possible to begin the immigration process for a person who illegally entered the country; from the 1st August, this will no longer be an option.

Rodriguez said that they would only process cases where the person in question has had some sort of migration status, or where they still hold a valid passport.

First paragraph added by Dan Stevens, rest of article translated by Leah Hendre from La Nacion

Pura Vida! Well maybe not any more for some! This could get ugly.

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Driving in Costa Rica

I get this question all the time, “Should I rent a car when I come to Costa Rica to drive myself?” That is actually a very good question. When we came to Costa Rica for the 1st time in Nov. 2012 we brought a friend with us who has a son who lives here with his mother. He is familiar with the area and how they drive here so it was a win for us. He made it seem so easy. He found everywhere we wanted to go, driving was a breeze for him and it just seemed so simple.

We go home and decide this is the place for us. Our purpose of our trip was to look at houses and to live here for 10 days to see if we would like it. We did! Feb. of 2013 we moved here. Our friend Will made driving here look so easy I decided I would rent a car. We get into the airport at 8pm. Great! We head out and can’t seem to find where to go pick up our car? Damn!  We walk though the parade of taxi and bus people trying to get us to use them. We finally walk past all of those and are looking around. Nope nothing. So I call and they send a pickup for us. Great!!! Now we are on our way.

We get to the rental place and get all signed in and they get our car ready. A nice gentleman puts our bag in the car. I am talking to the rental agent and trying to get directions to our hotel. He gives me this map (I am horrible with maps!) OK, no problem he writes on it which directions to go and tells me to go out turn, than turn at the end of the road take it down past the bridge and yada yada yada giving me land marks to look for in true Tico (I didn’t know this than) fashion. Many times they use places like the Coke factory (Which has been closed for years) as a land mark, but luckily the sign is still there. Or you get turn left after the cow tied to the big mango tree. Sorry for people if that farmer ever lets that cow loose or has it for dinner. Off we go me thinking I can do this! My wife thinking, “Oh God we are never going to find this place!”. She knows me so well.

We get in the car and off we go. OK made the turn, yep I see the bridge OK going good. Wait what? That’s not a road! Keep going. Oh wait maybe it was. Nope didn’t look like one and there was no sign. Keep going, and going, and going. Nope I think we missed it.

So to make a long story shorter than it already isn’t. We arrive at 8 pm we didn’t get to a hotel (not ours) until midnight. After driving and driving and driving I stopped and asked a taxi driver to take me to the hotel. Well little did I know there were two of them with that name so he took me to the old one not the new one. I got a room and the actual hotel send a car in the morning to take us to the right hotel that was and I kid you not 10 min drive from the car rental place! Yep that was our 1st adventure in Costa Rica. I did however get to see a lot of Costa Rica that day! Back to what this article is about.

We have now been hear in Costa Rica for 1 year and 5 months! I have learned a number of things that will help you should you decide to drive yourself here in Costa Rica. Before I give you my top things you need to know one of the basic things you need is a course in defensive driving! You will need it! Here are my top things to know about driving in Costa Rica.

1. Laws we don’t need no damn laws! All traffic laws are just suggestions. You come to an intersection with a stop sign, expect someone isn’t going to stop! Be careful of any intersection no matter if it is a stop sign, a red light, a flashing yellow on their end, it doesn’t matter. Always check and be on the look out. Now should you be caught in violation of those rules you will be stopped and fined. So follow them, but know others may not!

OH and by the way this bike is for sale. 🙂 It is located in MD. Titan 9/11 tribute bike called “Rudy” That is Peter Reckell from Days of our lives. I bought it from him.

2. 2 Wheels Cool and 4 wheels drool! 2 wheel vehicles will come out of no where and dart in and out like nobody’s business. They will cut you off, they will come up behind you and along side of you even if there isn’t really a lane on either side. They are going to be hard to see and God help you if you are not on the look out for them.  They seem to think they rule the road and they really do not have to pay attention to any rules at all! None!

3. Honk if I’m sexy! Oh yea! They love to honk their horn! All the time and for any and all reasons. In the states we were always taught that you don’t honk unless it is an emergency! Here if you sit 2 seconds past the light changing they honk. They like your car they honk. You are going to slow for them they honk. They want you to get the hell out of their way they honk. They win the world cup match they honk like mad!!!! That one I understand! Go Tico! They didn’t win but they did one hell of a job. They see a pretty girl or a nice looking guy they honk. I think you get it they honk a lot!

This is a 2 way 2 lane highway. See a problem?

4. Leap Car anyone? If there is a car in front of you than you must pass it! It doesn’t matter if they are going the speed limit if they are in front of them they must speed up and pass any vehicle that is in front of them. I totally understand when there are slow moving cars or those big trucks that can’t do the hills. If I am going 10 km over the speed limit and you still feel the need to pass me you go right ahead. Make sure you honk at me as you pass me as well. 🙂

5. Chicken anyone? Watch for vehicles coming at you in your lane!!! Again the whole passing thing. If they have to drive in the wrong lane to pass they will do so and will do so as long as they feel they can. I was driving on day and we had two lanes on our side and there was a very slow moving 18 wheeler on my right side lane so I was in the left. There was only a single lane for the oncoming traffic and it was a down hill thing. We had a double yellow line meaning neither I nor they should cross as well all know. Well good luck with that. A truck pulls out into my lane to pass the 18 wheeler and 3 other vehicles that were in front of him moving slowly down the hill. So I keep going and going and he is getting closer and closer and closer. Finally I had to speed up to pass the cars on my right so that I can swerve to the right so that he misses me by inches and he cuts off the 18 wheeler to miss me. Vehicles coming at you in your lane is not uncommon here. Either for passing or because the road on their side is so bad they need to move into your lane. Its just how it is.

6. No Hay Paso (gringo speak Do not enter one way) Yea ok sure! remember rule number 1. I can’t tell you how many times vehicles have come the wrong direction on a road just because it is quicker. I understand it to a point because sometimes in towns the way they have roads flowing just doesn’t makes sense. If it say do not enter don’t enter just because you are in a hurry.

7. Here a Tico there a Tico everywhere a Tico. Yes most don’t have cars so they walk everywhere. Day, night doesn’t matter the time you will have people walking in and along the street. Why? There are no sidewalks really. So driving at night can be a little dangerous as some like to walk in the road and wearing all black!!!!!!! Some do have reflective gear. Some don’t. People will ride bikes everywhere they go as well so they fall under rule #2 above. Now most people on bikes do wear reflective gear or have something reflective on their bike and some don’t.

8. Bark, Bark, Hissss, Moo, and Cockadoodledo. When driving please, please watch for the animals. There are a lot of street dogs that wonder the roads, or just sit in the middle of the road. That one I don’t understand as you would think as hot as it gets here the road would be so hot for them. Not sure how they can stand to do that. Most won’t chase your car. I always say if a dog barks at your car and chases you its an expat its not from here. Yes dogs, cats, cows, horses, rooster and chickens can all be found wondering the roads. Not just the back roads, but the main highways as well. So don’t think just because you are traveling a highway like 27 that there won’t be an animal or two or 20 that you must contend with!

9. Stop Police! There are a couple different types of police here, but for this article I will only speak about the Traffic police. There are usually somewhere a check point setup. If you are here for a few days or a week or living here now you will at the very least see one. If they step out and wave you down stop!!!!! You really don’t want them to come chance you and they will. They are checking to see if you are here legally. They will ask for the drivers passport and valid drivers licenses. Now a couple schools of thought on this. Most will only carry a copy of the front of their passport and the current visa stamped page. I hear that is ok. I carry my actual passport. I have heard stories of the police taking the actual passport and requiring you to pay them to get it back. I have never had that issue (*knock on wood) I also have only been stopped 1 in 15 months. The one time I was stopped my passport was in the back seat in my man purse. Yes I have a purse and I am secure enough to admit it! 🙂 They did let me get it, but he was willing to accept my wife’s as well who was sitting next to me. So up to you, but stop if they stop you! Only the traffic police can give you a ticket. The regular policía are for criminal activities only. The tráfico policía can only stop you for traffic violations. Now the tráfico policía are usually accompanied by regular policía at the traffic stops so that if you are in violation of immigration rules or criminal laws they can lock you up.

10. Last and by no means least! GPS systems actually do a fairly decent job here. Not wonderful, but most do work. So if you have one and it has Costa Rica maps that you can download you should do it. Get that done before you come and bring it with you. Do not leave it in plain site or anything of value when you leave your car. There is one system that I happen to love! It is called Waze! If you have a smart phone download it! You will love it. Our GPS is about 90% accurate with roads and such but Waze is 99.99% up to date at all times. Its great! If you have data on your phone it will give you live up to date traffic conditions from accidents to traffic stops! All entered by other Waze members as it happens. It really is great!

Not taken in Costa Rica, but it sums it up! 🙂

So, that pretty much covers it. I am working on compiling some video’s of how they drive here and once I get that done I  will post it. I have a lot of footage to go though to pull out the specific examples so that is going to take a while to get done. I will get it done and post it here. So enjoy visiting Costa Rica and driving here. Really just use your head and be alert at all times and you should be fine. Think of it this way if you get lost what an adventure! Be sure to stop at the local places where you are lost and check things out, takes some pictures and enjoy it! Sample the local food and maybe just maybe if you don’t speak English you will run into someone who does and they will help you find your way. Even sometimes when you don’t speak Spanish you can still get a taxi driver to help you out like I did! Just pay them for their meter to take you where you need to go! That is what I did! Oh I almost forgot make sure you rental is a min. of 6 cylinders under the hood or you could be one of those slow moving cars on the road!

Pura Vida! 

 

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Fun In Costa Rica’s Central Valley

Fun in Costa Rica’s Central Valley

Costa Rica is one of the safest and most exciting places to visit in Central America.  The Central Valley area has a wide variety of fun activities with something for everyone.  Whether you want to relax, have an adventure, or both, the following things to do will be sure to please novice and seasoned travelers alike.

National Theatre of Costa Rica

If you are flying into or out of San Jose, you will find that Costa Rica’s capital city has plenty of unique attractions.  The National Theatre of Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and ornate buildings in the country.  With famous paintings, lavish furnishings, and a floor comprised solely of Costa Rican woods, this cultural landmark is not to be missed.

Jade Museum

Pop quiz:  where is the world’s largest collection of jade located?  Hint:  it is not in Asia.  This fabulous and famous collection can be found in the heart of San Jose.  The museum also features many pre-Columbian gold artifacts.  It is a must for everyone who loves rich and sparkly things.

WCCR2

Catch a Saprissa Soccer Game

Even if futbol is not your favorite sport, taking in a home game at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma will give you a taste of local Costa Rican flavor like nothing else can!  Ticos are passionate about Saprissa and many of their players headline Costa Rica’s national team.

Our Lady of the Angels Basilica

Costa Rica is a Catholic country with no shortage of churches done in the old Spanish style.  If you love beautiful architecture, you will adore this Basilica in Cartago, outside San Jose.  Outside the church, a spring with healing waters can cure your ailments.  Inside, the statue of La Negrita the Black Madonna is usually covered with many charms shaped like body parts for Our Lady to heal.  There really is nothing like it anywhere else in the country!

Poas Volcano

Located in the Alajuela Province, this is one of the most active volcanoes in the country.  Scientists think that a new eruption is imminent given the noisy gas that can be seen rising from the crater.  The sulfur and other chemicals give the water in the crater an usual grayish hue.  Get there early because you will enjoy a lovely view of the Central Valley from the crater’s viewing platform.  However at about 9AM clouds will completely obscure it for the rest of the day.  It is called a cloud forest for a reason!  Despite standing on an active volcano, you should dress for the cold and wet.  The hiking trails offer many opportunities for bird watching.

Veragua Rainforest

What can’t you do at this lush rainforest?  Enjoy a tram ride, zip lining, and hiking.  Exhibits include hummingbirds, snakes, butterflies, and much more.  Explore the waterfalls and observe scientists at their work in the biological research station.  You will certainly achieve a better appreciation for this beautiful ecosystem after this fun and educational visit.

Doka Coffee Plantation

What trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a trip to a coffee plantation?  This plantation is unique to the especially immersive tours that are offered.  The tour begins at the seedbed and takes you all the way through the coffee making process.  There are also free samples of Costa Rica’s most notable export for everyone to try.

p8

Tarcoles Bridge

This bridge in the Alajuela Province is famous for its smiling crocodiles.  Enjoy these wonders of nature from the top of the bridge but don’t get too close!  Disney World this isn’t!

Botanical Orchid Garden

A stop at this beautiful location in La Garita will please any gardener you may be traveling with.  With hundreds of rare and beautiful orchids and other tropical flowers, something is always in bloom for you to admire.

Atenas Central Park

Get a taste of classic Costa Rica at this quaint park.  With lots of trails that wind through the palm trees and other tropical vegetation, you can work up quite a sweat!  Afterwords, grab a refreshing traditional repast at any of the little restaurants around the park.

Farmers Market

In Atenas on a Friday afternoon?  Get a taste of local culture and flair at this market.  Fresh produce and traditional handicrafts are on offer and haggling can be fun!

Atenas Swimming Pool

Atenas is more of a mountain town and is a little bit of a drive from the beach.  If you need to take a dip, there are two public swimming pools.  Bring a picnic lunch and prepare to spend the day swimming and sunning.

I think that about covers it. That is more than you can do in 10 days. 🙂 Well maybe. So come and enjoy!

Pura Vida!

Don’t forget to check out our Cafe Press shop! $3 of every item purchased goes to Charities here in Costa Rica. Also check out our House for Sale and Rent listings as well!  If you are traveling and you want a cheap $4.99 a month and good VPN so you can watch hulu, your countries Netflix, and amazon click here. Good for travel or if you live here in Costa Rica. Don’t forget about our Amazon shop as well!

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I.R.S. makes major changes to Offshore Compliance Programs

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service announced today major changes in its offshore voluntary compliance programs, providing new options to help both taxpayers residing overseas and those residing in the United States. The changes are anticipated to provide thousands of people a new avenue to come into compliance with their U.S. tax obligations.

The changes include an expansion of the streamlined filing compliance procedures announced in 2012 and important modifications to the 2012 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP). The expanded streamlined procedures are intended for U.S. taxpayers whose failure to disclose their offshore assets was non-willful.

“This opens a new pathway for people with offshore assets to come into tax compliance,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The new versions of our offshore programs reflect a carefully balanced approach to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes owed. Through the changes we are announcing today, we provide additional flexibility in key respects while maintaining the central components of our voluntary programs.”

Balanced against the modified programs is the government’s ongoing effort to combat the misuse of offshore assets. The IRS, working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice, continues to investigate foreign financial institutions that may have assisted U.S. taxpayers in avoiding their tax filing and payment obligations. In addition, on July 1, the new information reporting regime resulting from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) will go into effect. Thousands of foreign financial institutions will begin to report to the IRS the foreign accounts held by U.S. persons.

The current Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program was launched in 2012 and is the successor to prior voluntary programs offered in 2011 and 2009. Since the launch of the first program, more than 45,000 taxpayers have come into compliance voluntarily, paying about $6.5 billion in taxes, interest and penalties.

The expansion of the streamlined procedures and modifications to OVDP reflect the thoughtful input of the tax community given the growing awareness among U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax obligations.

“Through our enforcement efforts and implementation of FATCA, taxpayers are more aware of their obligations, and we believe want to come into compliance,” Koskinen said. “In this rapidly changing environment, we listened to feedback from the tax community as well as the National Taxpayer Advocate about our voluntary programs. We have made important adjustments to provide opportunities for all U.S. taxpayers to come in, including those who are not willfully hiding assets.”

Streamlined Procedures Expanded

The changes announced today make key expansions in the streamlined procedures to accommodate a wider group of U.S. taxpayers who have unreported foreign financial accounts.

The original streamlined procedures announced in 2012 were available only to non–resident, non–filers. Taxpayer submissions were subject to different degrees of review based on the amount of the tax due and the taxpayer’s response to a “risk” questionnaire.

The expanded streamlined procedures are available to a wider population of U.S. taxpayers living outside the country and, for the first time, to certain U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States. The changes include:

  • Eliminating a requirement that the taxpayer have $1,500 or less of unpaid tax per year;
  • Eliminating the required risk questionnaire;
  • Requiring the taxpayer to certify that previous failures to comply were due to non–willful conduct.

For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing outside the United States, all penalties will be waived. For eligible U.S. taxpayers residing in the United States, the only penalty will be a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) Modified

The changes announced today also make important modifications to the OVDP. The changes include:

  • Requiring additional information from taxpayers applying to the program;
  • Eliminating the existing reduced penalty percentage for certain non–willful taxpayers in light of the expansion of the streamlined procedures;
  • Requiring taxpayers to submit all account statements and pay the offshore penalty at the time of the OVDP application;
  • Enabling taxpayers to submit voluminous records electronically rather than on paper;
  • Increasing the offshore penalty percentage (from 27.5% to 50%) if, before the taxpayer’s OVDP pre–clearance request is submitted, it becomes public that a financial institution where the taxpayer holds an account or another party facilitating the taxpayer’s offshore arrangement is under investigation by the IRS or Department of Justice.

Full details of the changes to both the streamlined procedures and OVDP can be found on IRS.gov.

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What do you need to carry with you while traveling in Costa Rica?

There was a question posted today in a facebook group I am the admin of. The person recently got stopped by immigration police and was asked for his passport. Well he didn’t have it on him. Now they could have impounded his car, taken him to the police station and processed him to the immigration center for deportation. He used the “No Habla Espanol” trick which will only work once in a blue moon, so he was very, very lucky. Here is my suggestion to you.

  1. Passport. If you do not want to carry your passport with you you should have a copy of the main page with photo all information. It should be a color copy. You also need your most recent visa stamp page as well.
  2. If you have submitted your paperwork for residency and received your expedente papers you should have that as well.

  3. If you are driving you should always have either your Costa Rican license (if you were lucky enough to have one) or your home country license with you.

  4. If you are lucky enough to have one your cedula. If you have a cedula the other items with the exception of some form of drivers license is not necessary.

  5. Again driving you should have a copy of all the information needed in relation to the car in the glove compartment. Copy of title, registration, and insurance (other than you marchomo sticker if you have it).

That should keep you covered should you be stopped by any of the police that are here in Costa Rica. Any of them can ask for any ID they deem necessary to verify that you are here and you are here legally.

Pura Vida!

 

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Cost of living Day 7, 8, 9 and 10!

Sorry for the long update, but 7th and 8th were pretty boring days. Just sat at home, watched some TV. Started to watch the Orange is the new black, and trying to catch up on American Horror story. We are starting season 3 The Coven. Hopefully it is as  good as the others were. We did some shopping and stuff on the 9th so lets get to that.

Day 9 was a busy day as Monday’s usually are. The housekeeper and Gardener was here. So that is when we do a lot of our running for the week as they will keep and eye on the dogs for us. We did happen to have a little mishap while we were gone. The gardener accidentally hit the pipe coming from the solar hot water on our rancho roof to the pool. 😦 He ran down to the gate and had them call our pool guy who came right out and patched it. He fixed it today on the 10th. So won’t see that bill until next month. He only sends a bill once a month. Otherwise the house ran smoothly while we were gone.

We went to see the dietitian as we do on Mondays. Had a good week my wife and I both lost weight. So cheers! Even though I am no longer on the diet she till wanted to weigh me and measure me. She is interested in how I am doing. She follows me on facebook and looks at my fitbit auto post to my timeline that shows what my exercise is and what I am eating. Its a great tool for weight loss.

After we were done there we heading to Escazu to go to Pricesmart to pick up dog food. Well we decided to have lunch at the Avaneda. We scoped out a place we have never been before. You will see it on the budget. It is our 1st time there and I doubt we will be back. I will be writing a review in the next couple of days so look out for that as well.

Lunch ran pretty long about 2 hours so by the time we were done I was kind of done so I wanted to head home. Then I realized we really need dog food and really need to pay the electric bill. So we head off to the bank to take out some cash. We head to the local grocery store which is really nice and in expensive. I also realized once we were there I needed to pick up a few other things as well so we walked the entire store. We also pay our Electric and Cable/internet bills there. I did make a mistake on my internet bill and have corrected it on the budget sheet. It was $90 a month but $57 for my 5Mbps download and 500Kbps upload service. Here is what I got at the market.

IMG_2254[1]

29,205 colones or $52.67

This is a 66lb bag. I will last a good while. I would say almost a month along with the 50lb bag I buy at pricesmart of the Kirkland brand. I buy both so I can mix them as there are times when for whatever reason I can’t find one or the other. So mixing them allows me to be out of on or the other without upsetting tummies. I will need a bag of Kirkland soon so hopefully in he next day or two I will go pick one up.

IMG_2251[1]

739 Colones or $1.33

It takes about 3 of these to equal the amount I got at Pricesmart. So that puts this at $7.98 and I paid $11.93 at pricesmart. ok I’m convinced I will get my Broccoli from Coop from now on!!!!!

IMG_2252[1]

1034 colones or $1.86

The onions I bought at maxipali same amount and actually these are a little bigger cost me 788 colones or $1.42 not worth an extra trip to save a few pennies. So Coop wins again! These actually looked better.

IMG_2250[1]

1,800 colones or $3.25

Again looks like the coop wins! This is 10 for $3.25 and they are bigger than the ones I got at Pricesmart where I paid $2.12 for 5.

IMG_2253[1]

336 colones or $0.61

We have a very clear winner on this one. Coop! These were bigger then what I got at Pricesmart and I paid $1.03 for 3 smaller ones. I’m starting to see the light how about you?

The next expense on our budget is the vet bill. When we came home out housekeeper showed us a spot where one of our dogs made a mess. The reason she left it for us to see is that it had some blood in it. So we had to run our poor little gizzy to the vet to be checked out. Here is Gizzy!

Gizmo

Gizmo

We still as of yet don’t know what is wrong, but Dr. Solano thinks it is some sort of intestinal something or other.  He did put him on medication just in case. He wasn’t acting sick or looking sick. The bill was for the following:

Consult 9000 colones

Complete Hemograma 9500 colones

lopelisan shot 2300 colones

jeringa shot 1700 colones

poop sample 1150 colones

So the total bill was 23650 or $42.65

Most people say that Dr. Solano is one of the more expensive vets in town. That could be true, but he is well worth it! He is one great vet and is a pleasure to deal with and is very knowledgeable! We love, love, love him! That price is nothing compared to what I would have had to pay back it the states!

That pretty much covers I think everything. Here is the budget so far.

day 7 thru 10

As you can see we had lunch at Kay’s again! We do love the place. We were there from 11:30 until about 3:30 today. Ate and had some good conversation with friends. So its a little more this time. I only got 2 salads and my wife got her 2 egg veggie omelets, but we got a lot of Coke Zero and Gin Light. Again the food was good as always! The salads have gotten much better!

Oh and Friday I will have a cost for repair of our weed whacker that I dropped off today. The gardener has not been taken care of it the way he should and he refused to use it until I got it fixed. Which is why he cut our pipe with the machete. As the repair guy told me nothing really wrong with it, but he replace the part that had a piece that broke off and he did some maintenance that needed to be done as its not being handled well. You are suppose to mix oil and gas together and than put it in the machine??? I had no clue and apparently neither did the gardener. So I am taking him with me Friday so they can show him what he needs to do from now on!

Still have 20 days left and I know I am not going to make it for under $2k. Well we will see. Once I am done we will do a recap of the month and see where things could have been eliminated and or saved money and such and see where that lands our final budget. Have a great day!

Oh and drop me a comment if you want to see more pictures and instructions on the food I cook here at the house.

Pura Vida!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Costa Rica Life Experience, Finance, Food, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Avoid Personal Banking Disasters in Costa Rica

Coopenae Bank Costa Rica

Personal banking at the large state-sponsored institutions in Costa Rica is not for the squeamish. There are many horror stories among expatriates about frozen funds, incorrect account information, blocked debit cards, lost term deposits, excessive red tape, etc. Most of the time, these problems can be avoided in the first place with the assistance of a bilingual account executive who really cares. Asdrubal Zamora of credit union COOPENAE tells us more about this:

About 30 years ago, I remember going to a state-sponsored bank and standing in line for over an hour. More than 15 years later, I returned to that bank and endured a similar experience. In late 2013, I happened to visit that same bank and noticed that the building had been nicely remodeled, but the long lines and slow customer service had not changed at all, which did not surprise me.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity of listening to expatriates in Costa Rica talk about their experiences in dealing with state-sponsored banks. I am going to share some of them, and I should mention that they are not the usual complaints about long waiting lines, dubious service and excessive red tape: The following experiences are caused by the sad fact that major language and culture barriers persist at state-sponsored banks to this very day.

1 – Residency Status and the Future of Personal Banking in Costa Rica

Every day, I get inquiries by expats who ask about the possibility of opening a personal account or a fixed term deposit such as a Certificate of Deposit (CD). In general, this will require a residency permit; in fact, even some who opened bank accounts in Costa Rica with just their passports in the past may have troubles using the SINPE transfer system these days.

What everyone should be aware of is that inquiring about the possibility of opening an account is a good first step. Each case may be different, and there may be a chance to open an account, but it is highly recommended to do it. The current political climate is ripe for the creation of new taxes and levies, which in the future may very well apply to expats who wish to open bank accounts. Personal banking in Costa Rica is bound to get more restrictive and invasive in the future, which is why expats should try to get their accounts now so that they can be grandfathered later.

2 – The Frustration of Debit Cards Not Working Overseas

One of the most unfortunate situations travelers can run into is having their debit or credit cards declined abroad. Imagine going back home and trying to access funds deposited in Costa Rica, only to find out that it is impossible. On top of that, there’s also the likelihood of the card being blocked upon return.

Account executives must be notified when a debit card is intended to be used outside of Costa Rica, but this is something that many expat account holders are not aware of because they are never notified inasmuch. There goes the language and cultural barrier again, but the fact is that must be done at all banks, I always tell my clients to contact us before they travel to activate their cards overseas, and to also keep all their purchase and payment receipts, which must be attached to all claims and chargebacks within one month.

3 – Zombie Certificates of Deposit in Costa Rica

An expat couple once contacted me for assistance in transferring their CD, which was issued by a state-sponsored bank, into a COOPENAE account. On the maturity and expiration date of the contract, they personally went to their bank and were not able to get cash in their CD. The problem? It was set to renew automatically; the account holders were expected to notify the bank well in advance to prevent this feature from being triggered.

The couple was able to withdraw the funds and terminate the CD the next day; albeit by having to pay an expensive penalty. This is what I tell my clients: If you are going to be away from Costa Rica when your term deposit matures, it is better to be able to renegotiate the terms than to have renew by default. In terms of customer service, the bank should be making an effort to contact the CD holders beforehand to notify them of the upcoming maturity and expiration.

4 – Exorbitant Credit Card Rates and Unreasonable Collateral

Credit card rates in Costa Rica tend to be extremely high. We are talking about 23 to 52 percent, depending on the bank. Under such terms, I cannot recommend them. Still, some people like them and such was the case with this expat couple who wanted to transfer their money from their bank into COOPENAE so that they could take advantage of certain investments that were performing well at the time. It turns out that their money was tied up because their CD served as a collateral for their high-interest credit card!

Naturally, the couple’s request to cancel their credit card and liberate the funds in their CD was denied by the stuffy state-sponsored bank, which had created a Catch-22 situation by using the term deposit as collateral for the credit card. In the end, I went to the bank and performed the required, yet confusing, steps on behalf of the couple: Paying off the balance on the card with funds outside of the collateral, terminating the credit account, turning over the CD to my clients, and finally having them endorse it to my bank. It is important to remember that physical bonds in Costa Rica are as negotiable as check.

The lesson here is that complex personal banking transactions such as putting up term deposits as guarantees for credit cards should not be attempted by expats who are not familiar with the language or the system. It’s ok to handle certain basic transactions in rudimentary Spanish or English, but more involved procedures require bilingual assistance.

5 – The Case of the Lost CD and the Four-Year Wait

So an expat CD investor asked for a replacement since he lost the original paper certificate. It should be noted that CDs in Costa Rica, whether they are issued by a state-sponsored or private bank, can be obtained in physical or virtual (electronic) formats. Investors who take their physical CDs are responsible for their safekeeping.

By law, investors who lose their physical CDs in Costa Rica must wait four years until they see get their money, and only after filing a report with OIJ, sitting down with a notary to issue a public affidavit, and publishing the latter in the newspaper of record. This should not have to happen since:

  • Banks should be encouraging virtual CDs, which are eco-friendly and cannot be lost.
  • Virtual CDs promote savings and disciplined investing since they cannot be negotiated as checks before maturity.
  • Banks should offer physical CD investors to keep custody of their paper certificates in their safe or strongbox.

For more information about COOPENAE’s services and investment options, please contact Mr. Zamora directly.

Originally posted at http://news.co.cr/how-to-avoid-personal-banking-disasters-in-costa-rica/34452/

Pura Vida!

 

Categories: Banking, Finance | 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

Yikes! Costa Rica! What have I done?

OK,  so now that I got your attention. 🙂 Recently I have been discouraged by people talking smack about Costa Rica and decided to ask a question and see how it gets answered. I went on Facebook and posted the following message on a couple expat groups I belong to.

“So here is a question for those who have lived in Costa Rica for more than 12 months. Would you do it all over again? If you would what is the 1 thing you would do differently. If you wouldn’t why wouldn’t you do it again? I will use some of the responses in a blog I am writing. I will give your Facebook name as credit or let me know you don’t want me to use your name and I will just do anonymous.”

So before I give you their responses and there were a lot of them, I should give you my response.

Yes I would do it all over again. I guess the one thing I would have done differently is came here sooner. I could have moved here many years ago and I didn’t. If I had I could have tried to make some opportunities for some family and friends to have join me here if they wanted to. Do I miss my family and friends? Yes with all my heart. We Facebook and Skype to keep in touch and up to date. We do however go back 2x a year and see everyone and some have come to visit us here. So it does work out. Is it hard? Very much so, but for me it was a great decision as my health has improved 100%. I may blog about those changes later.

Now I did hand pick them only because so many of them actually said the same thing. Not that I was surprised by that, but no need to have 100 posts saying the same thing. So here are the responses in no particular order. Great advise if you are thinking of moving here.

  • Rick Vollman I would do it all over again. I am extremely humbled and never have to worry again about what I have and I don’t have. Washing dishes by hand, filling up ice trays. I don’t miss a thing from the states.
  • Sara Pompey Ford I would do it all again without the slightest hesitation. If I was going to do anything differently, it would be to have brought more friends and family with me.
  • Nel Cameron I would do it again in a heartbeat. Differently? I would have brought more stuff in my container. We had loads of room but just no time to think it through.
  • Steve Johnson Would do it again, but would not live near my totally useless in-laws!!!!!!!!!!
  • Cathy Glasner We moved 13 months ago and would do it again!! What would we do differently?? Would not have shipped a car, would have bought one in CR!
  •  Sarah Starkey I would have imported a good 4WD car, with a known maintenance / ownership history, from the US instead of renting from overpriced CR rental agencies for months, renting a REALLY crap car from a private party for several months and finally, buying a REALLY REALLY crap car from a “trusted friend” who, it turns out, would probably sell his own mother if there were money involved. In the end, I would have saved thousands of $$ and the headaches of paperwork, etc. would have been worth it.
  • Dianne Hill Fischer Would do it again. I Would work harder on learning Spanish before I came. Would make things a lot more enjoyable.
  • Lori Sanders Been here almost a year. I would have come sooner too! I wanted to make sure it was a go so I only recently went back and shipped some things I knew I could either not get here or would be outrageously expensive here. Hindsight is 20/20 but I wish I would have shipped my stuff sooner. . And I don’t even regret the one and only tattoo that I have. I got it here. A Golden Orb spider and the words Pura Vida!!
  • Steve Johnson Many people advised us to sell everything before we came. Our antiques, our memorabilia, our family heirlooms???????? We shipped EVERYTHING, and are very happy with that decision.
  • Sarah Carling I would have kept my life more minimal so we could pack up and move easily round the country rather than settling in San Jose. We realized after we had our baby here that we had recreated our old lives rather than seeking out new ones.
  • Jon Graham I would have rented longer to experience life in different parts of the country.
  • Chris Poindexter Yes, I’d do it all over again. Differently? I’d have brought our leather couches.
  • Wendy Tayler 23+ years… had my residency in the works before moving down. Yes. Would do again. Raised 5 children here. What I would have done differently? Not married the tico I married…. glad he is gone.. glad I stayed after.
  • Peggy Stewart Absolutely would do it again. The only things we would do differently are to sell our house in Canada BEFORE moving here & to take some sort of instruction in Spanish BEFORE moving.
  • Ann Duff-Ealy Lyons I’ve been here 20 years and made just about every mistake that is possible… still, I wouldn’t change anything because I learned a lot from every mistake and became much stronger for it… and besides that, I felt so much at home here from the very beginning and fell so much in love with this country, that I could never leave… it’s home, and I’m blessed to have 2 homes now… the one where I was born and the one where I chose to be.
  • Chitown Gal I’ve been here 14 months and I wish I would have enrolled my son in his current school right out of the gate. The primarily Tico private school he attended initially was a really bad experience for him as one of the only expats plus he is leaps and bounds ahead of where his Tico peers are academically. Now that we have found a good fit with his school, I could definitely see us here longer than initially planned.
  • Rachel Loughery Been here six years. What would I do differently? Brought a couple of extra bikinis!
  • Ross Lustman I’d have started studying Spanish sooner, and I’d have started shopping at the Feria sooner.
  • Nancy Van Patten Absolutely, I would do it again! One thing I would do differently, I would have brought more of our furniture; even tho’ the house was purchased with furniture, I still would prefer my “comfortable ” stuff now!
  • Pat Cheek Certainly do it again – have never looked back–but I wish I would have brought my tools! hammer, saw , screwdrivers. jut the usual stuff….can;t really think of a thing I miss other than my kids and Dad! oh yes and a few friends –all of which can visit whenever they wish and most have chosen not ..go figure???
  • John Wegner Just like we said in Texas: “I wasn’t born here but I got here as fast as I could.” I’ve been here 3 years and several years of vacations. Wife here for “a lotta years.” Took way too long to get here. Do something different? Nothing, really. Maybe have the guts to throw out a pile of “stuff” that we brought down in the sea container and will never use here.
  • Debbie Rudd I would definitely do it again. You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to leave. I brought two suitcases with me and basically still have only the essentials. I feel like I am actually getting to live a life here which is something I didn’t get to do in the US. I enjoy the people, the culture, the beauty of the country, and am very happy to have settled in Grecia.
  • Frank Gould Would I come to Costa Rica again? Yes. Definitely yes. But let me be the group’s curmudgeon for a moment. There are lots of Costa Rica’s in the world. Some with richer cultures and certainly better cuisines. A good example is Portugal. Slow paced country, friendly people, low crime (at least relative to the amount spent on police resources) and a tyrannical bureaucracy. However, in one way Portugal and a few other places are better–lower cost of of living.Costa Rica like some other countries have mismanaged their fiscal activities (introducing huge import fees and inflation) in an attempt to support a bloated bureaucracy and periodically to win elections by spending money on poorly thought out public works . A case in point is Guanacaste. Regarding the bureaucracy, on any given day, the people dining at sodas are over represented by gringoes and Costa Rican government workers and by not by the local population.

    What saves the governments of Costa Rica and Portugal from doing more harm to theirselves and their own people appears to be that those countries are simply not strategic in world affairs–forgotten places except as vacation destinations and (in the case of Costa Rica) as “mule” trails for drugs into the US.

    On balance, Costa Rica is a great place–certainly not for every expat. For those few, it is nice to be in a forgotten part of the world. Let me take a guess as to those people you know who find contentment here–adventurous souls who are not only tolerant of different cultures but embrace (with some occasional complaining) those differences.

So the following Facebook user made a good point:

Faye Witcher Yes, but Bunky, this audience is 100% of the people who stayed. Presumably there are a lot of people who tried it but left, and they wouldnt be on a forum like this.

The following was a follow up by another Facebook user:

Margaret Aliff The people I know who have left here mostly did so to be closer to their families…children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and some still spend part-time here. I do not think the cultural differences are for everyone and imagine many are not able to adjust. Too many who stay here still seem to expect ?

Faye and Margaret do have a point, but I did get this one in private and they don’t want their name released for fear of backlash from the expat community on the open forums and I don’t blame them. I’ve seen some of those expats online tear people up for talking bad about Costa Rica, but I have also seen them tear people down because they talk good about it. It viscous out there! Hater are going to hate and Lovers are gonna love. Just watch your back.

Anonymous  We live near Tamarindo, for context. 1)Too hot 2) Not much to do beyond beach and pool with three year olds (see number 1). 3) Not a good “value” (i.e. things are more expensive than they should be) 4) Shitty dealings with other expats (our landlord and his property manager are both unprofessional, cheap, know-it-all turds) 6) Dangerous drivers 7) Poor air quality. Smells like a campfire all dry season, but especially now, which is really, really bad for your lungs. 8) Expats that blindly lash other expats for complaining. Sometimes there is a better way. I will judge (silently). It is not ok to ride your bike on the side of the 55 mph road with your 18 month old on the handle bars. I will complain (to other expats). What if the Founding Fathers hadn’t complained? 9) Restaurants suck and are overpriced. Bad combo. Lots of people who leave would cite Tico time. I don’t have a business, only have a house keeper (though she shows up when she wants), am not trying to build or repair anything, so it doesn’t bug me that much. The concept bugs be a lot, especially because I think those that engage in it are doing themselves a disservice to their credibility, and by reputation now (it is called Tico time, not Jose time), the credibility of their fellow countrymen, but I haven’t had a lot of experience with it, especially compared to those who are actually trying to get things done. I was told recently by an expat who has a business that he believes there are a lot of Ticos that have a carefully crafted story designed to eventually get money out of you. It doesn’t start right away; the “long con,” if you will. Its sad that he has had enough of those types of experiences that he mentally rolls his eyes anytime any Tico starts a tale of woe.

Kimberly Beck Hovland 4 years in and we are on the fence. We have both started looking for work in the US again just to keep up with the cost of living down here. We are not pensioners. One thing that I have trouble dealing with on a daily basis is being worried about leaving the house alone. I have this fear that one day I am going to drive up the hill and see our dogs hurt and our house broken in to. I heard one guy say “we traded our stresses for worries when we moved down” and that is kind of how we feel. Let it be known that we don’t live the “normal” expat life either though. We farm most of our food and take care of a decent sized farm. We haven’t hired help in a long time because of the things that would go missing. Wondering if I misplaced something or if it was taken is not fun.

This was just a sample of the responses I received, but as you can see very positive, for the most part. The point of this blog is don’t let all the negative people out there scare you. The person who had the courage and trust to privately emailed me has very valid points you also should consider. There are areas of Costa Rica where those concerns are minimal. I just think they pick the wrong area to live in. Sometimes that happens. There is always the good in every bad and bad in every good. No place is perfect and no place is without its faults, but as you can see a majority have no regrets! Do your research and follow in these wonderful people’s steps and take their advise and their cautions.

Pura Vida!

 

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

Heredia: Plus size shops and more!

So after our visit to our nutritionist today we had some time to kill before we took the care in for its 5K kilometer oil change. Daniela our nutritionist suggest we go to the mall to kill time. Our plan was to go to the nutritionist, get some lunch than go for the oil change. So we took her suggestion. The mall was very nice! Lots of shops, lots of places to get food, very clean. Here are some pictures of places in the mall. I don’t know if Daniela sent us here to help us or test us.

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There was a Pops, a Cup cake House, a Misses Fields and a number of other place that we can not eat at. 😉 These were not the places she sent us there fore. While we were here we figured we would walk around. They had a pretty nice size food court that had every fast foot restaurant you could ever want. If you go there and don’t find a place to eat you are one very, very picky person. Here are some  photo’s of the food court.

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As you can see very large. Our target goal was not the food court, although we could have eaten at some of the places there. There were a number of places that had very healthy options and some that had some amazing looking salads! I will eventually get to the restaurant we actual ate at I promise. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe one thing we have found that is lacking in Costa Rica is plus size shops. Women who  are not a size 1 or 2 will find it hard to find clothing here. This mall actually had two plus size shops. So if you are a plus size woman this is the place to go! You should check out this website.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a shock to see. Laser Tag!!!! I have not played this in years and didn’t think there were any more of them around. The mall had a lot of stuff for kids. A couple of play areas. It is most definitely geared toward families without a doubt.

The mall have very good parking. There was free parking as well as paid parking. We used the free parking as there were many spaces, but you have to keep in mind we were there at 10:30 am on a friday. When we left at about 1:30 or so it did have a number of cars and less free parking spaces open. I didn’t not go through the paid garage area so not sure what that was like.

Now onto the restaurant which was our main reason for coming to the mall today. Here is the place that we ate at:

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I really loved this restaurant. OK,  so keep in mind we are on a special diet. We need to eat 8 oz of protein and 2 cups of vegetables for lunch today. This was the perfect place! Good food at reasonable prices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy wife and I both had a the same salad, which when we were done we both said, “Wow that was a meal!” After our salad we each had an entree. The vegetables were grilled over a nice bed of lettuce. Can I say the salt they had on the table was amazing. I love the taste of it and went very nicely with the vegetable salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was my entree and let me tell you it was delicious. There was another small salad, a pepper filled with cheese that I could not eat on the diet so I did leave that behind. I did clear the rest of the plate and just wanted to lick it, but I was in public so I fought back the urge. There are 3 kinds of meat on the plate. On the right is a chicken breast that was tender and juicy. The middle was a piece of steak that was cooked to a perfect medium. The only issue I had was the waiter didn’t ask me how I wanted my steak, but it turned out very nice. I like mine a little more rare, but this was nice and it was also tender. Something you don’t always find here. The only reason I got this entree was I wanted to try the steak and this gave me options if it was as bad as most steaks in this country. I will only eat steak from a restaurant that a friend has tried and given a good review. I will on occasion give it a shot, but every time I have done that I was disappointed with the steak. It was usually over cooked and very tough. Now the item on the left is pulled pork. My wife tasted it and wasn’t thrilled by it, but I thought it was good. Not as good as the chicken or steak, but good. Needless to say after I was done with this and the salad I was stuffed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was my wife’s entree. She got the corvina (fish) and again it came with a salad and a potato filled with cheese. She could not eat the potato because of the diet. I did take a very small taste of it on my fork and it was a little bland, but add the salt from the table and I’m sure it would be fine. The fish was cooked to perfection and had a very good taste to it. A winner when you go and if you like fish.

The only minus with the restaurant for us was that it only carried Pepsi products. We do not like Pepsi. We are hardcore Coke people. She did get the diet pepsi and I got the diet sprite. The drinks come out in a small pitcher. There is about 2 1/2 glasses in each pitcher and you are charged for each one. I was hoping since it was fountain soda it was free refills but it was not.  Our total meal came to 30,000 colones which is about $60 US. It may seem pricey for lunch, but keep in mind this is our dinner meal. It was a lot of food and very tasty it was well worth the price. We could have gotten away with just the salad and drinks and came out with a very cheap meal.

So lets wrap this up. The mall was very nice. It was clean, the bathrooms were well maintained. A lot of stores so I doubt you wouldn’t find what you are looking for. So the mall I give 4 seashell1 out of 5.

Now the restaurant wrap up. Service was great, food was great, restaurant was nice. so, I also give it  4 seashell1 out of 5.  I would have given it 5 out of 5 if they didn’t sell Pepsi and if they gave free refills.

Pura Vida!

Categories: Malls, Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Yikes my Visa is about to expire!

When you enter Costa Rica, if you are from another country they will stamp your passport and this gives you a tourist visa. Now in the past they would usually give you 90 days. This is not so true any more my friends. One time last year we were coming back from a trip the the United States and the gentleman behind the desk stamped us. He had noticed that we had been here a couple times and gone in and out. So I don’t know if he was just upset that day about something or just being a smart ass, but when we looked at our passports he only gave us 30 days. Oh and did I mention he smirked at me when he gave them back? Yes he did.

You may ask why does this really matter? There are a couple of reasons it does, but only if you are living here. Myself like many expats have decided to live here in Costa Rica. You hopefully get a 90 day visa and at the time your visa expires you must leave the country. So every 90 days you have to make a trip out of the country. It can be a hard and long day and sometimes very expensive to keep doing this. I personally do not understand why anyone would not submit their paperwork to become a temp residence. If you do this you no longer have to leave the country every 90 days.

Well that is if you don’t want to drive in Costa Rica. See here they right hand doesn’t always know what the left hand is doing. So they changed a law and now you can’t get a Costa Rica license until you have your cedula (Residence card). In the past before the law changed you could go and show your passport, a valid drivers license from some other country and a medical exam and there you have it a Costa Rica license. Now in addition to all that you need your cedual. Here is the kicker, if your visa expires than you can no longer drive on your out of country license. If you have insurance on your vehicle it is no longer valid either. Everything you do is tied to that visa. Just my luck the law changed just before we moved here. So as soon as we could we submitted our paperwork and now we wait and continue to leave every 90 days and hope we get 90 when we come back in.

They have also begun to impose very strict rules on going back and forth across the local borders to try and get people to stop being what has been coined as, “Perpetual Tourists” I totally get that, but if they really want to stop it then they have to approve people quicker. Their own law says they have to have it done within 90 days. That never happens, unless you have a big corporation you work for that is bringing in a lot of dollars and is hiring a lot of local people. You can then have it pushed though in a matter of weeks. We submitted our paperwork in June of 2013. We arrived here in Feb. of 2013 and the only reason it took that long is we have to go back to the states to get more paperwork that was needed, because again they changed the law just before we got here.

So why am I telling you all this? Just to give you some background so I can do a review of a border run. Now we have done a few of them since we moved here. We went to the Nico border and we have gone to the Panama border. Our very 1st border run was terrible! We went to the Nico border with a company that said they could get us though. The drive from Atenas was long and some of the roads lets just say were typical Costa Rica roads and you really need to make sure you go pee before you hit any of those roads. 🙂 It was a very long day as they all are when you drive from Atenas. You leave very early in the morning about 5am and you won’t get home until about 8pm maybe a little earlier if the traffic Gods have decided to smile upon you. Nicaragua and Panama are very hot compared to what we are use to in Atenas, so be prepared for that. There are also rules now that were not in place when we 1st got here. You have to have a plane ticket to your home country. You have to have proof that you have $500 per person in a bank account. You have to stay out of the Costa Rica for 3hrs min. and upto 3 days. Depends on what you do while you are out and what the boarder patrol says you have to do. It gets very complicated and if you do that long drive and have not check on the current rules and are missing something you are in trouble now. There is no, “but I didn’t know” in these countries. You just won’t get your visa. So you will have paid all that money to drive here and not get your stamp and have to do it again. Not a good deal at all. 

So now you have the Why of this review and its time to get to the review. We recently went on a trip for a border run and it was the best trip we have done to date. We still had to get up early but we were home by 1 pm. There were a few things I didn’t like, but they are my issues not the company that hosted the trip for us. I don’t like to fly, but do it because I know I have to in order to get to certain places. Part of this trip you have to fly. Now part of this trip you also have to take a boat. Yes I am one of those people who get seasick if I even look at the water! Its terrible. I did find a really good medication that helps. Its called Zofran. I love it! I can take a cruise and do just about anything on the water when I have this in my system. Check with your doctor to see if you can take it before trying it.

So the trip is done by a resort called The Rio Indio Lodge Just click on the name and you can see their website. It is a wonderful lodge with some really good food. They fly you into an area called Greytown. Then you take a boat to the lodge. They usually give you a little boat tour of the local area and tell you about the history of the town. It is very interesting and I will let them tell you all about it when you go visit. 🙂 So as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. So here are some pictures of the trip to the lodge.

rioplane

The plane

Now I am told this is bigger than the one they usually fly in. YIKES! I may not have been able to do a smaller plane this one was small enough for me. We just had to fly out on a day where the winds were really bad. I pretty much kept my eyes closed and kept thinking good thoughts the entire flight which was actually very short.

the boat

The boat that takes you to the lodge 

the airport in nico

The airport

The boat ride was not bad at all. Since I took my medication it wasn’t a problem. The little tour through the town was nice and giving us the history of the area. Not sure if they do that all the time, as we were running early and I think they needed time to get supplies back to the resort for lunch. If they don’t do the tour all the time make sure you request it before you get on the plane. Here are some random pictures from the water tour.

riohouse riohouse2 riotown riotown2 the place towerrio

Oh and did I happen to mention that no one owns a car here. That is because in this town there are no roads! Nope none. You must travel by boat to get to any place in this town.

So this was just a short trip for us so we didn’t stay at the lodge overnight. We did have a wonderful buffet lunch of fresh fish and lobster along with rice and veggies and an assortment of other items. It was all good and I am a bad foodie as I can’t find my picture I took of the buffet bar. 😦 So you will just have to trust me on this one the food was excellent.

So here are some photo’s I took of the Lodge. It is so beautiful. This place was put together by some people with really good and expansive taste. You will love these pictures.

lodge1 lodge2 lodge3 lodge4 lodge5 lodge6 lodge7 lodge8

 I did not take any pictures of rooms. We had to rush and get back as the winds were picking up and they didn’t want to have a major issue and I am so glad they thought of us in that regard. You will need to go to their website to see pictures of the rooms.

The cost of this trip was about $250 a person. There were some border fees and such that is not included and you need to take cash in US for these fees.  They will go over all that with you when you book the trip.  Now both our trips to the Nico and Panama border with hiring a vehicle and then all the border fees and “TIPS” to get you there we would spend about $600 a trip. That did not include food so that was extra. So all in all this trip saved us money and it wasn’t a hard trip at all. Our 1st trip to the Nico boarder was painful. We had to stand in lines and it was hot and a lot of walking. It was not fun at all. This one was fun! Denise my wife and I plan on going back for a long weekend. It was a really great place.

Lets wrap this up. Great trip, friendly people, less expensive than our other boarder run, good food, great lodge, fast. I would say that if you have to do a boarder run this is the way to go without a doubt! So I give them 5 seashell out of 5!

Pura Vida!

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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