Three Hard Lessons Learned for Costa Rica Vacationers

While traveling to Panama earlier this month, I witnessed a 60-something Gringo couple stumble out of a taxi in front of the international airport in San Jose pinned on a map of Costa RicaCosta Rica, yelling “Help!”

The couple had arrived an hour earlier and taken a cab off the street (we call them ‘red’ or public taxis) from the airport to their hotel nearby. When they reached the hotel, they realized they did not have lower-denomination bills to pay the cab driver. They both walked inside to the hotel counter but when they returned to the cab, the cab driver and all their belongings were gone.

They had returned to the airport in hopes that the airport cameras would have captured something about the taxi they had hailed.

How unfortunate and sad!

But three hard lessons learned for you, Costa Rica vacationers:

1. When you leave the international airport, take an orange cab (who have an alliance with the airport and are lined up to your left when you walk out of Customs).

San Jose Costa Rica - May 20 : Pick up area outside of the International Airport with Taxis and families waiting for passengers. May 20 2016 San Jose Costa Rica.
San Jose, Costa Rica : Orange Taxis at the Pick-Up area outside of the International Airport

Their official name is Taxis Unidos. Otherwise, take Uber.

2. Never, EVER leave your belongings with someone you do not know, out of your sight. It amazes me that anyone still does this.

3. It’s smart to break down the larger bills that come out of the ATM into smaller bills or coins to have before you leave the airport. Maybe buy a pack of gum or a bottle of water or something. This is something that is smart whether you are here in Costa Rica or any country. Often, taxi drivers who intend to scam you will pull this kind of a trick and tell you they don’t have change.

A sobering lesson for all those who #travel but remember it’s your responsibility to take your own safety precautions.

This is paradise, but it isn’t perfect!

JuliAnne Murphy Pura Vida Costa Rica paradise beach

La Pura Vida Costa Rica Expat Interview: Meet Ellie Fortier

Expat Interview: Meet Ellie Fortier

Welcome to the initial La Pura Vida Costa Rica expat interview!

This site is the second expat-focused blog I have. On the first – about Panama – I found my audience’s interest peaked when hearing stories from others who already relocated to Panama. As such, I did a number of expat interviews and shared them over the past four years. When I launched my second book in early 2014, I chose to include four key interviews from those past conversations.

A couple of weeks ago here in Costa Rica, Ellie Fortier began the beta testing of her new website – a connection portal for love, friendship, activities and play dates (for parents with kids) for expats who live in Costa Ballena along the South Pacific coast.

Ellie’s announcement on one of our community groups on Facebook caught my eye for a couple of reasons –
1) This site represents the first of its kind in our expat community, and
2) Most complaints I hear of from expat women in Panama and in Costa Rica particularly center on the difficulty of finding community and connection in their new location.

As Ellie’s new site will address this second point, I contacted her to learn more. What follows is the conversation she and I had at a local coffee shop in Uvita after she accepted my invitation to meet earlier this month.

Meet Costa Rica Expat Ellie Fortier of Uvita

JuliAnne: What first brought you to Costa Rica?

Ellie: In 2014, my husband’s job related visa expired in the U.S. when he moved from one company to another. We had three months to figure out where to go next (I am American; he is Canadian). We were living in Austin, Texas, though with my husband’s new job, we could choose to live anywhere. So, we chose Costa Rica!

Moving to Costa Rica was like coming home for me, because I lived here from ages four to six with my parents (who served as missionaries in San Jose). I’d been waiting all these years for the opportunity to come back, and then it finally all aligned with my husband and this remote job.

JuliAnne: I noticed you speak fluent Spanish; was your time here in Costa Rica the origin of that?

Ellie: Yes. My growing up years were spent in California, Cape Cod, two years in Colombia (another missionary posting) and the two years here in Costa Rica.

JuliAnne: So within three months, you packed up, shipped out and came to Uvita? Why Uvita? Had you done some research?

Ellie: No, we’d never come, and nor did we do any research. My daughter – now 21 – was 18 at that time and had come to Costa Rica to volunteer for six weeks after she graduated high school. She traveled around the country quite a bit, so I asked her, “What area do you think I will like?” and she told me that I needed to come to Uvita.

JuliAnne: Wow! And you didn’t you come and visit beforehand?

Ellie(laughing) No, we took my daughter’s advice and rented a place sight unseen.

JuliAnne: Holy cow! That’s really brave! Was it just you and your husband?

Ellie: No, we have a young son, now 2 1/2. When we arrived he had just turned a year old.

JuliAnne: What kind of work do each of you do that allows you to live in Costa Rica?

Ellie: My husband builds software online for a start-up. His interactions with his colleagues are on the web via Skype and email. I came as the trailing spouse when we first moved to Costa Rica. Once we arrived here, I started Crouching Frog Yoga and Wellness Center in Bahia Linda. And, now I’m working on this new site.

What’s the Biggest Challenge for Expats in Costa Ballena?

JuliAnne: You’ve lived here just under two years. What is the thing you’ve found most challenging about moving to Costa Rica and living here on the South Pacific coast?

Ellie: I think the biggest challenge for me was the connection piece. Anyone can learn to manage the bugs and the workers who take forever to show up at your place. You start to realize pretty quickly that your friends back home can’t come to visit you. All those good intentions they (and you) have are great, but they fade away. And this areathe Costa Ballena coast – is full of great people. It’s interesting now that I’m am promoting this new site, I’m meeting all kinds of new people, some of who have been here for years. We just never had an avenue or a reason to meet until now.

I also came to realize that everyone else here is as eager to meet new friends as I am. I have to be honest: expat life can be quite lonely. I’ve had a lot of women here tell me they really miss having female friends. So, I’m hoping that this new site will be a resource toward meeting that need here in the local community.

JuliAnne: Tell me about your new business endeavor then. And by the way, you are the very first La Pura Vida Costa Rica expat interview! So, this is excitingme! What’s your new business website called?

Ellie: It’s called Wavelengths. When someone visits the site, they will have the option of clicking into different areas: looking for love, a playdate for their kids, someone to go surf (or do another activity with), or another couple to have dinner with.

JuliAnne:  Wow, that sounds really great. Are you thinking that most local singles are going to be using the site for dating purposes?

Ellie: All my beta testers are interested in the dating piece, yes. For that area, each person will be able to set up their own profile – I will provide a questionnaire to keep it standardized – and view profiles of other like-minded singles.

But I want to be clear that Wavelengths is not solely about dating; it’s about connection.

This site will focus on self-improvement, connecting socially, activities and support. I’m interested in building a community where the membership supports each other beyond a Facebook experience.

LLPV Expat Interview Wavelenghths banner

JuliAnne: Will the site be specific to expats or open to everyone?

Ellie: I’m starting with expats, but I imagine this will gain traction quickly in our area, so I anticipate opening it up to locals, as well.

JuliAnne: How will a member find a match – whether for love, sports or a kid’s play date?

Ellie: People can come in, build a personal profile and then navigate a password protected area to view other people’s profiles in their area of interest. If anyone needs help compiling their profile beyond the questionnaire I provide, I’ll be available to assist them as a service. Then, the person can chat with other participants anonymously before they choose to exchange personal information. So, each member can decide from their online conversation with a person if they are worth of sharing their identity or not.

JuliAnne: Will Wavelengths be similar to other online dating websites?

Ellie: We are designing elements of Wavelengths to work in a similar fashion to sites like www.PlentyofFish.com, www.Tinder.com and www.OKCupid.com.

But the overall idea is that the site will be easy and less intimidating than the bigger dating sites.

JuliAnne: How are you going to deal with people who might want to stalk someone else, which is sometimes a concern in online interactions?

Ellie: First of all, I will have everyone’s real name and their contact information, as that’s a requirement for people to sign up and become members. Though in the initial interactions, a member will appear anonymous, they will probably only be able to do that for so long with any other individual member if they truly want to connect. I’m also going to heavily monitor the site for appropriateness to ensure that everyone is treated with respect.

JuliAnne: Is this a free service you’re offering, or will members need to pay a fee?

Ellie: At the moment, I’m taking beta testers, who won’t be charged for initial membership.

JuliAnne: How can people get in touch with you if they are interested in participating in the beta testing over the next few months?

Ellie: My email address is ellie@wavelengths.vip

JuliAnne: And past the beta?

Ellie: I’ll offer memberships – either monthly or semi-annually or maybe annually. That has yet to be fully defined.

JuliAnne: How else will the new site benefit new members in the Costa Ballena community?

Ellie: There will be an area that provide links to area businesses along the Ballena Coast which support self-improvement and helaing. These will be categorized by the member’s interest. And also, there will be links to reading and resources that promote other avenues for the same type of thing.

JuliAnne: Right now – in early August 2016 – the site is still in beta testing. When will the site launch?

Ellie: Around the end of the year, I believe. Our goal is for it to go live in either December 2016 or January 2017.

Residents of Costa Ballena Offer a Warm Welcome

JuliAnne: Ellie, tell me some things you absolutely love about your life here in Costa Rica, things that are unique to Uvita and the Ballena Coast here along the South Pacific.

Ellie: Honestly, it’s the people. Altogether, they’re awesome here. Nobody’s boring. It’s very eclectic. They’re a lot of solid, very open-hearted expats. Relative to a North American lifestyle, I love the freedom here with choosing schools, being away from certain societal pressures that exist in the States. I also feel there’s less judgment of how I choose to live, how I choose to raise my son, etc. People here in Costa Rica overall are also warmer. Just your everyday interactions here, even with strangers, are friendlier. And I’m talking genuine friendliness, not when people are just being nice.

I also like that this is a very untapped market, so there’s lots of original ideas here. And, living in Costa Rica and doing business, there are few restraints to getting a business set up.

Ellie with her son Django
Ellie with her son Django

Ellie’s Top Recommendation for Someone Moving to Costa Ballena with Young Children

JuliAnne: What one recommendation would you give to someone reading this post who is considering moving to Costa Rica – someone who is English speaking, from North America or Europe and moving here with a small child, like you did?

Ellie: I would say get involved with my new site – and others like it online – even in advance of moving here. Because the connections you make are what make the difference in how you adjust to expat life. I think the connections you make are what will determine how you get along – whether you thrive or just survive.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Special thanks to Ellie Fortier of Uvita, Costa Rica and her willingness to share her story with me! This new site – Wavelengths – sounds like it’s going to be a fabulous resource for the expat community here along the Ballena Coast.

Here’s how to get in touch with Ellie on Facebook. And please take a moment if you enjoy the content you are finding here about Costa Rica expat life to connect with me and Like my Official Author Facebook page.

Stay tuned for my next expat interview, in the weeks to come!

Rainforest Remedies for Costa Rica & Central America

Rainforest Remedies for Costa Rica & Central America

When bites and stings interfere with your Costa Rica experience, try these natural solutions – rainforest remedies that have worked for me!

When you move to Costa Rica as an expat, you don’t always anticipate some of the things you might need in the jungle. One of them is medical solutions for all the bug bites, bee stings, wasp stings, scorpion stings and so on.

And, yes, let me say upfront! – a trip to the ER is probably the best solution for a scorpion sting, especially if you’ve never had one and you’re not sure if you’re allergic.

But what happens when you know that a sting is just a sting and it’s uncomfortable?  As in, really uncomfortable? So much so that you can’t sleep and you can’t stop itching. Here’s the reality: I’ve had bug bites and bee stings and spider bites that hurt so bad that I scratched them until they bled…no fun.

Natural Remedies to Bring With You to the Rainforest (or the Beach) When You Move to Costa Rica

Along the way – in the past 18 months – I’ve discovered some really handy natural solutions for when a pest or two gets to you. I didn’t even know about these when I lived in Panama, so this was new information to me. And if I can save you some pain and maybe even a little blood by sharing this, well, then you’ll be better off.

These remedies applies whether you are already enjoying full-time expat living in Costa Rica, considering a move to the tropics or whether you are just visiting. And especially if you are on vacation! But if you are vacationing in Costa Rica, you’ll need to prepare your To-Go medical kit in advance. Your average pharmacy does NOT carry this stuff down here.

My wonderful little secret when it comes to all these pesky bug bites is using essential oils. Hey, the three wise men did it. Why can’t we?

The Best Kept Secret: The Essential Oil that resolves scorpion stings

First off, as I said above, if you’ve never been stung by a scorpion and you don’t know if you are allergic and there’s any chance you are – you probably should be checked out in the emergency room. That does not mean you can’t use this remedy – you definitely can! But do both – put on the oil and then also go to the ER, just in case.

If it’s your second time to be stung by a scorpion (yes, I know, I hate to even say that, but here you are in the tropics, so we have to be realistic), and you are not allergic to the local scorpion venom, then this essential oil remedy will work for you.

It’s simple. Two drops of pure Frankincense oil. It has to be pure, not mixed with anything. And, yes, it’s pricey. But here’s the best thing about it! Two drops and within 30 minutes or less, your swelling will be mostly gone. WOW! You read that right. That is correct! Yes, I didn’t believe it at first but when my significant other stepped on one of these little buggers on the way to the beach, his foot swelled up like no tomorrow and was incredibly painful to the touch.

Two drops directly on the site of the sting and 20 minutes later, the swelling was almost gone.

Two more drops and the pain dissipated, as well. For him, that took another 20 minutes.

So, Frankincense is your ticket for scorpion stings here in the jungle. And, no, it’s very difficult to find pharmaceutical grade essential oils here along the Pacific coast. As an expat, you’ll need to get some in your home country – I recommend either Young Living or doTerra oils. (If you live in Costa Rica and need some, shoot me a line and I can hook you up. This does not apply to visitors however, as it has to be shipped.)

Let me warn you, however – Frankincense is pricey – it’s about $50 for a small bottle. But when you are using it here and there, a small bottle will last you for a very long time.

How does it get any better than that?


Essential Oil Remedies for Spider Bites

The reference book I use from Young Living Essential Oils has recommendations specific to being bitten by a black widow or a brown recluse. We don’t have either of those – that I am aware of – here in Costa Rica, though we do have plenty of other spiders. For more of my personal spider photos, see this post on how to avoid getting bitten by one.

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida

I recently had two bites on my stomach which were clearly something other than a mosquito but not a bee. So I assumed it was from a not-to-friendly spider. She chewed on me, because they were really red and painful and swollen for some time. I tried Lavender with no luck. Then I tried Thieves and it worked well. I treated the bites three times over a 24-hour period but even so, within 24 hours, I was itch-free again.

Thank goodness!

Essential Oil Remedy for Mosquito Bites

Some mosquito bites are worse than others down here. I’m not sure why, but sometimes that’s the case. So, when you get one that really irks you, there’s a number of essential oils that may work for you. I believe it may have to do with your skin pH as to what’s most effective, but it’s worth the trial and effort to figure it out if you want a truly natural remedy.

I have personally tried Peppermint oil, Thieves (this is a blend sold by Young Living) and The Gift (another blend by Young Living).

So far, Thieves and The Gift were the best remedies for my skin. The Gift worked the fastest.

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida

Others recommended by Young Living’s reference book on oils: Melaleuca, Lavender, Rosemary, Myrrh, Frankincense, Idaho Balsam Fir, Idaho Tansy, Purification, Melrose, R.C.

Keeping Mosquitos at Bay with Essential Oils

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura VidaRemedy One:

While there are many recipes for homemade oil blends to use as insect repellant, I have to say that I have not bothered to make one. Why? A) There are a million organic and natural insect repellants for sale in Costa Rica – almost everywhere, and B) I’m not a very good mixer. I need something when I need it and I need it fast.

However, we live right on a river. Even though the water is moving, there does seem to be a lot more mosquitos in our house and on our patio than normal. (Yes, it is rainy season!) Unfortunately, that means we’re sleeping with a lot more of them. Ugh.

So, one thing I’ve been doing that seems to help is I’m using my DoTerra essential oil diffuser and using Citronella oil in it every night for about two hours before I go to bed. It’s pretty simple. You just pour the water in to the limit (which may vary with each diffuser) and then add 10 drops of Citronella oil.

NOTE: This does need to be the type of Citronella oil that works with diffusers. If you try and use the Citronella oil for torches, you will clog your diffuser and be very sad. I’ve included a photo here of the one I got last time I was in Denver at Whole Foods (see above). I feel certain you can pick them up at any natural food store or wherever oils are sold in the U.S. This one was less than $10, if memory serves me correctly.

Remedy Two: My experience is that when I use the toilet in the middle of the night – always in the dark, of course – that I get bitten frequently on the booty. Nothing stinks worse than a mosquito bite anywhere around the booty area!

So, to take care of that problem, I started putting five drops of Citronella oil in the commode before we go to bed. It hasn’t been a perfect solution, but it HAS helped cut these little incidents down.

How to get access to Essential Oils in Costa Rica

Well, first off, in closing, good luck to you! Whether you’re visiting Costa Rica or live here full-time as an expat, certainly some of these natural remedies for bites and stings may be of use to you.

Again, if you would like to order from me to get your own DoTerra oils, shoot me a line.

For Young Living oils, please visit my social media manager’s web page – she also reps them which is how I learned about them, originally – and that company can ship your products straight to your door, even if you live in Costa Rica!

Essential Oils JuliAnne Murphy Costa Rica Expat and Best-selling author Pura Vida

 

How to Protect Yourself from Costa Rica’s Creepy Crawly Wildlife

How to Protect Yourself from Costa Rica’s Creepy Crawly Wildlife

We’re gonna shake, rattle and roll! I can hear the famous song by Elvis when I say those words, but in the case of your new life in Costa Rica, we’re talking more about your protection from Costa Rica’s creepy crawly wildlife than about having a good time.

Though, the types of precautions I’ll outline for you here will ensure your time here continues on without a hitch, whether you live in Costa Rica or are simply on vacation. It’s July – the rainy season here – and as such, while this is low tourist season, it’s definitely high season for Costa Rica’s creepy crawly wildlife. Let’s face it – when the rain comes, the plants and the wildlife get happy and reproduce at a crazy rate.

Welcome to the jungle.

Costa Rica Spider by JuliAnne Murphy La Pura Vida Costa Rica Costa Rica Spider by JuliAnne Murphy Spider in Costa Rica by JuliAnne Murphy

So, let’s jump right in. How do you protect yourself from intersecting in a negative way with the wildlife in Costa Rica? Today, we’ll cover scorpions, spiders and snakes. These tips are some I’ve figured out on my own since I’ve lived here in the tropics – both in Panama (for eight years) and Costa Rica. Since the climate in these two countries is similar – hot and hotter – many of the bug species are the same.

Tip One: Shake, shake, shake!

This is a good one for spiders, scorpions and probably even snakes. But it’s something I do each and every night before I go to bed and I recommend you do it too: lift each layer of your sheets and blankets and shake them out before you get in them. Not the bottom one, no. Just the top sheet and whatever comforter or blanket(s) you have atop.

Did you know that the majority of scorpion stings happen when you are sleeping? That’s because scorpions adore cool, dry places – like your sheets. So, believe me when I say this, a quick shake, shake, shake and fluff of your sheets and pillows vale la pena (is worth it). Having tangled with a scorpion some years ago, I can tell you it’s definitely not something you want to experience.

This shaking method is best accompanied by a thorough visual inspection, as well. While scorpions will usually take off, sometimes spiders like to crawl deeper into your covers. Eek! So be sure you’re lifting every edge of that sheet, pillow or blanket and giving it a good shake or two in addition to eyeballing it.

And, don’t forget to turn the lights on! Or at the minimum, use a strong flashlight.

Tip Two: Rattle

This is a two-part tip.

Rattle, part one: for anytime you’ve left anything on the floor – even if it’s in an airtight air-conditioned hotel room – rattle it with your foot – or slide it across the floor a bit, if need be. This will encourage any creepy crawlies to get a move on.

The bottom of duffel bags, boxes, bags, pet beds, cushions, pillows, etc. is an ideal hiding place for Costa Rica’s critters. Even when they’ve only been there overnight. ☺

Yes, there is a higher probability that if the item has been sitting for a longer period of time, that it’s more likely to have a new resident clinging to the bottom or sides of your belongings.

Scorpion on lampshade by JuliAnne Murphy
Scorpion on a lampshade in Costa Rica. Photo by JuliAnne Murphy

Did I mention that the scorpion’s favorite hiding place is the bottom of anything – again, cool and dry?

Rattle, part two: When you are out hiking, walking or enjoying Costa Rica’s spectacular scenery, or even in your garden, do a bit of stomping along the way. Snakes sense movement versus hearing you, and when they do, their first instinct is to get out of your way.

So, a little stomping your feet here and there is always a good safeguard against snakes.

An Arboreal snake
An Arboreal snake
Green vine Snake / Flatbread snake in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Green Vine Snake in Monteverde, Costa Rica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If for some reason, you stop along your walk and encounter a fallen tree or a log in your path, it’s a great idea to hit it with your shoes a couple of times before you scramble over. Snakes often hide in the cool, damp shade of such obstacles. A visual inspection here – before you jump over – is always a good idea, as well.

Tip three: Roll

For this tip, I’m talking about your toilet paper roll. Many homes and hotel rooms in Costa Rica have free standing toilet paper rolls next to the toilet. I can’t tell you why. But they do. And, guess what? The inside of that toilet paper roll – the vacant hole where the roll usually hangs onto something? A great hideaway for spiders.

Spider in Costa Rica by JuliAnne Murphy

Yes, it has happened to me. And, there’s nothing more disconcerting than sitting down in the middle of the night, reaching for the toilet paper and having something crawl onto your hand. Much less, bite you.

And, of course, it happens at night because spiders love the quiet and the dark. Can you blame them?

Spider in Costa Rica by JuliAnne Murphy

So, in this case, the best precaution is to a) get a nightlight, and b) take a quick peek in the hole before you take a seat.

Yes, it sounds pedestrian to even write this, but trust me, someday you will thank me.

So, whether you live in Costa Rica, are considering a move to Costa Rica, or are planning a vacation in Costa Rica, these little tips can help you plan accordingly.

Next time: Natural Remedies for when you DO get bit and/or stung in the jungle.

Sign up here to get notified of my upcoming posts about expat living in Costa Rica. And, if you have other questions in between, shoot me a line here or catch me on Facebook. I’m also pretty active on Twitter when I’m not nose down in my computer working on the final chapters of my third book!

See you soon.

3 Luxuries you’ll miss when Living in Costa Rica

3 Luxuries you’ll miss when Living in Costa Rica

What? You ask. What 3 luxuries could I possible miss when I live in Costa Rica? Isn’t living on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica as close to paradise as it gets?

To answer, I am going to quote my significant other, who is Tico: Yes, but it’s not perfect.

And understanding that is pretty darn crucial to your long-term success as an expat in Costa Rica. I’m serious.

Living on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica…que rico!

Yes, we have the Pacific Ocean. Beach walks as often and as long as you like. Ahh…

Yes, we have farm-fresh fruit and vegetables year-round from a variety of farmer’s markets in and around Uvita, Ojochal, Dominical and Tinamastes.

Yes, we see monkeys almost every day. Not every day, but almost every day. And if we don’t see them, then at least we hear the Howlers every morning and night. 🙂

So, what is it I forgot to ask about, before I moved to Costa Rica?

The 3 Luxuries I miss…

Drum roll, please.

Luxury #1 I miss about living in Costa Rica: I miss not having a dryer. A proper dryer to dry your clothes in. When you live full-time in Costa Rica along the Pacific coast, 80% of homes do NOT have a clothes dryer. How come? Because electricity costs 3 times as much as it does in the U.S.

Vacation homes in Costa Rica, however, generally (or often) do have clothes dryers.

But, I ain’t here on vacation…so, that means I’ve gotten used to pinning our clothes up on the clothes line twice a week and then making a mad rush for them when it starts to rains. (It is rainy season, yes.)

Funny, I never considered a clothes dryer a luxury when I lived in the U.S. I suppose that’s yet another example of the things you take for granted, until you no longer have them. Though in comparing Panama to Costa Rica (and many future expats email me with questions about that from my Panama blog), most expats in Panama DO have clothes dryers. And the electricity is costs just as much in Panama as it does in Costa Rica. Hmm.

Luxury #2 I miss about living in Costa Rica: 

I miss not having a dishwasher!

Now in Panama, not having a dishwasher in your apartment or in your home is pretty standard (unless you have a newer home built in the last five years), because the cost of service help there is still inexpensive enough that you can afford a full-time or part-time maid. (Here’s a story I did a few months ago about maids in Panama).

But here along the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, having a part-time or a full-time maid is very, very rare.

Which means that you wash your dishes by hand and dry them after each and every meal.

I have to be honest, it gets old. Though these days, I do have Palmolive hands. (Anyone else remember those commercials?)

Luxury #3 I miss about living in Costa Rica:

Consistent internet service. Now that I think about it, maybe this should be #1! 🙁

Living on the Southern Pacific coast, we’re in an area which is up and coming and amazing and gorgeous. But, that all pales when you’re trying to get work done and the internet service goes down for 2-3 hours.

In fact, a recent article from QCostaRica states that Costa Rica is among the 40 countries in the world with the worst internet service. Yep. Average connection speed in the world is 5.6 MH and here in Costa Rica, that average is 3.4. Ugh. Here’s a link to that here.

Moving to Costa Rica’s Costa Ballena region, where I live?

If you’re retired, you’ll be in hawg heaven here, as long as you do some homework and make sure this laid back, Pura Vida lifestyle is for you. If you’re still working (virtually), it’s best to be really prepared, at least mentally. The coastal mindset is often a bit more lackadaisical, then what you’ll find in more populated areas of Costa Rica like capital city San Jose.

Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE my life in Costa Rica!

But, if you’ve read my books about Panama expat living or my writing, you’ll appreciate the fact that I also tell it like it is.

And, that’s the purpose of this Living la Pura Vida in Costa Rica blog. To celebrate, to have a place to commiserate (only occasionally, of course) and to be real about expat living in Costa Rica.

Stay tuned next time for the Top 3 Things I love about living here on Costa Rica’s South Pacific coast…until then, I’m off to do my Three Things today.

 

Three Things about Expat Life in Costa Rica

Three Things about Expat Life in Costa Rica

And when I say…there are three things about expat life in Costa Rica…you need to know, what I’m talking about here is the reality of getting things done on a day to day to basis.

Expat Life in Costa Rica

Ahhhh. Doesn’t that sound nice? The waves on the sand as heard from the balcony of your hotel room. You’re sitting there, watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica, a tall cold one in hand, sighing, and thinking. “I wonder what it’d be like to live here…. Could I make it work? Could I leave my crazy 9 to 5 life behind and move here to paradise? What’s expat life in Costa Rica really like?

(For those new to the term ‘expat‘, you can take a look at that definition here.)

Well, to answer the question at the end of your tourist reverie, the truth is that expat life in Costa Rica is pretty amazing, really. I’ve been an expat now in Costa Rica for a year – as of this week – and an expat living abroad in Central America for going-on nine years. (You can see more on my writing about living as an expat in Panama here.)

Yeah, okay but what’s it really like, this expat life in Costa Rica?

Glad you asked. Because the truth is, yes, it’s amazing. In fact, this tropical little country of 6 million plus people is, in fact, paradise. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Nope. Far from it.

And, life as an expat in Costa Rica on certain days can be very fun. Those would be the days when you find yourself getting your exercise alone on a deserted beach with your dog, as the sun is coming up (or down). When you walk outside to a tree in your yard and pick your own limes for a batch of homemade margaritas – and you squeeze in a little fresh mango juice (from a mango!). Or the days when you walk drive down to a soda (a local restaurant) and order up the fresh Mahi Mahi for lunch or dinner and pay less than $12 for your meal.

On other days, however, life in Costa Rica can make you want to pull your hair out. Especially when you live on the coast.

I personally am lucky enough to live right on the Southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in the Osa region. So, yes, I enjoy all those things I just described on a regular basis. And I, like others new to the country and this area, have also come to grips with a number of other regularities in this region – a high tolerance for inefficiency, higher prices (especially when you don’t speak Spanish), a good amount of boredom (there’s not something going on every single night of the week), and internet that goes out con frequencia.

From a global perspective, yes, my life here is pretty much a dream come true. I’m an entrepreneur. I can live anywhere in the world I want. I have no boss. And I choose to live in paradise here in Costa Rica. How, you might ask, does life get any better than that?

Costa Rica sunset view to the Pacific Ocean from my balcony
Costa Rica sunset view to the Pacific Ocean from my balcony

Well, in my book, it doesn’t. And I feel darn lucky, as such. But today, I feel it’s important to share some important perspectives about Costa Rica and life here as an expat which not many people truly know until they physically get here and start living real life.

It’s called the Three Things.

Three Things About Real Day-to-Day Life in Costa Rica as an Expat

My significant other is Tico, which is another word for a Costa Rican native. And even he – who was born and raised in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica but who has lived and worked in hospitality for more than 20 years on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica – agrees with what I’m about to tell you.

And that is this: when you live in Costa Rica, the reality is that you can only get about three things done per day.

Screech.

Yep, that would be the tires of your mind coming to a rapid halt.

Uh-huh. That’s right. I did say three things.

Now, let’s be frank. For those of us hailing from places up North (Canada and the U.S.), we’re used to getting about six to eight things done per day. Even on a Saturday when there’s a ton of traffic because everyone is off work and running around and doing their errands. Even on those days. And for those of us that are hyper efficient, probably more than eight things.

In my former life nine years ago before I moved to Panama, my husband and I could leave our house in Denver at 8-8:30, hit Starbucks for breakfast, take the dog to the dog park, stop by Target, do our weekly grocery shopping at the supermarket, visit the Farmer’s Market downtown, stop in at the bank to make a deposit, drop off the dry cleaning and take the dog to get groomed. And we’d be back home no later than 1 p.m.

If you count the things on that list, that’s eight things. And that’s pretty average for what happens in North America.

Tropical flora abounds in the jungles of Costa Rica
Tropical flora abounds in the jungles of Costa Rica

But when you move to Costa Rica, all that ‘get ‘er done’ efficiency comes to a grinding halt. 🙂 Because that’s just  how it is…the Pura Vida…this life where you get to enjoy every single moment of what’s happening around you.

Instead, what happens is that you’re lucky to get three things done – maybe at times, four – in a single day. This applies to living in the city (San Jose, for example) and it applies to living on the coast of Costa Rica, like where I do. I’ve lived both places, and it was no different from one to the other.

An example of the Three Things in a Day in Costa Rica

Today, for example. We were up around 8. Breakfast, email and showers from 8-10:15. Left the house to 4 x 4 it down the mountain to the highway and get to our downtown in Uvita, Costa Rica by 10:30-ish. I say “ish” because we ran into our neighbors who we needed to talk to at the base of the mountain so we stopped to talk.

Plus, everything time-wise here in Costa Rica is pretty much “ish”. And that’s a good habit to adopt if you want to keep your sanity once you move to Costa Rica. Always add in a healthy dose of knowing that when someone tells you 8 AM, that probably means an arrival time of somewhere between 10-10:30, if you’re lucky. We call it ‘Tico time’.

But, back to the three things….

At the coffee shop for our first meeting at 10:30. Arrived, had our meeting, departed around 11:45 AM.

Drove across the street to find shade and pick up a few things at the market. (Hey, when you live up on the mountain, there’s no running down for just a few things. Nor is there such a thing as a convenience store down the street. Nope. Everything takes planning.)

At the market for 20 minutes.

Back in car, heading to our second meeting at 12:15-ish.

Got there, had the meeting, departed around 1:00 p.m.

Now it’s full-on heat of the day, and my hair and my make-up and any attempts to appear professional have completely melted in the 88 degrees Fahrenheit and the 90% humidity. My temper is not far behind…

From the second meeting, drove to a local restaurant – 15 minutes away – and had lunch. They are busier than usual, so we ended up waiting a bit for both our drinks and our food. An hour 15 minutes and we were then back on the road. It’s now 2:30 p.m. but it’s so frickin’ hot that neither of us can form words that make a lot of sense.

So, back to the house for a quick shower and to change clothes from the ones we had on this morning that are now completely smelly and sweaty. Even with deodorant. Yep, here it’s pretty common to take on average three showers a day. Even when you have a pool!

Now, on this particular day, our third and fourth things on the list have to be done online. But when we get home and get fresh again, we discover that the internet is down in our area. 🙁

And it doesn’t come up again for two and a half hours.

Which by that time, we’ve given up on checking it every 10 minutes, taken a nap and I’ve written this column, which took just over an hour.

Now it’s 5 p.m.

Do you see what I mean about three things?

The Moral to the Story

Short story, there isn’t one. Except to give you a glimpse into real life on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

And, if this were San Jose instead of the coast, if the internet had not gone down, then you would have been stuck in traffic for at least two of those hours going back and forth to the two meetings. Which is exhausting and not nearly as orderly as up North.

Overall, expat life in Costa Rica? It’s great. It’s amazing. It’s gorgeous. It’s freedom. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But sometimes it’s also just darn slow….

Want to read more about my former expat life in Panama? Check out my blog at Panama Gringo Guide dot com. I’ve also written two bestsellers on Amazon about expat life in Panama, titled the Gringo Guides to Panama. You can find those here and here.

Pura Vida!