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Posted by on Oct 30, 2014 in Tips, Uncategorized | 20 comments

4 (not so) Essential Tips for Expats in Costa Rica

4 (not so) Essential Tips for Expats in Costa Rica

Change – A Poker Strategy

ChangeCosta Rica has 6 different denominations for their pocket change. First is the 2 lighter-than-air, monopoly-like money, denominations of ₡5 and ₡10. The 2 coins value is, respectively, one US penny and two US pennies.

Next up you have the heavier metal denominations of ₡25, ₡50, ₡100, and ₡500 (5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, and $1 for those colon challenged.)

The smaller value coins are not too useful – I love to unload them by paying my bus fare in mostly the ₡5 and ₡10’s – the bus driver lights up like he just hit the jackpot at a slot machine – or maybe that’s a frown. The only other place that is useful for unloading these parasitic coins is at the feria (farmers market) – where some items, like herbs, are very inexpensive.

But the best method I have come up with to get rid of them is in a friendly game of Texas Hold ’em. The whole set of coins work well as poker chips – especially for those on a budget who like to keep the antes low.

FeriaFeria Bonus

Compared to the cost of fruits and vegetables in the US, the feria (at least those in the central valley) can be incredibly inexpensive. For example I have seen 5 avocados for $2 or 4 pineapples for $2. But for those cheapskates, let’s say frugal, like me, there is an even better deal available.

The feria, typically, is only open on the weekends and is open late into the evening on the first day and closes around noon on the second day. I have found that if you do your shopping on the last day of the feria, about 30 minutes before close, you will many times get more food than you pay for.

For example, you buy 4 apples and the vendor throws you an extra one. This doesn’t always happen, but it happens enough to make it a strategy. The drawback is that your selection will not be as good as if you went earlier in the day – in fact it might be slim-pick’ins – but still, it’s free food.

The Right Way to Pour Box Wine

Not everyone in Costa Rica is on a budget, or drinks wine for that matter, but if you do fit those categories then you are probably drinking boxed wine as it can be both palatable and affordable (about $5 – $7 a liter.)

One of the most frustrating things about boxed wine is pouring a glass (or plastic cup) of wine without it clugging out of the opening, spilling its precious cargo everywhere.

The solution? Turn the thing around. Kinda like drinking from the other side of a glass when you have the hiccups, if you pour the wine with the… OK – I am having a hard time describing what I am trying to convey – so look at the picture and call me with any questions.



Restroom Rescue

If you have spent anytime in Costa Rica you will have noticed that public restrooms here are an interesting creature. First, there aren’t many around, and if you do find one the likelihood is VERY high that it will not have paper in it. Not just the paper to wipe your hands with after you wash them, but paper to wipe your… uh, toilet paper.

Recently we were shopping at Maxi Pali (enter rant about Walmart here) and came across this brilliant product. This toilet paper company took the cardboard out of the center of the toilet paper roll and replaced it with a purse/pocket sized carry roll.


We bought them out – ’cause in Costa Rica you never know if a product will ever be restocked.

I hope these tips help you out.

Hasta Pronto,


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Greg Seymour is a quitter. At 41 Greg and his wife Jen quit their jobs, sold damn near everything they owned and became Intentionally Unemployed and retired early to Costa Rica.
In addition to writing on this blog, Greg has written for other online publications and has written two popular books about living in Costa Rica:
Greg Seymour Amazon Author Page

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  1. Your tips & photos are quite clear & helpful. I am a veteran expat (1968-78 & 2002-present) currently in California doing knee replacement & my home is in Guanacaste near Playas del Coco in the pueblo we were sent to in the Peace Corps 46 years ago. We were described as volunteers who “went native” & to us it just felt like home. I am glad for many of the changes. There is more clean work & higher education opportunities in my province. I have a unique view of what has been or is being lost along this path but it is still the place I belong. Keep up the interesting blog you are providing.

    • Thanks for the comment and your insight Terry.

  2. Good tips – as for the toilet paper, no matter where you are there’s always a stall (the one I pick?) that’s without. My solution is to roll off some TP, put it in a small baggie and tuck it in my purse or pocket.

    Keep posting, I look forward to seeing what info/humor your next post will bring!

    • Thanks Patti! Yes, the toilet situation is interesting here. You would think that it would be better for the men – I won’t go into it, but you would be surprised what passes for a urinal, oh and doors for privacy – forget about it.

      I feel another blog-post topic surfacing.

      Thanks for reading (and commenting)

  3. Your tips are both useful and humorous (enter Walmart rant here)! Thank you

    • Thanks Carol! I am glad you liked the post (and my attempts at humor.)

  4. We learnt the TP one very early on our first trip to CR!

  5. I miss living in CR but I don’t miss Clos!

    • Haha – yeah, I wouldn’t miss it either.

  6. Love the special TP roll!!!! Since someone mentioned urinals I want to mention my favorite one: the souvenir shop/oxcart wheel place in downtown Sarchi. Check it out and don’t ask how I happened to check it out.

    • Now I really want to know the story Debi! I think there needs to be an entire blogpost on unique urinal experiences in CR.

      Hope you guys are well. We miss you.

  7. Thanks for this! I’m moving to Costa Rica in January, so this is very handy indeed. Especially the boxed wine tip. I’m pretty sure I’ll be using that one… frequently! Bryony 🙂

    • You are welcome. Best of luck with your move in January Bryony.

  8. That boxed wine tip is gold! I’m definitely using that one sooner than later, thanks!

    • It is amazing that it took me so long to learn that one. It also works for the boxed milk here.

  9. During my vacations from the States, I would like to visit towns/cities or neighborhoods in anticipation of retiring in CR. So far I have visited Grecia, the resort area of Puntarenas,in December – Flamingo beach. I know CR is a complex country, but how about a heads-up for your favorite community to help me in my search. In December I will also be visiting Atenas.
    Probably the most important issue is that is the proximity to medical care. I do not need to be next to a hospital would it would be nice for it to be accessible. Thanks

    • Hi Marilyn,

      I have not regretted our move to Grecia. We chose Grecia as a starting point because of its proximity to San Jose and airport, it was large enough, and had rental homes available with a view and great climate. Other choices in the Central Valley are: Atenas (as you know), San Ramon, and Cartago.

      It is really such a diverse country and it is tough to recommend a place as everyones expectations and needs are different.

      Best of luck in your search,



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