Top Ten Tips or Rules for Driving in Costa Rica

The zero-th rule / tip is to never assume that drivers in Costa Rica behave like drivers do in the States, Canada, Europe, etc. The drivers here simply do a lot of unsafe stuff. This, in spite of them having to pass fairly extensive written and practical tests. It really comes down to a lack of enforcement of the rules of the road (see bonus "tip" #11).

1. When they turn off even a high-speed highway, they often slow to a crawl.

2. They rarely pay attention to stop signs, but do respect traffic lights (mostly).

3. Motorcycles will pass you on either side and use the space between lanes freely.

4. A left turn signal is ambiguous. It could mean they are actually turning left or it could mean they are telling you it is safe to pass (you can easily see where this could be a problem).

My Long Anticipated Confusing Premier Visit to a Caja Doctor in Costa Rica

We've been paying into Costa Rica's Seguro Social system aka Caja (KA-HAH) for at least 8 years now. It's Costa Rica's version of universal health care, cemented into the government and culture since the 1949 revolution. You want residency here? Then you are going to have to pay into Caja and keep it current or you won't get your residency renewed.

It has a lot of nice features, such as low-cost, free everything without co-pays or deductibles and the price is worth it even if you only use the emergency care. It's the best emergency care we have in San Isidro despite a few private urgent care clinics around.

Peaceful Tranquility for Adventuresome Travelers of Costa Rica's Serene Southern Mountains in Our Artistic Cabina

About three years ago we got the bright idea (it seemed at the time anyway to be bright) of adding a small cabin to our property here in Costa Rica's La Zona Sur for would-be guests, family and friends in particular. Click here for the AirBnB listing.

We worked on it only during our summer months the first couple of years from about January to April. This year, we felt we were close enough to completion that we could make firm invites to people to visit and enjoy the seclusion of our hideaway cabin during their stay. Some friends did accept and were to arrive mid-February.

The Big Push

Thus, mid-November we made the "big push" to get it all in order figuring an early start would get us done about the middle or end of January. Who knew that we'd be putting on the finishing touches right up until dark the day before our guests arrived! These last few months were a slog at times with long hours about six days a week. Other projects were put on the back burner during this time that we're only catching up on now.

4 mosaics adorn the outside walls of the costa rica cabin
Four tropical-themed mosaics grace the outside walls

We brought in electricity (which we didn't have except from a small generator during previous seasons), wired the place, brought in water from our second spring, added windows, gutters, an outdoor kitchen, outdoor toilet and shower, tower and tank for the shower and so on. As we crossed off another task on our to-finish list, we added two more right up until the final weeks.

Is Costa Rica Residency or Citizenship Worth It? Take Two, Part Two

The Alternatives to Costa Rica Residency (Besides “Expating” Somewhere Else)

This is part two of two posts on the ways of obtaining residency in Costa Rica and whether, for you, it is even worth pursuing. Part one is here

This post deals with possible alternatives to going through the time and expense to get residency or the possibility of obtaining “super-residency” aka Costa Rica citizenship.

The So-Called Perpetual Tourist

Perpetual tourism is the practice of taking advantage of Costa Rica’s relative lenience when it comes to tourist visas, especially compared to most other Latin American countries. People choosing this route, of which there are thousands, make border crossings, usually to Panamá or Nicaragua, every 90 days. 

Costa Rica does not, as many other countries do, limit the number of times you can do this in a year. However, entry or the length of stay is solely determined by the immigration officer at the border.

Is It Really Worth the Trouble and Expense to Obtain Costa Rican Residency? Take Two (Part 1)

This is a rewrite of a previous post on this topic. At first, I thought I could just re-tweak the original, but as often happens in Costa Rica, things change quickly and substantially. Many of the principles of the first post remain but the devil is in the details as someone once noted.

Part Two of this topic is here.

Ways to Get Residency

This post is meant as an outline, not an in-depth discussion of all the ways you can get residency, which you can easily find from other resources. I eagerly invite corrections from those with more knowledge or experience in the comments.

Get Ready to Enjoy a New Country

Residency by 1st Degree Relation to a Citizen (aka Vínculo)

Marrying a Tico/a or having a baby here is probably the most straightforward way to get residency. In fact, you’ll basically get Permanent Residency from the start.

In the case of marriage, you’ll have to wait up to 4 years for it to become final. There will be a 2-year wait period to confirm the marriage is legitimate plus 18 months for Migración to process residency or 2 years by TSE if you are going for citizenship. Those wait times are official by a new law enacted in March 2018.


This is the worst way, in my opinion, but often the only practical alternative for people who don’t qualify for the other forms or residency. Why? There’s a steep income requirement, $2,500/month and that’s per individual. You can’t bring in dependents on your application.

The money also has to be deposited in advance in a Costa Rican bank 2 or 3 years (not sure which anymore) ahead typically as CDs. You have to convert that much into colones each month (keep the receipts!) although you don’t have to spend it all of course.

There’s another reason while this style of residency is really bad having to do with the requirement to sign up for the national health plan. More on that below …

Top 10 List of What I Like Best About Living in Costa Rica

One day, after we'd lived here a few years, my son asked me what I missed the most from our former life in Oregon.
Aricara aka Cusinga
I guess that's a question every expat harbors in the back of their mind, the comparison to what was to what is now, although I could not at that moment think of anything in particular I yearned for. But it got me thinking.

Life here is different in so many ways and I still enjoy most of the differences I find here so I don't often feel I'm missing much. It also feels as if it's a waste of time to fret over comparisons to the "old life" that much anyway. 

Be here now, right? 

His personal longing at that moment was for Dr Pepper, by the way, which we've since found.

Anyway, as a result of our musings of missed things, I thought I'd instead focus on a quick list of those things I enjoy about living in Costa Rica. Despite the numbering, the ordering is pretty arbitrary as it's tough to say which features are qualitatively more important than others. It's really the synergy of these and other points taken together that makes me smile, relax, and want to share the positive goodness we've all found living here.

8 Ways to Get Your Holiday Goodies into Costa Rica Easily or Safely

My post about how to receive packages in Costa Rica while avoiding having them snagged by Customs, which requires a trip to San José and a couple hours of bureacratic SNAFU to retrieve said package, continues to be one of my more popular articles.

Still, I often get asked the question: "Just how do you get stuff shipped into Costa Rica?"

Drone chasing Cary Grant in North by Northwest still
Attack of the Drones - CC-SA-3.0

Unfortunately, Amazon drone delivery does not seem to be on the horizon anytime soon. Even though Amazon recently announced they are opening up direct shipping to CR for many more items, they never seem to ship what I need.

So, to supplement the original article, here is a list (perhaps incomplete) on the various methods that I've either used or have learned second-hand from others who have found them to be successful.

It includes the shipping of documents, small stuff and bigger packages.

A Day in the Life in Our New Home in Costa Rica

Very large spider on the wall
An unwelcome visitor to our rental house
One of my first posts after moving into a temporary (7 months) rental and working on our newly acquired property nearby.

The good old days!!

It’s been an interesting couple of days.

We’re continuing work on the property, have had some notable encounters with Costa Rican wildlife both benign and treacherous and battled a bit with the recent wet weather.

For two days we borrowed some Nica (Nicaraguan) workers from a neighbor while there was a lull in the coffee picking. They are clearing brush on the property. Arnuvo, the crew boss, Mallel, and Raimundo, who also goes by “Rey Mundo”, King of the World, are a happy-go-lucky bunch.

They and seven other Nicas live in a workers shack at the entrance of the road that leads to our place. Each of the days they worked for us I’d trek up the hill to meet them at 6 AM to give them their cutting orders. They do all the clearing with machetes, which are called cuchillos here.  

They do a fine job at a very reasonable price. I pay them an extra 100 Colones an hour since they are borrowed from their usual work and the work is hard. We also supply them lunch about 2/3rds of the way through their 10 hour day.

Arnuvo took my new store-bought machete back to his place Monday evening to give it a proper sharpening. It’s now the proverbial knife through hot butter. The next morning, our neighbor Luis showed me the proper way to wear the cubierta (sheath) and belt. I'm learning every day! 

Pondering How Best to Serve Readers - Resource or Experience?

Signpost to various worldwide capitals
So many expat experiences, so little time.

Skim to the bottom for recommendations on Expat resources!

Not long ago, I read a review of this blog that got me to thinking. The review was positive, but the reviewer didn't think there was much here about actually becoming or living as an expatriate.

That's fair. A Dull Roar has become, organically, just a place where one might visit to see one slice of the expat experience from a single family's point of view. 

But that does not necessarily make for an in-depth resource for how to become an expat with guidance that applies everywhere for every intention. It's definitely a niche blog in that sense, since, as the home page states, it is mainly about "moving to, retiring in and living with Costa Rica.

I get the implicit point of the reviewer. 

Once the "mechanics" of moving here, obtaining residency, driver's license, paying various "consultants" and taxes are done, my blog would naturally produce posts centered on daily life, culture, wildlife, the weather (egad!), etc.

Perhaps out of guilt for not providing more pithy content, I have been adding a few more nuts-and-bolts articles with practical information (e.g., "The Cost of Owning and Driving a Car in Costa Rica Can Be Daunting"). Shouldn't that make a better mix?

Then, that got me thinking if I should improve the site in other ways too?