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My Readers Write

April 1st, 2011


Hi again to my faithful readers.  Here is yet another addition of “My Readers Write”

In this post  you will find both emails and comments asking me questions are generally not covered in The REAL Costa Ricaor this Blog…. or maybe they are answered, but there is some other twist that I think might be of interest.

As some of these were sent more than 5 weeks ago, I do appreciate your patience. I am just bombarded with email.

I do correct grammar where practical and some spelling of the various emails/comments, but I do not change the content other than maybe a swear word.

If this interests you, please read on.

…am getting very excited about my impending move there come May when I start a new job as an English teacher. Now my question is about obtaining a drivers license. I am a British national but hold a US license from when I lived there a whole ago. Would this be an issue when trying to convert to a Costa Rican license? Does the passport and license need to be from the same issuing country or does it not matter?

First, as I have written many times, you may not work here legally in any capacity without a work permit or permanent residency (which you could not have).  Be aware that you can by summarily deported if caught working here. This is a common scam.  Be careful! Do not believe a language school when they tell you that you can get or they can get you a work permit. WP’s are simply not issued for jobs a Costa Rican citizen can do and I can assure you there are a ton of qualified English teachers here.  Also, see below for a real case!

You only need your unexpired passport and current drivers license.  The process is covered elsewhere on this blog and the main web site.

I am close to a Tico family and I just started a recipe blog out of the kitchen of my Tica “mother” Doña Mireya for fun.  She is an amazing cook- full of love-hard work-a true matriarch. I’m trying to help the family out- perhaps generate revenue for them one day.

Take a look- I thought you might know how to direct some traffic my way, as you did for the awesome site, Costa Rican Eateries.  I’m at


Consider your efforts “plugged” which I seldom do… but thought my readers my like this.

My wife, Ginny and I, are bowlers and we’d definitely like to continue participating in league play if it is available in San Jose. I appreciate your response to this question.  If there isn’t an alley (or two) then maybe San Jose could use one!

There is definitely bowling here and in fact a new alley is being built close to the Mall Cariari.  I am not a bowler, but I presume if there are alleys, there are leagues.  Comments welcome if anyone knows.

This thing with the dollar going up and down (mostly down!) is driving me nuts.  Any ideas?

Not really.  The colon is not a traded currency, so the exchange rate (tipo de cambio) is set by local banks, and so far as I can see, it is arbitrary and based on nothing rational.  I have read the various explanations and consider them disingenuous at best. The  low exchange rate is causing HUGE damage to the economy (exports, etc), but apparently nobody really gives a hoot. Odd.  How to protect you?  Well I don’t think trying to “guess” the rate will do well… so I suggest keeping 50% in dollars and 50% on colones as a hedge.  Not a perfect solution I know.

Lately though (for a couple of month anyway), it has been stable at 495-505 mas o menus. Not sure what that means either.

The REAL solution, of course, as was proposed by the Libertarian presidential candidate, would to dollarize the economy and stabilize the whole mess.  Panama does this and their currency suffers none the irrational behavior we are experiencing. Costa Ricans are very nationalistic so this may be a hard sell.

I read about all these warships, aircraft carriers etc and how there a US soldiers all over Costa Rica.  Why are they there?

The mis-information about this, turtle eggs, and about 50 other topics is just incredible. We have a large crowd of  USA  bashers down here who love to spread silliness.

Other than some helicopters and troops that assisted in a humanitarian mission here, there are no troops all over Costa Rica.  Those that participated in that mission are long gone. That was/is nonsense.

As for carriers etc?  The US/Costa Rica agreement called for a list of ANY possible ships of war that could be used in the ongoing interdiction of drug trafficking from South America to points North. The US, being the US, put every type of ship in the navy on that list.  In reality the number and types of ships is a fraction of what is on that list. Aircraft carriers do not do well at chasing cigarette boats.

The ships do have permission to land on Costa Rican shores, but only for support purposes.  The only troops I have EVER seen in Costa Rica (since I arrived in the late 90’s) are the Marines stationed at the US Embassy and once at the old 4th of July picnic.

Why are they here at all?  Costa Rica has no armed forces and certainly no navy.  The do have a Coast Guard, which (I say tongue in cheek) consists of several fishing boats with really big outboard motors.  Costa Rica simply is not prepared to stop or control the drug flow North.  We are the way point/storage point/transit point for drugs. The highway to all the big users of the North!

While the DEA in the US gets all excited when a few thousand pounds of cocaine are confiscated, here we do tons and tons!

In fact, just last week, one of the French warships off Costa Rica seized several tons of coke (Yes Virginia… the US is NOT alone here.  France, the Netherlands, Belize, Guatemala and other countries are all in the military show on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the country). The operation took place last week when the speedboat was intercepted by the French frigate, the Ventose.  The cartels also use small subs capable of carrying many tons of cocaine.  These pass offshore and Costa Rica is simply not equipped to deal with this anti-submarine interdiction. There have also been many semis trailers transversing CR that get stopped at the borders or expressways with even larger tonnage confiscated. Get the idea?

Congratulations on winning that dispute with Nicaragua!

Huh? Ummmm… who said we won?  At the risk of being the kid who points out the naked king…. I cannot see that we “won” anything much at all.  In fact, it was a bit embarrassing. We got nothing we asked for, and were told to leave what we claimed was “our land”.  Yeah, they were told to leave too… So?  Remind you of high school?  Maybe if we have to claim some victory, they could not dump the dredging junk on our soil… The river San Juan is their river and everyone agrees so, so they can do what they want there.  The ecological damage claims we made seem to have been summarily rejected by the World Court.  And at the risk of getting some ugly comments, after looking at those disputed maps about 30 times, I still cannot see Costa Rica’s claim of ownership any better than I can see Nicaragua’s claim.

Looks goofy to me.  Anyway… thanks.

Sorry to email you out of the blue like this but I have a serious problem and could use your advice.

I was relocated for a “contract” by a company here who said that they would take care of all permits etc. so that I could work legally for 1 year. Unfortunately things went south, our paperwork was stolen on arrival and the company axed my contract after 6 months without warning, payment or ticklets back to South Africa. I was wondering if you knoew the best way to proceed or get in touch with Ministerio De Teabajo as the site is current not accessible.

If this continues my girlfriendf and I will be out on the strret shortly with no funds or tickets to return home.

Not a bother. Here is the link: http://www.mtss.go.cr/  Good luck!  Note, many Costa Rica government web sites do not function 24 hours per day.  Keep trying!

I AGAIN warn people about companies (often language schools) here promising work permits and “contract” work.  The majority is a scam unless the company is international and well-known.  While Costa Rica routinely issues work permits to employees of major corporations (CitiBank, Intel, and others,) and they will for certain teaching positions (normally not English) for the private schools, immigration does NOT issue WPs for any position if that work can be performed by a Costa Rica citizen.

To legally work here, Permanent Residency is required which, while not hard to obtain, generally does takes several years of living here under another legal form of residency. The companies mentioned above all have full time legal staff that works with immigration and those folks KNOW their residency and work status before they got here.  Beware of promises that “We will get you a work permit for one year” or other such claims.  Check out what you are doing! Due diligence!

That’s it… and for all of you emailing me to get off my butt and post more… I’ll try… really!


25 Responses to “My Readers Write”

  1. teri on April 9, 2011 6:54 am

    what a great idea to post letters you receive and your advice (or response). Your blog is by far the best blog in CR! (mine included)(Ha!)

  2. Tim on April 9, 2011 1:54 pm

    Thanks! But… I like yours! I read it regularly.

  3. pete trombetta on April 13, 2011 4:31 pm

    About harvesting turtle eggs here in Costa Rica. On the shores of Playa Guiones the olive back turtle lays its eggs. The government entered into a contract with the locals stating that the can harvest the first laid eggs and no others. In reture the locals with protect the young turtles from harm by dogs,birds etc. and insure that most make it to the water. I was there and seen for myself. Now the reason for the harvesting of the first laid eggs is because of the hundreds of turtles coming ashore and crushing and devastating the majority of the first laid. If no agreement was met by the two parties then the locals would harvest all the eggs possible. Since the majority of first laid are destroyed it the agreement is beneficial for both parties. The eggs are sold by locals to offset their income. Yes a picture speaks a thousand words but people like Greenpeace do not present both sides of the story.

  4. Sara on April 15, 2011 1:00 am

    Hi this might seem quite random and I realize that you can’t completely predict what is going to happen weather wise anywhere in the world – however I just wondered if you had any information on the Tsunami warning for the Pacific coast. Myself, my partner and 3 year old son had been planning to move to Nosara. We are very attracted by the great variety of wildlife, including the turtles, also the surf and the montessori school Delemar. However after hearing the warning that a possible Tsunami could hit the region we have very sadly got cold feet but still would love to experience Costa Rica maybe for a year or two.

    Kind Regards Sarax

  5. teri on April 15, 2011 6:42 am

    Funny thing is (a friend told me),,, “if it’s a REAL tsunami, we probably WON’T get a warning!!” Same for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mud slides, etc.
    My advice, stay home where you feel safe because the life is VERY REAL here and you just never know what can happen on any given day. Pura Vida!

  6. teri on April 15, 2011 6:44 am

    another friend told me about the three rules for living here:
    1. Don’t trust anyone (not even him)
    2. Nobody really gives a crap (even him)
    3. No one follows the rules

  7. Tim on April 15, 2011 7:34 am

    Add: “Just because someone speaks your language does not make them your friend”


    “Abandon all logic ye who enter here” (Apologies to Dante)

  8. don derkach on July 7, 2011 12:30 pm

    question. I understand the tax on bringing in a car to Costa Rica is outrageous. What is the present percentage and how is it calculated?

  9. wende on August 28, 2011 2:47 pm

    A question ……..My daughter married a guy from Costa Rica here in Canada.Don’t even ask you can guess why he wanted to marry her right.Yeah it works to get in here as well…anyway….They had a son (now 3)and he the husband left her just after the litle guy was born.He is registered as the father his other grandparents are Ticos and live in San Jose.Can I as the canadian grand parent move there as a family member with the hopes that my grandson would visit often and get to know his roots there.

  10. Tim on September 29, 2011 8:20 am

    Contact a Costa Rica attorney.

  11. alan stebbins on October 11, 2011 8:02 am

    It has allways been a dream of mind to live on a boat, in costa rica, can you tell me somethings about buying and living on a boat in costa rica, thank you alan

  12. john gordy on May 9, 2012 5:35 am

    Can I bring my guns with me?

  13. Tim on June 11, 2012 7:26 am

    Not until you have permanent residency (5 years) and pass various psychological and practical excams

  14. Cynthia on June 24, 2012 10:41 pm

    Excuse me Mr. Gordy: Why do you think that is polite bring guns to another country?. Sounds like G.I. you, please mature, this is a super country, not a Holliwood movie.
    A National person

  15. Jim on February 11, 2014 11:51 am

    Tim, I had a question about rentista residency. I understand you need to put $60K in a bank down there to cover expenses for 2 years. My question is, if for some reason you decided to move back to the U.S., do you get that back? I would assume that you would, but assumptions can be dangerous, particularly regarding other countries.

  16. Tim on February 12, 2014 6:38 pm

    Yes… at the rate of $2,500 per month to your account.

  17. Jim on February 19, 2014 9:22 am

    Sorry, Tim, but I’m still a little unclear. For example, I move down there and get rentista residency and put $60K in the bank. But, in the first year, let’s say I only spent $2K per month, or $24K in that first year. Let’s also say that that point, I decide to move back to the U.S. Do I get the remaining $36K back, or will I only get $30K back ($2.5 x 12 months) which would be a net loss of $6K to me?
    Jim Lollar

  18. Rick Reno on April 8, 2014 5:01 pm

    I love the Real Costa Rica; however, obviously (to me) missing from all Real Costa Rica’s posts under living, lifestyle, food, or any other similar category is that of “ferias de agrícola.” I believe it to be important, especially, to ex-pats. Ferias can really lower one’s grocery bill with vegetables and fruits. Please, include a post on ferias and maybe where they can be found. Thank you, Rick Reno, ex-pat living in Sabanilla.

  19. Mary on September 1, 2014 11:04 pm

    Not really a complaint, but why is there nothing more current on this website, other than the letters to you. I have family in CR, and would like to hear up to date info. Hoping to visit this winter.
    Thanks, for your reply

  20. Linda on August 13, 2015 11:24 am

    Very interesting blog! My husband is a practicing EMT here in SD, soon to be an AEMT (advanced, almost as good as paramedic). I am retired and receive SS (as long as the govt allows it). Is it possible for us to come and him to get a work permit? Do they use/need EMTs in hospitals, on ambulances, in clinics, in missions? We are trying to learn Spanish, but slow going here; I found it easy to learn German years ago when I was living there, so I guess….

  21. Tim on August 14, 2015 8:35 am

    ” Is it possible for us to come and him to get a work permit? ” Absolutely NOT. Please read the main web site regarding working in Costa Rica

  22. Rosalind on August 17, 2015 3:57 pm

    I know that if we move there we can’t work there for pay, but are we able to volunteer out services? I am a nurse, and my husband in in the greenhouse/floral business.

  23. Tim on August 18, 2015 8:12 am

    Volunteering is permitted. I presume that you both speak Spanish.

  24. Miguel Ulloa on August 26, 2015 1:13 am

    I am currently active duty military (Army) and we are looking to move to costa rica next summer (2016) I am not starting to realize that i keep seeing things about not being able to work in Costa Rica without some sort of permit that seems to be nearly impossible to get. Does this apply to federal jobs as well? I might end up working with the VA or in another U.S Federal Position. Thank in advance

  25. Tim on August 26, 2015 7:35 am

    No… you may not work here. Read the section on Working Here. There are no federal (US) jobs here. This is a sovereign country and the US government and the VA have no offices here and therefore employ nobody.