From Gringo to Tico Blog

10 steps on how to buy a building lot in the southern zone of Costa Rica
August 21, 2017, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

10 steps on how to buy a building lot in the southern zone of Costa Rica

You do not need to have an eccentric taste to prefer buying a building lot for your future, custom house in Costa Rica. Even the budget for your future house should not matter.
There are quite a few reasons why you might want to purchase a home building lot in Costa Rica. Some buyers have their ideas well organized and know exactly what they want (or they think they do), others don’t have a clue until they walk into the right house. For a lot of people, the house they want simply does not exist, so it makes best sense to build exactly what they want.

A few of the reasons to buy a building lot in Costa Rica usually are:
•    You are not ready to move to Costa Rica yet, but want to begin the process, get ready, or get a foot in the door for a future move or retirement.
•    You have some money set aside and want to invest this money. Instead of investing it your local real estate market, the stock market or just handing it over to your banker, you’re looking for something more promising and exotic. 
•    You want to custom build your ideal home, to your very detailed specifications, to suit your own specific needs and desires.

Before you start looking to buy a building lot in Costa Rica, first find out where exactly you would like to live. That of course, depends on your specific needs and lifestyle – such as beach/ mountains, rural / town area, community, golf courses, hospitals and other amenities that are important to you.

Get a foot in the door by buying a building lot in Costa Rica now….
Once you have picked the area you would want to live, scout the different areas and decide if you want to live in a gated community, or immersed in the jungle; how much land you want; what kind of views you would like to have, how close to schools and shopping, or how private your property should be.
Once you have identified the geographic location where you should look to purchase a home site to build your custom home, there are 10 steps to take before you buy a building lot in Costa Rica.

1.    The topography of the lot. 
Ask yourself a few questions, such as: Do you want to build a one story ranch-style house, a two story, or a house where you could take advantage of the topography by using multiple levels? Are you looking for views and want to be sure to be in control of those views? Do you have children or grandchildren that you want a play area for or you won’t want to fall off a cliff? How big is your swimming pool going to be? Are you a swimmer, or do you want a space to get cool and hang out? 

2.    The size of the house
What is the size of your custom home going to be? Can you create a building pad large enough on the building lot for the house to fit? Any other outbuildings you might want on your property, such as a guest house, a carport or garage, a tool shed? Will it all fit?

3.    Water letter
The Municipality will request you get a letter from the local water company or ASADA confirming availability of water at the home site, so they can extend building permits. Your design team will get this as a part of completing your new home permitting process. 

4.    Zoning restrictions
Inform yourself about any zoning restrictions in the area, such as, river setbacks, forest reserves, etc.

5.    Utilities
Are power and water available at the front of the building lot? If not, where do they have to come from and what would be the cost? Find out all you need to know about utilities before you purchase. Your Real Estate agent and design team will assist you with this.

6.    Survey 
How do you know the fences are in the right place? Maybe the neighbors have moved the fence? You don’t want to infringe on the neighbor’s property either. Invest in using a surveyor recommended by your lawyer or real estate agent to re-survey the building lot to check boundaries and ensure the exact size and location. 
7.    Survey map
Request that the seller delivers a survey map / Plano at closing with the “visado” stamp from the Municipal engineering department which shows that the building lot is approved for construction. Your realtor and lawyer will ensure this prior to closing. All the lots on the Ballena Coast have this stamp onto plano. Your realtor will have this.

8.    Soil studies
The top soil of the home site might not have the geological composition needed to build a foundation for the construction of any important structures. Only soil studies will show the need for soil replacement or other needs before starting any construction, so to invest in ordering soil studies is a good plan. Permits for construction are not given without a soil test!
9.    Architect
Your design team needs to visit the building lot at different hours of the day, during the dry season as well as during the rainy season! You want to ensure that the home you design adapts to the location and changing weather circumstances you’ll find in the different parts of Costa Rica. 
You will want the design team to take into account sunrise, sunset, the breezes that keep your home cool, and the rains (for drainage and cover) to make your home much more comfortable. Go over the design in detail, see if the house flows well, check and ensure good cross ventilation and check sizes of the rooms with someone else, as a second opinion before starting construction.

10.    Last but not least
Ask your lawyer to perform a title check, to recommend all forms of ownership of the property and to calculate your closing and escrow costs. Any easements registered on the property should be explained to you at closing. Most Lawyers do this as part of the closing and due diligence process.

I think that now you’re quite knowledgeable about the possible steps on how to buy a building lot in Costa Rica, so I’m convinced this is the best time for you to start looking at the inventory of buildings lots that Century 21 Ballena Properties, on the Ballena Coast has! Have a look at the building process from their sister company Ballena Homes. I wish you good hunting.

Any questions?? Do not hesitate to ask!


NEW 2016 version of “From Gringo To Tico”!
May 23, 2016, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It is here..and LIVE!

Your reference for living in Costa Rica, particularly the Ballena Coast, has been updated once again!

It is an ongoing process to keep the information correct and current….

To ensure you have the most current information, please Like us on Facebook.. Because that is where I put all the newest information, as soon as I get it!

AND NOW …..The all new, updated and most current 2016 version of the “From Gringo To Tico” E-book!!

You can get it by going  to our website: and order from here.

Please share this with anyone that may be interested in learning about life in Costa Rica!

I appreciate the support!

Thank you and have a wonderful day!


editor of From Gringo To Tico

Blue Flag certificate for Ojochal!
May 23, 2016, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Living in Costa Rica, Uncategorized

Congratulations Ojochal!

Ojochal, on the Ballena Coast was approached in April of 2015 by the officials for Blue Flags, as a community, to see if they were interested in doing the work towards receiving a Blue Flag.  At a “town Hall” meeting of the community, it was unanimously decided that we would. A committee was formed and together with the local “ADI” / town council, the process was begun.  

One year later…here we are!

This first white star on the Blue Flag is for:
The “Category Community” – for the organization and development in accordance with the protection of natural resources, the search for improved hygienic and sanitary conditions and improved public health for Costaricans.

Blue Flag 2016

The Flag raising event was held at the entrance to Ojochal on Saturday, May 14, 2016
Ojochal is the only community in the entire southern zone/ Brunca Region of Costa Rica!

Raising of the Blue Flag

Blue Flag presentation


For the most current news and information; please “Like” us on Facebook

Long Distance from Costa Rica to North America
February 18, 2015, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Living in Costa Rica

Here is a great article written about communications and phoning back to North America….
Click on the link to read the article…..

Learn about communications when living abroad — Part 6: Non-broadband solutions – National Costa Rica |

Driving In Costa Rica – Rules of the Road- Dec, 2014
November 28, 2014, 12:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As a tourist in Costa Rica, if you have a valid driver’s license, you are legal to drive here during your stay. Nonetheless, this is contingent upon your immigration status.

Your ability to use a foreign license only applies within the time period you have been allowed to stay.

For example, if your tourist visa (stamped in your passport with the number of days written in) is for 30 days, you can only use that license within that time period. If for some reason you remain in the country beyond your visa limitation, not only are you in violation of your immigration status, but also your ability to drive legally is null and void. If you were to have an accident, you will go to court as if you were driving without a license.

The Traffic Police (Policia de Tránsito) are known to conduct routine stops to check documentation. If you show them your foreign license and passport, they will check to see if you’re driving within the time limit of your visa.

It is often recommended that you not travel around the country with your official passport, and carry a copy of the pertinent pages instead. Recent police policy instructs officers to accept a legible copy of passports. However, it is still up to the individual officer whether to accept the copy or not. If he or she, for some reason, decides the copy isn’t acceptable, you may have to go to your hotel or wherever you’re staying, with the police officer. In almost every case this isn’t necessary, and passport copies are acceptable during routine traffic stops.

It’s also important to keep in mind what the proper procedure is if you have an accident. In Costa Rica, when involved in an accident, you are encouraged to not allow any of the vehicles involved to be moved. They’re supposed to stay on the scene, without being moved, no matter what disruption you may be causing to others trying to pass. You may very well have experienced this phenomenon wherein a simple fender bender results in two or more stationary cars in the middle of the road.

As soon as the accident occurs, you should call the Transit Authority at 911, as well as your insurance carrier. If you’re renting, your rental agency will probably spell all this out for you, and your insurance documents are probably in the glove compartment. You will be asked (by phone) where the accident took place and if there are any injuries. An officer will be sent, but this may take a while depending on where you are. Waits of 45 minutes to two hours are not uncommon.

While waiting, you should consider writing down some information, such as the other driver’s license plate numbers, taking pictures, and getting everyone’s phone number. This could be invaluable later on.
When the Traffic Inspector finally shows up, your job is to give your version of events. He or she will write everything down, including your story and all vehicle information, and ask you to sign it.

You are not obligated to sign, but if everything appears to be in order you certainly should. You’ll be given a copy that you will be required to present in Traffic Court within 10 days.

As far as the insurance company is concerned, their agent is supposed to show up at the accident scene. Your declaration of what happened will be documented and you’ll be asked to sign that as well. That signature is obligatory if you want your claim to be honored. If it’s a rental car, you should probably call the rental agency as soon as possible, and they’ll likely help you through the whole process.

Overall, what you need to do in the case of an accident is pretty much the same as anywhere else. The one difference, depending on where you’re from, is that you’re not supposed to move your car until an officer of the law tells you to do so.

No big deal! Happy driving!

Steven Ferris is a member of the board of directors of The Tico Times’ parent company.

Read the article here:

Driving in Costa Rica: The rules of the road — The Tico Times

Rainy season…
October 11, 2014, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It has been a while since my last post…Life here in the jungle has been very rich and FULL!!
This is the first time I have actually been here for October…last year I was in Alberta with a new Grandson!
The year before that we were on the road, driving from Calgary to Ojochal.
The years before that I was still doing the summers in Alberta..arriving in Ojochal late October…

I love the rains…the storms are so beautiful..the strength of Mother Nature is incredible…today, Oct 11, is one of the only rainy mornings we have had, so I have the time to write this…

It is a steady drizzle…the temperature is 23.7 degrees C …still pretty warm! I am climatized, so am wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt.

Most day we have had sunny mornings and the rains begin, anywhere between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. It will rain for awhile, stop and rain a few hours later…we never get a “full on socked in” rainy day.

The yard and the plants have grown and it all looks so beautiful! To think 2 years ago, when we arrived here after our drive from Canada…it was all MUD! And to think that we have planted all the plants, moved all the dirt, did almost all the manual work ourselves…it is so rewarding!! Bill and I often pat ourselves on the back for a job well done!

A couple of months ago we lost 2 of our laying hens, so we added 3 new “Black chicks” to the mix…I love having the red and black of the hens around the yard, eating bugs…cleaning up things, as well as fertilizing as they go! And the amazing fresh eggs are the bonus!! Yesterday I picked my first green beans, and the peanuts are almost ready to dig, Papayas are plentiful for our morning smoothie, Bananas – wow have those grown..some of the plants are over 30 feet tall! We have 3 huge bunches growing right now. It takes about 3 months for them to mature from when the flower first emerges… The second planting of Yucca is growing well, along with the Comote – sweet potatoes. Tomatoes have proved to be a challenge…I am not having good luck with them here…either the iguanas or bugs eat them, or they get a fungus…I am stubborn and keep on trying…

We now have a small feria / Farmers Market in Ojochal on Saturdays! It is fun to go, visit with our neighbours, eat sweet treats to raise money for our local volunteer library..Sharon’s pickles, jams and jellys are always amazing, Lois’s salts, fermented foods and goodies are the best, and then we have Uwe and all his smoked goodies…cheeses, meats and breads; Desiree with all her plants, seeds, sharing her wisdom of growing things. There are locals selling delicious Rice and ??? what ever they have for the week, homemade jewellery, indigenous masks and crafts….etc! It is going to become a great feria in time!

Lately we have been helping out a local family – a single mom with 4 children, who lives in the village and needed some help. We got together and people took her food, dishes, bedding, our local plumber Randy went over and fixed her grey water so that it did not drain out into the back yard, bad wiring was repaired, And we had a fund raiser last week to buy bunk beds for the kids, a kitchen cupboard, fans, etc. Folks have generously donated mattresses to go on the beds. When we took the first batch of donations to the family…it was better than Christmas…these children had only ever received gifts before at the community Christmas party! They hugged the pillows, the glasses, and dishes as if they were the most precious things ever…such a heart warming sight!

This is the first family we are helping in our area …there are more and we will help them one at a time, giving them a fish, and then helping them to fish! Giving them a ‘leg UP”!

I have begun working part time with the new, local Century 21 real estate office and their sister business “Ballena Homes” …helping them with their marketing and general business setup. The guys are a joy to work with, so much experience in Costa Rica and in sales. I am loving the challenge! Go to if you want to check them out!

In January there is going to be a great event at the finca / acreage….I am going to marry the amazing man who has been by my side in this journey, and holds my heart ever so dearly! We have invited our closest friends and family from Canada to come and share this special event with us…and about 100 “jungle neighbours”. The event will be held at our home…and will the best event the area has seen!! We have a local live band who have generously donated their music, local folks helping with the food, our Irish neighbour who has a renowned butcher shop in Ireland helping us with the meat, etc. It truly is a community event!

So, off to have a second cup of amazing Costa Rican coffee with milk I buy from the neighbour, and watch the rains for a bit, Chickens need fed, chores around the acreage are ongoing and constant! The life I love!

Panama border crossing – taking our truck across Nov, 2013
November 27, 2013, 12:17 pm
Filed under: Border Crossings - Panama, Driving in Costa Rica | Tags: ,

Doing the Panama Border – Nov 21, 2013-11-25

We went to Panama for our 90-day visa stamp. We took our truck across so that we could purchase some larger items at the Do It Center and PriceMart.
We got the necessary permit to take our truck out of Costa Rica from our lawyer and it cost us C35,000.00 or around $75.00 to get this permit.

We got our passports stamped out of Costa Rica first.
We took the permit to the Costa Rican “Aduana” office, behind the Passport office, beside the bathroom. We waited a few minutes for our turn, as there is always a few truckers in there getting their paper work processed.
They processed the permit, gave us a new piece of paper and inspected the truck.

We then went to the Panama side.

Park in the lane closest to the building. There is usually someone there to direct you.
The first thing to do here is go across the street, to the office that sells Insurance for $15.00 and makes copies of your Costa Rica exit stamp.
Then, go to the Passport window (go in the “Transportista” line cause you have a vehicle) and have your passport stamped in to Panama. They asked to see $500 and our car Insurance. I did not actually have the entire $500, but showed them what I had quickly and disorganized; and a credit card. That worked.


Then, go back around the corner and up the stairs( between the Aduana and the Passport control areas) to the Police office and get the paper from Costa Rica stamped.


Go to the Aduana office to get the paper work processed to enter Panama. You will have to wait a while…maybe 30 – 45 minutes to get this completed, as they are also processing all the truckers paperwork, and you do have to wait your turn.

Once this paperwork is completed, they will give it to you and inspect your vehicle.
Then you go a few feet ahead, pay $1.00 to have your vehicle sprayed for insects, at the door on the left, and end of the building.
Proceed through the spray booth.
A kilometer or so down the road there will be a checkpoint, where they will inspect your paper work to ensure you have completed all the documents, and process.

Returning to Costa Rica:

Park at the front of the Panama Customs building right where you drive up to it. An official will ask you what you are doing, tell him you are returning to Costa Rica.
Go to the Aduana / vehicle office further down the building, on the same wall as where you got your permit to enter Panama. They will stamp the permit.


Move your vehicle into the lane nearest the building to proceed through the border.
The picture above was taken while in that lane. The fellow is the official inspecting a vehicle. The guys with these T-shirts are the only ones you need to speak with, outside of the offices. There are “Banditos” wearing similar T-shirts, with official looking name tags….and they are smooth! One grabbed my papers as if he was an official ..had me believing him for a minute!
Then, go and check your passport out of Panama – you can go in the short “transportista” line, right beside the inspection lane, because you have a vehicle- and show the permit to the official. Much quicker if here is a long line up!

Your vehicle will then be inspected….either visually by an officer and / or by a dog; and your paper initialed by the officer who insects the vehicle
Go back to the Vehicle office and they will take the permit. The window you need to go to when leaving Panama is behind the Official guy.
You are done here.

Go to Costa Rica customs, park along the front of the building.
Get your passport stamped into Costa Rica, (get a form from the window and fill it out before you get to the window) Show your vehicle papers (registration) to the official, if asked for them. We presented our registration with our passport; the official glanced at it, and stamped us 90 days!

Go to the Aduana office, around and behind the Immigration area, beside the bathrooms; and check your vehicle back into Costa Rica, fill out a Customs declaration form for your purchases made in Panama.
The official will then inspect your vehicle, and have a look at your purchases, and go back in the office to complete the paper work.

They will review your declaration form and stamp your passport at the back, which means that you cannot purchase duty free for 6 months. You have exceeded your limit. They gave us this stamp, even though we only claimed $300.00 and we are actually allowed $500 per person when out for 3 days. I am not sure why they do this…this is the second time we have received this stamp. (only on the vehicle owner’s passport)

When we came to the checkpoint at Km 32 between Rio Claro and Palmar Sur, the official only looked at out passport stamps. Other times when we get stopped their, they inspect the truck and hassle us about purchases made at the border or while in Panama. They tell us that we always have to stop at the Aduana office and declare our purchases. So that is what we did. I am not sure the rhyme or reason here at this check stop. We never really know what to expect from these guys.

Over all, it cost us about $100 to take our vehicle into Panama, and because we could go in to the “Transportista” lines at the passport window, we cleared all the borders in about 1.5 hours each way. Faster than being in the regular line-up on the Panama side.

It was nice to have our own vehicle…and to pay for parking is about $15 per day at Paso Canoas, plus all the busses and taxi’s…I think the cost to take the truck across is worth it!
We did not have to show airline, or bus tickets at either border; and it was pretty easy, breezy!
We will do this again.