Picadillo, Who Wants to Try Some?

Picadillo de papas in Costa RicaDo you know what Picadillo is? If you have been to Costa Rica, I am sure you may have had it and did not even know. I don’t know about you, but I am a fan of multiple-ingredient dishes. Therefore, I am a huge fan of a common Costa Rica dish called Picadillo

Picadillo de papas as part of a CasadoPicadillo comes from the verb picar or to chop. Adding the suffix -illo means small, so picadillo means something chopped into small pieces. Picadillo refers to several dishes that are prepared by chopping up a vegetable and sautéing it with things like garlic, onions, peppers, or cilantro. It is often served as a side dish with a Casado–the typical “Blue Plate Special” in Costa Rica consisting of a portion of meat, rice, beans, and ripe plantain. A portion of this tasty dish served on a tortilla is called a boca, which is a small snack or appetizer served in a bar-type restaurant.

PicadilloThere are many delicious picadillos you can order in a restaurant or prepare for yourself at home. To prepare the dish, always start with sautéing a bit of the aforementioned minced garlic, onion, sweet pepper, and achiote for color. Other spices such as cumin, oregano, or even curry, can vary the flavor, although that is up to the individual chef. The vegetables are usually boiled until al dente and then diced. Chopped cilantro can be added at the end of the cooking time for an added bright flavor.

Picadillo de papa, or potato, is one the most most common. Potatoes are boiled and chopped up and then added to cooked ground beef or chorizo. It is similar to what you might know as “hash”, although it is often moister. Alternately, boiled yuca (cassava) can be used in place of the potatoes and added to chorizo. That combination is absolutely delicious!

Picadillo de VainicaA lighter version is prepared with chayote, a light-green, very mild vegetable. Often canned corn is added to this dish. This picadillo, and the one that follows, includes chopped raw vegetables added to saute. A little water may be needed if the mixture becomes too dry.

Picadillo de ayote en leche is similar to the picadillo de chayote except it is made with a squash with a bright yellow interior encased in a dark green skin called ayote tierno is used. Milk or cream is added to the finished product.

One of my favorites is picadillo de arracache. Arracache is a root vegetable, a bit like celery root or a white carrot. Its distinctive flavor has been described as “a delicate blend of celery, cabbage, and roast chestnuts.” The root is roughly ground, boiled for 10-15 minutes, and all the liquid squeezed out. It is then combined with cooked chorizo or shredded meat. Yum!

Boiled green plantains can also be made into picadillo, and a very delicious version has shredded meat and cream cheese or heavy cream. It sounds strange, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Another tasty version is made with green papaya. Once again, the papaya is chopped small and parboiled before adding it to the frying pan with the other ingredients.

And finally, there is the ubiquitous picadillo de vainica, or green beans. Green beans are chopped up small with diced carrot and prepared as described above.

Picadillos do not have to be just a side dish–they can be a complete meal by themselves or with a serving of rice. It is a tasty and satisfying way to eat a variety of vegetables, and there are so many combinations you will find it a joy to consume your daily requirement of veggies. The chopping process may be a bit labor-intensive, but once the ingredients are in the pot, all you have to do is stir.

Which picadillo would you like to prepare for lunch today?

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Can I Work from Home in Costa Rica?

Man working from home in Costa RicaCan I work from home in Costa Rica? I decided to write about this subject again.  Many ask me this question due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The high risk of transmission in many places and government mandates have forced workers and students alike to stay at home and limit contact outside the family. Even prior to the worldwide health crisis, it was a question frequently asked by those seeking greater flexibility and less commute time in their work. Working from home can also open up the opportunity to relocate and move to Costa Rica. So, is working from home a viable option in Costa Rica? It certainly is.

Zoom meeting while working from homeCosta Rica offers ideal conditions to work from home. It’s in the same time zone as central North America, so you’ll never have to make or receive phone calls in the middle of the night if your work contacts are in the same hemisphere. An obvious requirement is reliable, high speed Internet and phone service. Costa Rica ticks those boxes with the best telecommunications infrastructure in Central America. And multiple Internet service providers guarantee competitive pricing and constant technology upgrades.

Forbes magazine (August 16, 2012) listed tips from experts on how to successfully work from home. It’s remarkable how well the recommendations can be put into practice in Costa Rica. Here are some of their suggestions and how they fit the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Get organized. Costa Rica is a great place to get organized, both in your daily life and in your work. When moving to Costa Rica, most expats leave behind the mountain of accumulated stuff that they weren’t using anyway. When they set up in Costa Rica, they only purchase what they really need. As a result, life is simpler and better organized. The slower pace also lends itself to staying in control of home, office, and lifestyle. Being organized includes maintaining balance between work, family, and leisure time. The service of housekeepers and gardeners is reasonably priced, so you can afford to free up your schedule and keep your balance.

person working from home in their pijamasHave a set work space. Your work from home will be more efficient if you designate a specific room or area as your home office. Just like I do, in my third bedroom, which is now set up as an office. If you store your computer and any other work-related materials in one place, they will always be right where you left them, ready for you to continue your project where you left off. It won’t be difficult to find the ideal office space in your Costa Rica house or condo. Homes here are known to be spacious and brightened by natural light in every room. However, be careful that the gorgeous views don’t distract you while you’re working!

work from Home in Costa RicaTake breaks. Your productivity while you work from home will actually increase if you schedule breaks. Putting down the phone and pushing aside the computer once in a while is beneficial both physically and mentally. Costa Rican homes often feature places to get up, stretch, walk around, and breath fresh air. Many have outdoor living spaces–balconies, patios, or decks–where you can rest your mind and body. Some houses and condos have pools which is another great place to get away from your work.

Get out of the house. While a short break from your home office is nice, sometimes you need to change your work setting completely. When you’ve had enough of the same four walls, Costa Rica offers a wide variety of options. The aforementioned pool can be a peaceful, but different, place to continue your labors. Or the beach if you really want to get away from it all but still get something done. A Skype call or a Zoom meeting from the pool or beach doesn’t seem like office work at all. Coffee shops, smoothie huts, and restaurants with wifi are also readily available. They provide a much needed change of setting where you can check your emails or finish a report. And with the great year-round weather, you don’t have to wait for a nice day to leave the house.

So don’t be afraid to try working from home in Costa Rica. The great living and working conditions make it the ideal place. In fact, it may feel like you’re not even working at all. I know I didn’t when I wrote this blog from my home in Costa Rica!

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Want more information about Costa Rica in general visit https://www.costarican-american-connection.com/Costa_Rica_FAQs/page_2575549.html

Interested in owning a property in Costa Rica, checkout some great options here

How Much Does it Cost to Own a Condo in Costa Rica?

Beautiful condo complex in Costa Rica with a poolHow much does it cost to own a condo  in Costa Rica?

Current listings of condos for sale starts with a simple studio unit for $35,000 and ascends to a 4 bedroom ocean view penthouse with roof top deck for $699,000. In between, you’ll find more than 100 offerings in a variety of sizes, styles, and prices. The point is, you’ll always find a condo available that fits your needs no matter what your taste or budget.

How to own a condo in Costa RicaIn addition, owning a condo offers numerous advantages. It’s a great investment. Year in and year out, Costa Rica real estate is one of the soundest investments you can make. The government and economy are stable, and property values continue to increase at a reasonable rate. Another bonus is that when you own your own condo, you can decorate it to your taste and use it whenever you want. That’s not the case when you rent. And finally, you can rent your condo out for extra income. Which brings us to the next question.

How much money can I make renting out my condo?
View from the living area of a condo in Costa Rica
A weekly condo rental in a gated community with a pool in Playas del Coco is currently priced between $900 (1 bedroom/1 bath) and $1400 (3 bedroom/2 bath). Those prices go up about 50% during holidays such as  Christmas and Easter. However, there are many variables that can affect the price including location, amenities, furnishings, security, season, and many other factors. The occupancy rate of a rental properties is another factor that determines your return on investment, and it too is variable. One real estate website estimates that yearly occupancy rates average 65%. So, is it worth it to rent your condo out? If you are looking for the maximum return on investment, you may be better off to put your money elsewhere. But if you consider that you can enjoy a vacation home that practically pays for itself through rentals, the option becomes much more appealing.

What are the typical costs to maintain a condo?
Rooftop deck overlooking the Pacific in Playa Hermosa Costa Rica
One of the advantages of owning a condo in Costa Rica is that someone else maintains the property. The disadvantage is that you have to pay for those maintenance services. How much should you expect to pay to the homeowner’s association for security, maintenance, landscaping of common areas, pool care, and road repairs? HOA fees can be as low as $100 per month in developments with fewer amenities and public areas. On the other hand, monthly HOA costs can reach as high as $500 or more in complexes that have more employees and more common areas to maintain. Additional expenses are property taxes (a low 0.25% of the appraised value annually), utilities, and insurance on the contents of the condo. Insurance on the structure is usually included in the HOA fees but not always, it depends on the condo association and what the owners have decided upon.

Do condo owners use Airbnb or other means to rent condos?
Luxury condo for sale in Playa Hermosa Costa Rica
Airbnb currently lists hundreds of condos, apartments, and townhomes for rent in the region that encompasses Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Panama. Booking.com lists at least 100 more. Some condo owners list their properties on these websites and then manage the reservations themselves. Others entrust that duty to a host who lives locally and perhaps manages multiple properties. Another option is to hire a property management company to care for everything and send you regular financial reports. It’s a tradeoff between personal involvement and cost that each owner must decide.

What if I need to sell my condo?
Graphic about the top 10 things to do when selling a home
I am here to help you buy your condo, and I will be here for you if you need to sell it. Whether you decide to use me or someone else, always look for a SUGEF registered real estate agent with experience and a good reputation. I know the market as well as the legal requirements for real estate transactions. Just let me know what you would like to do.

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Want more information about Costa Rica in general visit https://www.costarican-american-connection.com/Costa_Rica_FAQs/page_2575549.html

Can I Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica?

Banco BCT in Costa RicaI get asked this all the time. “Can I open a bank account in Costa Rica”? The simple answer is yes! But you need to know the limitations that are involved. It also depends if you are opening a personal account or a corporate account. There are restrictions set by the “SUGEF”, the General Superintendent of Financial Institutions. This is basically the banking regulatory commission of Costa Rica.
Sample of a DIMEX card or Cedula in Costa Rica
Most foreigners that own property in Costa Rica come for three months of the year or maybe three to four times a year on vacations. It makes it a lot easier if they have a local bank account. Then there are expats, like me, that live here year-round and have gone through the immigration process.
Banco Nacional in Playas del Coco Costa Rica
There are government-owned banks in Costa Rica as well as private banks and financiers. Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) is the largest and most-utilized, then there is Banco Nacional (BNCR),  Banco Popular, and more. Personally, I bank with Banco BCT, a privately owned bank that is more of a business bank, yet it offers everything the government banks do and in my branch, they speak great English.

If you are a resident of Costa Rica, meaning you have gone through the residency process and have been granted residency (not a perpetual tourist and that’s another subject altogether) it is very easy to open an account. You can open a savings or checking account in either dollars or colones, the local currency, or both. The bank will require copies of proof of identity, such as a passport and proof of legal residency, your DIMEX. DIMEX is a foreigner’s residency card, sometimes referred to as a Cedula. The bank, depending on which one you choose, may need to know how much money you plan on depositing and withdrawing in the account per month. I know it sounds weird but it is all related to the prevention of money laundering. Being a resident, the service options are even greater, let me explain.
Banco de Costa RicaBy having a full account, whether checking or savings, you can pay your Costa Rica bills online through the bank’s online banking system. Services like water, electricity and cable. If you want to transfer or wire money to someone else in the country you can do it through the SINPE wire system of Costa Rica. If you want to wire funds out of Costa Rica, no problem, that can be done as well. Basically, every type of banking you do in North America or Europe you can do here – all right from your smartphone or laptop.

If you are the owner of a Costa Rica registered corporation, you are in luck.  Even non-residents of Costa Rica can have a full working bank account in a company name.  However, you will have to secure certain documents from your attorney here in Costa Rica. For example, a shareholder’s certification. A lot of foreigners that buy property in Costa Rica own them through corporations for both liability protection and the opportunity to open a full bank account.
Banco Popular in Costa RicaEven if you are not a legal resident you can still open a personal bank account in Costa Rica, but you will be limited to only $1,200.00 USD per month in or out of the account. You will be able to pay local bills online but you cannot wire funds to anyone.  These strict policies related to non-resident bank accounts can be a hassle but they are designed to stop money laundering.

So, can you open a bank account in Costa Rica?  YES is the answer!

Want to keep up with everything that is happening here in Costa Rica?  Join my email list!

Want more information about Costa Rica in general visit https://www.costarican-american-connection.com/Costa_Rica_FAQs/page_2575549.html

If you are interested in owning a property in Costa Rica, check out some great options here