Costa Rica: “The Real Costa Rica” Guide TicoGrande Reminded Me of My Worst College Prof

Mike Tyson Abusive Mania

“The time we spent with Tim was intense. As advertised, Tim is not selling Costa Rica, he is giving information that he has gleaned from his years of living in the country. After the tour, we spent a few more days in Costa Rica doing more due diligence and found ourselves referencing Tim’s advice and guidance. He is not there to make friends, but to give solid, useful information. He did that. Considering we spent 12 hours in the car with him over two days, him driving and buying lunches, and the quantity of topics covered in depth, it is money we would spend again. One tip alone we learned from Tim could save us a lot of time and headaches and money.”

— Sixty and Nancy


Did you ever have a college professor that everyone warned you about? The one that was brutal to students while he beat information into your brain?

The college prof I feared was Col. Kneussel. “Don’t take Kneussel for Business Law…” was the mantra around campus. I needed the class to graduate and I put it off as long as I could hoping I could arrange my schedule to get somebody – anybody – other than Colonel Kneussel.

I wasn’t in law school. I was trying to get a degree in advertising.

He was brutal. He had absolutely no interest in being liked. He asked trick questions about the cases. He dared you to give any other answer than he had in mind.  He humiliated and embarrassed students who paid good money to get a college degree. Students dropped his class 2/3 of the way through he was so overbearing.

We had a Costa Rica tour guide that was exactly like that.

Someday I think we would like living in Costa Rica. We decided that time was a wastin’ so I started scouring the web for all the information about living in this Central America paradise.

There are tons of real estate people who charge money to haul you around on a bus all the while giving you the sales pitch on Costa Rica: names like We Love Costa Rica and Boomers in Costa Rica and Live In Costa Rica and Costa Rica Is The Best Place in the World for Retirees Because Everybody Loves The Weather and Property is Cheap.

They all have written books to lure you to sinking your money into property via their connections.


I found TicoGrande who runs a website called The Real Costa Rica, and he seemed like a straight shooter. (Tico is a nickname for any native Costa Rican. Non-natives are called Gringos. Neither are prejorative.)

We started calling him Tico Tim because his real name is Tim Lytle. Tico Tim promised to tote us around the countryside in his car and not show us any real estate. His website is the most comprehensive conglomeration of information about what it takes live in Costa Rica. Tico Tim seemed like just what we wanted and needed to see if living in Costa Rica was for us.

We paid him a shit pot full of money and spent a couple days with him.

In exchanging emails and even during his preliminary phone conversation before our first face-t0-face he had the same kind of humor I do.

He’s a smart-ass.

What we learned after two hours with him in the car is that he is arrogant, egotistical, narcissistic, conceited, boorish and __________ (fill in the blank) smart ass.

He picked us up, drove a few blocks, parked in the shade and started his lecture. His first loutish behavior was to ogle three young women who walked past the car. Not only did he ogle them, he stopped talking. When he started up again, he said something to the effect of “you gotta love Costa Rica.” Then made some other slime-ball comment and returned to the subject of moving to Costa Rica.

Another example of his lack of interpersonal skills was the way he made sure we were hanging on his every word. He would set up an scenario then ask us if we knew why the scenario occurred. Then Blammo!

  1. Man moves to Costa Rica without doing any research.
  2. Man buys home
  3. Man sells home and makes a nice profit

Question: Why did this happen?

My answer: Fraud.

“Why would you go there?” Tico Tim bellows. “Why would you assume a crime was committed? Why would you say that?

I was in the back seat so Nancy could hear and take good notes. I slid down as far as I could so he couldn’t see me in the rear view mirror and squeaked, “because you asked me.”

The “correct” answer was in the TicoGrande, The Real Costa Rica world, was:

He sold the property too cheap. He left money on the table.

Well yeah. Or he got lucky or was a crook. But none of those was acceptable to Tico Tim.

He had one of those personalities where no matter what either of us said, it was wrong. Even when we tried our best to agree, we couldn’t.

The sky sure is blue here.

No, the sky is azul, TicoGrande would proclaim. If you want to move here, you must learn the language.

I have been practicing my Spanish via the Pimsleur CD’s. Spent 12 hours and read another 4 hours. I knew a good bit of Spanish Spanish.

You need to learn Latin American Spanish.

Of course he was right more than he was wrong. Like Col. Kneussel taught me business laws that I still recall today, Tico Tim taught us the ways of Costa Rica probably better than most. But when Nancy was in tears at the end of the first day, I figured it wasn’t just me.

TicoGrande treated us like crap.

We ate, we drank, we slept, and we showed up for the second day tour with a new strategy. We would only answer Yes, No, or I Don’t Know. I promised Nancy that anytime she felt verbally abused again, I would call it off and have him return us to the hotel.

It worked. Until he neared our hotel to drop us at the end of the tour.

Was it worth it?

No response.

Was it worth it? Did you learn anything?

No response as we reached the curb, I said, “I’m afraid to answer.”

He demanded to know why so I told him I didn’t want to get yelled at.

TicoGrande, who had been talking for probably a total of 6 hours that day, and we were answering Yes, No, I Don’t Know, didn’t have a clue that we had a ton of questions but were afraid to ask.

He looked at Nancy and said “I didn’t yell at him, did I?” She said, Yes.

Did I yell at you?


The Ugliest American we met in Costa Rica was the guy we paid a shit pot full of money to haul us around.

He was the Mike Tyson of Costa Rica. He was the Colonel Kneussel of Costa Rica. TicoGrande is not The Real Costa Rica. It’s a beautiful garden spot with lovely people who are charming and educated.

We Love Costa Rica.

We’re not so crazy about Tico Grande.

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Costa Rica: “The Real Costa Rica” Guide TicoGrande Reminded Me of My Worst College Prof — 20 Comments

  1. It’s also difficult to listen about how things are in the US when he hasn’t lived here since the 90’s….things change! At the end of the tour he was discussing technology and made a statement regarding a dongle. He looked at Mark and said “do you know what that is?” Mark said yes, then he wanted to know how he knew; he replied, “we use them at work”. Then he asked me and I said yes. Then he wanted to know how I knew and I went on to explain that I use one with my embroidery machine. Then in a gruff voice he barked, “Are you trying to tell me that your sewing machine hooks up to a computer?” And I responded yes it does! Sheesh…I need to add, I don’t think he was convinced that sewing machines are now computerized and can be hooked up to a computer. See, things do change! And another thing, I don’t need a Costa Rican telling me about the US political scene.

  2. My husband and I took the TicoGrande Tour with Tim in January not long before you went out with him. We learned a fair amount from him but found his manner to be offputting in many ways. He made rude and condescending comments, reacted defensively when we asked questions pertinent to the topic at hand, and was controlling in the extreme. After just a couple of hours in the car with him, we were both very stressed.

    Like you, we got through the second day by pretty much keeping our mouths shut. We also agreed with him as much as possible to avoid confrontation of any kind.

    While I’m glad to have acquired some of the information Tim imparted, if I had it to do over again, I’d save my money (several hundred dollars) and take my questions about mail, banking, getting residency, etc. to other expats.

    • Yes, we feel the same way. Not money wasted per se, but certainly nothing in his lecture that couldn’t be learned from and other sources. As we talked on the trip home there were little nuggets of info that I think will be useful.

    • Yes, we think we could be happy living in Costa Rica. Even though CR is the size of West Virginia, there are enough mountains to put between us and Tim that we feel confident our paths will never cross again in person.

  3. Bruce and I are still laughing with tears streaming down our face. We LOVED your description of your beloved guide!! Next time you come back I am sure it will be a much more pleasant trip since you won’t have two whole days of being beaten and battered. Of course, you DID have the comfort of kisses and snuggles from the furkids at the end of these arduous 2 days.
    HURRY BACK!! All us two leggeds and four leggeds miss you!!!
    Frances and Bruce recently posted…Paco got his big boy surgery!!!My Profile

  4. Wow, what a crappy guide. I’m glad you wrote about it so other people don’t fall into this guy’s hostile trap.

    I am always open to any questions you have. Living here is a blast, even with all the crazy things that happen. A group of Mot Mot birds are in a tree in my front yard right now. Things like that make up for the fact that I did not have water for 8 hours yesterday.

    And I promise not to ask you what a dongle is. 🙂
    happier with less recently posted…DON’T GO HEAVY ON THE MUSTARDMy Profile

    • Hi, and welcome.
      I’m a subscriber to your blog. Thanks for popping in!
      Re Guide: good info poorly presented can be hard to take sometimes. This was one of those times.

  5. ROTFLMAO!!! Hard to imagine two adults paying at that and not able to speak-up and set somebody straight at their expense to boot! I believe this is just a sham to discredit Tico Grande by a bunch of jealous realtors and other money makers off those interested in moving to Costa Rica!

    • I’m guessing you have never met or talked to Tico Grande. Here’s why we didn’t ditch him: we paid upfront. BTW: did you even read the first paragraph of the post? Let me help you… it starts:
      “The time we spent with Tim was intense. …” Go back and read that.

      • Thank you but I do not need your help…Tim’s an honorable man, I find it very hard to believe your account…I know he’s a straight shooter and does not pull any punches. Perhaps your very sensitive…I can not imagine anyone not putting someone in their place especially paying customers regardless of a refund or not. JMHO

  6. Just want to put in my two cents. I hired Ticogrande just a week or so before goinglikesixty did. I got a lot of good info from Tim but found his manner to be abrasive, controlling in the extreme, rude, and unprofessional. I was happy to get the info he imparted but had great difficulty with his behavior.

  7. This is hilarious, but sorry you had to put up with such a meanie. Your experience sounds a lot like the “help” I get on expat forums whenever I ask a question. There are one or two nice, helpful, knowledgeable people, and the rest are out to start arguments and be miserable. Get a life meanies!

    • Yeah, his interpersonal skills were lacking, but he has done a lot of research and we have found his website and the tour to be worth the money. Forums can be a wild and wooly place thats for sure! So you and me and the other nice people must not let the trolls win. 🙂

      • We are considering hiring TicoTours but are a little leary due to these comments. He does seem to have a lot of good information on his website. Also he wants a deposit up front. It does sound like he is legit so not too worried about any scams for the deposit. However, due to everyone’s comments, can anybody recommend any tours similar to his so we can look at other options?

        • There are no other options. The other tours have a agenda to sell you property. You will be treated like a customer.
          On the surface this may seem to be a good thing, but what you really want is an unvarnished opinion backed up by some facts. Tim will provide this for you. But it won’t be easy. Should it be?

  8. Dear Going Like Sixty: Thanks for your reply! I am now even more torn than ever! It seems Tim has the most information and for sure, legitimate, which is comforting. However, not sure I want to pay money to be treated in an insulting way. While I know it is not intended to be a fluff tour, and is supposed to be educational about moving there, it seems that could be accomplished in a polite manner. Sooooooo…… seems like its the “Devil & The Deep Blue Sea” conundrum. Not sure what we are going to do at this point.

  9. For Future Expat – we considered a tour before we moved, but ended up doing it on our own. We figured we had decades to find out about the country if we decided to move here (we did), and the most important thing was to find out how to find out more. We did attend the ARCR 2-day seminar, and found it very useful. We also read a lot of books, blogs, and forums before coming, and stayed in small hotels/B&Bs on our several trips. The most important thing is to know what you want out of life, and to be as critical as possible (no rose-colored glasses) with what you experience to see if it will work for you.
    BTW – we met Tim for lunch once – that was enough. One statement that he made that sticks w/ me: “retirement is different for a woman.” Even w/ a hint or two that I was retiring from a profession, he remained clueless, didn’t follow up, kept his outmoded single-sided outlook on what life is like for “everyone.”