In Costa Rica, everywhere you go, Ciudadanos de Oro (golden citizens) are given special treatment. If you are over 65 years old and a legal resident of Costa Rica, you qualify to receive the “Gold Card.”
In 1997, Costa Rica established the Ciudadanos de Oro Program to create a culture of dignity and respect for the elderly. All citizens and residents, whether insured or not through the CCSS (Social Security), can request a free citizen’s gold card. The Costa Rican government made it official, but the culture has always held seniors in high esteem. With the gold card, we seniors are given preferential treatment by public institutions such as outpatient care facilities, medical support services, pharmacies, laboratories, hospitals, transportation, and administrative services.
The public bus system is just one of the public services. Gold card holders receive discounts on private, intercity buses and can ride the local buses for FREE! Although it’s cheap to ride to town on the local bus (35 cents each way for us) if you do it every day, the savings add up. So leave the car at home, use less gas, and ride the bus for free. Pretty good deal!
There are even more ways to save money with your gold card. The CCSS has made arrangements with more than 5,000 retail outlets to give discounts to card holders. For example, at one of our local food stores, PeriMercado, I get 5% off the total bill each time I shop. This 5% is on top of any sales they may have. We make a point to go every Tuesday, a big sale day. We buy chicken, shrimp, and other meats at up to 50% off, plus the extra 5% for gold card holders.
The CCSS has also signed agreements with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, museums, parks, airlines, travel agencies, spas, resorts, hotels, and restaurants to offer discounts. In addition, free exercise classes are provided by the University of Costa Rica, with a free physical to determine your fitness for the program.
So, if you are 65 or older and take advantage of these discounts, you can save a lot of money, with a side benefit of interacting more with the culture. Don’t leave home without it!