Apr 04 2017

In the Mailbag – Vonage, and Getting an Emergency U.S. Passport

emaildelivery-200pxWe always get lots of responses and questions from readers, both newsletter subscribers and on Facebook.

After she read our January 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living report, a reader wrote us this question about our Vonage bill:

Hola Gloria & Paul,

Am reading with much interest your move to town.  Can imagine getting used to the noise is difficult after living in the country!

I was writing as I noticed your Vonage monthly bill was $18 and wondered why yours is so much cheaper than ours.  We pay $42/month.  Anyway we can reduce our monthly expenditures we are all for!

Love your monthly newsletters.

Pura Vida,

Joe & Linda S.

And here’s my response:

Our Vonage bill is lower because we contacted them about a year ago and told them that we had decided to switch to MagicJack since it was so much less expensive. They said that since we had been such good customers for so many years, they would cut our bill by 50% (though the taxes stayed the same). So, we decided to stay with them. Give them a call. It’s worth a try!

Shortly afterwards, we received this good news from Joe and Linda:

Hola Gloria,

Thanks so much for your very helpful advice.  We did call Vonage & got our bill reduced substantially.  We were on an international plan at the $42 rate & are now on a US plan at $9.95/month that allows us to call US, Canada & Puerto Rico.  Huge reduction.  Thanks again.  Would not have known to do this without following you!

It always pays to ask!

We recently met Joan and Dan, an expat couple staying in San Ramon. Joan told us about their experience getting an emergency passport for their house guest whose passport was stolen — the day before her return flight home to the States! They were kind enough to send us the details in the event it might be useful for our readers:

When our friend—who we affectionately call our “Almost Daughter”—had her passport stolen in Puntarenas area, we followed the following steps which we got from Nomadic Matt’s website, in the section about when he lost his passport:

  • Go fill out a police report for your lost passport.
  • Go to the State Department website, print out this form and this one.
  • Fill them out.
  • Take the forms to the US Embassy or Consulate during morning hours.
  • Wait in line.
  • Wait in line some more.
  • Show the official your police report, forms, proof of your upcoming travel plans, and a passport-sized photo.
  • Read every sign made by the US Department of State while you wait even more.
  • Pay the fee (about $120 USD).
  • Go home and eat lunch.
  • Come back in the afternoon.
  • Wait in line again.
  • Get your new temporary passport.
  • Try not to lose this one either

Our process to help our guest turned out shorter than his! We think because we printed out and filled out the forms the night before. Had her passport photos taken at a place about 1/2 block away from the Embassy that had opened at least by our arrival time of 7:30 am, AND the fact that we were among the 1st in line outside the Embassy at 8 AM . CONCLUSION: We got in and out of all the requirements in 45 minutes!!!! (Another difference was—it cost us $135 plus $5 at the passport photo place). Also at 8 AM the Security Guard had us phone in from the sidewalk for an appointment. We got in right after that—yet later in the day, maybe it would not have worked out that way.

It is also explained that the emergency passport is good for 3 months and, upon return to the U.S., she is to send it in with the receipt of payment, she can get a passport that will be good for 10 yrs (regular not emergency status) and there will be no more fees; today’s payment covers it.

TIP: Be sure the info you need is in your hand on paper; ie, they took our phones away from us in Security, locked them up, giving us the key, and then returned them to us when we were leaving the Embassy.

Thanks Joan! Once again, here are the forms you will need to obtain an emergency passport. The key is downloading them and filling them out before you arrive at the U.S. Embassy.

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