Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter
In This Issue:
- What’s Up With the Yeatmans? CT Scan, Cancer, and the Caja
- Our July 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living
- The Adventure Inn-Our “Go-To Hotel”
- Featured Property in Lake Arenal: Bali Style Bungalow with Lake View-$125,000
- Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica
- Our Ultimate CR Healthcare Tour
You may have noticed that our healthcare expenses have been higher the last few months. Part of the increase was due to preventative care such as my yearly gynecologist appointment and associated tests and new glasses for Paul. But we have had some other issues going on as well.
Paul came home on Monday, August 13th after being in a Caja hospital for two weeks (since July 31st). On August 9th, he had surgery to remove his right kidney. We found out on June 8th that his recent CT scan showed 2 cancerous tumors and the only treatment possible was to remove the whole kidney. The rest of June and the month of July were a waiting game for us. We had to wait for about 7 weeks for a bed in the Caja (socialized medicine) hospital to become available on July 31st. Nine days later, he had the surgery. They were able to do it laparoscopicly so his recovery will be quicker.
I know that this is shocking. It was for us too. We will know more after we get the biopsy results but we are optimistic. His attitude is great, always positive. Paul says this experience gives us new content for our healthcare tours and presentations. He is right, of course, but I wish we didn’t have to have this experience first-hand. It’s been really hard but we are coming out on the other side now. While he was in the hospital, I commuted to the hospital every day, an hour away by bus, so his being home is making things so much easier.
We told a few close friends and immediate family early on and they were, and continue to be, very supportive. We chose to wait to make this more public on Facebook and in our newsletter until after his surgery. Thanks everyone for your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. Thanks also to our friends who drove us to and from the hospital, met me at the bus stop every evening to see me safely home, brought me dinner, and came to visit Paul once he was home. You are the best!
Paul is doing great as long as he doesn’t overdo it (that’s my job). His recovery will take 4-6 weeks and he can’t drive for a while. He is home recovering nicely, had his stitches out a few days ago, and is his usual positive self! We won’t know the results of the biopsy for a while but the surgeons were able to safely remove both tumors along with the kidney. We are so grateful that his doctor caught it early and that we could rely on the Caja (though we were prepared to pay out-of-pocket in the private system if necessary).
We will be writing more about this experience, including videos made before and after his surgery, in the coming months. Your positive energy and continued prayers are so appreciated.
Gloria and Paul
Our spending in July was right on target. Actually, if you take into account that almost $300 was spent to renew our residency, our “cost of living” spending for the month was low, more in the range of $1,700.
Transportation – $108.33
We stayed close to home in July, waiting for the call from the hospital that a bed for Paul had become available. Our transportation expenses for the month included one fill-up with premium gasoline at about $80, some assorted tolls and parking fees, plus round-trip bus transportation to the hospital on July 27th — the day we were told Paul would have a bed at the hospital, only to be sent home after being told that it was a mistake.
The total also includes a $14 parking ticket (7,800 colones) we got outside of Hospital Mexico. We parked where we usually park, not realizing that the newly-numbered space meant that there was now a charge to park there through a new smartphone app. The take-away is that if you see a numbered space — common now in areas of San Jose and Grecia — parking there requires advance payment via an app. The trick is to discover what the app is and how to set it up with your credit card. Bottom line: don’t park there unless you have previously made these arrangements or you will be ticketed.
Groceries – $306.14
We ate most of our meals at home as usual, with 87% of our spending on food items and 13% on non-food items. There is nothing much of note here except one visit to PriceSmart.
Meals Out – $67.90
As I mentioned earlier, July was a waiting period for us. It was stressful, and since we chose not to tell a lot of people yet about Paul’s condition, it was easier (for me, at least) to stay home and not have to pretend that everything was normal. We did have lunch one day in July at a restaurant in Grecia to hear our friend, Frank, perform a concert. Lunch for both of us was $24.60. The only other meals out were related to doctor or hospital visits.
Healthcare – $330.67
In June, we paid out-of-pocket to see another urologist for a second opinion about Paul’s CT scan results. By July, we were resigned to him having the surgery but we had questions for the urologist we saw in the Caja. After our initial meeting with her, we were in too much shock to think straight. After we left the consultation room, we thought of all the questions we should have asked. Also, we were home waiting for the phone call about a bed in the hospital becoming available and we felt helpless. We had no way to reach the Caja urologist, so I did a Google search and found out that she sees patients privately in MediSmart, our plan through Hospital Metropolitano. We made an appointment and were able to see her at the discounted rate of $31.95 (24,000 colones, a 60% discount off the regular rate of 60,000 colones).
We were able to ask her our questions about the surgery, his recovery period, the odds that the tumors were actually cancerous (90-95%), and how she recommended we get through this waiting period (“Live your life,” she said.) She also called the admissions department at the hospital while we were in her office to see where Paul was in the queue for a bed. It should be soon, we were told (which unfortunately turned into three more weeks.)
Also included in this category were a few supplements like CoQ10 & Omega 3 fish oil, prescriptions for Paul and me, and our monthly Caja and MediSmart payments. The urologist appointment, Caja, and MediSmart accounted for 28% of the total spent in this category ($92.20) and the prescriptions and supplements accounted for the remaining 72% ($238.47).
Rent/Phone/Utilities – $752.84
All expenses in this category are normal. We bought a tank of propane, which we use for cooking only, at a cost of $13.37 (7,500 colones). A tank lasts us 2-3 months, depending on how often I bake.
A visit to Pequeño Mundo in Alajuela gave me the opportunity to buy some more glass storage containers with locking lids. I have been phasing out plastic containers and never use them to heat foods in the microwave. Pequeño Mundo has a good selection and great prices.
Personal Care and Clothing – $90.13
Paul got a haircut for 2,500 colones (about $4.50) and bought a shirt at his favorite ropa americana store, Mega Ropa, for 2,800 colones (about $5.00).
The bulk of the spending in this category was for shoes. Since Paul’s a tall guy and wears bigger shoes than the normal Tico, the selection available to him is limited, at best. A friend told us that PayLess Shoes carries a larger selection in his size, so off we went. We each found two pairs of shoes we liked and, since the store offered a “buy one, get the second pair at half price” deal, we bought all four pairs. Total cost: $78.20.
Vet/Pet Supplies – $53.60
Nothing too exciting here. The visit to PriceSmart allowed us to buy two 42 lb. bags of Fresh Step kitty litter ($17.42/bag). They changed their packaging again, back to one big bag after a short time packaging the littler in four smaller bags inside of big bag — way too much packaging in my view, so I was happy about the change back.
Only other expense in this category was dry cat food and kitty treats.
Entertainment – $48.64
It wasn’t a fun-filled month, to say the least! Our entertainment spending went towards our NetFlix subscription and two online newspaper subscriptions for Paul.
Renew Residency – $280.82
It has been several years since we changed our residency status and became “permanent” instead of “temporary” legal residents of Costa Rica. (You can read and watch our video about the process at this link.) Our cédulas (residency ID cards) expired in July so it was time to renew. The first step was to call to make an appointment at BCR (Banco de Costa Rica) by calling 2211-1120. After trying several times, we were able to make appointments for both of us at our local BCR in San Ramon. Complicating this process was not knowing when we would receive the call from the hospital for Paul to check in. Another complication was that we needed to also renew our Caja coverage (which has recently been linked with cédula renewals); we couldn’t renew our Caja until we had first renewed our cédulas. This was stressful for us in light of Paul’s impending hospitalization but, thankfully, it all worked out eventually.
On the day of the appointment, we went to BCR with our current cédulas, passports, and proof that our Caja payments were current. We also had to pay 78,770 colones each ($140.41) which included included the fee to mail our new cedulas to our local post office.
As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months. If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:
- A Walk Around Our Neighborhood (Video)
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Shop at Ropa Americana
The Adventure Inn has been our “go to hotel” for the last 4 years. It’s where we pick up our Healthcare Tour guests. We recommend it for anyone coming to Costa Rica, especially if you want a hotel convenient to the San Jose airport. You can get an inexpensive tour right at the hotel or use it as your first & last place in Costa Rica, coming from or going to the airport.
The Adventure Inn also offers a free breakfast and a free shuttle service to and from the airport.
If you mention the promo code “RetireforLess” they will give you 10% off, plus if you pay in cash, you’ll get another 10% off. Also, always ask if they have any other additional discounts.
We’ve stayed there many times ourselves, & love their rooms & service.
- Location: Puerto San Luis, Arenal, Tilarán, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
- Listing Type: Residential Sale
- Bed/Baths: 2/1
- Location Type: Mountain
- View Type: Lake View
- Total Lot Size: 384.36 m² (4,137.20 sq ft)
- Total Living Area: 100.00 m² (1,076.39 sq ft)
Cozy 2 bedrooms, one bath Bali Style Bungalow with loft for an office offers all the amenities for a full-time residence or vacation rental investment if one is not ready to retire at this time. Walk to the water and also within walking distance to several very good restaurants in the area as well as public transportation to the Municipal Hub of the Lake Arenal area, Tilaran only 4 miles from this location. Gated community for security, quiet surroundings, high-speed internet.
Listing ID# RS1700441
Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.
I’m so excited to announce that my new book, Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica is now available on Amazon.com! Here are a couple of my 5 star reviews:
“Outstanding. I have been looking for a book that would tell me where to buy certain items that are not available in the local Costa Rica stores and I found all of that and more. Information such as translation from English to Spanish and of course Spanish to English. This is helpful so when I am shopping I can find what I am looking for using the translation. There is a break down of measurements and substitutions that was helpful. I like the few recipes that are included, and can’t wait to try them. This is a great book with so much information to help you learn about cooking in Costa Rica. I love the layout of the book and the clear explanations, and its easy to locate what I am looking for without going through an entire book. Also the resources in the back have been super helpful. Thanks so much for the book.”
“Practical as well as scholarly, this is a must-have guide for any man or woman who commands a kitchen in Costa Rica. Wonderfully readable and quickly useable for whatever and whenever you may need to know all things culinary in Costa Rica. And if that were not enough, what an amazing tour guide for English-speaking lovers of food in a Spanish-speaking culture, where the recipes you know and have always loved can come alive in new and exciting ways. I just feel smarter having read it!”
When you move to a Spanish-speaking country, it can be daunting to stock your kitchen and cook meals when you don’t know what your ingredients are called in Spanish. And even when you know the Spanish translation, it can be a challenge at times to find what you are looking for.
You can download this practical, comprehenive guide and on-going reference tool on your smart phone or iPad so you have it with you whenever you shop. The table of contents is interactive, so you can easily click through to the meat section when you are at the butcher shop (carnicería) or to the dairy section when you are standing in front of the dairy case. Here’s what you will find inside:
- A little bit about me, our life in Costa Rica, how and where we shop for groceries, what we spend, and some insights about grocery shopping in Costa Rica.
- An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary, broken down into the following sections:
- Meat & Poultry
- Fish & Seafood
- Grains, Nuts, Seeds, & Baking Ingredients
- Dairy & Eggs, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods
- Beans, Canned & Prepared Foods
- Herbs, Spices, & Seasonings
- An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary in alphabetical order.
- An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary of things you find in the kitchen.
- A Glossary of cooking terms and helpful adjectives to use when buying and cooking food, ordering in a restaurant, and reading recipes in Spanish.
- Recipe substitutions for when you can’t find familiar ingredients here in Costa Rica.
- Recipes which I have adapted to use with ingredients found in Costa Rica, plus some favorite recipes of other expat cooks in Costa Rica.
- A U.S. Measure to Metric Conversion Guide for temperature, volume, weight, and length.
- A resource section with links to expat cooking blogs, Facebook groups and pages, specialty products, and other food-related things.
If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for your iPad or computer at this link.
I hope you enjoy my book and find it useful!
We are proud to offer the Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica. When asked what he liked best about our healthcare tour, one of our guests wrote, “the wide variety of places we saw, the experts that Paul arranged for us to meet and talk with, and an emphasis on all aspects of health, not just doctors and hospitals. Mental health is just as important as physical, if not more so.”
David and Donna H. recently too our healthcare tour and had this to say on one of the expat Facebook groups: Donna and I just finished the medical tour that Paul and Gloria (Retire For Less in Costa Rica) offer. It was excellent! Two days of information and tours around hospitals and clinics as well as educational and cultural centers and even information on some of the banking. The tour is designed to introduce a new arrival to the Costa Rican system of health care that includes, not just the body but the whole person. I highly recommend this tour to anyone that is new, or relatively new in country, especially to the people that live in and around the central valley. Paul taylors the two days to the groups needs as far as their ability, including any and all physical limitations, and his own experience and contacts with the people at the various institutions makes this tour extremely personable and pleasurable. It is a really great opportunity to learn more about the health care and how you can tailor it to your own needs, and learn more about what is available to enhance your experience while living in Costa Rica.”
We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over nine years and have used the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system extensively, as well as the private system, when needed. We’ve learned the system and have been referred up the ladder to see specialists in the maze that is the Caja system. Gloria’s even had surgery here.
Our blend of personal insights and on-the-ground experience combines to answer your questions about whether or not Costa Rica’s healthcare system could meet your individual needs.
But, while it is focused on healthcare, you will learn a lot more about living and retiring in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Most of the second day of the tour takes place in the town of San Ramón where we live and use the services. And you will come to our home that day to listen to two presentations.
Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time. Our goal is to show you the possibilities and to try to demystify Costa Rica’s healthcare system. Our tour lasts two days and 1 night and includes lodging, transportation, meals and non-alcoholic beverages.
- At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
- Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)
- An insurance broker for a presentation on the various supplemental health insurance options, including public, private, and international plans
- A senior living retirement community
- CPI language school for a presentation about how learning Spanish increases your options for healthcare and some basic medical Spanish.
- Our local hospital here in San Ramón
- A local EBAIS (community clinic)
- The office of our dentist in San Ramón
- A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
- A pharmacy
- A local feria (farmer’s market) where you will see the abundance of fresh food available.
- The local Cruz Roja (Red Cross) to learn about their services and programs.
- A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!
- If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needs and put your mind to rest, once and for all, about this sensitive subject.
- About the public system and how it works, about the private healthcare system, and how you can use a combination of both to your advantage.
- About the EBAIS – where healthcare starts in Costa Rica.
- Approximately how much you would pay for Caja.
- About medical tourism in Costa Rica.
- About home health care in Costa Rica.
Prices: $650 for a couple, $550 for a single.
Please contact us if you are interested in booking a tour. Space is limited.
- Paul Gets a CAT Scan Through the Caja
- Integration 102 – Speaking Up at the Hospital
- Waiting to See the Doctor, by Jo Stuart
Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube
What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Our June 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living
- PURA VIDA – Challenging the Ethnocentric Mind (A Documentary Short Film)
- The Adventure Inn-Our “Go-To Hotel”
- Our May 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living
- A Walk Around Our Neighborhood (Video)
- 10 Tips on How to Thrive as an Expat in Costa Rica
- Our April 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living
- Our Yearly Visit from the Abuelitas
- Costa Rica’s New President Speaks about Immigration, The Importance of Diversity, and Climate Change
- Costa Rica’s Epsy Campbell Becomes First Black Woman in the History of the Americas to be Elected Vice President