Jun 24 2018

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – June 24, 2018

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 


Our May 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

We had another great month in May in terms of our overall spending, even with some additional healthcare costs taken into account, coming in well below our goal of $2,000 for the month.

Transportation – $66.62

Since moving to town about a year and a half ago, we average one fill-up of gasoline in our car per month. May was no exception. A full tank of premium gas cost us $63.63. Add on a few parking fees and tolls and that brings us to our monthly total of $66.62.

Groceries – $368.34

Another thing I’ve noticed about living in town is that we buy groceries more frequently. In May, we purchased food on 21 out of 31 days. Sometimes it’s just walking across the street to Super Mario for a pint of milk; other days it’s going to three different stores to buy everything on our list or heading to the feria for fresh, localy grown produce. We haven’t really changed what we buy at the grocery store. We eat pretty healthy, lots of fruit and vegetables, meat or poultry usually once a day, whole grains, very little processed food, and wine normally only when we have guests.

Meals Out – $84.35


We ate breakfast or snacks out twice, lunch four times, and dinner twice. Our new favorite place to go is Soda Filipos, located at the entrance of the feria. Filipos offers Mediterranean fare like gyros (with meat or falafel), salads, hummus, pesto chicken wraps, and a daily special entree and dessert. Everything we have had there has been delicious. We especially like the gyros and salads. Chef Filipo used to work for one of the restaurants at the InterContinental Hotel in Escazu and his menu is creative and tasty. Dinner for both of us came to $16.35.

We also ate at long-time San Ramón restaurant, El Establo Steakhouse. It was a going-away party for friends Steve and Dianne Fischer who are moving back to the States. Steve and Dianne were both very active in the Community Action Alliance, Steve serving as its last president. More than 50 people gathered to show their appreciation for their service and to say goodbye. They will be greatly missed! We all enjoyed El Establo’s happy hour menu which includes a choice of dinner — steak, pork chop, chicken, lasagne, etc. — and a glass of wine for $10 per person. Total cost for two, with tax and tip, came to $24.27.

The third meal out that I will mention is lunch at Elements Coffee House in San Ramón. Elements is a comfortable U.S. style coffee house with a variety of hot and cold coffee and tea drinks. They have an extensive dessert selection and serve a small selection of sandwiches and soups each day. Lunch for Paul and me came to $16.22.

Healthcare – $424.21

For a couple of months now, Paul and I have been catching up on some needed health screenings so our healthcare expenses have come in much higher than the norm. We had the normal expenses — our monthly Caja payment, our pro-rated MediSmart payment, and regular supplements — which totaled about $115.00. The rest of the expense in this category was all about me (Gloria).

First up, I had a wisdom tooth pulled. My dentist mentioned it a year ago but since it wasn’t bothering me, I waited to have it pulled until now. The dental surgeon came to San Ramón from his San Jose practice for the day. The cost for the extraction was $100. I was able to have the surgery downstairs from our apartment in our dentist’s office so it was very convenient. After the surgery, I was prescribed an injection for pain, antibiotics, and some pills for pain, plus a medicated mouthwash. Cost for these came to about $55.00. I was also given a diet for the next few days as well as a schedule for dental care for the following weeks. Besides the obvious discomfort from the surgery (I was awake though numbed with lots of Novocain), I was very pleased with the care I received.

I also had a follow-up appointment with my gynecologist through MediSmart so the cost was a low 9,000 colones (about $16), had some lab work she ordered ($26.64), and purchased the bioidentical hormones she suggested (about $40).

Next, I went to see an ophthalmologist. I noticed that when I read my iPad at night, I have been having flashes of light that have been annoying. It was time to get it checked out so I went to see Dr. Zúñiga who sees patients every Wednesday at Óptica Nueva Imagen in San Ramon.  His main practice is in San Jose. Just as I thought, I have the beginnings of cataracts in both eyes. He recommended surgery, sooner rather than later because it would be easier to correct. But, he said, there is no guarantee I won’t need glasses after surgery, effectively reversing the Lasik surgery I had about 20 years ago. Since I’m not ready to give up my distance vision quite yet and the problem isn’t too bad, I’ve decided to wait a bit. In the meantime, I have made an appointment with an ophthalmologist in the Caja to see if I can have the surgery done in the public system. If so, it will save me the expense of having it done privately — $1,000 for each eye as quoted by Dr. Zúñiga. The Caja appointment isn’t until May of 2019 so, yes, there’s a wait, but I’m not ready to have the surgery done anyway. Cost for the ophthalmologist exam and consultation was 40,000 colones (about $71.00).

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $791.98

No surprises in this category. The only expense of note was a higher than normal expense for housecleaning. That is due to the fact that May was our turn to pay our housekeeper’s Caja bill which covers her and her children. In case you haven’t been reading our newsletter for a while, we take turns with the other couples for whom she cleans to pay her monthly Caja. Since there are five us us, we each pay once every five months. Since we are each legally obligated to pay this expense as she is a regular employee, this rotation saves us money while ensuring that her healthcare is covered.

Personal Care and Clothing – $40.31

A haircut for Paul ($4.48), a cut and color for me ($17.92), and a couple of nail files ($.72) made up the personal care part of this category.

Our clothing purchases came from our favorite “ropa Americana” store, Megaropa San Ramón Tienda de Ropa Americana located just a block and a half from our apartment and 100 meters south of the San Ramón hospital. Just about everything in the store is 2,800 colones (about $5) but they often have sales and there is, of course, the huge area in the back with drastically discounted clothes and other items just piled up for folks to dig through). Paul usually stops in a couple of times a week. In fact, we take you there in our recent video “A Walk Around Our Neighboorhood.” In May, he bought two shirts at the special price of two for 4,000 colones, so $7.16. On another day, I bought two dresses at the regular price, for a total of 5,600 colones, or $10.04.

Services – $3.58

We’ve always said that Costa Rica is a “no iron zone” so we’ve never purchase an iron or ironing board. That way, I never have to iron Paul’s shirt. Smart, huh? However, he does like to look nice so he has someone iron a few of his especially wrinkly shirts ironed by a local lady. She charges by the hour and the cost to have three long-sleeved dress shirts and one pair or pants ironed was 2,000 colones (about $3.50).

Spanish Classes – $44.80

Yes, after more than nine years of living in Costa Rica, we still take Spanish classes. It’s a process. We speak English at home and with our expat friends so we aren’t speaking Spanish all day every day. And it’s hard to remember what you’ve learned when you don’t use it all of the time. We forget. And then we review. And keep taking classes. In May, Paul had five one-hour classes with a local Spanish teacher for 5,000 colones ($8.96 USD) per class.

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:


Related Articles:


MediSmart: An Affordable Alternative to Private Health Insurance in Costa Rica (Updated with Current Pricing)

Hospital Metropolitano San Jose

Hospital Metropolitano San Jose

Updated June 7, 2018

Like many expats in Costa Rica, we don’t have private health insurance. It is next to impossible to find private coverage for folks over 70 years of age or that doesn’t exclude preexisting conditions. And affordability is another factor for us with annual plans in the thousands for the two of us. We rely mostly on the Caja for our healthcare needs and, when necessary, see private doctors as well. But what if something big happened? We liked the idea of having something else to keep private healthcare affordable.

In 2016, one of our readers told us about a new program, called MediSmart, which he had just joined. Turns out, it is offered through Hospital Metropolitano in San Jose, one of the hospitals we visit on our healthcare tour. We knew from visiting there on our tour that Hospital Metropolitano has much lower prices for many procedures than most of the other private hospitals. They are a smaller hospital, just 8 hospital rooms, so they can focus on personalized service. Plus, our friend recently had inpatient surgery there and had a wonderful experience. So we decided to check out their Medismart plan to see if it would work for us.

MediSmart is basically a discount plan, offering 40% to 80% off of everything from appointments with specialists like dermatologists and gynecologists to X-Rays, lab work, and even hospital rooms and operating room time. There are no exclusions for age or pre-existing conditions. The best thing is the cost. For a single person, the cost is $12 per month. For a couple, the second person adds $6 for a total of $18 per month. And if you pay for a year in advance, like we did, you get 2 months free. So, for two people, that’s $180 per year to participate in the plan. Pro-rated, that comes to just $15 per month for the both of us to be enrolled in the plan. Our first visit was with a dermatologist, at 60% off the normal fee, so paying ¢20,000 colones (about $36 USD) instead of ¢50,000 colones, a savings of more than $50 USD. And not only can you add a spouse to the plan for $6, you can also add other beneficiaries — children, grandchildren, even your housekeeper or gardener — for $6/person/month.

You can sign up for MediSmart right in the lobby of Hospital Metropolitano. More details about the plan are in the graphic below (click to enlarge). If you have any questions or would like to enroll, contact MediSmart’s English speaking Sales Executive, Cindy Torres, at +506 8863-1726. You can also visit their website (Spanish and English) for more details.

The MediSmart website has detailed information of pricing and discounts (in English) by specialist type at this link: https://eng.medismart.net/eng/coverage-levels.

MediSmart also offers a complementary program for cancer screening called OncoSmartThis plan covers cancer prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment from the MediSmart Medical Plan. OncoSmart offers all the benefits of their MediSmart plan, in addition to: an annual preventive oncology screening visit, oncology appointments for cancer survivors and access to an oncologist (these services are exclusive to OncoSmart). To obtain the benefits of OncoSmart, members pay just $2 additional per person, to their monthly plan.

An additional benefit of MediSmart is that you can add your dog or cat to the program for just $2/per pet/per month. Coverage is included for veterinary medical consultations, grooming, and much more.

Related Articles:


Featured Property in Grecia: Lovely Downtown 2BR 1 BA Home-$146,000

Property ID Number: 50014

Geographic Area: Grecia and Naranjo areas
Neighborhood: Grecia
Bedrooms: 2
Full Baths: 1
Year Built: 1995
Construction (sq. ft.): 1250
Property Size: 242.25 Meters Squared or Hectares
Price: $146,000 USD

Lovely downtown Grecia corner home in a nice neighborhood. This lovely recently remodeled home is located in a very nice area of Grecia.  Walking distance to downtown Grecia, yet quiet, the neighborhood of Calle Carmona is an older residential neighborhood of middle-class Costa Rican’s and some ex-pats.The house has two bedrooms and one bathroom as well as an open design living, dining and kitchen area.  The kitchen has plenty of workspace and storage.  The master bedroom is large and has a walk-in closet as well as a balcony.  There is an air-conditioning unit in the master bedroom as well.

The guest room has a large closet and desk area.

There is a nice big area off of the living room that is covered and is another living space as well as the laundry room.

Outside are fruit and shade trees.  The entire property is fenced and has two gates to enter.  Once is a ramp, the other stairs. There is also a large garage area.  This is a lovely home in a really nice neighborhood.

This house is also available as a long term rental.

Property ID Number: 50014

Click here for more photos and to contact the realtor for this property.

Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.


Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica


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:
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Meat & Poultry
    • Fish & Seafood
    • Grains, Nuts, Seeds, & Baking Ingredients
    • Dairy & Eggs, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods
    • Beans, Canned & Prepared Foods
    • Herbs, Spices, & Seasonings
    • Condiments
    • Beverages
  • 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.

Chipotle Beef Chili

  • 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.

Buy the print edition on Amazon.com

Buy the Kindle edition on Amazon.com

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!


Our Ultimate CR Healthcare Tour

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 HCTOUR_030arranged 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.”

HCTOUR_008David 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.

Sample Itinerary

You’ll visit:

  • At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)HospitalMexico
  • 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!


You’ll learn:

  • 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.

Related Articles:


Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube

You can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter, so please “like” us on Facebook“follow” us on Twitter, and watch and share our videos on YouTube.


What’s New on the Website

Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:

Permanent link to this article: https://retireforlessincostarica.com/retire-for-less-in-costa-rica-june-24-2018/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.