Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter
In This Issue:
- Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica
- Our Ultimate CR Healthcare Tour
“To all of our readers who celebrate Thanksgiving — or as it is called in Spanish, Día de Acción de Gracias — we hope you had a day full of love, gratitude, joy, and, of course, great food. We wish you blessings for the coming holiday season.”
Paul & Gloria
Yesterday, my Facebook feed popped up a picture of me in Costa Rica with a smile full of new teeth. For me, it was a reminder that it’s been more than three years since I had a whole mouthful of work done and that Gloria was expecting me to write a follow-up review of my experience. Okay, Gloria, today is the day!
Memory jogger: I chose to have my dental work done in Costa Rica because it saved me about 50% or more of the cost to have it done here in the States. Although I love my Louisiana dentist, he just couldn’t match the prices (he really tried but it just wouldn’t work for him.) So knowing that I needed at least six crowns and three implants with molar bridges, a top partial of molars, and new night time bruxism prevention devices, I sought out a GOOD dentist and checked prices in Costa Rica.
How do I know I got a “good” dentist? For starters, I did my homework and my research. From that, I found Bob Reardon, a man in the U.S. [i] who coordinates dental tourism for us gringos in need. After that, it was really easy. Someone picked me up at the airport and took me to my hotel (the Cristina in San Jose) where I got a special rate that included a wonderfully delightful breakfast each morning. On my appointment days, I was picked up and dropped off at the clinic which totally impressed me with its clean and modern sparkle. My dental team had credentials out the wazoo, spoke excellent English, and were so gentle I literally fell asleep in the chair on my first visit.
Because I had implants done, there were two visits involved. The last visit took place in August of 2014. I went by myself since it was a short visit and found myself getting a little punchy at times (see photo LOL) because I didn’t go out at night by myself. In the daytime, I saw as much of San Jose as I could. The Central Market was my favorite but honestly, the whole experience couldn’t have gone more smoothly. I left Costa Rica with molars for the first time in years and when I got home, we went out to eat steak because that was what I missed the most!
Now, some three years later, I never give a second thought to my new teeth. The crowns are still beautiful, the bridges on my implants are secure. Recently, I had a different dental issue, one of my U.S. crowns broke off at the gumline. Verdict: it cannot be saved. My dentist here can do a bridge ($2200) or a partial denture ($1440). Of course, I emailed Bob too and here’s what he told me (emphasis added by me):
Great to hear from you. Price for upper partial – $475. Night guards are $143 each. Time required 9 full business days. This works out to 12 nights. The price at the Cristina is still $75 cash per night.
I actually think that doing it in the States is best so that you can make adjustments after you use your partial for awhile.
This is why I love and trust Bob so much. Who else would tell me to stay in the U.S. because it’s better for ME? Plus, when I actually figured out the cost of a 12-night stay and airfare, etc., the trip was not cost effective. Another lesson learned, Costa Rica isn’t always the cheapest way to go, especially if you only need a little bit of work done. I will be going back though. My U.S. dentist has already told me I’m going to need implants on the top with a full denture attached to them. I don’t even have to ask Bob about that one; I already know I’ll come out way ahead if I do it in Costa Rica. I can smile, eat, laugh, and nothing looks or feels funny. (Except that hole on top where the U.S. crown broke.) When I go to the dentist for a cleaning, I get straight A’s and no problems. What’s not to like?
The bottom line is this: I would do this again in a heartbeat and I would take my husband, our girls, my BFF, my family, anybody I know in fact, to have dental work done in CR and I would happily go along as a tour guide of the sights in San Jose!
[i] Bob Reardon
Costa Rican Dental www.costaricandental.com
- Dental Tourism in Costa Rica: My Experience – Part 1, by Vikki Riggle
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Dentist
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Dentist, Part 2
One thing no one tells you before you move to Costa Rica is that your name is important: all your IDs and documents must have the same name (no abbreviations or nicknames), spelled the same way to make things easier. Costa Rica is a little bureaucratic and still uses paper documentation, so any anomaly can cause concern and delay.
A CR bank or the CR government will require you to present several documents and IDs. They will carefully examine and compare your name and signature on each form. I was surprised since so much in the US is electronic and no one studies your ID or signature, but in Costa Rica they do look and do study. If they don’t get a 100% match, they may turn you away. Best case, they get their supervisor who studies everything causing consternation and delay. With careful attention to detail before you leave the US, you can avoid problems.
My full name is Vaughn Robert Evans, but over my life I have had bank accounts, credit cards and IDs with:
- V.R. Evans
- Vaughn Evans
- Vaughn R. Evans
- Rob Evans
- Robert Evans
In the US, we don’t think too much about these small variations, but before I left for Costa Rica, I tried to make everything match my passport with my full name. Over time, I renewed my credit cards, US driver’s license, bank accounts and bank checks.
- Credit cards
- US driver’s license
- Bank accounts and bank checks
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Cedula (Dimex/CR residency card)
- CR driver’s license
- CAJA card
We always get lots of responses and questions from readers, both newsletter subscribers and on Facebook.
After reading our August Cost of Living report, Nancy contacted us with the following question:
Hi Paul and Gloria,
We certainly enjoy reading your monthly newsletter. However, it brought to mind a question that we have been wondering about.
You mentioned that you didn’t pay the Caja monthly fee when you went to Mexico for 2 months, thinking that it was suspended because you were gone. It sounds like that was not true, and that you needed to be gone for more than 3 months to have it suspended. Is that correct? Do you know how long you can suspend payments, if say you were out of Costa Rica for many months at a time?
We just got our residency, finally, and have been on Caja for a month or two and are planning on a long trip to the States to help our daughter, 6 or more months. Any information you may have would be helpful, or even if you can direct us where to inquire about this.
Larry and Nancy J.
It’s a great question. A friend who comes to San Ramon for 6-8 months each year told us about the ability to waive payments when we are out of the country. As it turns out, it only applies if you are out of the country for at least three full months. We returned to Costa Rica for 3 weeks in August and came back to Mexico on August 31st. When we return to Costa Rica on November 27th, we will have been out of the country for only 2 months and 28 days and that, evidently, does not qualify us for a waiver of Caja payments, or so we have been told. However, if one is out of the country for at least 3 months, my understanding is that showing your passport with exit and entry stamps is all the proof that is needed.
P.J. had a question about our article on End of Life Issues – Body Donation:
Thanks for letting us know. We contacted Judy Kerr who wrote the article for us. Here is her response:
I had no trouble getting a response. It may be of help for this person to have a Tico friend attempt to contact the office. Since I do not speak Spanish very well, I had a Tico friend contact the office. That being said, there have been primarily English speakers who have had success in scheduling an appointment.”
Hope this helps,
We received lots of comments on Facebook to our article, “Simplicity – What is It?”
People in the States ask me what I love about C. Rica and I tell them that among a bunch of other things it is less complicated here. And they usually ask, “How so?” The example I usually use is going to the grocery store. In the States I go to buy a box of cereal and there are literally over 200 to choose from. Heck, there are 8 different varieties of Cherrios! Here…. maybe 8 total to choose from. Who needs 200 choices of cereal?”
For us, the answer is both…and neither. After many years of working towards a primary goal of being able to go where we want, when we want, when it became clear that this goal would be achieved we started simplifying. Even took up yoga, lost weight and got into the best shape I had been in for 20+ years. This happened several years before we came to Costa Rica. Sold the “toys”, the houses and eventually the cars and most of our household goods. After making my first overseas move in my 20’s (and several moves since then) I knew that a new culture, language, etc. would keep me busy while transitioning from an 80 hour workweek to a 0 hour workweek….and as it turns out that was the right decision. I can’t say we don’t enjoy many of the same things we used to, but we no longer feel the pressure to work all of our fun into a few short days. “Permanent vacation” as it were. For us, Costa Rica is simply a pleasant base of operations as we get out more and enjoy what the world has to offer. We don’t plan to stay here forever, but aren’t in any hurry to leave either.”
Our article,“Misconception #6: Living in Costa Rica is paradise, right?” elicited the following comments:
I think 90% of it is your attitude. I had visited many times yearly before 2000, and have lived / traveled internationally. so when we moved here in 2000, we had zero expectations that anything would be “as easy, or even remotely the same as back in US/Canada.”
I expected to have to relearn basic things and methods. Learn new skills, unlearn old habits. As far as I am concerned after 17 years of my family growing up here, going to school here, opening and doing business here. its just another way of doing things, not better or worse, not cheaper or more expensive.just different.
I watch the pain folks are going through living in the 2017 USA/Canada, and I’ll take Costa Rica life every time.”
Folks need to read, research, visit, and have an open mind and heart. I love my new home and do not find the frustrations overwhelming – there are always other people to help you maneuver your way through the unfamiliar. The arrogance of many gringos, who think the US/Canadian, etc. way is the only way is extremely distasteful. Those are the people who leave Costa Rica after a time. And the ones that stay and continue to bad-mouth Costa Rica and its people and culture would be happier if they left (and so would the rest of us be happier to see them leave!)”
- End of life Issues – Burial and Cremation in Costa Rica
- End of Life Issues – Body Donation in Costa Rica, by Judy Kerr
- Simplicity – What is It?
- Misconception #6: Living in Costa Rica is paradise, right?
by Jo Stuart
Some people are under the impression that I am an authority on Costa Rica. Anyone who has to make eight visits to Immigration to renew a cédula is no expert. (When I use the word cédula, I actually am referring to the ID card we are given as residents and that is also called a carné.) When it comes to Costa Rica, I paraphrase that popular disclaimer, “I don’t know much about this country, but I know what I like.” I think that is what people who are considering coming here — especially to live — should think about. What do I like? What is important to me?
Like anywhere in the world, if you have lots of money, you can live here very comfortably, pretty much on your own terms. But you still have values, and a world view and an expectation of people, and it’s nice to be in an environment where these are compatible. Often it is the little things that make or unmake your contentment.
I knew there were certain things I wanted in order to be comfortable. I wanted to live where bougainvillea grew (a warm climate); I wanted to be able to drink the water and flush a toilet; I wanted access to some of the things I love — music and theater and good restaurants. I wanted good public transportation because I did not want to own a car — or anything, for that matter.
On a deeper level, I wanted to experience living in a country without an army; without the idea that war is a solution. (Fighting wars are what armies are for.) Not having an army affects the psyche of a people, just as having one does. I come from the United States, where “winning is everything” is a value…Here in Costa Rica, it is the morality of war that the people are concerned with, not winning. Except for soccer and politics, having a winner and a loser is not how Ticos think. They want win-win situations. That is one reason they are so careful to avoid confrontations.”
From Butterfly in the City, page 90-91. Used with permission.
- You can read other excerpts from Butterfly in the City at this link.
- 9 Tips to Find Your “Perfect Place” in Costa Rica
- Why We Chose 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:
- 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.
The Kindle version is available now on Amazon.com. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for your iPad or computer at this link. A print version is in the works; I will let you know as soon as it is published. In the meantime, you can buy the Kindle version through 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.”
We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over eight 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
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Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Our Costa Rica Cost of Living, by Rob Evans
- In the Mailbag-End of Life Issues, Living Close to Nature, a Tour Memory, and Making the Move to Costa Rica
- End of life Issues – Burial and Cremation in Costa Rica
- End of Life Issues – Body Donation in Costa Rica, by Judy Kerr
- Searching the World for the Best Place to Retire: One Couple’s Criteria
- Our August 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living
- Banking in Costa Rica: Our Experience, by Rob Evans
- Paul & Gloria in Mexico: Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza Extravaganza
- Our July 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living
- Our June 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living
- My 2017 Healthcare Plan, by Rob Evans
- Paul’s Money Saving Tip: Find Reasonably Priced Housing
- Our 2016 Annual Cost of Living in Costa Rica Summary
- In the Mailbag – Vonage, and Getting an Emergency U.S. Passport
- Con Mucho Gusto: The Tico Way