Nov 07 2015

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – November 7, 2015

Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:




Our October 2015 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses


We finished the month of October higher than our goal of $2,000, mostly due to healthcare reasons, but there were a few other factors as well.   This was one of those months when we were glad we had a reserve fund.

Transportation – $388.15

If you read our last newsletter, you know that our October planned trip to Nicaragua was called off because Gloria was having stomach problems. Since Nicaragua is one of those countries where you can’t safely drink the water, it seemed like postponing our trip was the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, we decided to cancel the Sunday before our planned Monday morning departure. That meant that we lost the bus fare for the outbound portion of our trip ($59.60 total for both of us). We’ve included that cost in our transportation category, but not what we paid for the return tickets as we have received a credit for that portion of our trip.

There were a couple of other reasons this category was higher than normal in October. First off, it was time to get new license plates for our car, as our plates end in a “9”. If your Costa Rica license plates end with the numbers 1-9 and you haven’t gotten the new ones yet, you have missed the deadline:

It was an easy procedure. Paul just went into our local San Ramón correo (post office), filled out a form, and paid 19,600 colones ($37.05 USD). He was told to come back in two days for the new license plates. The hardest part was removing the old license plates from our car but a Tico neighbor had the right tool and helped. Our new placas (license plates) have the same number as our old ones. The difference is “the new license plates have a total of six security features including the seal, a map and the national flag of Costa Rica, as well as a unique hologram, a laser engraving and a special backlit symbol.”

The other notable expense in October was some brake work on our car. For 29,780.35 colones ($56.30 USD) we had the following work done:

  • new front brake pads
  • clean rear brakes
  • adjust parking brake
  • adjust clutch

We’ve always been pleased with the cost of car repairs here in San Ramón.

Healthcare – $530.91

In addition to our normal healthcare expenses, we had some additional ones due to Gloria’s stomach problems. First, because we were trying to get her better before our GMMedicaltrip to Nicaragua, we went to GM Medical to see Dr. Maria Hernandez privately, instead of waiting to see our EBAIS doctor the following week. We decided to join GM Medical’s plan which costs 14,000 colones per month. With the plan, we get two consultations with a doctor (one every six months) and two dental cleanings (one every six months). Additionally, we get 30% off of all other services. The monthly payments work like a flex plan — they get put into a fund which we can draw from whenever we are treated at GM Medical. Any funds not used at the end of the year are lost. But what it allows us to do is pay a set amount each month (14,000 colones / $26.52 USD) toward healthcare. We can see the doctors or dentist privately for everything from speeding up our care to getting a second opinion. The 14,000 colones is for our family (Paul and Gloria) so either of us can take advantage of it.

The other additional expense was a colonoscopy for Gloria, for two reasons. The primary reason was the stomach issues I had been experiencing, but the other reason is that it’s been 13 years since my last one, and the recommendation is to have one every 10 years, if there are no issues.


Through GM Medical, we made an appointment for the colonoscopy with Dr. Sergio Con at Con Centro Digestivo. The quoted price was 170,000 colones (about $321.00). We asked him if he offered a discount for cash and he gave us 10% off, so we ended up paying $290.00 USD, a savings of $31.00. I don’t even want to think about what it would have cost us in the U.S. if we were paying out of pocket. By the way, when I asked our Caja doctor about the possibility of getting a colonoscopy through the public system, she told me to do it privately — it would take 2-3 years to have it done through the Caja since it was a non-emergency and I hadn’t been diagnosed with anything that would warrant speeding up the process.

We got the results the same day, including digital photos from the test, and thankfully, everything was normal. No problems! Paul even got to watch the procedure on a monitor in the hallway. And while I was waking up in the recovery area, Paul got to talk baseball with Dr. Con, who is an avid Blue Jays fan!

We took the results back to Dr. Maria and paid for a second consultation: 14,000 colones with the 30% discount, or $26.52 USD. So, all in all, it was an expensive month for healthcare but a great value for the services we received. And almost all of the medications Gloria received came from the Caja, so the out of pocket cost was minimal. We’re extremely happy with the experience.

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $836.99

Following is a breakdown of our spending in this category.


The only expense that was higher than normal was housekeeping. Though our housekeeper cleaned our house only three times in October, we paid our annual Workman’s Comp (Riesgos del Trabajo) policy with INS. Cost = 43,555 colones for 12 months ($83.22 USD).

Our plan (Option 1) covers one permanent domestic worker and one occasional worker for a maximum of three days per month. If you have workers at your home, you can get more information about this type of insurance at your local INS office. Limited information is also available online at this link, however you may need to use Google Translate for English.

You may remember from previous posts that we also pay our housekeeper’s Caja (20,300 colones or about $38 USD), however we share this expense with her other employers, each taking a month, and October was not our turn to pay.

Related Articles:


Our Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica

Our newest tour is 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_008

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over six and a half 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 for lunch that day to listen to two of our featured speakers. 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)
  • A local private medical and dental clinic
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A pharmacy
  • 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.

Introductory prices: $550 for a couple, $450 for a single.
Please contact us if you are interested in booking this tour. Space is limited.

Related Articles:


Featured Property: Lake Arenal House with Guest Cottage and Greenhouse-$125K

900601001-186-1Listing ID# 900601001-186

Location: Cinco Esquinas San Luis, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Total Rooms: 7

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 3

Total SqM: 120

Year Build: 2007


Just over 3/4 acre with Main living/kitchen area, a satellite master suite with 2 bedrooms and a bath or use one of the bedrooms as a closet area and a guest cottage that is one bedroom and bath.

Guests staying in the cottage can have access to the main living/kitchen area without disturbing anyone. On the property is a large structure that can serve as a greenhouse with electricity and plumbing.


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

Though we recommend you rent, rent, rent when you move to Costa Rica, we realize that some folks will still choose to buy, either early on or after they’ve been here for a while. We recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell. Though we are not realtors, we work with trusted realtors who have many other properties in this price range available. The homes we feature are just a sample of the properties the realtors we work with have, both above and below $150,000.

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


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