Archive for April, 2016

Is Costa Rica Medical Care really free?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, Costa Rica Medical Care, Costa Rica Service Providers, EX PATS in Costa Rica, FAQ's

Is Costa Rica Medical Care really free?

Costa Rica has some of the BEST medical care in the world. One of the biggest businesses here is what is called Medical tourism. The quality is so good, and so advanced that people fly from all over the world for everything from cosmetic surgeries, to hip and knee replacements, Lasik eye, and dental work. And it is a fraction of the costs compared to countries like the USA; generally about 15% of what you would pay back home. Many of the Doctors did their residencies in the USA and the nurses and staff is some of the friendliest and nicest people you have ever met. Thousands of people come here every year for procedures.

Costa Rica Medical Care

Costa Rica has Socialized medicine, like many countries in the world, and for all citizens it is “free.” But as we all know, nothing is really free; it has to be paid for somewhere. In Canada, you pay for it with massive taxes, some of the highest in the world. So you might not physically send a check every month to Blue Cross Blue Shield, but trust me, you are paying for it every paycheck in your income tax. Costa Rica medical care is very similar. The system is called CAJA, which represents all the services that are given to the people; medical, Social Security, disability. Every month, the employers send a percentage of the employee’s salary into the system which goes to fund these services. Self Employed people have to claim a salary in the corporation and base their CAJA payment on that amount.

If you move to Costa Rica, you are probably not going to be working for a company and if you are then they will withhold some of your check to make sure you have access to CAJA. You will either be an investor, who is living off of their assets; a retiree living off of their pension; or a self-employed Entrepreneur running a business of some kind. This is also how you will obtain your residency. With all 3 of these an income level will be established and you will have to pay into the system to obtain the CAJA and the “free” medical care. For most foreigners it is somewhere between $50 and $200 per month. In the scheme of life, this is a very small fee. Costa Rica wants foreigners to move here, retire, invest or start a business. But they cannot afford to just have thousands of gringos show up and start taking from their system without contributing something back. The last thing they want is a bunch of old, sick people, moving here, and using up their FREE medical services and milking the system. They want people who are investing and contributing to the system, and they will welcome you with open arms. What a concept huh? And if you want or need good medical care, this is a very small price to pay to be allowed into the CAJA. Thousands of Ex Pats are enjoying and using this every single day.

Costa Rica FAQ's

I am a permanent resident of Costa Rica and pay a monthly payment into the CAJA. I don’t look at it as paying for the medical; I look at it as a small fee to be able to live in paradise. If you told me 20 years ago I could live in the most beautiful place in the world for less than 2k a year “fee” SIGN ME UP. Although I am in the CAJA system and have access to the care, I probably will never use it, as I also have private medical insurance, as do many of my clients. Obviously if you can afford to purchase private medical insurance you will, as it gives you access to more services without having to wait. Like anything that is free, you usually have to stand in line and might have to wait for certain services. With private insurance, just like back home, I can pick the Doctor, pick the hospital, and set up an appointment. Most of the private insurance carriers here are under the Lloyds of London Umbrella, and it covers you ANYWHERE in the world. I have a phenomenal policy, with only a $2000 deductible and I pay less than $300 per month. Similar coverage in the USA is over $12000 PER YEAR. The catch though, is that I MUST live outside of the USA; easy for me as I have no desire to EVER GO BACK.

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One of the main reasons so many people choose to live here is because of the phenomenal Costa Rica medical care. And with 3 hospitals here in the Liberia area, most foreigners choose this location for living. Other than San Jose, there are really not many options for great medical care, as most of the country is very rural and underdeveloped. And the majority of people moving here want to live at the beach, not in some crowded city with buses, taxis, traffic and smog. Here we have some of the best hospitals in the world. There is the CIMA hospital just 7 minutes from the beach.

I had back surgery at CIMA so I can attest to you about the quality of the care.

There is the San Rafael El Arcangel Hospital in downtown Liberia. If it wasn’t for this hospital I might not be alive.

There is also a wonderful Public Hospital in Liberia as well.

Playas del Coco is the only community outside of San Jose that has a 24 hour EMERGENCY CLINIC, equipped with a state of the art Ambulance and a trained EMT. We have dozens of defibrillators now, located all over the community, and many local clinics as well for minor cuts and bruises. We also have one of the best Dental offices in the country. Truthfully, if you care about your medical services, and you should, there is only one country to move to, Costa Rica, and only one community to live in; THE BEACHES OF THE PAPAGAYO.

Hopefully, you will never need the Costa Rica medical care, but if you do; rest assured you will be in good hands.

Michael Simons


Costa Rica Video FAQ

What to pack for Costa Rica–How much cash should I bring?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, Guanacaste Tourism, Vacation in Costa Rica

What to pack for Costa Rica?” you ask.  The first question to answer is “How much cash should I bring?”

what to pack for Costa Rica includes some cash


When my clients are coming to visit, they always want to know how much cash they should bring, and if they should exchange it at the airport. First off, everyone takes US dollars here; every one. And almost every single restaurant and store takes major credit cards. The only people that don’t are the street vendors and the taxi drivers. Nobody wants Canadian Dollars unfortunately, so you need to turn those into US dollars prior to your flight, and you will have a very hard time with traveler’s checks as well, so just don’t bring them.

There are also ATMs all over town and 4 or 5 local banks as well. So you can easily withdraw money from the machine or go inside to the teller for a cash advance, but you will need to physically show your passport. That is the only acceptable ID, not a Driver’s License. The problem with paying with US cash though, is that many of the stores or gas stations won’t give you the exact daily exchange rate for the Colon, so you will lose a few percentage points in the transactions. Places like Grocery Stores compute it by the day, so you will always get the exact correct exchange if you pay in Dollars. They usually give you back Colones though, as most stores are not stocked with US Dollars, and almost no one wants to take a Hundred Dollar Bill for fear it is a counterfeit. Bring 20s and 50s.

Bugs and Snakes in Costa Rica

Here is what I would do. Bring at least enough cash to get you through the first few days, maybe $1000. Of course this depends on what activities you are doing and your spending habits and budget. Stop by one of the local banks and turn some of your Dollars into Colones so that when you are in the bars and restaurants you can pay the correct amount and not lose anything in the exchange.

DO NOT exchange your money at the airport as they will not give you as good of a rate as the local banks.

For larger purchases, like souvenir stores or nice dinners, just pay with your credit card. Your Card Company computes the exact correct exchange according to the daily bank rate. On the subject of souvenirs,  remember to allow space for them when you’re deciding what to pack for Costa Rica.

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One Dollar Bills are nice to have a stack of as they are a nice gesture for a tip; to the guy at the airport who helps you with your luggage, or the young man carrying your groceries or beer to your rental car. When you park your car at most public areas, there is usually a person in a striped vest that is there to watch your vehicle. They also help you when you back out into traffic. A buck goes a long way to help this person feed his or her family. Most restaurants add a 10% gratuity to the bill, but this is not really a tip. This is shared amongst all the employees in the building. So I also encourage you to leave a little extra, as these people are working very hard to make your vacation extra special. Remember that Costa Ricans make a fraction of what you do back home, so spread the love.

Come to Costa Rica with a generous heart and you will leave with a lot more in return.


Costa Rica Video FAQ

April 2016
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