Can You Save Money on Healthcare by Having Your Checkup Done in Costa Rica?

Ever wondered if you really can save money on healthcare by being in Costa Rica?  Here’s my experience so you can decide. 

This week, I signed up for my yearly mammogram and ultrasound and decided that at 45 years old (hush, don’t tell anyone), I should have a full checkup done while I was at it.  I have private insurance but the deductible is $1000 as I only plan on using it in true emergencies and I had wanted to keep costs down.  So, a general routine check up was not included in the overall coverage.  However, I felt it was important and I thought I would share those costs with you which I compared online with “Cost Helper Health” for average U.S. costs.  Your costs might vary and your insurance coverages would vary as well, of course.

First I went to a private doctor at Linea Vital where she did a thorough general exam including an EKG reading.  She requested that in addition to a complete blood work-up and urine test, that I have an ultrasound of my neck to check my thyroid and a complete abdomen ultrasound which would check from my heart all the way down to “you know where”.  The doctor’s appointment total was $65.  On the Cost Helper Health site, it says that an average non-insured person would pay $199 for a routine exam in the U.S.

Then, I went and had my mammogram done.  At the CIMA hospital, they combine the mammogram with a breast ultrasound for $140 which includes the result analysis.  Then, they did the throat and abdomen ultrasounds which were $120 each.  An “ouch” for my budget in total, but when I compared them on the Cost Helper Health site, I would have paid around $102 for mammogram and over $360 for each of the ultrasounds, for a whopping $1200 total in comparison to my $380.  Okay, not so bad.

Finally, I went and had my blood drawn at the local private clinic and peed in a cup.  Everything from thyroid levels, blood cell count, cholesterol, and more were measured for $150.  Based on the website again, the average for a full blood workup in the U.S. costs around $1500!!

So, my total out-of-pocket expense for everything came out to $595, a bit of a punch, but not enough to trigger my insurance and my family felt it was needed.  Looking at $2900 for the costs in the States, makes me glad I did it here.  Of course if you have insurance and most of those costs are covered, count yourself lucky, but even with a 20% co-pay, you would be paying $580, so we’re close to even.

Now, one more note, had I decided to go through the  Costa Rican public system, which I pay into, the blood tests could have been run for free (after hours of standing in line), but most of the ultrasounds would still have had to be done in a private clinic unless they had determined that something was truly wrong and it was a medical necessity.

I also discovered in my research into U.S. medical costs that these costs which are billed to uninsured patients are often less than what would be billed into the insurance companies, so it makes sense for insurance companies to be more willing to cover us with the costs here in Costa Rica rather than there, wouldn’t it?  By the way, if anyone wants to know which private insurance I carry here, I use IMG for their ex-pat coverage.  And no, they didn’t pay me to say that (maybe I should have asked).  Now I think I’ll just go and get me a $30 massage with my savings…

Feel free to add your own comparisons.  Tina is the owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate along with Cecilia Tristan and they are both available to answer your questions and make you feel more at home in Costa Rica.  Email at and check out the website at


10 Ways to Make Your Overseas Living Last for the Long-Term

After more than 17 years in Costa Rica, I occasionally get asked how I have made it here for so long.  So, here are some of my hints.

  1. Do not expect life to be like before.  This is true whether you are moving to another country or even just another state.  No two places are exactly the same and the further away you move, the more changes there will be, culturally and linguistically.  If you go in thinking that everything will be exactly the same as in your previous location, you will be deeply disappointed.
  2. Be open to new experiences, foods, and adventures.  Try things.  Go enjoy the new things that your new location offers.  Coming to Costa Rica and refusing to eat rice and beans or exotic fruits, will be a bad start.
  3. Combine new life customs with your old.  After you have tried new things, take your favorites and combine them with your old customs.  No one says you have to do away with the big meal at Thanksgiving, but enjoy traditional Mother’s Day (in Costa Rica, it’s August 15th) and Independence Day (September 15th) as well.  Besides, it gives you a good reason to guilt your children into giving you two gifts as there are now two different Mother’s Days to remember.
  4. Learn the language.  I know it’s hard and it’s easier just to surround yourself with your native language, but the better you can get around in your new country and be independent, the better you will feel.  Take lessons and then practice it.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  The locals will be thrilled you are trying.
  5. Learn the exchange rate and then forget it and live in the currency.  Learn the local currency and the approximate equivalents.  Am I paying $1 or $10 for the lip balm (yep, I paid $10 for a lip balm when I thought they said 500 colones and they actually said 5,000 colones).   But the important thing is to then STOP converting at every step along the way and think in the currency.  Instead of worrying that you are paying $2 more for something than you would in the States, think, “This is the price, do I want it at that price or am I not willing to pay that?”  There will be things that are more expensive and things that are cheaper.
  6. Involve yourself in the community.  Don’t seclude yourself, get out and get involved, meet people, both expats and locals.  Find out ways to help your “new” community.  It will help you meet others and be accepted and appreciated by the locals.
  7. Keep yourself busy.  The speed of your life is up to you and being “pura vida” and taking it slower is just fine, but if you find yourself getting depressed or lonely, you’ve got to move it (“move it, move it” as they say in “Madagascar”).   Join a gym, play bridge, go swimming, whatever your passion, find a way to do it.
  8. Create your own “family”.  Especially in Costa Rica, family is everything.  Families are often formed by choice, not by blood.  “Adopted” families are normal and having people who care and look after you is one of the best ways to feel at home.  They will also share their culture and explain things that you don’t quite understand.
  9. Find your support circle.  Find your computer guy, your mechanic, your realtor, your  “go to” person.  These are the people you go to when things go wrong.  Frustration of being in a new place is a fact, but once you’ve established your support circle, life becomes WAY easier.  How do you find these people?  Ask around.  It’s the world of Facebook and social media.  Ask for what you need and when you immediately get several identical responses, you pursue that.  Find a person in each area of your life that you can trust, that bill you appropriately, and are good at what they do and you will have saved yourself a ton of frustration .
  10. Attitude is everything.  Is the glass half empty or half full?  There will be things that are annoying, frustrating, and depressing.  But congratulate yourself on how you overcome these hurdles and concentrate on the things you love.  If you let yourself get overwhelmed by the negative, it will not be a good experience.

I came with the plan of giving it two years and then after eight, decided, well, I guess I’m here to stay.  I don’t know that I will be here forever, but it is home for now.

IGLESIA DE ATENASFeel free to add any suggestions of your own.  Tina is the owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate along with Cecilia Tristan and they are both available to answer your questions and make you feel more at home in Costa Rica.


The 5 Factors in Selling Your Home

If your house doesn’t sell immediately, it’s the fault of the Realtor, right?  Maybe partially, maybe not.

There are five main factors in why a house doesn’t sell right away. 

1)       Price.  If a home is not priced right, buyers won’t look at it, and it won’t sell.

Pricing above market values will not mean that people will look and negotiate, it means they won’t select it at all.  On the other hand, pricing way under the market will often trigger people to think there is something wrong with the property or it may not fall in the range that they are searching in.

2)      Market.  Even if a home is valued correctly, a down market may take a while to sell and the seller has to be patient.

If it is a down market and no one is buying, it won’t matter what price you have on your property (unless maybe you have it so low that is an irresistible bargain), because no one is buying.  You might want to wait to sell until the market picks up or just know that you have to wait it out.

3)      Realtor.  A Realtor has to keep promoting your property and not just hope that someone will see the listing the next day. 

It’s important that your realtor has your property out there and prepared for the right buyer.  In a down market, your realtor will have to be even more pro-active, doing what he/she can to be constantly searching  for buyers.  Check back with your realtor to see what they are doing, what new ideas they have, and how you, as the seller, can help.

4)      Seller.  Yes, the seller has a big role in whether a property sells quickly or not.

  • Agreeing to set a reasonable price based on the market is important.
  • Having the house in viewing conditions that will make the potential buyer want your home, not make them want to turn around and walk out.
  • Having incentives such as financing or other kinds of assistance when the market is low.
  • Being  flexible with offers or trying to come to an agreement when possible.
  • Letting people know and getting the word out.  Some of the best potential buyers are neighbors and friends and building the “social network” of those that know it is for sale. 

I once had a seller tell me that they wanted to sell their house “discreetly”.  I had to ask what they meant by that because I don’t know how to market something “discreetly”.  I was told “no internet, no MLS, no sign, and no photos”, so basically I could only offer the house to my current buyers looking for that exact house.  I told them I couldn’t do it.  Of course, I would know it was for sale if I had a direct buyer looking for exactly that, BUT I couldn’t in good faith offer to “sell” their house and represent it without actually marketing it and there was no point in getting a bad reputation for not being able to sell the home when I had my hands tied behind my back the whole time.  Cooperation between seller and agent is important.

5)       Luck.  Yep, luck.  Sometimes, just having the timing and good luck to have a buyer come along at exactly the time you put your home on the market can make all the difference in the world.

And if all goes well, you can put that SOLD sign on your property too!  Contact Tina at TrBroyles SOLDistan & Newton or on the website or Facebook for listings of properties or any questions you have.

A Cloud Forest Paradise

As many of you know, I love the Atenas area and feel it is an incredible place to live, but I was able to take a trip this past week to an area that I have not been to in a long time and re-discovered paradise.

20160728_161725.jpgThe road along the west and south side of Arenal Lake is best driven in a 4×4 which is one of the few parts of the country that I would say is still really necessary.  It is an area that is higher in altitude and cooler, directly in a cloud forest that you would think of usually in the area of Monteverde.  This is the area that you see in photos and imagine when you hear of Costa Rican paradise.  With so many shades of green, beauty at every turn, rivers to cross and horses to ride, it is an area that has been largely forgotten about.  But with lake views, volcano views, and rivers, it is not something to miss. 

Volcan Tenorio, Lake Arenal (Copy)The city of Tilaran is the largest in the area and is only 20 minutes East of Canas on a very nice road, so the Liberia airport is now only 1 ½ hours away.  The area of Tilaran is windy, depending on the season and it gives the Oklahoma winds a run for their money.  The temperature is perfect and the sunny days are spectacular.  Moving towards the southern end of the lake, the winds are far less and it still maintains the perfect temperature of 70-75 degrees.  Prices of land are also far lower up in this area, so some real bargains can be found.

It20160110_122940 (Copy) reminded me once again how many fabulous options there are in Costa Rica.  There are beach areas for those who like the heat and ocean view, city life, small town country life, and this amazing lake-front area of Arenal for people who like an active lifestyle surrounded by water.


Who wouldn’t love this spectacular view of lakes and volcanos and forest, all from the same point?  20160110_112851 (Copy)Here are a few of the amazing housing options in Arenal that I got the honor of listing. 

P1010066 (Copy).jpgThis gorgeous lakeside home is a plantation style, 2 story, with wrap-around deck. The home overlooks the lake and has views of several volcanos. It is located on a manicured lawn of over 3 hectares with orchards and a rock garden. Monkeys come to visit and birds are all around. The upstairs portion has the three bedrooms and two baths and a gourmet kitchen with open air hardwood cabinets. Wood floors and stone floors combined with some carpets make the perfect combination for each room. An indoor vestibule allows for lighting in the center of the home as well as an indoor garden with Japanese style doors leading into one of the bedrooms. Beveled ceilings throughout and each corner of the walls has been rounded for a truly finished touch and fire sprinklers are throughout. A fireplace in the living room and another in the master bedroom give luxury and comfort for cool evenings. The structure of the home was built with the Arenal winds in mind. The deck facing the lake is enclosed allowing for year-round enjoyment. Downstairs is the garage with a mechanic pit and storage area. Another area is pre-wired for an apartment and there is even a dumb waiter to take items from below up to the kitchen. This home is a true bargain at the price of $459,000.

This farm of approximately 5 hectares can continue to be used for organic farming or a beautiful place to build.  Lots of space for $385,000. 

This lakeside estate has views in every direction. Lake views, volcano views, forested m20160110_122433 (Copy)ountain views, each more breathtaking than the next. The main house is pure elegance with 3 br and 3 ba. Each room has large windows taking advantage of each jaw-dropping views. The guest house has never been occupied with 2 br and 2 ba. Two more guest homes of high quality are located at the entrance and even those have views. This would be the perfect retreat and get away or great investment to build more for rentals or a small hotel. The water taxi across the lake is only a short distance away to visit Arenal and La Fortuna and the horseback rides from Monteverde pass right in front. One hour to Tilaran or an hour to La Fortuna. This is located right on the southwest part of the lake, so it has great views and none of the strong winds that Arenal can have. No imagination required to see all of the options that this estate inspires. 1,500,000. 

Tristan & Newton Real Estate can find your perfect home in any part of Costa Rica.  For inquiries, send an email to, visit our website, or our Facebook page.