What To Expect While On Dental Tourism in Costa Rica

Getting your tooth pulled or having oral surgery while on vacation is something that you may have not ever thought about. But with increased costs of quality healthcare, more Americans are traveling abroad for dental tourism. In the past few months, I needed some very expensive dental procedures, which sent me researching for the best places in the world for dental work.

After looking at Croatia (best quality) and Mexico (cheapest), I settled on Costa Rica. I spoke to several friends from the U.S. who had traveled to Costa Rica for dental tourism about the experiences they had. They gave me referrals to dental groups in the capital of San Jose, and I consulted with the dentists virtually.

Read my piece on Costa Rica in TIME Magazine

Dental tourism has become commonplace lately, though not everyone is comfortable with the idea, or knows how to navigate the process. Here are some personal accounts and tips so you will know what to expect while on dental tourism in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica central valley
Take a road trip around Costa Rica with Adobe Rent a Car

Why Go Abroad for Dental?

There are several advantages to getting your dental procedures done outside the U.S. The first and most obvious one is – cost. Dentists in the U.S. charge three times those in Costa Rica, and five times those in Croatia. Moreover, the best dental insurance is usually capped at $2,000 per person annually. This means if you have healthy teeth and require nothing more than twice a year cleaning, check up, x-rays and an occasional filling, the rest of the charges will come out of your own pocket. In my case, I needed 2 implants and 5 crowns, which would have costed over $20,000 in Atlanta. That’s the price of a new car!

When you go to a dentist in Costa Rica, they also help you file your dental insurance claim, so you can still your U.S. insurance money towards a more affordable treatment.

Secondly, the dental clinics in Costa Rica are set up in a way that all the specialists are located in one physical office. This means, you don’t have to run across different parts of town to meet with endodontics, oral surgeons, general dentistry, lab folks, etc. There are 12 kinds of dental specialists and I have been to practically all of them at some point! In my experience, the hassle of obtaining referrals, scheduling appointments, driving, waiting and transferring results (that are never actually discussed between the different specialists), causes intensified toothache.

Thirdly, the level of care and attention you get abroad is far superior to that in the U.S. When I visit my general dentist at home, she sees me for hardly 2 minutes, if at all. It is usually the assistants who do the initial consultation with the patient and reports to the dentist. But in Costa Rica, my dentist spent 3 whole hours with me on my first consultative day. He took 3D scans and x-rays, brought in his counterparts, discussed all possible options, and wrote out a plan for the next 6 months. The staff was not rushing out to see their next patient. During each visit, they always waited for me to think of questions, feel my bite, and be comfortable before walking out of the office.

dental clinic costa rica
Sunset view from my dental chair in Costa Rica

Cost vs Benefit

Yes there are additional costs involved in traveling abroad. You need to pay for flights, hotel room, food, sightseeing, etc. My dental office in Costa Rica partnered with local hotels and apart-hotels (with kitchens), offering discounted price to their patients. They also provided free airport transfers and a private car with driver for daily transport to and from the clinic. All in all, even after accounting for the travel expenses, my dental procedures came out to be less than what I would have spent at home. And I honestly enjoyed not having to drive myself back home after having surgery.

Before making a decision to travel abroad for dental tourism, you will need to consider your personal situation. How much work do you need to have done? Can you combine several pending procedures in 1-2 visits, that justify the additional travel expense?

How Long Do Dental Implants Take

For implants, you would need to travel to Costa Rica twice. Your first trip should last about 5 business days where you will have consultation, surgery and placing of the implants. After 6 months, you will need to go back for implant reveal and permanent teeth replacement. Though the procedure is less invasive during the second visit, you will need to be in the country for around 10 days, allowing a few free days in between for lab work.

The dentists in Atlanta do extraction and implant surgery only under general anesthesia, but the ones in Costa Rica do not recommend this unless you really want it. This makes recovery time faster and less painful. I had no pain during my hour long implant surgery and the only discomfort was from the medications (anti inflammation, antibiotics).

coffee farm
Relaxing at Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks Coffee Farm

What About Travel and Recovery?

Some people are concerned about being far from the comforts of home, while they may be undergoing pain and discomfort. You may not have your friends or family members to check in on while you are experiencing dental tourism in Costa Rica. The grocery stores abroad may not have your favorite soups or ice cream flavors. And language may also be a barrier. But, not having to clean your room or do your dishes is also nice.

I did take these points into consideration when booking my trip to Costa Rica and planned my two visits in a certain way, that I had the right environment and food to recover.

dental tourism
Goodness Dental clinic in Costa Rica

Find a Really Good Dental Clinic

After consulting with a couple of dentists in Costa Rica, I decided to go with Goodness Dental. Their customer service was spot on right from the start. The patient coordinator, Dr. Carlos Fiorito called me back right away and even answered calls on Sundays. He answered all my questions regarding materials, equipment, insurance paperwork, accommodations, timeline, etc. He looked at my reports via emails and assured me that the experts at the clinic would provide the best possible health plan.

The clinic was located away from downtown San Jose, in a more upscale residential area. It was very clean, the equipment was modern and the staff friendly.

Each day, the receptionist would send me a text via WhatsApp to remind me of my appointment time and send a driver to pick me up from the hotel. Before I entered the clinic, I was asked to wash my hands and wear a face mask. My temperature was also checked daily.

In the lobby, 99% of the patients were young and old Americans and Canadians. We all shared stories about why we came to Costa Rica, what to expect post surgery, and travel tips around the country. The office provided free WiFi, soft drinks, made to order cappuccino and even ice cream! Medications and ice packs were delivered right to the office, so you didn’t even have to stop by the pharmacy.

hotel alta
Garden restaurant at Hotel Alta Las Palomas

Stay at a Peaceful Place

Though San Jose is a busy city, there are residential neighborhoods that are very quiet and scenic. I stayed at boutique Hotel Alta Las Palomas, nestled in the hills of Santa Ana. The spacious corner suite had a separate living room, master bedroom, bathroom, walk in closet, and a balcony with a stunning view. Because of its elevated location, the area is much cooler than the rest of Costa Rica. I visited in December and July. During both months, it was pleasant to sit outside any time of the day, while listening to tropical birds chirping.

There were lots of cozy spaces around the hotel to sit and read – including a library, garden with water feature and swimming pool surrounded by mango trees. The Spanish style architecture and photographs of coffee farmers are also worth checking out.

dining in costa rica
La Luz dining room

The food at Hotel Alta was some of the best I had in Costa Rica. Their award-winning restaurant – La Luz, served a huge a la carte breakfast (included with stay) of fresh fruits, juice, coffee, and entree. My favorite was the typico with scrambled eggs, rice, beans, plantains and tacos. They accommodated my dietary requests with a friendly smile (for the days I was on soft foods). My schedule included eating a hearty breakfast overlooking the gardens and valley. Then I was driven to the dental clinic, where I spent a few hours. In the afternoon, I rested and read, and in the evening, I went out for a stroll and dinner.

Animal Refuge in San Jose

Relax Near The City

During my first dental visit to Costa Rica, I had implant surgery and needed to rest. So, I did not plan for any big exertions for a few days. Toward the end of the week, I walked through Refugio Animal de Costa Rica, a wildlife sanctuary, located next door to Hotel Alta. There, I enjoyed learning about Costa Rica’s native capuchin monkeys, toucans and crocodiles. Those cute faces make you smile!

Nearby, I visited Multiplex (largest mall in central America), and the urban mixed use Avenida Escazú, with upscale restaurants, cinema and a park. In San Jose, I took a guided walking tour of the city, to explore the many markets, French neighborhoods, Spanish squares and architectural sites. In my downtown, I learned about the country’s history, economy and food culture.

waterfall gardens
La Paz Waterfall and Gardens

For a fun day trip, visit Poás volcano, Peace lodge garden and la Paz waterfall, and Hacienda Alsacia Starbucks Coffee in the Central Valley. This is a beautiful area of Costa Rica located only an hour from the city. You can book a private car with guide and driver directly through the hotel.

Take a Break in Costa Rica

If you are comfortable driving in Costa Rica, rent a car through locally owned and operated, Adobe Rent a Car. Driving allows you the flexibility of exploring the countryside and stopping at local highway restaurants, known as sodas. They have the largest fleet of car rentals in Costa Rica at very affordable prices. Their friendly representative delivered an automatic four-wheel drive to me, right at my hotel and picked it up too. The car was clean, serviced, and all the paperwork (including insurance coverage) well accounted for.

nosara beach
Sunset at Playa Peladas in Nosara

During the lab waiting period (around 4-5 days), we drove from San Jose to Nosara for a beach and jungle getaway. Located in the northwest part of the country, in the Blue Zone, Nosara has recently emerged as an expat destination. You will find million dollar homes, yoga studios, international restaurants, as well as local beaches and rustic jungles. More on that in my next post.

If you would like to experience dental tourism in Costa Rica, Go Eat Give can arrange your trip. Feel free to reach out to me: info at goeatgive dot com.

Beach, Buddha and Pagoda – How To Spend 5 Days in Myanmar

Myanmar (aka Burma) has only recently opened to tourism after lifting an embargo on foreign visitors. Tucked away in the South Asian peninsula, the country is unknown to most western tourists, except for it’s communist politics followed by a fight for democracy led by female activist Aung San Suu Kyi. A deeper dive into Myanmar’s history opens up a rich pandora of culture, religion and architecture spanning thousands of years. The country is biodiverse with beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers and forests. While it is difficult to see Myanmar in just a few days, I managed to capture a few highlights through my lens.

Yangon, the capital, is where I spent most of my time as our ship was docked there was three days. Sailing into the Irrawaddy River Delta gave way to views of muddy brown waters with nomadic fisherman on traditional boats, followed by golden domes popping out from bare villages. The city, itself is pretty small, with business buildings, hotels, tea shops, gardens and lots of pagodas. Having been cut off from the rest of the world, you won’t find any name brands or chain restaurants here. People still dress traditionally in sarongs (called longyi) and put bright creamy paste (thanaka) on their faces, while crouching on low stools on the street side cafes eating fish curry and steamed rice. It is easy to walk around, taxis are cheap, though traffic can be bad at times.

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple houses one of the most revered reclining Buddha statues in the country. Though the original statue was built in 1899, it has been modified and reconstructed few times until the 1970s.

Dominating the Yangon skyline, Shwedagon Pagoda is spectacular by day and night. Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, and perhaps the oldest Buddha stupa in the world, built between 6-10 centuries CE. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours to wander around the complex of temples to absorb their splendid beauty, and maybe you would feel like spending a few minutes in silence or meditation.

In the evening, head over for dinner to Karaweik Royal Barge. Karaweik Palace was constructed in the shape of a barge as a symbol of Burmese culture and arts. It serves international buffet with cultural performances. Other restaurants I tried were Yangon Tea House, a casual and hip Burmese/ Indian restaurant, and Feel Myanmar, a traditional place where you can pick and choose your food and quantity. This is a great venue to safely try a lot of Burmese dishes that you may have seen on the streets as well.

On the other side of Yangon’s cosmopolitan city, is the township of Dala. This is the place to go if you want to see daily life of the locals – where they live, shop, study and pray. Most people cross the river on ferry boat to work in the city. Walk through the wet markets, visit a monastery, stop by an orphanage, and ride on a trishaw.

From Yangon, take a short flight to the city of Bagan, in the eastern province. It is said there were over 10,000 religious structures built in Bagan between 9-13 centuries, though only 2,000 of them still remain today. Shwesardaw offers a great lookout to many of these temples spread across the archeological area.

Though there are dozens of other temples in the area worth visiting if you have the time, Shwezigon Pagoda built by the Mon Dynasty, is covered with more than 30,000 copper plates (originally gold). The pagoda houses four huge bronze statues of Buddha, and contain his original footprints.

Lampi Island is the only marine national park in Myanmar, home to over 1000 species of animals, plants and marine life, as well as occasional sea gypsies. Here you can take a private zodiac cruise to visit the mangroves.

Further south is Shark Island, a secluded natural island perfect for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the white sandy beach. There are a number of beaches and exclusive beach resorts in Myanmar, that offer opportunities to see the rich coral formations and marine life.

Located at the Myanmar-Thailand border, is the charming town of Kawthoung. With strong Indian and Muslim influences, it is a town on a hill where you can walk around and explore within a day. Kawthaung is also the starting point for Myanmar-based cruises to the vast Myeik Archipelago.

My trip to Myanmar was possible through Silverseas Discoverer Andaman Sea Expedition cruise. I was on their inaugural sailing to Myanmar, a country that should be added to your travel bucket list!

5 Must See Places in Cape Town, South Africa

What does your mind envision at the mention of Cape Town, South Africa? Perhaps you see flashes of Cape Town’s tumultuous history. Remnants of the apartheid, a system of racial segregation from 1948 to 1994, loom heavily over this beautiful city. There remain visible reminders of the painful class system, displaced persons and civil unrest. However, it is time to take another look. Cape Town is a coastal town, comprised of a majestic port, vineyards as far as the eye can see, pristine beaches and so much more. In Cape Town a traveler will find a bit of everything.

What’s more, is that with the continuing evolution of social media, these discoveries can be shared for all the world to see with just a click of a button. Everyone loves to be able to have the chance to see photographs and descriptions of different countries as it acts as a decision-making tool, and many come to the conclusion about whether they would like to go there when they see other people’s experiences through social media. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to hear that Instagram growth services like Upleap and gramista are popular with people who want to make sure that their profile is followed by as many users as possible to ensure that their messages get spread far and wide. And Cape Town may be on many people’s bucket lists when it comes to travel destinations, so the more information the better!

Cape Town was originally founded as a resupply stop for the Dutch East Indies Company. Today, Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa. It is the second most populous city in South Africa and the largest city in the Western Cape. Here are some sites you must visit to gain a new perspective on the country.

Majestic Table Mountain

CapeTown Table Mountain

On a clear day in the city, Table Mountain’s prominent summit can be seen for miles around. It is widely recognizable and makes up the backdrop of the area.

An interesting phenomenon known as orographic clouds occurs at the site of Table Mountain. Locals have been known to call these clouds the “table cloth.” These clouds give the mountain both a mysterious and majestic feel yet can appear to completely swallow up this 3,559 ft landmark. At times, there are opportunities to literally walk through the clouds.

The summit of the mountain can be reached by cable car and boasts awe inspiring views. The plateau of the mountain is 2 miles from side to side, revealing picturesque views of the city below and the ocean beyond. Visitors to Table Mountain walk among the fiery sunset colored flora, and take photographs of each other against the backdrop of the intense shades of grey and purple. Save some energy, there is more, now choose to hike, mountain bike, go rock climbing or visit some caves in the national park.

Reclaimed V and A Waterfront

Victoria and Alfred WaterfrontThe Victoria and Alfred Waterfront has undergone many transitions over the centuries. The harbor basins were originally built between 1860 and 1920 at the direction of Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s youngest son. Presently the V and A Waterfront is Cape Town’s number one attraction. The harbor is vibrant with more than 80 restaurants, retail stores, hotels, an aquarium, amphitheater and private residences. The waterfront attractions include the Nelson Mandela Museum and the launch for a boat ride to visit Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Here is a tip; purchase tickets online weeks in advance of your visit to ensure your visit to Robben Island during your stay in Cape Town. With 400,000 square meters of mixed development use at The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, there is sure to be entertainment and cuisine to suit every persons tastes.

Brilliant Bo Kaap

BoKaap DistrictThe Bo Kaap district in the city of Cape Town is an artistic statement that quickly catches the eye. The homes, painted in vividly bold colors, leave a lasting impression. The area was originally known as the Malay Quarters although several groups of people dwelled in the community, including a significant population of Muslims. Today, the traditions can still be experienced with its abundance of Malaysian cuisine, Muslim mosques, carnivals, museums, and bright facades.

Unspoiled Beaches

The beaches are a must see while visiting Cape Town. They are sugary white and impeccably maintained. The city has over 80 beaches and facilities, as recognized by their government with the most popular destinations for visitors being Clifton, Camps Bay and Boulders Beach.

Hout Bay BeachClifton Beach is known for the luxury of the surrounding homes, boutiques, and restaurants. This “Millionaire’s Row” is a place to go see and be seen and has been coined Cape Town’s St. Tropez, a province located on the French Riviera. St. Tropez is known as “the” beach destination for the famous, wealthy, and beautiful. Clifton Beach, while known for its posh ambiance is also a destination for sunbathers.

Camps Bay Beach, just down the road from Clifton Beach, gives a more laid back atmosphere than the Clifton area. It is family friendly during the day and has ample amounts of dining and shopping. During the evening the beach is also known for its bars and intriguing nightlife.

Boulders Beach is a recreational site that is a part of the Table Mountain National Park. It has slightly warmer water and its rocks dissipate the waves making snorkeling ideal. It also happens to be the home to a colony of endangered African penguins.

Exquisite Vineyards

Constantia Winery

Less than an hours drive from Cape Town’s city center are captivating landscapes of wine country. Rolling hills of endless vineyards span the territory of Cape Town incorporating more than 20 wine producing regions. Many have won international awards and continue to produce sought after harvests.

Wineries such as Constantia and Cape Point deliver warm hospitality, world-class wine, and a reprieve from the busier city. To visit, consider companies such as South African owned Luhambo Tours, which accommodates tours to various wine estates.

A local source for information can be essential to experiencing the most Cape Town has to offer. Tour with a lifelong resident and licensed operator like Auriol’s Tours for a unique perspective with uncommon expeditions.

The traditional and contemporary life styles in Cape Town co-mingle; the natural beauty and artistic flair merge making it a destination to behold. A recommendation, when thinking about travel to Cape Town, South Africa, envision the need for at least seven days in order to experience most of what Cape Town has to offer.

To learn more about traveling to Cape Town, visit Cape Town Tourism.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

The best national parks in Brazil

Natural landscapes, beautiful cascades, majestic waterfalls, diverse vegetation and fauna of various species are some of the charms that tourists can find in the national parks of Brazil. Here are the best ones as claimed by Brazil Ministry of Tourism. Continue reading “The best national parks in Brazil”

Myths and facts of Rio

They say you never truly know a place till you actually go there yourself and experience it first hand. People warn you, advise you, paint a picture of a destination for you. But everyone has their own lens of looking at things so where one finds danger, another may feel safe, where one sees chaos, another may find beauty. Continue reading “Myths and facts of Rio”