Don’t let material stuff get in the way of your conversion from tourist to traveler. Even stuff like eyeglasses.
If you’re visually challenged like me, getting new glasses can be a big event. They cost a lot of money, but more importantly — they change the way you literally see the world. So I am always a tad apprehensive when it comes time for new specs.
I’m here to report that I’ve had great success in Barcelona, Spain, at a Multiopticas location near Placa de Catalunya. That specific location came recommended through Facebook groups, including a group of expats who live in the city.
Multiopticas is a Spanish chain that makes their own brand of frames. I had a vision exam included, if I agreed to buy the glasses. The basic vision exam was *not done by an ophthalmologist – it was an exam for a vision prescription only, and those are done by optometrists. (I shoot for an ophthalmologist every two years.)
I must say there wasn’t much of a selection for the style of frames I wanted, which was the kind with nose pads, because the full plastic frames are more popular at the moment.
The glasses were 339 euros with store brand frames, but they were having a sale. For another 60 euros, I could get a second pair, so I added new prescription sunglasses for a total of 399 euros. For another 80 euros, I upgraded to polarized lenses in my sunglasses. In dollars, I paid $594 for new specs and new shades. Also, I got a few free progressive contacts to try out.
The staff was kind, helpful, patient. Everyone spoke English. Overall, this was an entirely pleasant experience and I would definitely go back if I’m ever in Barcelona or Spain and need eyeglasses. My location was near Placa de Catalunya – a map is here. The company’s website is here (no English).
A note on types of progressive lenses, and the costs
Multiopticas offers three kinds of progressive lenses – good, better, and best. You get what you pay for here. The peripheral vision on the good lenses is somewhat blurry; it’s a little less blurry on the sides with the better lenses; it’s only blurry on the extreme edges of the best lenses.
I opted for the ‘better’ lenses, the middle of the road. “Good” was $124 USD less (100 euros). The”best” lenses cost $124 USD more (100 euros). I felt comfortable paying what I paid. I have perfect vision overall, and these will likely get trashed in salt air when we head back to beach areas later this year.
I bought the “best” lenses back in Mexico, and difference is noticeable, of course. It was the only time I’ve ever had the ‘best’ lens. Most of the time I’ve had the “better” lenses, so I’m satisfied with what I ordered — the world looks amazing in my new shades and specs!
Eyeglasses in Mexico were less expensive when you consider I basically spent $310 for a single pair of the “best” progressive lenses and also an ophthalmology exam. But hey – I’m in Europe now, and I did not expect my dollar to go as far.
I still believe I saved money when compared to the U.S. I would make an educated guess these new glasses would have cost around $450 to $500 each in the states – even more in California where I lived for a few years. I say ‘educated guess’ because I bought glasses in the U.S. every year or 18 months from grade school until July 2015, and so I knew about the upward pricing trends.
For anyone looking for information about buying eyeglasses in Mexico, my excellent experience in Puerto Vallarta was written in this post here.
I know progressive lenses can be bought at mail-order places like Warby Parker, and I could have them shipped to anywhere in the world. I do worry that without an in-person fitting, my center field of vision would be off on the progressive lenses.
And then there are the simple bifocals that can be had for hundreds of dollars less. I prefer to see near, far distances, and middle distances. I want to see the world like a human being was designed to see the world – how people with good vision see the world.
All in all, what I got for under $600 is a flipping steal: progressive lenses of better quality in new eyeglasses and sunglasses, polarization added to the sunglasses, free basic exam, a free box of progressive contacts. I don’t care who cringes at the price. My middle-of-the-road preferences for my prescription are non-negotiable. Next year I might spring for the best quality lens again. My glasses are the one thing I won’t cut back on any more than I already have — budget world-traveling vagabond, or not.