WHY LIVE IN COSTA RICA?
A few months ago I led a group of prospective
residents on a trip around Costa Rica. After
a week of travelling and attending a series of
informative seminars, the majority had decided
they would like to live here for at least part
of the year. Costa Rica has more Americans
per capita than any other country outside the
United States. Why do so many people want to live
The most obvious reason
is the climate. People are tired of
freezing winters, scorching summers and the high
utility bills that go with them. In Costa Rica
they can enjoy one of the best year-round climates
in the world (72 degrees average in the Central
Valley.) We have only two seasons here, dry and
rainy, both with an abundance of sunshine. We
rarely need air conditioning and never need heat.
Costa Rica has more winter sunshine than Hawaii
or Florida and fewer people.
Costa Rica is called
by many "the Switzerland of the Americas" due
to its neutral political status and spectacular
mountains. From the huge, curling waves
of the Pacific coast, to the sight of molten rock
tumbling down the sides of a volcano, Costa Rica's
natural beauty has something for everyone.
This unique little country offers a real
paradise for the nature lover, the fishing enthusiast
and water sports fanatic as well as the retiree.
Many come here for the
lifestyle. Costa Rica fits the bill for anyone
sick of the hustle and bustle, seeking a more
laid-back way of life. One of the tour participants
remarked, "Costa Rica reminds me of the U.S. about
40 years ago when everything was unspoiled, unhurried
and uncrowded." It will also appeal to people
of all ages seeking to move to a new and exotic
land outside of the States and Canada and the
energetic entrepreneur, the burned-out baby boomer,
those sick of long rush-hour commutes and
anyone seeking an alternative way of life.
This beautiful country
is so appealing because it has the warmth and
flavor of Mexico, without anti-Americanism and
fear of government expropriations; the physical
beauty of Guatemala without a large military presence;
and the sophistication of Brazil without
the abject poverty or serious violent crime.
But Isn't It Expensive?
Although much has been written about the high
cost of living here, what you spend depends on
your lifestyle. If you must have a luxurious home,
drive a late model car and buy imported goods,
you will spend as much or more than you would
in the States. But if you live more like
the locals and watch your spending, you will spend
Many Americans living
below the poverty line in the United States can
live in moderate luxury on a modest retirement
or investment income in Costa Rica. The favorable
exchange rate and low rate of inflation let you
stretch your dollars here. The cost of food,
utilities and entertainment are all substantially
lower than in the United States. Costa Rica's
affordable medical care is among the best anywhere.
The quality of health care is comparable to North
America but the prices are one half or less! Considered
by many to be the healthiest country south of
Canada, Costa Rica has a higher life-expectancy
rate-rumored to be the
third longest in the world (76.3 for men)-than
the United States (76).
Housing is a fraction
of what you are accustomed to paying. My
wife and I just purchased a new three-bedroom
home in Lagunilla de Heredia, about five miles
from downtown San José, for $62,000. It
has a cathedral ceiling, sits on a 250 square
meter lot and is very comfortable for three people
and a dog. We have a 15-year mortgage and
pay $452 monthly including insurance, with a 9%
loan from a Costa Rican state bank.
Besides our home we have
a car and a full-time maid. Household help
makes life easier. (You can hire a full-time maid
for as little as $200 per month or $1 per hour.)
My son goes to one of the best private schools
in the country. We eat out a few times a week
and enjoy various types of entertainment. We spend
a week at the beach during Easter and go to the
United States every Christmas. Our monthly
expenses are about $2500.
The country's inexpensive
medical care, affordable housing, excellent transportation
and communication networks, every imaginable activity
to stay busy and happy, a government which goes
to great lengths to make retirement and living
as easy as possible, contribute to Costa
Rica's appeal and make it tops on the list of
retirement and expat havens.
According to a survey
of potential foreign retirement areas in the Robb
Report, Costa Rica surpasses all countries including
Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Portugal, Australia,
the Caribbean Islands and Greece.
What Sets Costa Rica Apart from Its Neighbors?
Countries such as Nicaragua, Belize, Honduras
and Guatemala have lower living costs, but I believe
you get what you pay for. The quality of
life and lack of infrastructure in those countries
leave a lot to be desired. Safety is a concern,
especially where paramilitary police have power
or where police are corrupt, as in Mexico. Costa
Rica is politically stable and is unique in having
no army. Although theft occurs, violent crime
A Place to Invest
Costa Rica has a myriad
of business opportunities awaiting creative, hard-working
individuals. You can run a global business from
here by using Internet access, fax machines and
cell phones. It is also relatively easy to start
a small business on a shoestring. Furthermore,
tax incentives and a government that encourages
investments and affords investors the same rights
as citizens contribute to a propitious business
climate. Many countries do not permit non-citizens
to own property or place restrictions on foreign-owned
real estate, but this is not the case in Costa
Rica. Anyone may buy real estate with all the
legal rights of citizens.
Passive investors will
find CD's, second mortgages or other investments
that pay 25% to 30% in dollars annually. With
the new millennium upon us, a shrinking
world due to better communication, a burgeoning
global economy-possibilities are unlimited for
doing business in Central and South America.
Trade pacts between Costa Rica, U.S., Mexico
and South America be reality by 2005. They promise
to link all of the nations in the hemisphere in
to one trading block.
The Adventure of Starting Over
Some move here to start
over and seek adventure in an exotic land. They
are tired of dead-end jobs or the rat race and
want new challenges, a chance to pursue their
dreams and achieve greater personal growth.
As an expat, you have the challenge of immersing
yourself in a new culture and, if you choose,
the rewards of learning a foreign langauge. Newcomers
can make friends easily because foreigners gravitate
towards one another.
Adjusting and Keeping Busy
Adjustment to a new way of life can take many
months. However, an open mind, a positive attitude
and a willingness to seek out new experiences
can make the transition relatively painless. Costa
Rica has come a long way in the last decade.
Satellite and Direct TV, private mail service
and the Internet make it easier to stay in touch
with family and friends in the United States and
keep up with what is going on all over the world.
If you don't own a computer, you can go to an
Internet café. A friend of ours, a 20-year resident
of Costa Rica, said, " My days are so filled with
exciting activities and interesting experiences
that each day seems like a whole lifetime.
I really feel that I have discovered the fountain
Another plus is that
Costa Rica has the reputation of having the most
beautiful, flirtatious and accessible women in
Latin America. It comes as no surprise that
Costa Rican women are highly sought as companions
by foreign men of all ages. Single
men will have no problem finding love, romance
and a second chance in life with a devoted Costa
You will never be bored
here unless you choose to be. Costa Rica has something
for everyone. In the Tico Times, the weekly English-language
newspaper, you can find hundreds of interesting
activities: movies in English, support groups,
computer and bridge clubs. You name it, and Costa
Rica has it.
Living in Costa Rica
can open the door to a new and exciting life.
Who knows? You may never want to return home.