Retiring and Living in Costa Rica
Costa Rica supports a diverse and thriving community of English-speaking residents from the United States, Canada and Europe, who live in a wide variety of circumstances throughout the country. Many live in Costa Rica full-time, while others are seasonal or occasional residents. While many live in communities where they mostly interact with other expatriates, others choose to live immersed in the local culture, speaking Spanish and attempting to experience a genuine Costa Rican lifestyle. Fortunately, Costa Rica offers many opportunities to live in either world, or in a blend of the two.
On the whole, the range of reasons for which people from developed countries choose to live in Costa Rica is very broad, which is reflected by the diversity of the expatriate community. These include the desire to retire or live in a warm climate, to take advantage of a business opportunity, or to follow a passion such as an adventure sport or love of tropical nature. Others are attracted by Costa Rica’s reputation as a country that actively supports the well-being of its people, as a stable democracy, its lack of an army, and commitment to the environment. Others like the slower pace and lower cost of living in costa rica a tropical Latin country. Costa Rica offers all of this and more. In addition, Costa Ricans are polite and helpful, and careful to avoid confrontation.
Nevertheless, making the move can be a challenge; following are a few things that anyone considering a move should take into account:
- Culture shock can be real. Unlike earlier times, the choice of living abroad does not necessarily imply the asharp separation from one’s original culture, family and friends, as the internet and satellite telecommunications allows anyone who so desires to stay in touch. In addition, much of what can be experienced at home in terms of information, foodand entertainment can now be obtained in Costa Rica if one lives close to a major city. However, it’s impossible to live in a foreign country without being exposed to the need to communicate andwork with local people and institutions, and to have some degree of exposure to the local culture and surroundings. As a result, facing some amountof frustration and discomfort is inevitable, and it is not uncommon for some people sooner or later to decide to return to the easeand familiarity of their original home. Therefore, it is recommended that anyone considering moving to Costa Rica spend a significant amount of time and realistically evaluate their level of comfort before making a commitment.
- Health care. While Costa Rica has very good, affordable private health care, its public system can be slow and difficult for foreigners to manage, and the amenities offered are not yet up to the standards of developed countries (but it is comprehensive, competent and very affordable). The significance of leaving behind the health care system and other benefits of a developed country is something that everyone, especially older people or people with chronic health problems, should carefully consider.
- Immigration status. Obtaining the status of a legal resident in Costa can be maddeningly and — it often seems — needlessly difficult. Therefore, if one is determined to obtain it, arming oneself with a great deal of patience (and experienced professional assistance) is recommended. Fortunately, the law allows for foreigners to maintain their tourist visas up-to-date by leaving the country for three days every three months. Many people live in Costa Rica legally for years by following this procedure. Temporary or permanent legal residency can be obtained, after jumping through the required hoops, by applying for a work or study permit, through investing or proving a steady and adequate source of retirement income, or by marrying a Costa Rican.
- Finances. While Costa Rica in the 1970s and 1980s was an excellent bargain for visitors and investors, it has since become much more integrated into the global economy, and local prices reflect this reality. While the cost of living is less expensive than developed countries, and many bargains can still be found, it is no longer very cheap. In the same way, while there are many opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs in Costa Rica, several factors make it challenging for foreigners to earn a living in Costa Rica. These include immigration laws, preferences for hiring Costa Rican citizens and the fact that Costa Ricans tend to work with and through well- established networks of family and friends, among others. In addition, Costa Rica has tightened up taxcollection considerably, and the government is under strong fiscal pressure to implement new taxes to boost revenue. All of these factors mandate careful financial planning on the part of new residents to ensure that they have the resources needed to successfully sustain themselves.
Books and articles
Arden Rembert Brink, Unraveling the Mysteries of Moving to Costa Rica
Erin Van Rheenen, Moon Living Abroad in Costa Rica
Roger Peterson, The Legal Guide to Costa Rica
John Howells, Choose Costa Rica for Retirement
Christopher Howard, The New Golden Door to Living and Retirement in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the World’s Happiest, Geenest Country The Guardian
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