23 - Where should I live?
Costa Ricans have the reputation of being extremely gracious – many will offer a smile, and if you are lost or have any questions, they will do their best to help. Visitors are constantly surprised at the warmth of the Costa Rican people, who will often take as much time as is needed to communicate with a beginning Spanish student.
Except where expressly posted, Costa Rica’s water is potable and safe to drink.
Absolutely. At present, the average Social Security benefit runs just under $1200 a month. It is entirely feasible to live on such a budget, but you’ll give up certain amenities like car ownership, frequent restaurant outings, and splash outs on imported goods. If you’re retiring with a partner or spouse who also earns Social Security benefits, your housing options will increase dramatically.
Bringing a dog or cat to Costa Rica is a relatively simple process as there is no quarantine period. There are three ways to bring your pet to Costa Rica: as carry-on, as checked baggage, or as cargo. The option to carry-on is usually restricted to animals under 15 pounds. Be sure to check airline regulations and current pet importation laws before making plans.
Yes, but it can be challenging to find legal employment as Costa Rican law strives to protect its citizens by securing as many local jobs as possible. However, it may be possible to obtain a work permit with local companies, such as bilingual schools or international corporations. Another option is to work online as a telecommuter for a company based outside of Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is internationally recognized for its top-notch medical services, both public and private, thanks to its wealth of skilled surgeons and state-of-the-art facilities. The country’s top private hospitals – CIMA, Clinica Biblica and Clinica Catolica – offer complete services including ultrasound, X-ray, emergency and intensive care, and bilingual staff. The United Nations ranked Costa Rica’s public health system within the top 20 worldwide.
Until very recently, Costa Rica did not have a traditional address system. Instead, locals used directions from landmarks to explain location. Directions to a friend’s house might be explained as “100 meters north of the supermarket, 100 meters east and 25 meters west, the blue house on the left.” (100 meters = 1 block) In 2010, the country began implementing an address system in San Jose – and there are plans to expand throughout the Central Valley.
Tourists and residents alike may purchase Kolbi prepaid cell phone service, a GSM and 3G network that’ll cost you about $5 per month. The service offers both national and international SIM chips in several denominations. If you are a tourist, simply present your passport and two copies of your photo and entry stamp pages to obtain the Kolbi plan.
There are several public and more than 20 private banks in Costa Rica, all with services open to foreigners, whether here as full-time residents, students or employees. Be prepared with original identification, a utility bill and minimum deposit. Some banks also require references.
Depending on your country of citizenship, you may stay up to 90 days as a tourist, at which time you must exit the country for at least three days. Legal residents are entitled to stay in the country for as long as their residency is current.
Known as the “Switzerland of the Americas,” Costa Rica has a stable government that has functioned peaceably without an army for more than 60 years. Unlike many Central American nations, Costa Rica has a large middle class and wealth is evenly distributed. Extreme poverty is rare, and therefore crime is reduced considerably.
Costa Rica is an excellent choice for a family move abroad. In addition to Costa Rica’s child-friendly society, its legal policies also serve to protect and nurture children. Private schools are prevalent, which are popular options for expats who prefer their children take bilingual or English-language classes and receive American diplomas or International Baccalaureate degrees.
In 2010, the World Database of Happiness picked Costa Rica as the world’s top country for both Average Happiness and Happy Life Years. The Happy Planet Index (HPI) considered the country’s high life satisfaction, life expectancy, and strong environmental policies – and ranked Costa Rica first among all nations.
Public transportation is an excellent way to navigate Costa Rica, as buses are cheap, reliable and prolific. Taxis are also inexpensive (less than half the cost of taxis in the United States), and easy to find. A commuter train travels within San Jose and connects to Heredia, a city just north of the capital. There are plans to expand the service within the next few years.
We recommend renting before purchasing a home. Every area is different – local culture, amenities, nightlife – and it’s important to test-drive your desired location before buying real estate.
There are five types of residency: temporary (through marriage to a Costa Rican), rentista (annuity), inversionista (investor), pensionado (retiree), and permanent (usually through first-degree blood relationship with a Costa Rican). Each residency type has its own requirements.
Costa Rica has several traditional foods, such as gallo pinto, a savory dish of rice and beans served for breakfast. Tamales, small packages of cornmeal and stewed meat, are prepared at Christmastime, while sweet chiverre squash pastries are a staple at Easter. Our advice is to head for a soda – a Costa Rican diner – and try a little bit of everything on the menu.
Driving here is often described as an adventure sport in itself. Drivers are honk happy and assertive to say the least – you could compare their driving styles to those of New York or Boston. The country’s main highways are in decent condition, though all are susceptible to landslides and sudden flooding in the rainy season. After a bit of an adjustment period, most people don’t think twice about hopping in the car.
Housing, services and medical care in Costa Rica are much cheaper than in North America; an individual can live comfortably here on $1500 per month, but a lot depends on personal preferences. It’s feasible to live frugally in a one-bedroom apartment with no car for $750 per month, but it is equally possible to live large on more than $3000 monthly.
Costa Rica is a democratic republic and has one of the most stable governments in Latin America. As a whole, the nation is more socialist than the United States, but moderate and conservative parties are also represented in government.
Located just north of the equator, Costa Rica has a temperate tropical climate marked by two seasons: the dry (December- April) and the wet (May-November). When considering a move, location is a big part of the equation — choose from balmy beaches, cool mountains, or the Spring-like weather of the Central Valley.
Legal residents must affiliate with the Caja (CCSS), Costa Rica’s public health system. The cost to affiliate with CCSS is approximately 10 to 11.5% of your income. You may also choose to purchase private insurance, which generally costs $50-100 per month and entitles you to benefits within Costa Rica’s excellent private healthcare system.
23 - Where should I live?
Costa Rica has a huge variety of options, from modern cities and suburbs to laid-back beach towns and mountain communities. Cost is also key – some areas, like the upscale suburb of Escazu or the developed north Pacific coast beaches, cater more to upper class residents and may not be affordable for everyone.
Costa Rica boasts one of the highest standards of living in Latin America, a stable democratic government, and a 95% literacy rate. The country is home to more Americans per capita than any other country outside of the U.S., thanks to its tropical climate, comparatively low prices and natural beauty.
Most developed areas offer cable television, cell phone service, and some form of high-speed Internet. Even the most rural communities are supplied with electricity and water. Except in large cities, septic systems are common.