Retiring in Costa Rica

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), more than a half a million people are leaving the great ol’ USA to retire in foreign countries. Many Americans, Canadians and Europeans are looking for a cheaper, healthier and perhaps warmer life. With recent Blue Zone articles, Costa Rica is on the list of hottest retirement spots in the world.

There is something undeniably appealing about the idea of living an expat adventure in retirement. Striking out for foreign shores can seem pragmatic as well as poetic, like an adventure in your own book. There is romance and allure when relocating overseas. But there are also many questions that can affect your ultimate decision in the pursuit of happiness and livelihood.

Where to retire? There are so many affordable, scenic places in the world to retire – where you go is paramount to what is important to you. Costa Rica is so appealing because it is safe, clean and affordable. It is also fairly close to the USA, less time traveling with low fares and common discounts with competing airlines. We also offer biodiversity, great for people who want to embrace living with a clean footprint. But for those who require a bit more, the suburbs of San Jose are filled with exclusive hotels, prime shopping, expensive car dealerships, and modern restaurants to satisfy the most sophisticated pallets.

What about healthcare? Cost vs. Quality of care is important when making your decision where to retire. Costa Rica offers equal private medical services at a fraction of the cost in the US, and upon residency approval, the CAJA Costa Rican Social Security is available for low cost, great for check-ups, dental cleanings and maintenance; with option for private services when needed. Medical tourism is actually a huge market in Costa Rica due to affordability and quality of care combined with stylish recuperation. Who wouldn’t want to relax in a hammock after a double root canal with implants?

How does moving abroad affect your family? Understanding the impact your move will have on close friends and family is dynamic and you can’t expect them to always visit you. Many people have a hard time being away from their children and grandchildren for such a long period of time, so be prepared to jet-set! Sometimes 3 or 4 times a year, a trip back to your home country is inevitable, so this needs to be added to your annual budget.

Cost of Living? Weighing the pros and cons is daunting so be sure you know what you are getting into. Costa Rica offers a plethora of downright cheap foods. The ferias, or markets are full of gem colored exotic fruits and vegetables at ridiculously cheap prices. You could spend a year alone learning the names of exotic fruits and how to cook with them and when they are in season. On the other hand, if you need your processed, imported foods like peanut butter, orzo pasta, cereals and specialty cheeses, those items come with a cost. Basically, anything imported is expensive, sometimes 2 to 3 times the average cost in the States and anything local is cheap and/or affordable. Rent is fairly affordable in comparison. Electricity is expensive. Gas is expensive. Internet, cable and cell phones are inexpensive, basically cheap. Cars are expensive, but the car insurance is inexpensive. So we always suggest a long visit or stay-cation to plan out your spending requirements and needs before purchasing to know exactly how to budget your cost of living. For help planning your stay-cation, check out our vacation rentals page!

Can you adjust? Culture Shock is common for US expats because everything in the USA is so convenient & items come in a box faster than you can say “drive-thru”. Most people who can’t handle retirement in a foreign country return home just after 1 year due to bad planning, over-spending and the inability to adjust or the inability to slow down. Costa Rica has much to offer, but many of the conveniences most expats are used to are hard to find, like 24 hour Walgreen’s, 7-Elevens and fast-food chains. The occasional visit to McDonald’s or KFC is totally attainable when you visit San Jose, but the smaller cities outside the Greater Area Metropolitan (GAM) do not host such conveniences.

If those things are not important to you, you will be fine as there are many perks. You can live in a tre-chic modern home with cool breezes in the perfect climate; conveniently close to fine restaurants, shopping at Walmart, fancy malls & Price Smart and close to the finest hospital in Central America. You can live on top of a mountain with views of the Pacific sunsets while still having high-speed internet and fresh breezes off the veranda while your maid brings you a fresh fruit natural, a local exotic drink! Or maybe you are more apt to a sprawling ranch home in a tropical jungle setting with toucans and hummingbirds as neighbors. Perhaps you prefer to live in a fabulous high-rise condo in Escazú in the lap of luxury and enjoy lunch dates with your friends at the local posh restaurants. Any of these dreams can be yours if you can live knowing that you need to adapt to the country you live in, and not the other way around – you can be happy in the Happiest Country on Earth. Things are a bit slower here. Costa Ricans enjoy taking their time so much, they have adopted the phrase, Tico time. Many Americans find this hard to grasp, but if you prepare yourself ahead of time, Costa Rica can be a cool, hip place to retire – no culture shock needed 🙂