There Are Many Reasons to Move to Costa Rica

Why would you want to move to Costa Rica? As thousands of expats will tell you, Costa Rica offers a fantastic lifestyle at a reasonable cost.  Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with a modern capital city, reliable utility service, clean water, lush rain forests, long stretches of deserted tropical beaches, fun beach towns, quaint rural villages, bustling cities, cool mountain getaways, and pristine lake regions.

Moving to Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica is particularly appealing because Costa Rica is a long-established democracy and politically stable. Also, because Costa Rica has been welcoming retirees and other expats for more than 30 years, and is a premier eco-tourism and beach destination for tourists. Many locals speak English. And, for the most part, it is safe. There is a low incidence of violent crime here; and outside the capital city of San José, there isn’t much crime of any kind. Costa Rica is known as one of Latin America’s most peaceful nations (and one of the most politically stable—it has enjoyed over 60 years of uninterrupted democratic rule). José Figueres Ferrer, who led an armed uprising that ended a 44-day Civil War, was glorified for abolishing the army and drafting a constitution that guaranteed free elections with universal suffrage. Unlike many of its neighbors, Costa Rica never had another civil war.

Because the country has no army to support, it is able to provide money for universal medical care and free and subsidized educational programs. The well-run national healthcare system means that the country’s people are strong and healthy. The average life expectancy is 79 years–one of the highest in the world. The country has an up-to-date medical system with hospitals, clinics, and complete medical services in all major cities and some towns. Costa Rica is considered to have one of the best low-cost medical care systems in the world. Dental care and cosmetic surgery is affordable, and Costa Rica’s plastic surgeons are considered among the world’s best.

You Don’t Have to Leave Much Behind When You Move to Costa Rica

You’ll find a wide variety of inexpensive housing in Costa Rica, whether you rent or buy, and a wealth of every imaginable activity to keep you busy and happy. There are excellent English-language magazines, newspapers, and websites catering to the expat community, as well as an active online presence of expats on Facebook and other social media sites and online forums—great for networking. You can get cable and satellite TV with all of the U.S. channels, including premium channels, movie channels, and sports packages for football and more. There is also reliable high-speed internet throughout the country, even in remote areas. That’s great for keeping in touch with family and friends back home with internet services like Skype and FaceTime. If you’re business-minded, there are a myriad of exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially in the growing tourism sector. And consider this: If you move to Costa Rica, you can live comfortably on $2,500 to $3,000 per month, depending on your lifestyle. A full-time maid costs around $10 per day. Utilities, like telephone and water, are much lower than in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Although electric rates are comparable, in the Central Valley region you won’t use AC or heat—so there is savings there. Public transportation through local, regional, and national buses, as well as taxis, is excellent and inexpensive, so you don’t really need a car.

There are also many tax advantages you can enjoy after moving to Costa Rica. Investors pay no capital gains taxes on real estate, business taxes are minimal, and high-interest bank accounts are tax-free. Property taxes are very compared with the U.S. and elsewhere. You’ll pay just 0.25% of the assessed value of your property annually.

Moving Your Household Goods

No matter where you move to, transporting household goods and personal belongings can be challenging. For a move to Costa Rica, for example, you can choose an American moving company, but that firm will still have to deal with a local relocation company to deliver your goods in Costa Rica, a process that can entail tedious dealings with bureaucracy. To avoid this problem, experienced expats say the best strategy is to first select the Costa Rican shipping broker. This firm will then choose the American company that it wants to work with. You can bring a full 40-foot container of goods, including your car. Or you can share a container with another expat. You also have the option of shipping smaller crates. Some expats liberate themselves and bring only what they can fit in their suitcases. It’s important to think long and hard about what possessions you’ll bring to Costa Rica.

Moving With Your Pets to Costa Rica

There are no quarantines for pets arriving in Costa Rica. And bringing your pet to the country is a relatively easy process. A rabies vaccination is required for pets that enter Costa Rica, and it must be administered within 30 days of departure. You’ll also need to have your veterinarian fill out and sign the APHIS 7001 International Health Certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture stating that your pet is in good health. Small dogs and cats can ride in a carrier under your airline seat (subject to rules for your specific airline—always ask). Larger dogs can ride in crates with the luggage. There are extra fees involved in transporting pets. You can also hire a pet shipper to handle your pet’s transport on a charter plane or send them cargo unaccompanied—an import permit will be required in that case. Keep in mind that some breeds are restricted from flying for health reasons. And if temperatures are too high anywhere on your itinerary, the pets may not be allowed to fly. Again, check with your airline. Birds require additional paperwork.

Can You Take Firearms to Costa Rica

The admission of firearms and ammunition into the territory of Costa Rica is subject to restrictions and import permits approved by Costa Rican authorities. At this time only citizens and permanent residents of Costa Rica may possess firearms. Permanent residency is possible after three years as a temporary resident, in the pensionado category, for example. Applications to import non-military weapons into the country may be filed by or through a licensed importer, authorized dealer, or a particular person. You must register your weapon at the Ministry of Public Security’s Department of Firearms and Ammunitions once you arrive in Costa Rica. You must also pass criminal background check, psychological test, and firearms safety test.

When you take into account all of these factors and the fact that in Costa Rica you will surely enjoy a more peaceful and laidback way of life, it’s hard to understand why everyone isn’t moving to Costa Rica.

Why I Moved to Costa Rica

By Kathleen Evans


I had the travel bug from an early age, from studying overseas to extended vacations with my family, and I really wanted to embrace a new culture. Back in the early ‘90s, I started subscribing to International Living magazine. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d actually become a correspondent for IL and live in a foreign country. But my husband, Steve, and I, read the magazine diligently, and whenever we traveled, we checked out the various countries it mentioned. So, on and off, we did a lot of research and finally started to get a little serious about it from 2008 to 2010.

We finally said, okay let’s make a list of criteria about what’s important to us and what we want our new home country to be like. I have written down our criteria again to share with you.

First off, I wanted to hear and see the ocean every day. I grew up fairly landlocked and spent most of my life that way. So it was really important to be able to hear the ocean, there is something hypnotic and soothing about it.

Number two, I never wanted to wear a coat again. Now, that may sound kind of funny to some of you, but I grew up in the brutal winters of Chicago, and it was a pretty painful experience. I’m one of those friends that when it’s 60 F, I’ll show up in a coat and gloves.

We also wanted a country with a stable democracy and an educated population. These were important to us. And we wanted to be able to qualify for residency and have the process be fairly straightforward. Costa Rica does have three different easy pathways to residency and we qualified for one of them, even though we’re not at pensions years yet.

Next on our list was access to a universal healthcare system. Both of us worked independently. For once, we were going to leave our corporation so we wouldn’t have healthcare and that became something very important to us, especially looking at the next phase of our life.

We wanted clear title to property and to be able to own it outright as a foreigner. There are some countries around the world that don’t allow you to do that. However, Costa Rica does, whether it’s a business, your own personal residence, or even just an investment property. Any foreigner can buy. We also wanted a place that had expat communities, not to live in a specific enclave with just expats, but we wanted someone who had already been a pioneer who had helped pave the pathway to make life a little bit easier. We also wanted welcoming locals.

Ease of travel back to the U.S. was also important to us. Should we need to get there quickly, Costa Rica to Miami is just two-and-a-half hours. Houston, is just three-and-a-half hours. So the flights are easy. They’re frequent and they’re not that expensive. We also wanted to look at a lower cost of living than what we had in the U.S. Now I hear it time and time again that Costa Rica isn’t one of the cheapest options for expats, and that is true. But overall, when we look at our budgets, it’s probably half of what we would be spending overall, including everything, especially property. We also wanted to be able to drink water safely out of the tap. And that’s not one of the things that people think about often. But when you look at some of the more rustic options for expats, that does become an issue. And you do have to have some sort of filtration system.

Finally, we wanted to live in a place that had access to the arts, and entertainment. We were looking at various countries and several of the Caribbean islands. They’re appealing in so many ways. However, we found that it would be very possible to get kind of bored with just island life. We are social people, we like to go out, go to museums, concerts, and that sort of thing. In Costa Rica, even some of the smaller beach communities do offer a variety of different things.

So we got real serious with that criteria list. And over time, checking various countries, we kept coming back to Costa Rica and we realized that it checked every possible box for us.

If you are still thinking about Moving to Costa Rica then you need to find out more about The Best Places to Live in Costa Rica: Five Top Expat Havens.

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