Names: Sharon and Lee Harris
Ages: 68 and 72
Living in: Heredia, Costa Rica
We first visited Costa Rica when our cruise ship docked in the country’s Pacific port of Caldera in 1994. From then on we visited as often as we could, taking relocation tours and thoroughly exploring the country.
We wanted to stretch our small Social Security income and knew that retirement in the U.S. was out of the question. At first we stayed for two or three weeks at a time…then a month, gradually extending our stay each time. Finally, in 2007, we purchased a small townhouse for under $75,000 in Heredia, in the Central Valley, about six miles northwest of San José.
We didn’t make the move permanent until 2009. After living in Las Vegas, Nevada, for almost 40 years, it wasn’t easy to leave. But we knew if we waited much longer we would never do it. We wanted our dollars to stretch, and we wanted affordable medical care.
And Heredia suits our needs perfectly. The weather is very mild year-round. No need for heat or air conditioning in our home. There are two beautiful shopping centers, Price Smart (Costco) and a large Hipermas (Walmart).
We pay approximately $100 per month for electric, water, cable, Internet, a neighborhood guard and maid service.
There’s a brand-new hospital here. It’s part of the socialized medical system (Seguro Social) called Caja. We’re both members and it provides economical and excellent medical care as well as prescriptions for only $40 per month for both of us. There is a Caja clinic in every neighborhood. There are also many excellent private hospitals in the Central Valley and state-run Caja hospitals in every province.
Before moving we worked on getting our residency through an attorney in San José and the Costa Rica Consulate in Los Angeles. This took about two years. Legal residency means you don’t have to present your passport for anything. If you do not have legal residency, you have to leave the country every 90 days, staying at least three days in another country before returning to Costa Rica.
Our family is still in the U.S., but it is a short flight back home. We have a free phone service through our computer so we stay in touch, sometimes on a daily basis.
One challenge is the language but we are slowly learning. A little Spanish goes a long way. There is usually someone who speaks English who will help you when you get stuck. Another tip is to leave most of your belongings at home. Transportation and duties will have you paying for everything all over again. So sell the car and furniture and buy new things here.
We make new friends all the time. We also volunteer with an English conversation group at a school that teaches English as a second language. We keep busy going to plays in English at the National Theater. And there is always the beach!
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