Can You Afford to Retire to Costa Rica? The Shocking Truth
For many expats, the idea of a Costa Rica retirement seems like a dream. However, making that dream a reality is actually easier than ever before.
With beautiful beaches, well established communities of expats, and one of the most modernized infrastructures in the region, Costa Rica maintains its standing as one of the best places to live and retire in the world.
Answers to Your Costa Rica Retirement Questions
For many retirees, soon-to-be retirees, and those not quite ready to retire but looking for new horizons, the idea of moving to Costa Rica often leads to a number of questions. Here are the answers to some of the most important matters about life in this Central American paradise.
Can I Afford to Live There?
There is no bigger concern for retirees on a fixed income than how much it will cost to live on a monthly or yearly basis. There have been a lot of stories about how inexpensive a Costa Rica retirement can be. It is important to remember that there are a lot of individual factors that can determine whether the move is affordable.
Living in the larger, more developed areas, such as San Jose, Santa Ana, or Escazu is naturally going to cost more. The larger residences, modern homes, and condominiums in these areas will have a higher price tag than those in smaller towns.
Rents vary along the same lines. It is possible to find a modest “tico-style” house for a few hundred dollars a month. The trade-offs are that some of the appliances that are commonplace in U.S. homes (ovens, dishwashers, etc.) may be lacking.
Similarly, shopping for groceries and other items can have an impact on your budget as well. Going to the local farmers’ markets or local “mercados” will certainly cost less than visiting more expat-oriented stores like the Walmart in Escazu or some of the upscale Auto Mercados in the major metropolitan areas.
The bottom line about your “bottom line” is to examine your own priorities, the “have to haves,” and go from there. Balancing those items against your monetary resources can help you decide if Costa Rica will work for you.
Where Are the Best Expat Communities?
One of the major selling points of retiring in Costa Rica is the large number of expats who have already settled in the country. There are many established expat communities throughout the Central Valley; Grecia, Atenas. and Lake Arenal are good examples.
Escazu, Alajuela, and San Jose are metropolitan centers with a large number of expat neighborhoods, as well as stores and shopping centers that cater to the U.S. clientele. Beach communities along Costa Rica’s “Gold Coast,” including Playa Flamingo, Tamarindo, and Playa del Coco have long been favorites for retirees looking to find that tropical escape by the sea.
The Central Pacific Zone is also another location where a growing number of foreigners have decided to move to and thrive in. Jaco, Los Suenos, and Playa Hermosa (not to be confused with the Playa Hermosa near Tamarindo), have seen their numbers of expats dramatically increase in recent years.
While these areas are some of the best known, it is not difficult to find groups of happy retirees from the U.S. in many Costa Rican locations. Using social media and online resources is a good way to begin to check out the places that best suit your needs and wants.
What Kind of Housing Can I Expect?
The housing in Costa Rica can range from a simple “tico house” with minimal appliances and space, to multi-million dollar estates and resort properties. Looking at real estate listings can be an invaluable tool to learning what your retirement money can actually bring you in terms of a place to live.
The quality of construction, modern amenities, and neighborhood “extras,” such as 24-hour security, pools, etc., will depend on the type of property and location. In this sense, Costa Rica really isn’t any different than most U.S. cities; doing your due diligence is the best way to determine these elements of your retirement “mecca.”
Is the Infrastructure Like the U.S.?
Much of Costa Rica has access to cable television, cellular phones, and high speed internet. The public transportation system, in the form of buses, taxis, and shuttles make getting around easier than you might expect.
The constant improvements of the roads throughout the country have dramatically reduced drive times – particularly in the southern part of the country. Completed in 2010, the four-lane highway from San Jose to Caldera has made getting to the Pacific Coast and towns such as Jaco, Manuel Antonio, and Dominical a much easier proposition.
Do I Need to Speak Spanish?
With a large number of English speakers in Costa Rica, being able to speak Spanish is not a prerequisite for retirement life there. Even in smaller towns, finding someone who can understand you usually is not difficult. In more rural locations, having some Spanish is strongly recommended. Obviously, your comfort level with living someplace where English is not the primary language can be a significant factor in retiring here.
What About Health Care?
Costa Rica’s health care system is one of the best in Latin America. With world-class facilities like CIMA In San Jose (affiliated with Baylor Medical Center) and Clinica Biblica (also in San Jose), you can receive access to the same level of care and diagnostic expertise of any modern U.S. facility. Dental care and dental tourism has become prominent in the last few years, providing dental services at a fraction of the cost found in the States.
It All Sounds Good – So How Do I Begin?
If you’ve never been to Costa Rica, make certain that you visit and explore (more than once!!!) various parts of the country before deciding to make your move. Read about areas you’re interested in and talk to foreigners who live in those areas.
Take a long, hard look at your budget (realistically) and see what you can and can’t afford. Retirement should be less stressful and having reasonable economic expectations is an important part of this process.
Last, but not least, ask yourself if you are ready to live in a new country with a new lifestyle. If your answer is “yes,” a Costa Rica retirement certainly can be part of your future.