Retiring in Costa Rica
Retirement in Costa Rica is an option that many are choosing to explore. Whether to escape the harsh winter months, experience an adventure in a different culture, or to simply kick back in paradise, the rewards of establishing a home here are as plentiful as the biodiversity that will surround you on a daily basis. Once you’ve made the decision to retire full or part-time in Costa Rica, the key to your successful transition, is understanding how to accomplish your move. Read on for some of the basics of relocating to Costa Rica.
Cost of Living
The cost to live anywhere in the world is highly subjective depending on the lifestyle and habits of each individual. That said, many goods and services are much cheaper in Costa Rica than in the US or Canada.
Whether you typically eat out, cook at home, shop in American-style grocery stores or buy from produce vendors in local markets, your food costs will likely be less than your costs in the US. One big advantage here is a wonderful, tropical climate that supports all kinds of fruits and vegetables in your own backyard. If you prefer not to grow your own, Supermercado Junquillal and the Mi Tierra local market are right next door to Tierra Pacifica. We’re also surrounded by restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. Check out the Our Area page to see a list of area restaurants.
Housing costs are also dependent on the individual’s taste and desired amenities. We estimate that you can build your dream home in Tierra Pacifica for $80-90 per square foot and a total cost for a modest, 1500sf home on a 1-2 acre lot for around $200K.
Costa Rica is renowned for its world class, affordable health care. As an added convenience, there is a doctor located next door in Plaza Tierra Pacifica full time. For emergencies there are doctors in both Santa Cruz and Tamarindo, each 30 minutes by car. Hospital Cima is a world class hospital located in San Jose, just 3.5 hours from Tierra Pacifica. They are building a new location in Liberia, approximately a one hour drive, scheduled to open in 2013.
Health Insurance is available privately or through the national insurance agency, INS. We have an insurance representative on site in the Plaza Tierra Pacifica Welcome Center that can help you find a policy that is appropriate for your needs in Costa Rica.
Banking in Costa Rica
With an internet connection and familiarity with your US banking institution’s online banking system, one can continue to pay bills back home with relative ease. The decision to open a local bank account, versus just taking cash out of an ATM as needed, is one that is up to the individual, but can add convenience to paying your Costa Rican bills. In general, your utilities, internet and phone bills can be paid at the Water Company office in nearby town of Paraíso.
Costa Rican Residency
US and Canadian travelers are granted a 3 month tourist visa upon entering Costa Rica, and with proof of their ticket back out of the country. If you plan to live in Costa Rica for more than 3 months at a time, you will be required to obtain residency here. We recommend contacting a legal professional to assist with the application process, and to determine which of several residency statuses best fits your individual situation.
Owning a Car in Costa Rica
Cheap, public transportation by bus is available to get you anywhere you may want to go in Costa Rica: Santa Cruz, Liberia, San Jose, as well as to other nearby beaches and towns. However, many tourists and residents opt for the convenience of their own car while here. A current US driver’s license is valid for driving in Costa Rica so long as the individual’s visa (tourist, resident, etc) is also current.
Keep in mind that all cars in Costa Rica are imported and therefore you can expect to pay much more than (sometimes double) the “Blue Book” value in the US, for example. Additionally, keeping the car’s mandatory annual registration/insurance (Marchamo) and inspection certification (RTV) up to date require due diligence on the part of the car owner – both past and current. Buying a car with a clear title and up-to-date Marchamo/RTV is a quick and easy transfer with an attorney for a few hundred dollars. Title problems in the registry or out of date Marchamo/RTV means extra fees and headaches.
Your options include:
1. Renting a car from one of various agencies right outside of the Liberia or San Jose airport. This option is expensive, but possibly the least amount of hassle since all Marchamo/RTV requirements are handled by the agency.
2. Shipping your car from the US. This option is likely to be the most expensive, once import duties are paid on the car, and could result in larger hassle getting Marchamo, RTV, and repairs/replacement parts if bringing a unique make or model.
3. Buying a car in Costa Rica. The cost will depend on the usual factors: the car’s condition, age, make and model. The potential for hassle depends on the car having a clear title and up-to-date papers.
The town of Grecia, in the Central Valley about 3.5 hours from Tierra Pacifica, has been recommended as a good place to find a new or used car from a dealership.
On a final, but important note, the road conditions in Guanacaste vary depending on the season (e.g. rainy versus dry) and type of road (e.g. highway versus rural dirt road). Cars require regular maintenance to keep them running and in good shape.
Attorneys & Taxes in Costa Rica
Since we’re not the legal experts, we recommend getting in touch with a Costa Rican attorney to answer income and property tax questions, facilitate your potential land, home, and car purchases, and assist with your residency application. An English-speaking attorney is available at the Plaza Tierra Pacifica and is already helping many homeowners with their everyday questions. Stop by or contact our Welcome Center for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bringing Your Belongings
Stocking your home in Costa Rica can be accomplished with shopping trips to Santa Cruz and San Jose, and beautiful, handmade furniture is locally available. But for those items you want to bring from the US, a combination of luggage and shipping may be required. Every six months you are permitted to carry up to $500 in household goods for personal use whenever you travel to Costa Rica. For large items or a more all-inclusive moving service, you will need to contact a relocation company.