With a stable democracy, strong economy, affordable healthcare system, retiree immigration incentives and pleasant weather year-round, Costa Rica has positioned itself as an ideal emigration spot from the American First-world amenities, including modern shopping centers, healthcare and high-speed internet, lie just tens of miles from unspoiled beaches and biodiverse rainforests.
Foreign residents and expats have flocked to the country in such great numbers – approximately 200,000 live in the Central Valley alone – that the government has tightened immigration procedures.
Pro: Political Stability and Neutrality
Throughout Central and South America, Costa Rica has long stood out as a beacon of stability and neutrality.
According to the U.S. Department of State, the democratic government operates with a very strong system of constitutional checks and balances.
On the international stage, Costa Rica is well-regarded for its environmental and human rights advocacy and work towards peace in the region.
True to the country's commitment to peace, it maintains no standing army, which also bolsters the national budget and supports social services for residents.
We were told by a local that the national police can generally out gun neighboring militaries, so behind the national motto Pura Vida stands a strong, stable country.
And of course the natural beauty of the region helps.
Costa Rican living strikes a rare balance between high standard of living – the highest in the region – and affordability. The general rule of thumb for monthly cost of living expenses is to allocate $1,000 to $2,000 per month including housing, according to both the Costa Rican immigration requirements and "International Living Magazine." Houses are available for under $100,000, even in coastal areas, and large apartments in cities like san jose can be found for under $1,000 per month.
Con: Road Conditions and Safety
Though many aspects of Costa Rican living are decidedly first-world, the roads are not among them. Potholes, dips and cracks mark the roads so severely that cars can be damaged driving over them. Locals drive quickly and dangerously, passing where it is not safe to do so and not respecting the right of way.
Conditions are particularly unsafe for pedestrians, and road accidents claim the lives on average of two pedestrians a day. This is common for most of central america; however, in the capital city San José, residents pay homage where accidents occur with road side memorials.
Con: Immigration Regulations
Unless you are retired with a pension, have a substantial investment portfolio or plan to open a business in Costa Rica, obtaining residency will be a long and not necessarily fruitful process. The easiest route to residency is through the pensionado or rentista programs, available for retirees with monthly pension or social security payments over $600 per month or individuals with more than $1,000 per month in investment income.
Over a roughly two year process, you must gather documents from your local police and bank as well as your birth and marriage certificates and have the entire package translated into Spanish and authenticated by the Costa Rican consulate.
More Pros and Cons of Living
not many people speak english so you will have to learn spanish which is the main dialect of Latin America.
Petty theft is common in rural areas and city centers so try to use common sense with valuables when walking around.
A common phrase in Costa Rica is Pura Vida, which means pure life, a symbol of the laid-back caribbean lifestyle and beautiful beaches of the Central American country.
Farmers markets are also popular in many beach towns and are some of the best places to visit in the beautiful country.
The rainy season lasts awhile so bring a raincoat when visiting national parks.
Costa Rica has universal healthcare so health insurance is not needed.