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What are the Pros and Cons of moving to Costa Rica?

 
 
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 12:09 pm
I have been contemplating a move to Costa Rica for almost a year now and I'm getting quite serious about it. I research it constantly and I am very interested in what others think. I would love to hear from people who have done so, thought about it and everyone else. This topic is wide open; but I would prefer that it doesn't somehow morph into a political debate. Any and all responses will be appreciated.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 37,663 • Replies: 168
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 12:12 pm
Bill, a good friend of mine and her husband just moved down there. Obviously it's too early for me to know how they like it, but I'll drop you a line when I find out.

She researched this move for a long time and apparently thought it was a good idea.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 12:45 pm
My v.p.'s step-mother moved there about 5 or 6 years ago with her second husband. They operate a B&B type place. They'd move back to Canada if they could find someone to sell it to (or so he tells me). They have both had to take gun handling courses as a result of the increasing safety and security problems they run into. Not quite the retirement living they'd hoped for. They've both been held hostage a couple of times - not for any great amount of money, but still a pretty nasty experience.

Other people I know have gone down for periods of up to 2 or 3 months and hope to move there. Even they comment that they always make sure to have 2 or 3 separate stashes of money - just in case they get pick-pocketed, which they seem to accept as a matter of course.

When I was in school, one of my classmates was the daughter of a diplomat from Costa Rica. The way she described it made it seem wonderful, and I read as much as I could about it at the time, and dreamed of going there.

I know the hamburgers enjoyed it tremendously when they were there briefly as part of a tour - as I recall, they met Oscar Arias Sanchez. That would truly be a thrill, but not enough to turn the tide for me, in light of what I hear from our v.p.
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 01:31 pm
Thanks Gus. Do you have any thoughts?

Shocked ehBeth; that sounds like a nightmare. Do you know where their B&B is located? I've heard Golfito and parts of Limon are not too friendly to expatriates and San Jose (like all cities) has some places you shouldn't go... but by and large the locals treated me like Nobility. I was amazed at how friendly and helpful the people I met were.
I did notice the Ticos (that's what Costa Ricans call themselves) were noticeably envious of the attention we received from the Ticas at the clubs… but even this seemed more like they felt subdued rather than any kind of malice. One Tico explained that the prettiest Ticas tend to avoid Ticos all together in hopes of meeting a foreigner Cool , because most every foreigner is rich by their standards. Perhaps the fact that my business partner is a 6' 1" Asian, who looks very intimidating, has something to do with the exceedingly polite treatment we received. I tend to doubt it, though... because I spent plenty of time wandering around by myself as well. I'm no sissy; but as you can tell by my Avatar I am not someone who would be perceived as intimidating either. But then, I've never really had trouble like that anywhere. Perhaps I just don't look like an easy target? I refuse to fear strangers so I probably don't look like a good candidate to be a victim.
I do know they have crazy squatter's rights laws, so your VPs step-mother could never trust a local to oversee the sale of their property. I assume it isn't located in Escazú or any other expatriate haven, but I would be very interested to learn where it is (and perhaps even some more details about the property).
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 01:36 pm
OCCOM, Before you make any long term committment to living in Costa Rica (or anywhere else), spend a month or so for a test drive. Don't jump into buying property until you're damn sure it's what you want for the rest of your life. It's a big decision; don't do it on the fly.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:00 pm
C.I. I gather you are one of the more traveled members of A2K, so I consider your advice to be that of an expert. I appreciate any and all advice you have to offer. If I understand there procedures correctly I can:
A) stay for 90 days without restriction and simply cross a border and return to start the 90 days over again.
B) invest $50,000 in a tourism related business or $200,000 in any business, and they roll out the red carpet.
C) Be a pensioner with guaranteed income of $700 per month from SS or some other retirement account (don't qualify) or set up an annuity that guarantees $1,000 per month for at least 5 years.
D) register as a foreign company's representative with the Consul of Cost Rica which takes about 4 weeks to get approved. Once approved; I can apply for permanent residency without restrictions.
None of these options require me to give up my US citizenship right of way. Option D) seems to make the most sense because it costs virtually nothing and appears to involve a lot less red tape.
The benefits to giving up US citizenship are enormous. For starters; there is no income tax for citizens of Costa Rica. Import taxes are huge, and sales tax is 13% but overall you save a ton of money. Especially when you consider a dollar goes about 5 times as far there for most expenses. I've read that once you give up your citizenship that the US has the right to bar you from returning but they have never ever done so. Do you know if this is true?
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:13 pm
Have you read Herman Wouk's "Don't stop the Carnival", Bill. Maybe you should.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:17 pm
O'Bill, I'll ask Big Ed for more details.

I can tell you the pix of their place, and the area, are gorgeous. But then I don't think there are too many ugly pix of rainforest.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:21 pm
OCCOM, Here's the latest rules concerning exit/entry to the US from the State Department.
**************
http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/terror/texts/04010505.htm
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:24 pm
from what we learned during a one-day stay in costa rica it seemed like a very nice and beautiful country. our local guide told us that the country wasn't nearly as nice and safe anymore as it had been in the '60's, '70's and 80's. he said that costa rica does not have a standing army and (compared to the neighbouring countries) is a fairly democratic country that offers lots of social benefits, more and more people come in from the surrounding countries. he claimed that drug-trading had started to spill over from the other countries and that as a consequence it was much less safe in costa rica now than before. (just as aside, there are a fair number of farmers that came from switzerland and germany many years ago, and you could hear and see the cows with their bells meandering over the meadows much like in the swisss alps). i'd say : INVESTIGATE BEFORE YOU INVEST ! (their coffee sure is good ! but the good coffee is also quite expensive. what an aroma !!! ) hbg
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:24 pm
BTW, when we stopped in Costa Rica on our cruise to the Panama Canal, we learned that Costa Rica has universal health care and no military. Sounds pretty good to me!
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:47 pm
c.i. : yes, it seemed like a real peaceful country. aside from a traffic cop, we didn,t see any police force. what a contrast after stopping over in acapulco where two or three armed guards stood in front of every bank office. when our guide "invited" us to visit a silver-shop in acapulco, he stopped to tell a couple of tough-looking guys to move two cars that were blocking the entrance to the store. he unloaded us ; we were quickly moved into the store and the door locked once we were inside - didn't develop much of an appetite for shopping ! hbg
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 02:54 pm
Here's the State Department's report on Crime in Costa Rica.
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CRIME: Crime is increasing and tourists are frequent victims. Criminals roam freely day and night, and usually operate in small groups. While most crimes are non-violent, criminals, including juveniles, have shown a greater tendency in recent years to use violence and to carry handguns or shoulder weapons. U.S. citizens are encouraged to use the same level of caution that they would exercise in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world. Americans should avoid urban areas that are known to have high crime rates, should avoid deserted properties or undeveloped land, should walk or exercise with a companion, should avoid responding in kind to verbal harassment, and should bear in mind that resort areas popular with foreign tourists are also common venues for criminal activities. Local law enforcement agencies have limited capabilities and do not act according to U.S. standards, especially outside of San Jose.

In recent years, several Americans have been murdered in Costa Rica in urban, rural and resort locations. Many of the perpetrators have been arrested, and some convicted. Other assailants remain at large. U.S. citizens have been victims of sexual assaults both in cities and in rural areas. In many of these cases, the victim has known the assailant. There have been several sexual assaults, including one rape, by taxi drivers. Travelers should be careful to use licensed taxis, which are red and have medallions painted on the side. Licensed taxis at the airport are painted orange, rather than red. All taxis should have working door handles, locks, and meters (called "marias"), and passengers should not ride in the front seat with the driver. If the taxi meter is not working, a price should be agreed upon before the trip begins.

There have been reports that unsuspecting patrons of bars and nightclubs have been drugged and later assaulted or robbed. Americans should always be aware of their surroundings, and should not consume food or drinks they have left untended. Americans may find it safer to seek entertainment in groups to help avoid being targeted, especially in urban areas.

Although Americans have not been specifically targeted, there have been several kidnappings, including those of foreigners. Carjackings have also increased, and motorists have been confronted at gunpoint while stopped at traffic lights or upon arrival at their homes. Late model sport utility vehicles and high-end car models are popular with carjackers.
Travelers should purchase an adequate level of locally valid theft insurance when renting vehicles. One should park in secured lots whenever possible, and should never leave valuables in the vehicle. Thefts from parked cars commonly occur in downtown San Jose, at beaches, in the airport and bus station parking lots, and at national parks and other tourist attractions. A common ploy by thieves involves the surreptitious puncturing of tires of rental cars, often close to the car rental agency itself. When the travelers pull over, "good Samaritans" quickly appear to change the tire - and just as quickly remove valuables from the car. Drivers with flat tires are advised to change the tire themselves or drive to the nearest service station, and watch their valuables at all times. Travelers can reduce their risk by keeping valuables out of sight, not wearing jewelry, and traveling in groups. Travelers should also minimize travel after dark.

Money exchangers on the street have been known to pass off counterfeit U.S. dollars and local currency. Credit card fraud is on the rise. Both theft and 'number skimming' are common. Travelers should retain all their credit card receipts and check their accounts regularly to help prevent unauthorized use of their credit cards. Avoid using debit cards for point of sale purchases, as a skimmed number can be used to clean out an account.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Costa Rican law requires that foreigners carry their passports on their persons at all times, and be able to demonstrate legal admission into the country through a valid entry stamp. Due to the high incidence of theft of passports, however, travelers are urged to carry their passport securely in an inside pocket. Travelers are also advised to keep a copy of their passport data page in a secure place to facilitate the issuance of an emergency replacement passport.

U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 03:13 pm
Quote:
Have you read Herman Wouk's "Don't stop the Carnival", Bill. Maybe you should.


Roger, thanks for mentioning that book; I'm going to have to read it again. Fantastic book -- very funny. I read it about fifteen years ago, if I remember correctly.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 04:57 pm
I also have enjoyed Herman Wouk's works. It started with "The Caine Mutiny," because I belonged to a little theater group when I was enlisted in the US Air Force and stationed at Walker AFB in New Mexico, we put on that play. During the following years after I got out of the air force, I have read, Marjorie Morningstar," "The Winds of War," and "War and Rememberance." Another writer I have enjoyed reading is James Michener.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Feb, 2004 06:05 pm
cicerone imposter wrote:
BTW, when we stopped in Costa Rica on our cruise to the Panama Canal, we learned that Costa Rica has universal health care and no military. Sounds pretty good to me!
Sounds pretty damn good to me too! Thank you for the exit/entry link… there appears to be no major changes. As for the crimes described; it doesn't sound much different than right here in Palm Beach County (ever watch "Cops"). I would be willing to bet Americans suffer more crime per capita right here at home (almost certainly in Palm Beach).

Here are some additional Pros to consider:
No military means no counter military either. Costa Rica is defended by the good ole USA.
There National Health Care probably isn't as modern as ours; but you wouldn't know it by looking at their life expectancy numbers.
The country boasts being the oldest democracy and there's virtually no history of violent turmoil. Even their transition from being a colony was peaceful.
The average Tico earns about $300 a month and surprisingly that is not below the poverty level! Which means help is easily obtained on the cheap.
The most incredible thing I witnessed was the utter lack of worry lines on the faces of the people. Maybe I was looking through rose colored glasses; but the overall population struck me as incredibly content.
The literacy numbers are off the charts, and higher education costs Ticos about $10 a year. (Hello, Congress, are you listening? Rolling Eyes )
Year round temperatures are similar to Hawaii, so most Homes require neither Heat nor AC.
Property Tax is laughable, but you do need to stay on top of any real-estate holdings or the squatters will take possession.
After traveling with a Tica; I learned that the seemingly free $5 Taxi-fare I was being charged to go pretty much anywhere in San Jose, was crazy high to the locals. Shocked Actual charges were much lower.
The local food is delicious and costs about $2 a meal if you are not in a tourist or expatriate haven.
A 6-pack of Imperial (tasty local beer) costs about 50 cents. Cool
A day trip will take you from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean, and a commuter flight to anywhere in the country is around $50.
I'm having a hell of a time figuring out just what the Cons are… Other than smaller Paychecks. Confused
The natural beauty of the country more than lives up to its reputation.
Import taxes on cars get steeper the older the car is because they actually care about clean air. Not only does the country boast 1/3 of its land is dedicated to nature preserves, but also they have more Teachers than Cops. Paradise on earth, no? Idea

HBG, you aren't kidding about the coffee. I went into withdrawals when I ran out of it! I won't be in any big hurry to invest in there real-estate, as rentals are ridiculously cheap. I'm thinking I'll start out with an Import business or more accurately as a representative of an American Export Business, as that seems to be the easiest, most efficient way to make the transition.

Thank you for the book suggestion Roger, and Gus for the endorsement. I read Wouk's "The Hope" a number of years ago and have trouble imagining him writing a light-hearted, humorous tale, but the Amazon reviews seem to agree with you guys. Please, keep the suggestions coming!
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Feb, 2004 12:38 am
I read Don't Stop the Carnival but it was a long time ago. Blanco in my mind now.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Feb, 2004 12:48 am
I've heard it was a funny book, Gus, but I kept putting myself in the place of that poor innocent that saw water coming out of the faucets and assumed there was a water supply. It was a horror story, but I've never seen one of Wouk's books that weren't worth reading, at least once.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Feb, 2004 10:26 am
I am curious; who voted in the Poll?
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Feb, 2004 03:00 pm
I didn't - I don't know enough to vote about it. Have heard good things through the years about Costa Rica, but I don't know about the place in depth, and have never been there.
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