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

 
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Feb, 2004 11:13 pm
Caprice, I have no idea at all how old you are. I am 62, with various sets of thick going on in my background re my country of origin.

Not everyone will have that right out of the box without arrows pointing at them.

Interesting point to be at, actually.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 02:40 am
Fbaezer, I fully intend to merge with the Ticos (and Ticas :wink: ). It is the friendly people there that attract me most. I enjoyed the nightlife at the local hangouts more than the tourist places. I made friends with locals that I still keep in touch with via email. I found it simply amazing how welcome they made me feel.

Caprice, thank you for the comprehensive checklist. I've been able to check off most of it and I'll share in case anyone else is interested in making such a move.

Housing- In a word; cheap. An upscale expatriate neighborhood would cost a little less than a middle-class neighborhood here in West Palm Beach. The condo I live in now could be had for about half what mine's worth and adequate housing could be purchased for around $30,000. I'll probably live in a nice hotel for the first 6 months or so and, believe it or not, this can be done for about $1,000 per month. Those on a tight budget could rent a decent place for around $250 per month. That's what my friend Lucy pays for a cozy 2 bedroom home and that seemed like a decent neighborhood.

Groceries- Very Cheap. Brand name bottled drinks are perhaps half the cost while everything else is around 20% of what you would expect to pay here. A hot meal at the grocery store near where I stayed cost about $1.20 and a 6-pack of Imperial (tasty local beer) costs half a buck. 2 pizzas and drinks at the local Pizza Hut cost $68 Shocked (ridiculous) but most restaurants are way less than half of what you would expect to pay here. Only in expatriate communities do they charge prices similar to here. Ram Luna is the nicest restaurant I've ever been to. 5 star service, beautifully decorated, excellent food and a mountain top view overlooking all of San Jose… Dinner for 6 cost about a hundred dollars and they argued that we didn't have to tip so much!

Weather/natural phenomena- Tropical storms but they say Hurricanes don't really go there. Half the year the weather is extraordinarily perfect and the other half is the "rainy season". Not much different than South Florida accept that the temperature is even closer to constant. Cool

Health care- is reputed to be good and very inexpensive (damn near free for Ticos). I don't know how accessible but I assume very in San Jose since there are 2 million people living there.

Transportation- is expensive to own. Cars cost about double there because of huge duty taxes that get steeper the older the car is. Taxis, by contrast, cost next to nothing and buses are cheap and will take you anywhere inaccessible by commuter planes. Commuter planes are around $50 to go anywhere because it is a relatively small country (about the size of West Virginia).

Income- Better plan on starting a business because the average Tico earns about $300 per month. Shocked $800 per month is considered exceptionally good money! On the other hand… that should tell you how low the cost of living is… San Jose, like all big cities, is full of business opportunities. I believe I'll start out as an importer. Learning all of the Customs and Duty laws is driving me a little crazy on account of my deplorable Spanish, but I have figured out most of it. Certain products I am 99% certain I can make a decent profit on. I'll know about the other 1% in about a month (when I visit there next).

Local flora and fauna- Rain forests cover a descent portion of the land, so yes; there are plenty of wild animals and bugs. They don't bother me and the wild monkeys are pretty cool. There are active volcanoes (breathtakingly beautiful), but no one seems to be afraid of them.

Lifestyle issues- For the most part; I envy their laid back lifestyles. The friends I made there; couldn't care less how much money they made or had. They seemed to live to dance, laugh and get together at private parties as well as go downtown to the bars.

Internet- I'll be taking my 2-way satellite internet connection with me. The satellite it addresses is located at about the equator and I'm told it may work even better there than here. My ISP doesn't even have to know I moved. :wink:

Customs behavior- I'm sure there are some differences, but I haven't heard of anything major. Ticos are considered one of few peoples who actually like Americans. As a whole; they are very well educated and understand that the presence of Americans is good for there economy. The treatment on my last visit was extraordinarily polite, whether I was in a touristy or local type of place. Expatriates that I met there echoed the same. Expatriates already make up 1% of the population there.

If my method of obtaining permanent residency works the way I think it will; I will never be required to give up my US citizenry… But like Ossobuco pointed out; I may very well choose to, to save a fortune on income taxes. I agree with you all that the United States is a wonderful country. I've never lived elsewhere and may very well decide I don't like it when I leave. I currently live 1,000 miles from most of my family (Wisconsin) and an extra hour and a half on a plane is all I'd be. From what I've read; no expatriate has ever been denied the right to visit as often as he pleases. When I first came to Florida 9 years ago; I fell in love with the weather and decided I wanted to live here. It's been kind to me. When I first went to Costa Rica; I fell in love with the people, the natural beauty, the customs and the overall feeling of peace. Maybe I won't like it… but I think I'm going to have to give it a try. Again, I thank you all for your input and please, keep the ideas coming!
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caprice
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 03:03 am
Wow! It all sounds good to me! Uhm....what about the language? It's a Spanish country, is English used much? *just curious*
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 10:13 am
Spanish is, of course, the main language throughout most of the country. Exceptions would be expatriate havens and some places like Puerto Limon on the Caribbean side. People from Puerto Limon tend to have dark skin as they are the descendents of expatriates from Jamaica in the late 19th century. Slavery was never big and there were reportedly fewer than 200 slaves when the institution was abolished in 1824. Their English has a kind of Creole sound to it but it is very understandable (if they want it to be!). As near as I could figure; race was not a big issue in San Jose. One of the friends I made there was Afro-Costa Rican and when we went out down town together I detected no malice from anyone.
Their Spanish is considered very informal and very polite. Instead of saying "denada" as a reply to "gracias"; they usually say "mucho gusto". Prepare to be greeted by every passerby that recognizes you and at least half of those who don't! (super friendly). Tourists have commented on there Pure Life so often that they now peddle souvenirs of all kinds with "PURA VIDA" printed on them. Tourists have described them and their country as "Too Nice" so often that they invented a word for us; "Tuanis". Ticos tend to bust a gut if they hear you say pura vida and especially if you say tuanis.
I would guess that about 1 in 20 Ticos speaks fluent English… 1 in 10 speaks passable English…and most understand at least a little. Lonely Planet publishes a "Costa Rica Spanish Phrasebook with Two-way Dictionary that is invaluable to ignorant folks like me. It is a 260 page pocket book that will get you through most every situation you encounter. I spoke no Spanish when I got there and this book was the bomb! By the time I left I could have a casual conversation with a taxi driver without referencing it at all. It is also the ultimate conversation piece (prop) for meeting Ticos.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 10:43 am
Okay, OKKOM, when you mov'n to Costa Rica? I've been browsing travel brochures to Costa Rica for a couple of years, and I'm ready to make the reservation!
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 11:36 am
I don't know where the citizenship issue came from. Puerto Ricans are US citizens by birth. Whether they pay US income taxes and social security, I have no idea. For what it is worth, working outside the US exempts no one from US income tax, but if you work there for over 6 months and the country is on our most favored nation list, you are exempt from paying both US and foreign income taxes. BILL, I sure hope this wasn't the prime motivator in considering a move.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 12:56 pm
roger, We're talking about Costa Rica, not Puerto Rico. Wink
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 04:47 pm
cicerone imposter wrote:
Okay, OKKOM, when you mov'n to Costa Rica? I've been browsing travel brochures to Costa Rica for a couple of years, and I'm ready to make the reservation!
My next trip is the end of this month. Barring unforeseen circumstance; I should have all the necessary paperwork to apply for unrestricted permanent resident status, in about 2 months . Under this provision; there is no requirement to turn in my US citizenship. Realistically, I'll probably make 5 or 6 more trips moving goods over, over the next 3 or 4 months. If I still think I like it then; I'll stay for 6 to 12 months or maybe forever. I wouldn't turn in my citizenship unless I was certain I wanted to stay forever. One step at a time. My father and sister have both expressed some interest in extended visits for a test drive if it turns out I like it. Who know... maybe one day we'll all be Ticos!

Roger, no worries. Tax, or more accurately the total lack of personal income taxes, would be the icing on the cake... NOT the primary motivation. Costa Rica and Puerto Rico have little in common.
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Pitter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 08:40 pm
OCCOM BILL well move to Costa Rica if you must but come down to Cali to find the best women. You could take one back with you (after the small matter of the visa). Check out www.caligringo.com (click past the chica to the forums) for news from gringos visiting and living in Colombia.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 08:45 pm
Embarrassed
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 09:29 pm
Colombian women are very beautiful Pitter but Colombia is a little too scary for me. Guerillas stalking about with Kalishnikovs are just a little too much for this hick. I grew up in Wisconsin, in a town of about 12,000 people, where there was almost no crime. I adapt pretty well… but one step at a time. Maybe I'll visit someday… but I don't see me moving to such a location. I'm sure it's not the ultra-dangerous place the media makes it out to be; but there are many other reasons I've chosen Costa Rica for my next adventure. I am glad you're having a good time and I do wish you the best of luck!
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 09:39 pm
Here's the state department warning on Colombia.
The first sentence says it all for me!
*********************************
CRIME: Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Based on Colombian government statistics, Colombia's 2002 per capita murder rate of 66 murders per 100,000 inhabitants was almost eleven times higher than that of the United States. While narcotics and guerrilla-related violence account for part of this, common criminals are responsible for an estimated 75 percent of the reported murders. Visitors are urged to exercise a high degree of caution.
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caprice
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Feb, 2004 10:26 pm
Yikes!!
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Pitter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 07:03 am
While we're on the topic of State Department warnings here's a quote from the one on Costa Rica:

"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."

That drug by the way is Scopalomine and can be quite dangerous causing permanent damage. Treatment for an attack is even mentioned specificly as a coverage in my health insurence plan.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 10:59 am
Pitter, State department warnings are important before traveling to any destination, but we must keep in mind that there are some cities in the US that are more dangerous. I usually depend on friends who have traveled to destinations I am interested in before making any committment, and Costa Rica has not been tagged as a "danger zone" - yet. Some of the few places on this planet I will stay away from are Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Vietnam, and Thailand (bird flu). For other destinations, I'll get the most recent state department travel warning.
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Pitter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 11:14 am
Cicerone I agree with your except for Colombia of course (it's too late for me to stay away from it) and perhaps Vietnam. I've heard it's quite safe and pleasant traveling there. To your list I might add some African countries that have a super high incidence of aids. Of course a good place to get up to date info from other travelers is the "thorntree" forum on the Lonely Planet site. Another source is virtualtourist.com.

I was leaning heavily towards leaving Colombia to live in Ecuador, crime but no guerrilla but the cost is so much higher because of dollarization that I remain on the fence.

On thing we found traveling in Peru and Ecuador was that we were tripping over American and European tourists everywhere which surely is the case in Costa Rica. I'm perfectly fond of my countrymen mind you but in South America I prefer to be among South Americans which is thankfully how it is in Colombia.
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 11:19 am
Thanks Pitter. I've read that before and to me it sounds more like a disclaimer than a warning.
Pitter wrote:
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.
I would be willing to bet there is 10 times as much VIOLENT Crime per Capita right here in Palm Beach County, but I rarely see it. A few years back; Milwaukee, Wisconsin was #1 for violent crime per capita Shocked in this Country... and I never knew anyone who was afraid to go there. Chicago had (has?) neighborhoods where the cops and ambulances wouldn't go. Every city has places you should and shouldn't go. I'll bet you know where you should and shouldn't go in Cali too (I'll ask you for a very specific map if I ever do visit :wink: ).
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 11:51 am
Pitter, I've been looking at travel brochures to Vietnam, and hopefully will be visiting during the next couple of years. I'm impressed with the landscapes and the people, and wonder why I didn't include it in my travels to SE Asia many years ago. It's on my planning board. Wink
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OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 02:16 pm
Pitter wrote:
Another source is virtualtourist.com.

Thanks for the source!
Pitter wrote:
On thing we found traveling in Peru and Ecuador was that we were tripping over American and European tourists everywhere which surely is the case in Costa Rica.
This is true; but unlike you, I kind of like it. One night I was at a local hangout "El Pueblo"(95% Ticos 5% Tourists), wearing a shirt with a Green Bay Packers Logo, when I was tapped on the shoulder and told; "You've got a lot of nerve wearing that shirt in "Bear Country". Shocked I quickly realized he was from Chicago and we shared a laugh. A Tica friend took me to places no tourist would find on one hand... And Escazu is more like an American community than Miami. I rather like having the option open to spend time with two different cultures, 20 minutes apart by taxi. Idea
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Pitter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 03:31 pm
Fair enough but hanging with tourists and ex-pats is no way to learn the language. Colombians go to Miami or Queens, NY, live there for years and never learn English. I have a Colombian aquiantence here who lived in the US for thirty years. His English is so bad I ask him to speak to me in Spanish so I can understand him and I ain't exactly bilingual. Other Colombians tell me his Spanish is just awfull. What a pickle!
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