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Plan to Retire in Costa Rica

Are you planning a future retirement or have you already retired and are considering relocating abroad? Maybe you’ve heard a lot about Costa Rica – maybe you even know someone who has lived here. Your interest is piqued but you have questions. Lots of them.

That’s good. Asking questions and addressing concerns are both key to planning a successful retirement in Costa Rica. Because a lot of logistics, consideration, and intent go into creating a life here. 

That’s because retiring in Costa Rica is in a category all its own. You’re considering a major transition to another country, while simultaneously planning for or adjusting to the major transition from working life to retired life. You may have children and family you still hope to see (frequently!). You question whether you’ll be able to learn Spanish. And you’re a little worried about healthcare in a foreign country. 

If that’s your headspace right now, then you’re in the right place. Welcome!

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How We Can Help

Hi, I’m Rebecca Clower. My friends call me Becky and I hope you will, too. 

You and I probably have a lot in common. Nearly two decades ago, I was in your shoes: I was dreaming of moving to Costa Rica but I wasn’t quite sure how to make that dream a reality. I had questions. I doubts. And there were so many details. I wondered if I could make it happen. It turns out, I could. And you can, too. 

I founded Blue Water Properties because I had a purpose. Even more than dream homes, I wanted to help people create dream lives. Because a lot of planning goes into relocating abroad. From zeroing in on the right town and community to accessing health care, learning Spanish, and adjusting to life in the tropics, for over 15 years, I’ve helped people plot their path to retiring in Costa Rica. Now, it’s your turn. 

Moving Checklist

Whether you’re the type to plan every last detail or to entrust the details to fate, retiring and relocating abroad will require at least some advance planning.

That’s because there’s a lot to consider. Where will you live? Do you need to be close to an airport, to facilitate visits with family? How will you receive your pension while in Costa Rica? What about healthcare? These are the practicalities of planning your retirement in Costa Rica, and they’re something you must consider before you can call Costa Rica home.

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Cost of living is a big topic and there is no sole answer to “how much does it cost to live in Costa Rica?” It all comes down to your preferences and lifestyle: For example, someone who’s downsizing for retirement will have a lower cost of living than a couple who chooses a 5-bedroom, ocean-view home that fits the whole family. 

With that in mind, of course, there are general rules to help you hammer out your expected cost of living. Here are the major points to consider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes! Costa Rica has consistently been named, voted, and selected as one of the world’s top retirement destinations and/or choices for seniors relocating abroad

Know that retiree and active senior populations vary widely by location. Typically, you’ll find larger communities in the north-Pacific beaches, thanks to the drier weather and access to medical care around Liberia. The Central Valley, especially its cool mountain towns, are also very popular. 

Bottom line: If living around lots of other retired expats is important to you, then you’ll have to prioritize your search around this criteria.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but the answer is “probably.” If you’ve never visited (or haven’t stayed very long), then you may want to begin as a perpetual tourist – a kind of try-before-you-buy status for people just testing the waters. 

That said, if you’re relocating abroad and retiring in Costa Rica – if you’re setting up your life here – then you’ll need permanence and security. And that’s one of the benefits to legal residency.

There are many benefits to seeking Costa Rican residency. They include:

  •     Legal Right to Reside: As a resident, you can stay in Costa Rica for as long as your residency is valid. No forced exits. And no worries about changing tourist requirements.
  •     Costa Rican Driver’s License: Your home country’s driver’s license is only valid for as long as your passport stamp (max: 90 days). As a resident, you can transfer (homologar) your home license to a Costa Rican license.
  •     CCSS Healthcare: As a resident, you’ll pay into Costa Rica’s public healthcare system, known as the Caja or CCSS. This grants you access to all public healthcare services, with no copays, deductibles, or additional fees, ever.
  •     Permanent Residence: While the residency categories below (including pensionado / pensioner residency) begin as temporary residency, most allow you to upgrade to permanent residency after three years. Not only does permanent residency grant you longer residence periods and the right to work in Costa Rica but it’s also a path to citizenship, were you to so desire it.
  •     Tax Exemptions: Coming soon! A recent law (still in process) will grant certain residency categories significant import tax exemptions on household goods and vehicles.
  •     Ease of Daily Life: Life is just easier as a resident. You can easily open bank accounts, connect utilities, get a cell phone, request a firma digital (digital signature hardware, widely used in Costa Rica), and more. 
  •     Resident Discounts: Did you know that Costa Ricans and residents have access to discounts throughout Costa Rica, from ¢1,000 entrance to national parks to hotel discounts?

By far, the most common residency category for retirees is the pensionado or pensioner residency. This grants a two-year temporary residency to pensioners earning a pension or lifetime annuity for a minimum $1,000/month. The primary applicant can cover a spouse and dependents. You are eligible to upgrade to permanent residency after three years.

Note that, while a single $1,000 pension will cover the primary applicant and a spouse and/or dependents, two sub-$1,000 pensions cannot be combined to meet the requirement. A single source must meet the $1,000/month minimum.

One of the most important considerations before moving abroad is your health today and tomorrow – everything from your wellbeing and lifestyle to prescriptions availability and access to medical care in your new home.

You’ll be happy to know that Costa Rican healthcare ranks favorably internationally (36th-best in the world (one spot higher than #37 United States) and the country has a longer-than-average lifespan (as of 2019, 80.3 years vs. 79.1 in the USA). For a full introduction to public, private, and mixed medicine, please see our Helpful Resources, below.

Costa Rica is no longer a bargain-basement retirement destination, but it can be an excellent value, as far as the cost of living is concerned. 

That said, there is no one-size-fits-all budget for pensioners. Are you looking to downsize to an empty-nester’s condo or are you in search of a retirement home that’ll fit the whole family (because they will come to visit, and hopefully often!)? And housing is just one factor! For a full assessment of the cost of living and budgets, please see our Helpful Resources, below.

 

Can foreigners buy property in Costa Rica?

Yes, foreigners can own property in Costa Rica and have the same ownership rights as Costa Rican citizens. Ownership rights are guaranteed by the Costa Rican Constitution and apply to all, regardless of whether the property is placed in the name of a corporation or in the name of an individual.

 

Finding Housing

Housing is one of the biggest challenges you’ll tackle, when relocating abroad. As a retiree, you likely have specific needs and preferences: You may want to live near specific types of activities, like hiking or tennis. Do you prefer a gated community, a retirement community, or simply a town that attracts people who have interests similar to your own?

Whether you’re planning to rent or purchase, as you begin your housing search, there are a few very important factors to consider. These include the general location and the specific location, traffic (if you plan to go anywhere on a regular basis), distance to certain points of interest (ex. the surf or hospitals), microclimates, availability of utilities, roads, and the current real estate panorama in your chosen town, city, or community.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Buying Property in Costa Rica

Thinking about buying a retirement home in Costa Rica? Let’s discuss the pros and cons, the benefits and disadvantages of the major real estate categories: condominiums and townhomes (and let’s talk HOAs), lots and land, and single-family homes in gated communities vs. outside of gated communities

All can be great purchases and sound investments. The question is, which best suits your lifestyle, your needs, and your current and future goals?

Helpful Resources

Retirement Paradise for Active Seniors

Get to know Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco, two walkable, affordable towns that are booming for retirement abroad.

Public, Private & Mixed Healthcare

Wondering what Costa Rican healthcare is really like? Here’s an overview of public, private, and mixed medicine in Costa Rica.

Cost of Living

Want to dig deeper into your possible cost of living in Costa Rica? We break it all the way down in this detailed article (with examples).

 

Book Your Retirement Relocation Package

What We Do

  •     One-on-One Conversations: My relocation assistance begins and concludes with one-on-one conversations – just you and me (Becky Clower). This gives you a chance to get personal and answer all those nitty-gritty, detailed questions that matter most to you. Go ahead – ask me anything!
  •     Relocation E-Course: We’ll set you up for our Costa Rica relocation e-course, delivered via email. Explore, learn, and discover at your own pace, in your own time. 
  •     Our “Little Black Book”For nearly two decades, my team and I have compiled a list of our most trusted contacts: best-in-class professionals, service providers, and other resources throughout Costa Rica. Now, that list is yours.
  •     Exclusive Relocation ResourcesEveryone has access to my free eBook but only my consulting clients receive the whole library of resources, PDFs, eBooks, and other digital resources. This includes a Relocation eBook, Guanacaste Community eBook and Moving Checklist!

Schedule a Consultation

Reserve your one-on-one relocation consult! Our basic package is $500 and includes everything at left, including two one-on-one phone conversations (one hour each).

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