About Costa Rica - A Tropical Paradise and Cheap Real Estate
Costa Rica is a small country the size of Western Virginia in Central America located between Nicaragua and Panama. Due to its location and stable democratic government, Costa Rica is a known paradise around the world and a popular place for retirees. Cheap luxury real estate in Costa Rica is easily available in prime surfside locations like in Jaco beach, Manuel Antonio or wherever you are looking for oceanfront property in Costa Rica.
North Americans can legally stay in Costa Rica for three months, after which they must leave the country for at least 72 hours. When they re-enter, they will be given another three months to legally stay in the country.
Costa Rica is a democratic republic, headed by a president who is in power for a four-year term. Presidents cannot run for a second term. Ministers are appointed and there is an elected congress. There has been no military since 1948, when it was banned under the Costa Rican Constitution.
Weather in Costa Rica is very pleasant year-round. There are two seasons, dry (December to April) and rainy (May to November). During the rainy season you can expect rain every day, usually for a short period of time in the afternoon.
Temperatures remain constant throughout the year and vary according to geographic region. In the Central Valley, temperatures average around 72 degrees, coastal areas between 80 and 90 degrees and mountain temperatures can drop to the 50â€™s and below. Coastal waters remain at about 74 degrees on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
The Pacific Guanacaste area, home to many beach resorts, is the hottest and driest area.
There is no income tax on money earned outside of Costa Rica by residents. Personal income taxes are low compared to North America, with many personal expenses deducted from locally-earned income. Corporate taxes and property taxes are also low.
Sales tax is 13%.
Tourists pay an exit tax of about $17 when they leave the country, and residents pay slightly more.
Currently, the import cost on a car from new to 3 years old is 52.29 % of its value. Generally, the tax increases 10% for each year of the carâ€™s life until it reaches a maximum of 82%.
Tourists may import cars and use them in Costa Rica for six months without paying an import tax.
Costa Rica has great health care. In fact, a 1995 World Health Organization report placed Costa Rica third in life expectancy, behind Japan and France. Most of Costa Ricaâ€™s doctors trained outside of the country, and many are bilingual.
In terms of health insurance in Costa Rica, there are a few different options for foreigners. Those who have financial interest to protect will want to choose an international insurance company that can guarantee a minimum of $5,000,000 lifetime coverage available anywhere in the world. Look for a reputable company with a long history of protecting individuals without cancellation or restrictions on renewal.
The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) is Costa Ricaâ€™s social security system that provides health services to Costa Rican citizens and also applies to any foreign resident or visitor. CCSS has a government-sponsored network of 29 hospitals and more than 250 clinics throughout the country. Foreigners can join CCSS by paying a small monthly fee, based on income. Prices for treatments are generally way below those of the U.S. For example, a private office visit to almost any medical specialist costs around $30.
CCSS has some drawbacks, however. Costa Rican hospitals tend to be overburdened and backed up. CCSS only pays for public hospitals on their registry, leaving individuals to pay out of their own pockets if they go to a private hospital.
Health insurance can also be purchased from the State monopoly, Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS). Their plans are valid with over 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals, labs and pharmacies in the private sector. Unfortunately, the largest INS Medical policy only provides $17,000 protection, which would fall short of protecting you in case of major illness.
Costa Rica has a state-owned power/telephone company, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). This company has a monopoly over all phone and electricity services. Getting a phone installed can be a slow process, but once itâ€™s installed, ICE provides good service. Touch tone international dialing for phone and fax is available, as well as cellular service.
Cable and dial-up internet service have been widely used for years, and ICE recently made high-speed DSL connection available.
Water services are also provided by a state monopoly, AyA.
Electricity, phone and water services are all relatively inexpensive.
Costa Rica is in the Standard time zone, usually within two hours of most North American cities. There is no daylight savings time, so the clock never moves forward or back.
In Costa Ricaâ€™s capital, San JosÃ©, you can find an array of items available in terms of food, clothes and household goods. The Central Valley has many large, American-style malls with almost anything you would find in the States. Computers sales and service are also readily available in San JosÃ©.
In outlying areas, selections of some products may be more limited.
The Central Valley area has a variety of restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world. There are also small â€œsodas,â€ or lunch-counter style restaurants where you can eat traditional Costa Rican fair (rice and beans with meat, salad and plantains) for very cheap.
Large supermarkets around San JosÃ© sell basically any food item you may want. Imported products tend to be a bit pricier than their Costa Rican counterparts. Gourmet markets in neighborhoods with large expatriate populations, such as EscazÃº, offer imported fine food products not found in supermarkets.
In rural areas outside of San JosÃ©, it is common to see fresh vegetables and tropical fruits for sale by the side of the road and in produce markets.
Music lovers can enjoy Costa Ricaâ€™s own excellent symphony orchestra as well as local and visiting live musicians. Salsa, meringue and cumbia are popular at the discoteca nightclubs.
San JosÃ© has an active theater scene as well as a community of artists and galleries. Outlying towns in the Central Valley are also home to many artists; you can find great hand-made pottery and artesania in road-side markets.
There are many movie theaters in the San JosÃ© area, and most films are in English with Spanish subtitles.
Costa Ricans have a passion for soccer. Regional teams have strong fan bases during the season, and youâ€™ll find matches being played in just about any park, school, or beach.Gyms, basketball courts and pools are abundant. Tennis and golf courses are also common in resort areas. For the adventurous, many tour companies offer whitewater rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking.
Costa Rica has 110-115 Volt electricity, the same as North America.
Unlike other countries in the Central American region, water can be drunk from the tap throughout Costa Rica.
Having domestic help
Many foreign residents employ a maid, either full or part-time depending on life style. Gardeners and nannies are also available. Domestic staff earn about $1 per hour. Domestic help is readily available, but you should be careful about who you let into your home. A reliable recommendation is a must.
Costa Rica is an earthquake zone. There are many recorded earthquakes every year, but only occasional tremors can be felt.
There is no danger of hurricanes, but heavy tropical rains can cause flooding. Costa Rica has several active volcanoes, the most active of which is Arenal, which erupts continuously without causing damage.
In the past, there have been eruptions causing damage to property and loss of lives, however, unless you buy Costa Rica real estate at the base of a volcano, this shouldnâ€™t be a problem.
Costa Rica has a few newspapers in Spanish and an English paper, The Tico Times. U.S. magazines in English can be purchased at news stands in San JosÃ© and tourist areas.
Cable television, available everywhere in the country except for extremely remote areas, gives you channels in English such as CNN, HBO and other movie channels.
Internet is available through phone lines or a cable modem set up by the state power monopoly, ICE. ICE recently began offering high-speed broadband connections, available anywhere there is a phone line.
Community organization/support groups
Because Costa Rica has a large expatriate population, there are many active community organizations ranging from religious groups to sports teams to book clubs.
Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous also have chapters in the San JosÃ© areas and in some outlying areas.
If you want to learn Spanish while in Costa Rica, you will have abundant opportunities to do so. In both the Central Valley area and coastal communities, there are a plethora of Spanish schools offering everything from intensive language study to weekly classes to private lessons. Living here also gives you the huge advantage of being able to practice speaking Spanish everywhere you go!
Costa Rica has its own quirky system for giving directions. Rather than using street names and numbers for houses and businesses, directions are given according to cardinal directions from a specific landmark. For example, to tell someone how to get to your house, you may say 500 meters north and 200 meters east from the supermarket. Though this may be confusing at first, it actually works well.
There is a high level of environmental consciousness in Costa Rica. 27% of the countryâ€™s area is national park or protected reserve. The beaches are also public property with strict guidelines for where property can be developed and sold.
There are environmental guidelines in place for industries, and many environmental groups serve as watchdogs.
Costa Ricaâ€™s national park system is one of its true gems. There are 32 national parks, eight biological reserves, 13 forest reserves and 51 wildlife refuges. Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world with thousands of plant an animal species which can be seen by touring the biological reserves and national parks.
Costa Rica houses a range of climates including dry, dessert-like areas, rainforests and cloud forests.