Low cost living in Costa Rica.

User Forum Topic
Submitted by Sly on July 3, 2011 - 5:54pm

I read many stories about the very low cost living in Costa Rica, however it seems the articles are written by someone that is selling something, thus will not give you an honest view of living in Costa Rica or other counties.

Any first hand reports on living in Costa Rica, including living conditions, cost of living, culture shock etc.

Submitted by bluehairdave on July 3, 2011 - 11:34pm.

my biz partner lives in Costa Rica. It hasnt been cheap in about 7 years. It used to be. You can live in a nice climate similar to San Diego but with more rain if you live inland near the capital but its a city. Living near the beach is almost as pricey as here. The further out of town the cheaper it is. Electricity and internet are spotty and go in and out even on a daily basis.

Medical care is top notch and extremely cheap compared to the U.S. There are also healthcare plans you can get as an Expat to make it even cheaper. Weather is incredible expect during Fall when its the rainy season and it rains much of if not most of the time on and off. Locals are usually well educated and have a higher literacy rate than the U.S. and mostly friendly but you can run into trouble if you meet the wrong people and you may find yourself on your own without help from the lawmen.

If your looking for low cost living most people have to go to Panama, Nicaragua etc now.. Costa Rica's cheap days are well over and done.

Submitted by scaredyclassic on July 4, 2011 - 10:00am.

I think Cambodia Is good for low cost living. But a little crazy.

Submitted by Happs on July 4, 2011 - 10:25am.

Great video for those thinking about moving to Nicaragua or any second or third world country. Excellent points to consider:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMKT5pGDvSo

Submitted by ocrenter on July 5, 2011 - 7:56am.

Happs wrote:
Great video for those thinking about moving to Nicaragua or any second or third world country. Excellent points to consider:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMKT5pGDvSo

very good video. the guy is right on when he ventured into social classes and differentiating between how the locals live and how you live. just remember this: these guys live in abject proverty all of their lives, but have access to plenty of dubbed American TV and movies. They all have preconceived stereotype of what you are made of, which is money, and plenty of it. all of your transactions and encounters with the locals will begin with that in their head. not a good way to live IMHO.

Submitted by scaredyclassic on July 5, 2011 - 11:26am.

I think I could live in abject poverty pretty cheap right here in the USA.

Submitted by briansd1 on July 5, 2011 - 12:58pm.

I think that the benefit of living in a poorer country is the you have options, from the very cheap to the very expensive.

But don't expect American standard of services unless you are willing to pay American level prices.

As far as housing goes, compared to the rest of the world, houses are cheaper in USA, for the square footage and level of amenities the houses provide. There are cheap parts of America such Indiana and Florida.

Submitted by Jazzman on July 5, 2011 - 8:08pm.

My wife and I went to Costa Rice to attend a seminar on moving and living there. We cut our stay short by three days. It may have been a coincidence, but three or four unfavorable incidences happened in such short succession, a red flag went up. There are attempts to impose US-style living there (no doubt to attract expat retirement dollars), and to whatever degree this has been successful, security needs to be weighed in heavily on any decisions regarding moving there full time. I wouldn't say don't do it, but it may not be for the feint of heart, cost of living notwithstanding.

Submitted by deadzone on July 5, 2011 - 9:36pm.

Yeah Costa Rica is so played out by American dollars that it is way overpriced for a third world country, just like the better resort areas of Mexico. I can't speak for Panama but I'm sure it is getting that way too given that it is a "trendy" expat place there days.

A preferable place (although much farther away) where standard of living is better, the woman are much hotter and everything is way cheaper, is Brazil. Coastal areas of Brazil are so much cheaper to stay and much nicer than Mexico or Central America.

Be warned, outside of the major cities few people speak English (or even Spanish for that matter) so you'll have to learn Portugues, which shouldn't be too hard if you are living there.

Submitted by SmellsFeeshy on July 11, 2011 - 2:33pm.

deadzone wrote:
A preferable place (although much farther away) where standard of living is better, the woman are much hotter and everything is way cheaper, is Brazil. Coastal areas of Brazil are so much cheaper to stay and much nicer than Mexico or Central America.

Be warned, outside of the major cities few people speak English (or even Spanish for that matter) so you'll have to learn Portugues, which shouldn't be too hard if you are living there.

Brazil is not without its problems though. The crime rate in cities like Sao Paolo and Rio is very high. While doing research on Rio as a potential vacation destination I was a little concerned by all of the security warnings even at highly populated tourist spots.

Submitted by blahblahblah on July 11, 2011 - 2:43pm.

SmellsFeeshy wrote:

Brazil is not without its problems though. The crime rate in cities like Sao Paolo and Rio is very high. While doing research on Rio as a potential vacation destination I was a little concerned by all of the security warnings even at highly populated tourist spots.

Many of the people I hear touting Brazil as a great place to live have never been there or if they have have never ventured outside of protected enclaves. I have and let me tell you, it can get pretty rough. That's not saying it isn't great! I had an incredible time, the people are amazing and lots of fun. Of course I'd bet that the people in the Ivory Coast are great too but I'm in no hurry to move there.

I remember being driven through lots of areas in BR where my guide would say, "Don't ever ever come here." If you are white you are going to stick out like a sore thumb. If you are black, hispanic, or asian (many ethnic Japanese live in Brazil), you might go unnoticed until people realize you can't speak Portugese and then it's game on.

Fun place, don't let me scare you, it's definitely worth a visit. Living there? Not so sure. Also you would need a visa so you'd have to get married or have a job or something.

Submitted by deadzone on July 11, 2011 - 3:35pm.

CONCHO wrote:
SmellsFeeshy wrote:

Brazil is not without its problems though. The crime rate in cities like Sao Paolo and Rio is very high. While doing research on Rio as a potential vacation destination I was a little concerned by all of the security warnings even at highly populated tourist spots.

Many of the people I hear touting Brazil as a great place to live have never been there or if they have have never ventured outside of protected enclaves. I have and let me tell you, it can get pretty rough. That's not saying it isn't great! I had an incredible time, the people are amazing and lots of fun. Of course I'd bet that the people in the Ivory Coast are great too but I'm in no hurry to move there.

I remember being driven through lots of areas in BR where my guide would say, "Don't ever ever come here." If you are white you are going to stick out like a sore thumb. If you are black, hispanic, or asian (many ethnic Japanese live in Brazil), you might go unnoticed until people realize you can't speak Portugese and then it's game on.

Fun place, don't let me scare you, it's definitely worth a visit. Living there? Not so sure. Also you would need a visa so you'd have to get married or have a job or something.

Good point about the Visa, but once you apply for that it is good for 5 years and you can live there just as easily as you could in any other foreign country (would have to return to US every 6 months or whatever the time limit is per visit)

Your point about the rough areas and being white doesn't make sense. For one, there are rough areas in any country. What areas ares in specific are you referring to? And being white and sticking out like a sore thumb, how is that different than most parts of LA? Or Detroit? Those are rough places in U.S. and we choose not to live in those areas for obvious reasons. How is Brazil any different?

Submitted by blahblahblah on July 11, 2011 - 4:09pm.

deadzone wrote:

Your point about the rough areas and being white doesn't make sense. For one, there are rough areas in any country. What areas ares in specific are you referring to? And being white and sticking out like a sore thumb, how is that different than most parts of LA? Or Detroit? Those are rough places in U.S. and we choose not to live in those areas for obvious reasons. How is Brazil any different?

There are 2 big differences. First, as an English-speaking American, you have a couple of huge advantages in rough areas of the US. First, you can "dress down" or look a little grimy and people may not expect that you have any money. Second, you can speak and understand English, so when you are approached you can converse, you can detect trouble quickly, and you can take appropriate action, such as telling someone to f*** off in an appropriately nasty voice if they try to start something. If you were a foreigner, you wouldn't have this capability and would become an "easy mark." You would need an expert command of Brazilian Portugese, and in particular, in the Brazilian Portugese slang of the poor to be effective at this.

The second big reason is that, unlike here in the US, skin color is strongly associated with class status in Brazil. If you are a white guy, you will automatically be assumed to be a guy with money even if you're just a schlub with a few hundred bucks. This fact combined with your lack of ability to speak and understand Brazilian Portugese slang, will quickly identify you as an easy mark. Here in the US, skin color and class status are not linked as strongly in our minds.

That's not saying you can't have a great time in some of the cheaper areas! They are a blast! But you are at much greater risk of robbery or even kidnapping. If you visit just once or twice it probably won't happen to you -- but living there is another story. The best option, if you really wanted to live there in one of the cheap areas would be to marry a local that knows the ins and outs, he/she would know what's what and could keep you out of trouble. Of course you could move to one of the nice areas where you wouldn't stand out as much, but guess what, those are a lot more expensive.

Submitted by deadzone on July 11, 2011 - 4:32pm.

What you are saying could be applied to any foreign country so your point is still not well taken. Especially since the thread is about Costa Rica. I've been to both places and an American stands out as much or more in C.R. than Brazil. Of course Brazil is a much larger and more diverse country so you can't really stereotype it based on limited experience.

Submitted by earlyretirement on July 11, 2011 - 4:39pm.

I can speak from experience as I've lived in South America for almost the past decade. I also own property in several countries in South America so I can speak intelligently and from experience.

There are positives and negatives to consider. Definitely I think before anyone pulls the trigger, they need to take SEVERAL trips and spend considerable amounts of time in the area they are planning to relocate to.

Also, something that I think is VERY important to factor in is many times Americans say things like, "the average salary in X country is only $X dollars". But the thing is...most Americans get accustomed to living a certain quality of life and they certainly will NOT live like the typical local. So it's a bit of a moot point.

I read some talk above about Brazil but FORGET it. It's NOT an affordable place to live. With the horrible exchange rate between the dollar it's very expensive. I go to Sao Paulo on business and was just there not long ago looking at real estate.

In nice areas like Jardim....apartments are VERY expensive. I'm talking like $275,000 to $300,000+ for a nice apartment in a nice building. Just 1 bedroom. And the expenses are VERY expensive because all buildings have a security guard and doormen 24/7. Taxis are very expensive, crime is a factor and cost of living is expensive.

I've been to Rio de Janeiro over 25 times over the years and really enjoy visiting but I'd never live there. Great beaches but even nice areas are next to slums. Also very expensive including dining out.

Other countries like Argentina you are dealing with rampant 20% to 30% a year inflation (forget the bogus government #'s of 9% or 10% a year as they are a lie). It used to be a bargain after the crash in 2002 but with the inflation it's not so cheap anymore. Beautiful country however with GREAT medical care if you buy private insurance.

However there is lots of red tape and the banking system is HORRIBLE there.

Countries like Uruguay are also really wonderful as they are safe, banks are stable here. Health care is excellent. People are friendly but I find it boring. I own property in Uruguay and enjoy visiting but I find it dull to live year-round.

The main factors to consider when considering a move overseas are basically:

- Health care system and cost of good quality health care (forget about local free healthcare as in many countries it's horrible and you must buy private insurance so factor in the cost of that).

- Banking system? How does it work? Is it dependable? Is it easy to get funds in the country without paying an arm and a leg.

- Legal system: What's it like and is it dependable?

- Ease of getting residency in the country? You have to really consider this as some countries are very easy by making investments in the country... while others like Brazil are more difficult and even limit you to the # of days you can stay in the country each year.

- Safety and crime: You have to factor in how safe the city is you will live.

- Ease of assimilating into the society and culture: Some countries it's much easier and foreigners don't stand out as much as there is lots of tourism and ex-pats. (Think Buenos Aires).

- Cost of living: You have to factor in everything based on your quality of life. For example, you can live cheaply and affordably in many of these countries but you can also spend more than you do in the USA. Case in point, I spent more in South America where I've lived than the USA as I had full time maids, full time chef, staff, etc. Adding in all of those expenses can add up. So be honest with yourself and base your cost of living on what you will actually live like there.

There are tons of other factors but these are things based on the top of my head. I really enjoyed living abroad and my heart will always be in South America. I go back and forth quite a bit as I own properties there and have businesses there.

But people planning a permanent move really need to think things through.

Submitted by scaredyclassic on July 11, 2011 - 4:45pm.

Ok u know what? Maybe America is number one after all.

Submitted by earlyretirement on July 11, 2011 - 6:52pm.

walterwhite wrote:
Ok u know what? Maybe America is number one after all.

Absolutely say what you will about the USA....it's lost it's dominance, on it's way down.. yadda yadda yadda. But I feel for those with no debt, savings and a steady income... it's the absolute best place to live in the world with the highest quality of life. Hands down.

Obviously for those where finances is a factor then Central America or South America can make sense due to the lower cost of living if you do it right. One of the things wrong with the USA is it's health care system. It's broken. It's expensive and if you don't have insurance you are totally lost.

Many of these countries in Latin America the healthcare is free once you establish permanent residency. But as mentioned...you wouldn't want to get sick or have to go to a public hospital. Most ex-pats end up getting private medical insurance which is EXCELLENT.

Both of my kids were born outside of the USA and I had private medical insurance and I can tell you the health care coverage was EXCELLENT and far surpassed the USA. I'm talking absolutely NO co-pays at all. They covered everything including medications. Private suite in the hospital for me and my wife for 2 days after she had the babies.

The quality of life can be really great if you do it right. It's great for people that have steady income like social security, pensions, steady flow of cash like rental income,etc.

There are certain luxuries that you would most likely NEVER have if you lived in the USA..even if you had great income. Things like full-time maids that come Monday to Friday are as little as $500 US a month or less depending where in South America you go. Chefs from $600 per month to come in every day and cook breakfast, lunch and dinner.

You also have to look at cost of utilities as they drastically vary depending on country. Some places like Argentina, the government subsidizes utilities so things like gas, electricity, water are very cheap. Other places like Punta del Este, Uruguay you can spend a fortune with water and gas/electricity.

I had a 3 bedroom house that wasn't too big and it wouldn't be uncommon to have $600 US a month electricity bills. Water bills could be as much as $500 a month! Internet was as much as $100 a month.

No doubt you can live cheap in places like Costa Rica and other places but you have to really be realistic and see if you can really enjoy living there.

I have clients and friends that I know that live in both Costa Rica and also Brazil. But I could never live like them. One guy I know sold all his worldly possessions and moved to the middle of nowhere in Brazil. He bought some land, built a modest house but where he lives there is no electricity/gas or running water.

But life can be great. One thing I really loved seeing is the special bond between families. The Latin culture is really amazing and family is very important. Also, I'd see lots of people that didn't make much money but they were much happier than most Americans. They didn't drive fancy cars, or live in McMansions.... but they didn't have any debt at all and lived within their means.

They would spend time in the park with their families on the weekend and it would be common to see kids living at home until they were married. I really loved that aspect of living in South America.

Submitted by deadzone on July 11, 2011 - 7:06pm.

I'm not advocating moveing to Brazil or any other place but basing cost of living on Sao Paolo or Rio is ridiculous. Those are the last places that I would live, that's like basing US prices on New York and San Franciso, or Mexican prices on cost of living in Mexico City. Brazil is a VERY BIG country.

Submitted by patientrenter on July 11, 2011 - 7:20pm.

Hey, earlyretirement, thanks for all the good info.

Submitted by CDMA ENG on July 11, 2011 - 9:38pm.

No one I know wants to go home to Nicaragua... Not even to visit...

The third world is the third world...

CE

Submitted by briansd1 on July 12, 2011 - 2:53pm.

When do you plan to retire?

I think that in 20-30 years Cuba might be a great place, perhaps the playground of Americans again.

Submitted by earlyretirement on February 27, 2013 - 11:23pm.

I posted an update earlier today but see it's now deleted. Anyone know why? Is there some bug on the site or did I post something not allowed? Just curious.

I was just responding to a comment. I don't think I broke any rules but if so I'd love to know so I don't do it again. I was just mainly speaking about high prices in Brazil and crime rates.

Submitted by NeetaT on February 27, 2013 - 11:55pm.

I work on and off in Honduras and I like it. It is labeled as a dangerous place, but I have done fine there. I like to fish and hang out with the young girls. It's cheap to rent a nice place in Trujillo and La Ceiba. Everything else costs about the same as the U.S...gas, restaurant food, etc. A lot of products are from the U.S. so they cost more there.

Submitted by FormerSanDiegan on February 28, 2013 - 10:08am.

earlyretirement wrote:
I posted an update earlier today but see it's now deleted. Anyone know why? Is there some bug on the site or did I post something not allowed? Just curious.

I was just responding to a comment. I don't think I broke any rules but if so I'd love to know so I don't do it again. I was just mainly speaking about high prices in Brazil and crime rates.

I believe that this old thread (started in 2011) was revived by a spam post.

Any replay to a spam post (done by clicking the "reply" button directly associated with that post) will be deleted if the spam post is deleted.

So, if a thread is revived by a spammer (sometimes these result in interesting revisits of the topic, which is a funny benefit of the spam) it's best to click the "add a comment" button associated with the original post so that content is not deleted with the spam.

Submitted by earlyretirement on February 28, 2013 - 10:23am.

FormerSanDiegan wrote:
earlyretirement wrote:
I posted an update earlier today but see it's now deleted. Anyone know why? Is there some bug on the site or did I post something not allowed? Just curious.

I was just responding to a comment. I don't think I broke any rules but if so I'd love to know so I don't do it again. I was just mainly speaking about high prices in Brazil and crime rates.

I believe that this old thread (started in 2011) was revived by a spam post.

Any replay to a spam post (done by clicking the "reply" button directly associated with that post) will be deleted if the spam post is deleted.

So, if a thread is revived by a spammer (sometimes these result in interesting revisits of the topic, which is a funny benefit of the spam) it's best to click the "add a comment" button associated with the original post so that content is not deleted with the spam.

Ahhhh. Ok..that is good to know. I was wondering and didn't realize that was how it worked. Thanks for taking the time to explain. :)

Submitted by Rich Toscano on February 28, 2013 - 12:05pm.

FormerSanDiegan wrote:

I believe that this old thread (started in 2011) was revived by a spam post.

Any replay to a spam post (done by clicking the "reply" button directly associated with that post) will be deleted if the spam post is deleted.

So, if a thread is revived by a spammer (sometimes these result in interesting revisits of the topic, which is a funny benefit of the spam) it's best to click the "add a comment" button associated with the original post so that content is not deleted with the spam.

Yep, this has got to be it. Unfortunately the only way to "report" spammers to the filter (so it can learn) involves deleting them, and if a comment is deleted, all its replies are deleted too (that's just the way the system works, I cannot control it). So if you directly replied to a spam comment which was later deleted, your comment would have been taken down too.

I think that's what must have happened here. Sorry about that er... your post was collateral damage in the war on spammers...

Rich

Submitted by earlyretirement on February 28, 2013 - 12:28pm.

No problem at all Rich. It's good to know. I guess I wasn't paying attention and was just reading the post above mine which seemed legit. I just thought it was strange but I guess it's a good lesson to read all the posts above before answering.

Submitted by UCGal on February 28, 2013 - 1:48pm.

Now that we've figured out how the post got deleted....
Inquiring minds want to know what you posted in your update, ER.

Submitted by earlyretirement on February 28, 2013 - 3:12pm.

UCGal wrote:
Now that we've figured out how the post got deleted....
Inquiring minds want to know what you posted in your update, ER.

Ah, I can't all remember exactly as it was kind of long. I was responding to another post and I think it too must have gotten deleted as I don't see it.

I also mentioned that the other OP is right you simply can NOT compare the cost of living in some of the bigger cities. For example, I own an apartment in Rio. When I originally bought it over a decade ago it wasn't too expensive relative to it's location and size. (It's an entire floor just one block from the beach in Copacabana). But now it is worth a small fortune! When I bought it, I also had the exchange rate going for me and now it's much lower.

So I believe my response also mentioned that some places can rapidly change as far as cost of living. What might be "affordable" once you move there can rapidly change in some of these foreign countries. Less than a decade ago Brazil used to be affordable but now it's more expensive vs. most major cities. Everything from real estate, to groceries to restaurants. It's all expensive there now.

Not to mention the crime rate is very high. The problem is you have nice areas like Ipanema yet they are right next to slums (favelas). That is common in several cities. So you have the very wealthy living side by side with the VERY poor which can create some recipes for disaster.

Some of my best friends live in Rio and they have experienced several bouts of crime. In over 30+ visits there I've only had one attempt of a mugging. Even if you are careful and speak the language (i'm conversational in Portuguese) you can run into problems.

Also, something else I mentioned was besides street crime, you just have to worry about general people working in and around your house. I know several people in Costa Rica as well as other places where their long-time maids/cooks that have worked for their family for many years have ended up robbing them or tipping off thieves.

There is more of that general type stuff you have to worry about when you live in some of these other countries in Latin or South America. Here in the USA we have lots of controls and also for the most part the legal and judicial system work.

In many other countries it's not like that at all and police, judges, government officials can be easily bribed.

I'm not knocking living abroad but it's important to understand ALL the upsides as well as downsides.

Sure, quality of life can be great. I know many older senior citizens that retired in some of these countries and they live like kings. Most of them are divorced or widowed and they have 20 something year old girlfriends (or girlfriends as young as their grandkids). It's kind of funny in some instances because some of them didn't even take the time to learn the local language and their "girlfriends" can't speak English. So it can be a bit comical watching them! LOL.

blahblahblah wrote:
SmellsFeeshy wrote:

Brazil is not without its problems though. The crime rate in cities like Sao Paolo and Rio is very high. While doing research on Rio as a potential vacation destination I was a little concerned by all of the security warnings even at highly populated tourist spots.

Many of the people I hear touting Brazil as a great place to live have never been there or if they have have never ventured outside of protected enclaves. I have and let me tell you, it can get pretty rough. That's not saying it isn't great! I had an incredible time, the people are amazing and lots of fun. Of course I'd bet that the people in the Ivory Coast are great too but I'm in no hurry to move there.

I remember being driven through lots of areas in BR where my guide would say, "Don't ever ever come here." If you are white you are going to stick out like a sore thumb. If you are black, hispanic, or asian (many ethnic Japanese live in Brazil), you might go unnoticed until people realize you can't speak Portugese and then it's game on.

Fun place, don't let me scare you, it's definitely worth a visit. Living there? Not so sure. Also you would need a visa so you'd have to get married or have a job or something.

This is also a GREAT post and spot on target. Many Americans that haven't even visited a particular city/country or only visited a few times but read a lot about it THINK they know the city well but they don't.

Visiting a city a few times for a week/month at a time is VERY different vs. living day in and day out for many years, especially in retirement. You simply don't have enough time while on vacation to understand all of what goes on locally.

I've been to almost every country in South America and I do business in several countries in South America. And there is another side to most cities that you will never see unless you are living there.

Sure it's different if you are retiring from the USA to maybe a 1st world developed country in Europe. But moving from the USA to a developing country is quite something different altogether.

Submitted by sdduuuude on February 28, 2013 - 3:25pm.

So, if you count girlfriends as part of "the cost of living" then yes - the cost of living is, indeed, lower ? ;)

Submitted by earlyretirement on February 28, 2013 - 4:22pm.

sdduuuude wrote:
So, if you count girlfriends as part of "the cost of living" then yes - the cost of living is, indeed, lower ? ;)

Ha, ha. So true! Although I imagine some of these guys might be spending more on their "girlfriends" abroad than they would in the USA. Or then again, not too many hot 21 year olds are going to be hanging around too many 65+ year olds in the USA unless you paid them. And even then they would probably not hang out with you for more than a few hours at a time.

I literally know many guys that are older and have young hot girlfriends. They claim not to pay them at all but the girls do get to live rent free in their places with free room and board.

I imagine it probably started out as a provider/client type relationship but hey...who am I to judge. I don't judge them and they are having the time of their lives. LOL. And the crazy thing is a few of them even married their young girlfriends and their relationships are going strong several years later. I have to admit I never thought that was possible but they proved me wrong.

You know, back over a decade ago my first trip to Brazil I was sitting at a table eating lunch on Avenida Atlantica. And I had never been to Rio before. A girl walks up to my table and grabs my cellphone. I heard about all the crime so naturally I think, "hey she is going to steal my phone!". But the funny thing was she was putting her phone number in my phone! LOL.

I remember thinking man..this is too easy!

This is part of the reason lots of older gentlemen retire abroad in places like Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, etc. truth be told. The allure of an older, overweight, fairly unattractive guy being able to land a "9 or 10" young hottie.

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