Thinking of moving to Costa Rica? So are we!
Here are some basic country demographics we’ve found during our initial research into Costa Rica. We hope that they will help familiarize you with the country.
Costa Rica is a peaceful, central American country – often referred to as the Switzerland of the region. It is located between Nicaragua and Panama and borders both Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.
If you’re wondering how small is it really? – area wise, think slightly smaller than West Virginia.
Population of Costa Rica is only 4.6 million – compare that to West Virginia’s 1.9 million. To put it further into prospective, we live in the mid-west and our largest city, Chicago, has a metropolitan area with population of over 9.8 million. San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica – its population is 1.4 million. So, yes, Costa Rica is a small country.
Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and foreigners are Gringos. Costa Rica offers universal access to education, healthcare, clean water, sanitation, and electricity to all of its citizens. It is a popular regional immigration destination because of its many job opportunities and social programs. In fact, they’ve done such a good job with this that immigration from Nicaragua has become a concern. Immigrants place heavy demands on the social welfare system in Costa Rica. However, they are also an important source of unskilled labor; this continues to be a source of tension– sound familiar? (Think Mexico and USA.)
Unemployment rate in Costa Rica is 7.9% (2012 est.); compared to Michigan’s 8.9% last year.
98% of Ticos have access to inexpensive and high quality healthcare with
both socialized and privatized options. Medical tourism is becoming quite popular for folks looking for cheaper options for procedures ranging from triple heart bypass to plastic surgery.
The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish but English is common.
As far as religion goes, Roman Catholics comprise 76% of the population, Evangelical 14%, and others are the rest.
Costa Rica is a democratic republic and is friendly to foreign investment.
Climate is tropical and subtropical; dry season lasts December to April while rainy season goes from May to November. Costa Rica’s highlands tend to be much more temperate and therefore more popular with expats.
Costa Rica contains lush rainforests, high mountains, and beautiful cost lines. There are several major, active volcanos in Costa Rica. They account for one of the major natural hazards in the country: earthquakes. Hurricanes along the coast and frequent flooding of lowlands at onset of rainy season, as well as landslides are also common problems.
Tourism continues to bring in foreign money, as Costa Rica’s impressive biodiversity makes it a key destination for ecotourism. The National Tourism board sells Costa Rica as a “green” country. And all though it sounds great in ads and brochures, the reality is that the country struggles with deforestation, top soil erosion, and solid waste disposal.
The currency in Costa Rica is colón. The current exchange rate 500 colones to 1 US dollar.
Costa Rica offers many visa options to foreign nationals. The most popular are pensionado (pensioner/retiree) and rentista (small investor). Applicant must demonstrate a permanent fixed income from a pension or similar retirement income of $1000/month for pensionados and $2,500/month for rentistas. To learn more about residency options read http://www.costaricalaw.com/legalnet/residency.html. Regular tourist visas are good for up to 90 days.
There exists an excellent interior transportation (bus) system. Buses are cheap and usually on time. This makes it easy to travel about the country without owning a car. And since by all accounts, owning a car in Costa Rica is expensive, we like having this option.
Costa Rica offers an overall lower cost of living as compared to US. It also still offers many cheap real-estate options. However, the popularity of the country with expats is driving the prices up and beach properties are rarely affordable these days.
Just how cheap is the cost of living? Well, it depends on who you ask. But from our preliminary searches it can range anywhere from $1,500 – 3,000 based on how (and where) you want to live. This post in www.costaricalaw.com does a nice job of outlining average costs.
Next up: Costa Rica trip report!