Retire or Relocate in Costa Rica -

I came to Costa Rica about 16 years ago mostly to have a fine adventure. I did!

However, because of the many current complex and serious issues in the world and especially in the United States, more and more people are considering the idea of living in another country and are considering Costa Rica. For some it will be retirement. For others, relocation. For a fortunate few who can "telecommute", living away from the stress while still earning a living can be pretty excellent!

The social, economic and political changes beginning around 2008 and continuing in 2016 are affecting the people of many countries not the least from the United States. I read, speak with and trade emails with so many folks. I hear this:

Between the economy and dwindling savings and retirement accounts, many folks are being forced to re-evaluate their retirement plans.

Layoffs are still common, and for those over age 50, a layoff can be a disaster.

There have been a number of terrorist attacks on US soil over the past few years (excluding 9/11 of course), though for some reason, they are sometimes not called terrorist attacks.

The national debt for the USA is now an enormous 19 TRILLION dollars. This has grown from about $10.5 trillion since 2008 and is expected to exceed 20 trillion dollars by the end of 2016. If you wish to monitor this in real time, Click Here. Scary!

Therefore, when I hear this time and again from clients and via email, "We cannot afford to retire in the USA, neither of us really want to (or perhaps can not) continue working past age 65.

I believe it! Further, their future fixed incomes will be diminished by inflation.

I believe these are valid concerns. The cost alone of managing the huge national debt will most certainly result in a higher inflation rate which will affect everyone but probably most those on fixed incomes. Read that as older persons and those on social security or disability.

What to do? Well Costa Rica and quite frankly some other Latin American countries may be the solution. I am biased of course. Costa Rica with its reasonable health care costs, decent infrastructure and laid back lifestyle can and should seem like an attractive alternative.


I pride myself that this web site is accurate and unbiased. Folks validate my direct approach. However, some 8 years ago, I started receiving emails or calls from people asking me if I would be available to spend a day or two exclusively with them and give them their own custom Costa Rica teaching tour.

I began doing this on a very limited basis about 8 years ago, but now the inquiries have begun to arrive almost daily, and it is clear that people want to get the REAL story on Costa Rica. Moving here can be expensive not only in terms of money but also "emotional capital" and time spent. Failure makes a bad situation even worse. People often prefer the face-to face approach in learning about Costa Rica.

I am not going to speak about the cost of living here as that is covered in the section on cost of living in Costa Rica.

This web page is generally applicable to older persons... those either considering retirement or those persons forced to consider living here because of job circumstances like layoffs or drastic changes in income.

The second group will need a fairly large amount of money as they can only apply for rentista residency which is not cheap. Those of you with children should be sure to read the information on the education system in Costa Rica.

Those of you who will need to work absolutely MUST read about the work rules in Costa Rica.

Important! You cannot just come here and live.

Just like your home country, you must apply for and receive legal residency. For those of you on a pension or social security, the current requirement is that you have an income of $1,000.00 per month that comes from a permanent source. That can be social security, a government pension, military pension, annuity, etc.

What I think is best is to try to help my readers to understand some really important things about choosing to live in another country! To do this. I'll ask and answer some questions!

  • Is moving to a foreign country even realistic to consider?

Sure! Lots of people do it. I did. It's a great country only about 2.5 hours South of Miami by air.

It takes a bit of effort though as there are documents you will need to collect (birth certificates, marriage certificates, police good conduct reports, etc). None of this is difficult, but can be time consuming. You also need to prepare yourself for what lies ahead! Read on...

  • How do we know we will like it?

You don't, and that is very important to remember. Every daily chore you do now like visit the drug store, get your hair cut, shop for groceries, etc. will change. Many people adjust with no problem. Others find it difficult. I would urge you to read about culture shock and realize that nobody is exempt from it.

  • What happens if we don't like living in Costa Rica?

You move back "home" and that is why, if you learn nothing else from this page, do not do anything (like buy land or property) that cannot be "un-done" in 5 phone calls or less.

Visit Costa Rica for at least six months; twelve months would be better. Rent. Do not buy. I promise you there will still be plenty of stuff to buy in a year!

Then, if your do choose to return home, you have lost very little and you have gained a perspective you could never have gotten by remaining where you are. You have had a grand adventure, and it will be worth it. People will think you very intelligent for not putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • I have heard that over 50% of those who move to Costa Rica return to their "home" within a year. Is this true? Why? How can we avoid this?

Yes, it is 100% true! In fact, one reliable source says it is closer to 60% There is no way to completely avoid it, but I do think you can optimize your chances of success. Why do people go back home? I think there are several reasons:

1. Being totally unprepared to live here. Before you even think about moving, you need to spend some serious time here on this web site and review carefully all the topics under Living in Costa Rica, Residency Law, and Moving to Costa Rica. That alone will give you a good idea if you can handle living the ex pat life! Hate reading? Some folks prefer to learn this stuff face-to-face or mouth-to-ear. For those who prefer this, consider setting up a custom tour with me as your guide.

I have noticed though, that those who moved here then left seemed to have one thing in common. That is that every time they turned around, something "surprised" them. Often, these were not pleasant surprises.

If you know what is coming, it is no longer a surprise! You still may not like it, but you can deal with it much easier! Long before you arrive in Costa Rica, you have the opportunity to know what are those surprises and deal with them emotionally and mentally and THAT I promise, takes away a ton of fear.

True Example: My neighbor, an attorney from the US is leaving Costa Rica. Now you might think an attorney would be well organized and do his homework (call it due diligence) before he moved here. He did not and with disastrous results. I cannot tell you how many times he sat on our patio relating his "crisis of the day". He spent no time either on this web site nor any other to prepare himself for the move. They just... arrived!

He thought, for instance, that he could obtain health insurance immediately upon arrival. He could not and was very unhappy to find out that the socialized medicine system here is available only after residency is obtained, and that takes a year from date of application.

When his wife got sick, it was all out-of-pocket expense, and that was that. Even though health care costs here are a fraction of those in the USA, extended illness can take a toll and it did. So what made it worse?

He bought a fine home just down the street. He did this upon arrival in Costa Rica, absolutely sure he would stay. Things have changed and now they have to leave. He has to sell out. I told him to expect two years for it to sell. Houses here are VERY easy to buy and often very hard to sell. He did not believe me. It has been 16 months. I hope I am wrong and he sells it next week. That is doubtful, however, and all his money is tied up in that home. Bluntly, he is screwed.

Remember what I said above: " not do anything (like buy land or property) that cannot be "un-done" in 5 phone calls or less."

To be successful in a move like this is NOT hard, but I promise it will be very hard if you do not read and understand what it will really be like to live here. Once you do, it will be much smoother sailing. No surprises... nothing you can't handle, and even if there IS, you knew about it before coming.

2. People sometimes underestimate just how much they will miss family and friends. christenings, birthdays, birth of a grandchild, bar mitzvahs, high school graduations... all those family things. You think you will just fly back, but sadly, most do not. You think the family, grand kids etc. will come visit. They will... but not nearly as often as you want because they too have lives, jobs, schools and a zillion responsibilities. Guys seem to handle this better. The women less so.

3. Speaking Spanish. Yeah, you really have to learn. You can survive here with no Spanish, but to really thrive and enjoy yourselves, you really have to learn to speak basic Spanish. You must deal with doctors, pharmacists, beauty parlors, clerks in stores, your housekeeper, gardener... the list goes on, With no Spanish, you feel isolated and tend to hang around others from your own country. Sure... that is OK, but you are missing so much and really, you never get comfortable. Do not buy into that story that everyone here speaks English. They do in the tourist Costa Rica, but not in the REAL Costa Rica.

4. Not spending enough time here before making the final decision to move. I always urge people to come and visit for six months at least (continuous) before deciding to move here. I love Costa Rica. It is perfect for me, but far more important is... will it perfect for YOU. Come stay! Travel extensively. It is a small country. There are 27 weather patterns here. Choose the climate and location and try it out. You can not do this as a tourist staying at hotels and eating in restaurants. Again... the tourist Costa Rica is not the REAL Costa Rica, and that is what you must discover for yourselves. Read the page on where to live in Costa Rica. It might help.


  • How can we prepare for such a drastic change in our lives?

Read this web site. Yeah, I know it is self serving, but I truly know of no other web site that tells it like it is... good and bad. Check out the Blog. It contains a ton of information organized by category for easy searching and is updated regularly. Consider taking a tour that will not just try to sell your real estate or tell you how Costa Rica is nirvana.

Visit this page for a list of clubs and online user groups. Get active. Ask questions. Remember one thing though... Just because someone speaks your language does not make them trustworthy. I, of course, am the exception! :)

Your chances of moving and living here happily will increase a lot just by knowing what you will be facing. It should and WILL be exciting and fun if you prepare yourself.


A Case Study -

Preparing yourself for living here is critical. One couple really "Got It" meaning that they understood all that I have written above.

They chose not to do one of the many "real estate" tours as those simply do not give an accurate picture of Costa Rica. Why? Because it is really hard to say anything negative when someone is trying to sell you something. And please... do not fall into the trap of thinking that Costa Rica is perfect. It is not, but you can learn how to live here and make it your personal paradise. You just need to be prepared.

They understood that they really had to learn about what exactly it was like to live here day by day, and I gave them a tour during which I covered everything I could think of... good and bad. They called it doing their"due diligence" and that is as good an expression as any I could come up with. Read more about my tours here.

They hated some locations and loved others. They learned first hand exactly what daily life entails here. It was intense for them, and I fear not always fun as while I validated some of their opinions, I am afraid I sort of shattered some others. No matter. My tour is not a popularity contest. I taught them what they needed to know. They were then prepared to make those life changing decisions!

After our time together, they spend another 4-5 days visiting various places in Costa Rica on their own, but with an entirely different perspective as they knew exactly what to look for and what to avoid.

They moved to Costa Rica a few years back and as far as I know, they are still here.

Andy likes to take home movies. As one video is worth a thousand words, I decided to share them with my readers.

In this first of two videos, Andy discusses what happened in their lives to make them seriously consider moving to Costa Rica. I suspect what you will see might strike home with many of you.


In this second video, you get to meet Andy's wife and hear them talking about their "upcoming trip" (2008). That's where they met me and spent time learning about Costa Rica as my prisoners! Kidding of course, but the seven to eight hours we spent together each day gave them an unusually accurate perspective as to what they would face should they make the decision to move here.

I am pretty sure they hated me after those days together as my tours are intense,and I pull no punches. The tour is like this web site... very direct and to the point. I sell nothing and tell it like it is.



These folks learned an enormous amount of information about what it is like to live here.

As of today. a year later, they are still here and clearly will NOT be one of the 60% who leave the first year. For that, I will take at least a bit of the credit!

The REAL Costa Rica Tour

I really never mentioned these tours in this web site or elsewhere until now, but as these two videos clearly mention me and my tours, it is time to explain what is available.

Some have asked if I will give customized tours and the answer is yes, but with some restrictions. First, I generally will not give a tour on Saturdays or Sundays.

The tours I give are not at all like the various retirement tours that are really often just real estate tours in disguise. I build each tour around your specific needs and we discuss places that interest you. While driving around, I cover enormous amounts of REAL information about living here. Just like this web site, I pull no punches. At the end of the tour, you are going to truly know about living/retiring here in my beautiful Costa Rica... warts and all.

If all you want is to see dozens of overpriced homes or spend 2-3 days hearing how perfect is Costa Rica, then you probably will not much enjoy my tours.

Finally, you get 100% of my time during the tour. Only you, your spouse, partner, significant other... are with me. After having given many tours, I have learned that people really prefer to discuss their personal affairs privately and not in front of 6-12 other people. Don't worry... if you want to meet others thinking about making the "big move" that can easily be arranged... just not on the tour.

I deal in facts, and I never try to sell Costa Rica. If you like the tone and content of The Real Costa Rica web site, and, like Andy and Fran and many others, you want to make intelligent decisions on this life changing move, then you may find spending personal time with me to be beneficial.

You may contact me here. ** Please DO NOT use this email address for anything other than inquiries about or for booking, a tour. If you wish to ask a general question on a topic not covered already in this web site or in the Blog, please click here for the contact page. My staff (or I) will respond as soon as possible.

You may also enjoy taking a look at this entry in my Blog.




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