Moving to Costa Rica
Expats moving to Costa Rica will find a small, popular tourist destination known for its year-round tropical climate, impressive natural scenery (including rainforests, beaches, canyons and volcanos) and great quality of life.
According to The World Bank, Costa Rica has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and in 2016 it was ranked the greenest country in the world by the World Economic Forum. The country also has plans to become carbon neutral by 2021 – happy news for expats with fears of irresponsible tourism practices.
Most visitors flock to the country’s natural surrounds rather than to urban centres, which range from sleepy, picturesque villages to lively resort towns. The capital, San José, has a population of over 300,000 and boasts the best nightlife, shopping and restaurants in Costa Rica. Here, gorgeous colonial architecture sits alongside modern galleries and cafés. Centrally situated, it offers expats an ideal base from which to explore the rest of the country – whether on their own steam or on its excellent public transport system.
Expats to Costa Rica will find plenty of British and American retirees and tourists alike. It's estimated that more than 20,000 US retirees call the tiny state home, drawn to this stable democracy’s affordable healthcare, low cost of living and spectacular views from low-cost property.
Those looking to work in Costa Rica will find it difficult to secure a work permit unless they have exceptional skills. Although pensioners are allowed to own and profit from businesses in the country, overall Costa Rica is not considered ideal for investment – in 2016 it was ranked 58th out of 189 countries on The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings.
Costa Rica’s healthcare is top quality, particularly in San José’s private hospitals, and as a result it is a popular medical tourism destination. Emergency medical treatment is free for visitors, but residents will need to get either private insurance or subscribe to the CCSS (Costa Rican Social Security) and use public hospitals. Both options are affordable.
Despite plenty of sun and surf, there are downsides to living in Costa Rica. The country sees plenty of seismic activity, and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are an ever-present danger. Hurricanes and flooding can also occur in the rainy season (May to November). In addition, the levels of burglaries and violent crime against tourists and foreigners have been on the rise in recent years, partly due to the country's under-resourced police department.