If you are considering retirement, and who doesn’t occasionally think about the final stages of life on earth, then you may be considering retirement in Costa Rica because you have heard that it is a beautiful country with friendly people and lower costs then home. You have heard that Costa Rica has open arms for retirees who want to buy a home and live out their golden years in the tropical splendor of central america. What you have heard is not to far off from what I have heard and know from over 20 years of living in Costa Rica.
Many of the books and web sites that promote retirement in Costa Rica tell you that you do not need to know the language, but this is an absolute lie. Failure to speak even basic spanish will leave you feeling frustrated, incomplete and surrounded by other expats who speak your native tongue. You will miss out on so much of the fun of learning a new culture, of communication in a foreign language, of laughing at jokes. Be sure when you decide to move to Costa Rica that you are dedicated enough to learn spanish, which is actually quite an easy language to pickup. I spent 3 years in San Jose with a self teaching book and a variety of girl friends, and avoided all english speakers so that I after these 3 years of solid emersion I had a real start on the language. I am always learning new words and perfecting my accent, even after 20 years here.
Another item of interest to those considering Costa Rica as a place to retire, is the cost of housing. A recent study of housing costs in latin america showed Costa Rica to be the most expensive place for home ownership and I must say that it can be expensive to buy or build a home in Costa Rica. However, once you have your home paid for, maintaining your home is relatively easy and not expensive. My house keeper, with four kids, lives on a monthly income of about $300, yet she is going to build herself a small house of her very own. She will receive a government grant and loan program that helps single mothers own a home. But I also have a friend with a house at the beach on a stunning mountain top with a 360 degree panoramic view that is for sale for nearly $900,000!
Health care is a common topic among the older people who come here to retire. You can buy into the local health care system, which is modeled after the system setup by the AMA, which works reasonably well, mind you there may be some wait time involved in getting seen by your doctor. The price is reasonable and in fact is a requirement of many of the legal retirement status that would apply for here. If you like homeopathy, this too can be found in Costa Rica, along with ancient herbal healers.