With all of the emails I get from people thinking about moving to Costa Rica, one of the three most common questions is always about healthcare.
It’s not hard to fathom why (they’re usually from the U.S.A. – not Canada, of course) with health insurance premiums and prescription drug prices skyrocketing in the ever-more confusing and ineffective system of medical care in the states.
So what can you really expect when it comes to healthcare if and when you relocate to Costa Rica?
The great news is that Costa Rica has a top notch system of medical care with plenty of options for expats, from utilizing their state-run socialized system for residents, opting for affordable private healthcare insurance, paying out-of-pocket, or mixing in a combination of U.S. and travel insurance coverage.
You should be encouraged by the quality of Costa Rican medicine, too. It’s no coincidence that Costa Ricans are some of the healthiest people in the world, with higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates than those in the United States. In fact, the World Health Organization frequently ranks Costa Rica well ahead of the United States and all other Central American countries for healthcare.
The amazing thing is that Costa Rica earns all of these accolades for its medical care even though healthcare spending is 87% less per capita than in the U.S.!
So as an expat, resident or just visitor to Costa Rica, you’ll enjoy great quality care for surprisingly reasonable prices.
I’m sure you have specific questions, and all of them will be answered in The Official Expat’s Moving to Costa Rica Handbook, including:
To find out everything you need to know about medical treatment, insurance, and healthcare while visiting or living in Costa Rica, purchase my full handbook.
But if you want to save some money, check out the most popular sections from the Handbook for only $9.95.
Whether you're an expat moving down to Costa Rica permanently, a snowbird escaping their for the winters, or just a traveler going on a vacation soon, you'll love these 50 fun and interesting facts about Costa Rica!
1. Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas.
2. Costa Rica is slightly smaller than Lake Michigan.
3. There are 800 miles of coastline, both on the Atlantic and Pacific.
4. Costa Rica borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
5. It only takes up .03% of planet’s surface but holds 5% of its biodiversity!
6. There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies (10% of the world’s butterflies are in Costa Rica!), 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects!
7. More than 25% of Costa Rican land is protected national parks and refuges.
8. They don’t have summers and winter seasons like in the U.S., but a dry season that runs December-April and a rainy season that runs May- November.
9. The average life expectancy of 77 years is one of the highest in the world.
10. Costa Rica had a female president, Laura Chinchilla.
11. Costa Rica has no standing army. It was constitutionally abolished in 1949.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼12. Costa Rica has a 96% literacy rate. In very poor and rural areas, where children can’t get to schools, they teach classes over a national radio station.
13. When a woman is pregnant, they say she is “con luz,” or “with light.”
14. When someone is your significant other (your “other half”), they are your “media naranja,” or the other half of your orange.
15. Like we mentioned, “Pura vida” is the national saying, meaning “pure life.” It’s a sunny, feel-good expression used as a greeting, goodbye, or if someone asks how you are doing.
16. The average Tico makes $6,000 a year, and the average wage labor is $10 per day, the highest in Central America.
17. Costa Rica is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2020.
18. San José is only a 3-hour flight from Miami and 4 1⁄2 from New York. They have nonstop flights from New York, Houston, and Miami.
19. Names can be confusing in Costa Rica. Ticas (female Costa Ricans) do not take their husband’s last name. Instead, the woman uses her full maiden name for life, so she doesn’t need to worry about changing her ID cards, driver’s license, etc. She also adds her mother’s maiden name, but children take their father’s name. Confused yet?
20. The older generations of Ticos are not tall, so most furniture, like chairs, couches, beds, etc. used to be built 6-8 inches lower than in the US.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼21. Locks (on houses, doors, and gates) almost always work backward (from our perspective).
22. Milk, eggs, and other perishable items are usually sold unrefrigerated.
23. It’s common to buy wine in little paper boxes, which are then refrigerated.
24. Milk is commonly sold in a little plastic bag, and you have to cut the edge with scissors to open it, which often results in inexperienced gringos covered in milk and putting water on their cereal. (I’ve learned from personal experience!)
25. Costa Rica is a Catholic country but ensures freedom of religion. 26. Nearly all Catholic churches in the country face west.
27. On the Atlantic Coast (the Caribbean side), most of the population is descended from African roots, like Jamaica, and speak Spanish as well as a patois.
28. A Costa Rican female swimmer won a gold medal in the 1996 summer games in Atlanta.
29. Costa Rica is the longest-standing democracy in Central America.
30. Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, with workers enjoying unions, membership cards, health benefits, and police protection. However, possession of pornography is illegal!
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼31. In most areas, people cannot flush toilet paper because the pipes are old and only 1” wide, so toilet paper goes in the trash basket.
32. Pedestrians have very few rights in Costa Rica. They joke that Ticos love to use their horns but hate to use their brakes! It’s so bad that the Tico word for “speed bumps” is “son muertos,” or “the dead people.”
33. Most Costa Ricans don’t have addresses and there are very few street signs. When mailing something or giving directions, they just point out proximity to nearby landmarks. So when I lived in San Pedro, a suburb of the main city, San José, my address was: “50 meters south and 100 west of the church of San Pedro.”
34. Earthquakes are common in Costa Rica. They may get 2-40 per month depending on the movement of tectonic plates! Almost all of them are small (although we got a 7.6 while I’ve lived here!)
35. Ticos put coffee in their baby’s bottles along with milk, and also give it to young children.
36. The most popular national beer is Imperial. They drink it over ice with lime and salt, called a “michelada.”
37. “Guaro” is the national liquor, sort of like firewater sugarcane tequila.
38. Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken make home deliveries in Costa Rica.
39. The meter in a taxicab is known as the “Maria,” which is a sarcastic reference to the Virgin Mary’s honesty and virtue.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼40. You aren’t allowed to wear sunglasses or hats inside of the banks due to the constant threat of bank heists.
41. Their slang is much different than proper Spanish. One term for street language is “pachuco.”
42. One slang word is to call someone “Mopri.” This is supposed to mean “primo,” or cousin backward. In the 90’s Costa Rican teen culture went through a phase where they were saying words backward.
43. A lot of popular bands play the main stadium in San José, most recently the Red Hot Chili Peppers and then Lady Gaga.
44. Scientist actually named a species of Costa Rican fern after Lady Gaga after she played there.
45. They have bullfights in Costa Rica, but instead of the bull being harmed, it runs free around the ring and tries to maul the brave teens and men who jump in there for sport. Almost every little town has a festival with bullfights during the holidays.
46. Costa Rica is one of the biggest cocaine transit nations in the world. Approximately 95% of the cocaine that ends up in the United States comes from Columbia to Costa Rica, and then up through Central America into Mexico and across the border.
47. Robert August brought the surf scene to Costa Rica with his 1968 documentary, Endless Summer, and then Endless Summer II.
48. If you get pulled over by the police for some minor traffic infraction in Costa Rica (or some imaginary infraction), the cops can probably be paid off for around $40 or less.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼49. You are not allowed to wear shorts in a government or public office in Costa Rica - they see it as disrespectful and may turn you away.
50. Costa Rica is a warm, beautiful, and friendly country! Enjoy!
I get a whole lot of emails from people who have questions about moving to Costa Rica. This morning, I received an email so short and sweet – and on everyone’s mind – that I’d thought I’d share with you.
Erica from the USA asked:
“Can one person live in Costa Rica on $3,000 a month?”
The short answer?
Yes, it is possible to live on $3,000 a month in Costa Rica – or even less.
The in-depth answer?
“It depends,” because each expat, traveler or visitor has a different standard of living. Additionally, different areas within Costa Rica can be more or less expensive, and even the time of year (rainy vs. high season) can make costs fluctuate wildly.
But this I will say: living in Costa Rica isn’t as cheap as you may think.
People often think that because it’s a Central American or tropical country that it must be a paradise where you can live like a king or queen for next to nothing, but that’s not the case anymore. International influences, the spread of resort-quality living and advances in local knowledge, skills and infrastructure have seen costs escalate in past years.
But the good news is that you can still live very well on a modest budget in Costa Rica with some planning and discipline.
For retirees that factor in things like healthcare costs, it can be far less expensive than living in the United States for a better standard of life.
For most people, the biggest costs come from renting a place, and then maybe food a close second.
Here are some notes on cost of living in Costa Rica:
A decent standard of living for a single person is at about $1,500 to $2,000 a month. That is very possible, but if you add eating meals out at restaurants, drinking out or other entertainment, activities and side trips, I’d say you’d be far more comfortable at $2,500 - $3,000.
Likewise, a retired couple can live comfortably for about $2,000 to $3,500 a month for two people including the cost of housing, food, transportation, medical care (that can vary greatly), and entertainment.
While Costa Rica may not be as inexpensive as other Latin American countries, it is still possible to have access to creature comforts and luxury goods that are much cheaper than in the States. Life in Costa Rica allows for a high level of “spending freedom,” meaning you can spend very little if you choose to live more like a local, or you can spend a lot and enjoy the North American-style luxuries.
Expenses vary greatly depending on area and lifestyle, but here are some average monthly expenses for 2016-17:
• Apartment (local standard): $300 - $500
• Condominium (larger or more luxurious): $600 - $900
• House (2-3 bedroom): $500 - $1,200
• Electricity (house): $75 - $200 depending on location and air conditioner use
• Water/sewage (apartment): $12
• Telephone: $13
• Cable TV: $40
• High-speed Internet (ADSL): $25
• Cleaning service or a gardener for $2/hour or $200/month
• Entertainment is very affordable with museum entrance or
concerts around $5
• Import duties make it very expensive to import your car, probably
best to buy locally
• Consumer electronics are much cheaper in the US, bring them
with you instead of buying in Costa Rica
Want more information on the cost of living - and just about everything else - for expats in Costa Rica? Download the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
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