Every year, more and more U.S. citizens are moving south to Costa Rica.
Of course, the sunshine, natural beauty, and laid-back vibe are all big factors that pull them to the land of pura vida.
But, there are other factors in the United States that are pushing them south, and the stark reality of the economy - especially for retirees - is front and center among them.
The economy? Isn't it booming, with record stock prices, a hot housing market, and low unemployment. Yes. Sort of. For some people. For now.
However, the economic prognosis is not quite as rosy if we look big picture and long term, especially with the Baby Boomers leaving the workforce and entering their senior years at a rate of at least 10,000 per day through 2030!
So, today I wanted to bring in respected financial guru Jason Matthews, who was willing to share a few facts, stats, and analysis from his new book, The Age of $elf Reliance.
After seeing these, you'll realize that moving to Costa Rica may not just be about a better quality of life, but a financial necessity for many people.
The Official Expat
Excerpts from The Age of $elf Reliance by financial guru Jason Matthews:
I see the next financial downturn coming, again.
They called the Great Recession of 2008 a “once in a century” disaster but I believe that this next economic downturn will be even more disastrous than the last, ruining more lives and lasting far longer – a new American Depression, even.
This “new reality” is hitting a lot of people like a slap in the face or a punch in the gut. What is that new reality?
Quite simply, we’re spending more than we earn!
• 52% of Americans are spending more than they earn every month.
• 21% have regular monthly expenses that exceed their income.
• In fact, the average American spends $1.33 for every dollar earned.
• And 1 in 4 Americans has more debt than savings!
But the real fundamental reason why things will get harder and harder for the average American over the next twenty years is one that's not often talked about: our rapidly aging population.
In fact, Baby Boomers make up about 22.9% of our entire population, which is more than any other generation except for Millennials (24.5%). Remember, too, that there are another approximately 30 million Americans 70 years old plus, or 9.3% of our population.
Add them up and we’re looking at about 106 million Americans, or almost 35% of our entire population (well over one in three) that’s 52 and older!
Why is our aging population such a problem?
Guess what these ten thousand new seniors every day do on their 65th birthdays? They apply for Social Security (that can start at 62, actually), Medicare and Medicaid. So, instead of 100 million Americans paying into our system, paying taxes, etc., they'll suddenly stop contributing and start withdrawing funds.
Consider these facts about U.S. workers and retirement:
• Today, less than 7% of Americans have pensions. (Only 50% of employers even offer retirement plans, let alone match them.)
• As of 2017, the average American’s Social Security retirement benefit is only $1,363 per month, or $16,356 per year. But 43% of single retirees are counting on Social Security to cover 90% or more of their post-employment income.
• 31% – nearly one-third- of all non-retired adults have no retirement savings or pension at all. This isn’t just a post- Great Recession hangover, as that’s the same number that had zero retirement savings in 2017 as 2014.
• Of all non-retired adults ages 60 or older who are still working, about 14% still have nothing at all saved for retirement.
The shift in economic reality affects far more than our savings and retirement.
• Medical debt is choking us, too, as 60% of U.S. bankruptcies see medical bills as a significant factor for the financial insolvency.
• About 22% of Americans surveyed say that they have had an unexpected medical expense in the last year, which cost them $2,000 to $3,000 out of pocket.
As our population ages significantly and tens of thousands of Baby Boomers reach 65 every single day in the U.S, the healthcare burden is affecting Americans like never before—and will continue to grow more profound.
Can you now see why I brought Jason Matthews on board for this guest blog about the financial reality that will send some many retirees to live in Costa Rica?
If you have any financial questions, feel free to contact Jason directly at MatthewsFinancial@gmail.com
Or, you can purchase his book on Amazon and get much, much more - including startegies how the average person can best prepare for the coming financial storm.
“I’m thinking about moving to Costa Rica,” are words I see every day in emails, Facebook messages, and from people who have read my articles about life as an expat in that country.
“I want to move down to Costa Rica to live, buy a house, and open a business,” is the usual agenda, but their life-plan isn’t well thought out after that. I see a lot of people rushing into their big move, spurred on by visions of a stress-free, easy life on the beach. Their experience can either truly be “living the dream,” or a complete nightmare, based on what happens next.
Let’s break down that plan, with excerpts from my typical answers:
1. “I’m thinking about moving to Costa Rica.”
Costa Rica truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but what do you truly know about it? If you think all-day, everyday life there is sitting on a postcard-like beach, you might be shocked to hear that people actually have problems and challenges there, just like they do back home in your current life.
Of course, Costa Rica is a wonderful, healthy, and positive destination for many expats, but just make sure you think it through, do your homework, and prepare adequately for real life – not a rosy fantasy.
Fun Costa Rica fact:
The proper way to say 'Email' in Spanish is, 'Correo Electrónico.' But that's too long for everyone in Costa Rica, so they just call it.... 'email." Simple, huh?
2. “I want to establish residency/become a citizen.”
Establishing residency in Costa Rica can be an expensive and timely proposition (unless you marry a Tica!) So don’t worry about residency just yet — the country will grant you a 90-day tourist visa, so all you have to do is leave the country for a few days — or a few hours — after that (called the Border Shuffle), and come right back in on a new visa. You can still get a driver’s license and function just fine without residency, while still keeping your options open. Take your time and make sure it’s where you want to be before establishing residency.
3. “I want to live there [permanently].”
I recommend visiting for prolonged periods of time, first, to get to know the country, the different towns, the people, and the culture, before you commit to it. Start out with a month or two and go from there. If you really want to see what it’s like, go during their rainy season/low tourist season. Don’t treat your visit like a vacation, but instead, meet as many locals and expats who live there as possible, exploring different parts of the country.
No matter how beautiful Costa Rica may be, it’s always good to get back Stateside for a little bit every year to “recharge the batteries” seeing family, friends, enjoying cooler weather, etc. The best schedule I can imagine is splitting the year between Central America and the U.S., but that’s just me.
4. “I want to buy real estate.”
Err on the side of caution with buying real estate in Costa Rica, or any country. That’s good advice for someone in the U.S., as well if they don’t know the local market very well. To complicate things there can be issues with holding title, getting loans, etc. and it’s undeniable that there are pockets of ridiculously overpriced condominiums and projects plagued by HOA issues. Wait at LEAST a year before you even think about buying real estate. You can always find a nice, inexpensive place to rent, giving yourself time to learn the ropes.
5. “I want to open a business.”
Be careful. Too many people who want to move down to Costa Rica and open a business invest their life savings in it, only to become stress-cases and lose all of their money.
Sometimes you need a Costa Rican (Tico) on the paperwork for an official business, which could further complicate things. You need to see what it’s like in the low season, too, before making accurate projections on profitability.
1. Your jaw will hurt from smiling and laughing so much.
2. Traveling or living abroad, you’ll meet so many strange people who talk, dress, eat, play, and worship different than you’re used to. (Then again, they’ll think the same about you.) That means you'll have to be out of your comfort zone!
3. You’ll probably have to disconnect from technology more - letting your calls go to voicemail, putting down your smart phone, and logging off social media.
4. This will make it necessary to interact with actual real live human beings with alarming frequency. These interactions won’t just be a quick “hello” in line at a store or a word in passing at the office. No, you’ll have to sit down next to complete strangers and carry a whole genuine conversation for hours.
5. Everything is new, different, and uncomfortable when you travel or first move abroad. A lot of what you see and experience might force you to recalibrate your whole belief system.
6. You’ll have to face your fears at some point…like every single day.
7. You’ll find out that life is bigger than your To Do list, and all the structure, planning, and control you’ve been embracing isn’t nearly as important as you thought.
8. You’ll have to think long and hard about what you want out of your short time on this planet. Once you do that, you might not want to settle for your same mundane and unfulfilled life, which could lead to all sorts of unsettling changes.
9. You’ll have far less to complain about after traveling or living abroad. In fact, most of your problems won’t seem like real problems any more.
10. You’ll realize that most of the material stuff you’ve accumulated isn’t needed at all, and, in fact, is holding you back.
11. There will be way too many new friends from all over the globe who want to keep in touch. It takes a lot of time to maintain all those friendships. They might even want to visit you, and invite you to visit their home countries!
12. You might fall in love or even meet your soul mate – and they may live on the other side of the world - r in Costa Rica! How inconvenient!
13. You won’t always feel safe. It’s frightening to discover that safety is mostly a myth that we create and pereceive in our own minds.
14. Traveling will teach you that time is both an undefeatable opponent and your biggest ally.
15. Your ego will be shattered when you realize that you’re not special. In fact, you’re pretty damn insignificant. Traveling or living abroad will provide clarity that the only things that matter in life are how you treat people and if you leave the world better than you found it.
The Official Expat,
- Norm :-)
Do you STILL want to travel or live in Costa Rica?
Check out The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook. It's got EVERYTHING you need!
Are you heading south to Costa Rica by yourself?
Good for you, as I firmly believe that’s the best way to travel. But, there will be challenges, loneliness, and unfamiliarity along the way, so here are some tips to help you acclimate to traveling alone, whether to Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world.
1. Understand that it’s a process
Traveling by yourself can be challenging; you’ll feel lonely and lost at times, but that’s just part of the process. Don’t expect it all to be perfect or fight the various feelings, just enjoy the opportunity to slow down and decompress. You’ll also find strength, resolve, and insight that you’ve never had. Consider the whole country or place you’re visiting as your playmate and your best friend! And I’m betting you do end up meeting some nice people along the way who become lifelong friends.
2. Reach out to family and friends
Once you know where you’re traveling and you start planning your trip, reach out to friends and coworkers to see if anyone knows someone in that country. You’d be surprised how many people have a friend, acquaintance, or family member who lives there or traveled there. They can either give you great tips and recommendations, or you’ll have the chance to meet locals. One thing I’ve learned is that hospitality is amazing in other countries. When you’re someone’s guest, they’ll invite you into their home, take you to meals and attractions, and spend so much time with you that you’ll wish you had some alone time!
A super way to meet nice people and build friendships is to volunteer. Do a little research ahead of time to find out what organizations, schools, and orphanages exist in that area, and reach out to them with an email. They might have meetings, social events, or of course opportunities to volunteer. You’ll meet plenty of amazing local people and other big-hearted travelers and volunteers.
4. Find the expat hangout
Every international city or town has a few bars, cafes, or restaurants that are favorites for expats. It’s easy to find them just by asking around, and you’ll have plenty of U.S. and English speaking people to talk to. In fact, they’ll probably talk your ear off with their life stories and woes, and you’ll be ready to get out of there and be solo again!
5. Practice the language
A big part of the feeling of the isolation when traveling solo comes from the language barrier. So learn a few important phrases like “hello, what’s your name, where are you from, etc.” and practice it with locals. Carry a phrasebook and practice with locals at your hotel, on the bus, and at restaurants. They’ll love it, and probably offer their friendship since you’re making an effort.
Almost everywhere in the world has a yoga studio or at least yoga classes. Even if you’re a beginner, you can jump in a class and get a good stretch. You’ll find that cool women and men from all over the world are doing yoga, and happy to get a bite to eat together or hangout after class.
7. Take a class
Likewise, take a language class, a cooking class, or a martial arts class to meet other travelers. Most tours of popular attractions jam a mini-bus full of tourists, which is good if you want to meet people.
8. Solo tours
There are plenty of cruises, resorts, and tour packages that cater to solo travelers. To keep the cost down, they’ll even match you with a roommate. Just ask about any solo travel supplements because they often charge individual travelers extra.
9. Explore the solo traveling websites. Here are just a few:
Singles Travel International is a roommate matching service for travelers.
AllSinglesTravel.com offers tours and cruises for singles and will find you a roommate.
Solo Travel Network features tales and tips from solo travelers as well as opportunities to network.
CouchSurfers.com also helps connect backpackers, travelers, and hosts.
AirBnb has special trips, deals, and events for travelers to connect.
10. Contact me! I'd be happy to say hi or connect you with friends and amigos in Costa Rica!
For more great tips on moving to Costa Rica, check out the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
Safe travels - even if you're going solo!
Some people will move down to Costa Rica with plenty of savings and investments to maintain them the rest of their lives; others have businesses in the U.S. they can keep running, or other passive income sources.
However, most people will face the reality that, although the cost of living may be lower in Costa Rica, you still need to work and make money.
In the Special Report: Working, Earning Income, and Making a Living in Costa Rica, you'll get an incredible amount of information, advice, and even specific companies that are hiring in Costa Rica!
But, for now, let's cover some basics. The vast majority of expats that live in Costa Rica and work in-country find jobs in these fields:
• Teaching English
• Booking for tourism
• Blogging, books, websites, and other online content
• Selling real estate
• Other jobs you can do
• Working for a U.S. or international company in Costa Rica
I’ll break down some information for a few of these here (but I cover them all thoroughly in the Special Report on working in Costa Rica.)
Teaching in Costa Rica
This position entails working as an in-classroom teacher at a school in Costa Rica. However, instead of working in the public school system (and taking a job away from a Tico,), you’ll want to apply to the private international schools, which often focus on a good portion of English in the classroom.
The pay won’t be anywhere near what you expect to make as a teacher in the U.S. or Canada, but I’ve found it’s enough to get by. Since you sign a contract, (usually for the whole school year) you’ll have stability, an on-time paycheck that doesn’t bounce, and probably get asked back if you do a good job.
There are plenty of international schools and they always need good teachers. So, these jobs aren’t too hard to find even without a lot of teaching experience beforehand.
You may have some opportunities to work in Costa Rica teaching English, as well, which may or may not be in the setting of a school classroom. Some expats choose to set up their own cottage private tutoring business, teaching English to Ticos, their children or business people. However, don’t expect to make high wages working with Costa Rican locals unless you can set up group classes that are sponsored by companies.
If you settle in a place with consistent Wi-Fi, you can even try to set up English lessons for a much broader clientele through Skype.
The vast majority of jobs you’ll find for foreigners in Costa Rica probably entail helping other tourists, foreigners, and vacationers visit and enjoy the beautiful country. This could mean working for a tour company that puts packages and activities together, office work and marketing, or actually going out on the tours with the clients, like 4x4 or motorcycle trips, fishing boat charters, and the like.
Many people start these cottage businesses themselves, but if you don’t have the capital, the business acumen, or you just don’t want the headache, simply approach another foreign-owned business and offer to help. Foreigners that own businesses in Costa Rica find huge value in using local Ticos, who speak the language and know the ways, but there is also a great need for someone who speaks English and interacts seamlessly with their clientele, which is other foreigners coming on vacation.
Of course, you can try to work for one of the big resorts or hotels in Costa Rica, although you’ll have to move pretty high up in the ranks before you enjoy a wage deemed considerable in your home country. Sometimes, people offer to work at smaller hotels, bed and breakfasts, or nature lodges not for cash (plata) but in exchange for room and board. You might be able to help them with marketing, work as the host or hostess several days a week, or be the on-site fitness instructor or yoga teacher. This arrangement can work out great if you find the right fit and once you have your housing taken care of and even a basic meal or two a day, Costa Rica won’t be too expensive at all.
Booking for tourism
Another way to make a living in tourism that you might not know about is being an intermediary between tourists and other services in Costa Rica. Once you have an established relationship with local Costa Rican hotels, condos, and realtors, it’s standard practice to pay a referral fee if someone brings you a client.
I’ve seen these as high as 15-20% of the total tourist’s bill, which means a $100 hotel stay could land you $15-$20 if you bring them a client. While this may not seem like a lot of money, add that up for a weeklong stay ($105-$140), and over the course of ten different tourists and hotels. That’s not bad money!
It works particularly well with high-end and luxury condos and homes for rent. Some of these go for $2,000-$5,000 USD a week during peak times, which can add up to a nice paycheck.
You can also make referral fees for bringing someone to a tour or activity, like zip-lining, a fishing charter, or scuba diving but these referral payouts probably aren’t enough for you to make a living – just beer money.
However, if you have built some trust and even friendship with the tourist, why not take care of them from start to finish during their stay? Another great way to do this is to pick them up and the airport and drop them off, whether you have your own car or rent a van/taxi, and charge a small fee for your time of course. In fact, offering complete vacation packages for one price with transport, hotel stay, and activities all included is a great way to advertise and attract travelers.
Being a booking agent or marketer for tourists takes a lot of time and hard work. To attract a steady number of tourists, you’ll need a professional website, a consistent marketing campaign, know current prices, hotel and housing inventory, send a million emails back and forth, and so on.
But it can bear fruit over time. There aren’t any significant costs or risk (which I love) and as far as I know (verify this with your attorney and CPA) you don’t need to establish a business entity since you’re not collecting any funds from tourists, just referring them over to the hotel and help them book.
Once your job is done, you have nothing more to do during their stay. You can work as little or as much on this business as you wish and I’ll say it again (because it’s that important): you won’t need a lot of money to get started, and you’ll be incurring little or no financial risk.
Be aware that you’ll experience some serious ups and downs in business based on the seasons. The “high” or peak tourist season runs December through March approximately, when hotels are sold out, and prices can double or even triple. I can’t stress enough the roller coaster nature of tourism in Costa Rica based on the seasons.
Even in super popular towns like Tamarindo, a lot of people literally don’t have money to pay rent or buy enough food in the slow rainy months like October. During that time, many businesses close their doors and are boarded up for a month to do repairs and avoid paying employees. But come December, nearly every local that works in tourism is scrambling, putting in 70-80 hours a week until they can’t even keep their eyes open.
In fact, a lot of rental properties make 90% of their income for the year during the few busiest months – or even weeks – of the high season.
So be prepared for feast or famine if you’re going to work booking Costa Rican properties for tourists.
Want information about working visas, opening a business, or much more that will help you make the move down to Costa Rica?
Download the full book, The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
Thanks for reading and good luck on your move to Costa Rica!
The Official Expat, Norm
1. Cheaper cost of living
We all pay more and more to live in the United States but get less and less in return. However, 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.
Believe it or not, you can live comfortably for $2,000 - or less - per month in Costa Rica. Of course, there are more expensive areas and it all depends on your lifestyle, but the fact is that your money will go much further in Costa Rica, offering a better quality of life.
2. Better medical care
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.
3. Modern infrastructure
Costa Rica is a modern, progressive, and even cosmopolitan nation for the most part, so expats will enjoy a strong infrastructure and all of the amenities and comforts they need. From banking to attorneys, buying a car to shopping, opening a business to healthcare, and even arts, culture, and food, you won’t be left missing home when you live in Costa Rica.
4. Warm, tropical weather
Costa Rica’s climate is tropical, with warm weather in the 80s most of the year. However, the climate here varies because there are two seasons: dry season and rainy (or “green”) season. Either way, you’ll learn to embrace and enjoy the warm, sunny weather and change of seasons.
There are also plenty of microclimates and cooler areas in the hills and mountains, in fact, the average daily temperature in the Central Valley is a moderate and cool 71 F (22 C), with a consistent breeze from the coasts passing through.
5. Remarkable nature
Costa Rica is one of the most unique and beautiful places on earth, a true nature lovers dream. From the tropical rainforests to the mangrove swamps, the cloud forests to the pristine beaches, Costa Rica boasts more than 10,000 species of plants, 1,300 species of orchids, 800 types of ferns and well over 100 different trees. Of course, you’ll also experience an astounding variety of birds, fish, butterflies, jungle animals and other beautiful creatures.
In fact, despite being only the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 different species, making up an astounding 5% of all the plant, insect and wildlife species on the entire Earth!
6. So close and easy to get to from the U.S.
Costa Rica is SO close to the U.S. and SO easy to get to and from! In fact, to reach most major U.S. cities, it only takes 2 to 5 hours and there are new routes and direct flights every month. With all of these short, nonstop flights, you can get to the airport in New York by breakfast and be on the beach in Costa Rica by lunch. And if you’re in Houston or Florida, you’ll spend more time waiting for the flight than you will in the air.
7. Expat and foreigner friendly
Costa Rica welcomes expats, and foreigners make up a small but significant portion of the country’s population. Likewise, there are about 2.7 million foreigners visiting Costa Rica every year, and tourism contributes heartily to their economy. Costa Rica is generally very friendly and accommodating to expats and foreigners, and even the visa and residency status requirements are simple to navigate once you get the hang of it.
8. Stable, safe, and secure
The reality is that you have to be careful no matter where you are in the world, but with some common sense, life in Costa Rica is super safe. Of course, every country (including and especially the U.S.!) suffers fromsome street crime in major cities, but you won’t find political upheaval or kidnappings, etc. in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has the oldest Constitution in Latin America, is the most stable democracy there, and they don’t even have an army or any military forces because it’s such a peaceful nation!
9. Foreigners can own real estate
Foreigners can buy real estate in Costa Rica and own a piece of paradise! When it comes to buying and selling property in Costa Rica, you’ll notice that there are a lot of similarities to the real estate ownership in the U.S. and Canada.
These days, the biggest demographic for home buyers in Costa Rica is actually U.S. Baby Boomers, who are retiring and looking to downsize or simplify, live a better quality life, or just move to a warmer climate.
10. Relax and enjoy the pura vida lifestyle!
The pura vida or mañana culture means don’t worry about things today - just relax and enjoy and deal with it tomorrow. This attitude reduces stress, improves happiness and leads to a number of health benefits. Over time, you’ll find yourself relaxing more and enjoying the warm Latin culture without all of the stress and tension that comes from the rat race in the U.S.
Once you do get down to Costa Rica, please allow yourself to embrace it. Slow down. Smile. Feel the warmth. Live the life you’ve always dreamed about, because you deserve it!
Find out EVERYTHING you need to know about moving to Costa Rica here.
The Official Expat
(By now, you should know that’s the traditional Costa Rican greeting, as well as our national motto!)
Today, instead of posting another tip about moving down to this beautiful, exotic, and chillaxed country, I wanted to THANK YOU all for your many emails, comments, and support of The Official Expat’s Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
I’m going to extend my gratitude by offering you another one of my Amazon.com best-selling travel books FOR FREE.
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This book will help you save money, stay safe, and have the trip of your lifetime, no matter where you go in the world – including Costa Rica.
However, this offer only extends through October 31, 2018.
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Here’s wishing you safe and fun travel!
This week, our attention has turned to several natural disasters in the United States and abroad, such as Hurrican Florence in the Carolines and a super typhoon slamming the Philippines.
The reality is that no matter where you go and how caution you exercise, natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricans, floods, and other storms can and will occur. An emergency can leave us in dire circumstances -- and even be life-threatening.
Luckily, Costa Rica is pretty sheltered from the massive storms that blow through the Carribean and other natural calamties, but even flooding during the rainy season can turn deadly if you're not aware and cautious.
So, I wanted to give you a little general Natural Disaster 101 today:
In Case of Emergency
Natural disasters, blackouts, theft, or sudden medical issues are unnerving enough, but they can be positively frightening if they occur while on vacation or living abroad. Far from home, in a foreign country, an emergency can leave us in dire circumstances -- and even be life-threatening.
Here are 13 general tips how to prepare and deal with natural disasters:
1. Email yourself vital information.
Before you leave home, put any pertinent user names and passwords, pin numbers, social security number, passport information, etc. together on one document. Email it to yourself (on a secure email) that you can log in from anywhere to access.
2. Make sure other people have your itinerary.
Enlist someone to be your safety net back in your home, and make sure they have copies of your vital information. Provide them with your detailed travel itinerary and have a few planned check-in points where they are expecting an email from you, letting them know all is well.
3. Register with the U.S. embassy.
It's a great idea to register with the local United States embassy when you visit another country, called the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP) especially in developing countries or out of popular tourist areas.
4. Give your hotel or apartment information to your contact back home.
Consider your hotel your "safe house" and always let them know if you are going on tours or day trips and with whom. Provide the hotels' phone number, email address, etc. to your contact person back home.
5. Stock up.
If a bad storm or hurricane is expected, get to the local market as soon as possible and stock up on flashlights, batteries, canned goods and an opener, big containers of clean water, a first aid kit, candles and a lighter or matches, etc.
If you drive a vehicle, make sure your spare tire is good, you have rope, some boards to get out of mud, and flares, etc.
6. Hit the bank machine.
If trouble is in the air, visit the ATM and take out a bunch of cash in U.S. dollars and local currency. In the event of a power outage or system failure, the ATMs may not work or just be out of money.
7. Earthquake safety.
Experiencing an earthquake is one of the most frightening things you can imagine. And unfortunately, they happen quite frequently in many countries and parts of the world. Amazingly, there are over 13,000 earthquakes of 4.0 magnitude or higher every year in the world - including some in Costa Rica! Stay indoors in a solid building and turn off all gas and electric immediately.
8. Know where the police station and hospital are.
It doesn't hurt to scope out the local emergency services when you first get in town, especially if you have medical conditions. You might even want to visit the hospital just so they have your records and information on file and know your blood type!
9. Organize any medications.
Make sure you document any important medical information like blood type, medical conditions and allergies. Keep a copy on your person and one at the hotel. Keep your medications well organized and have a few dosages-- enough for 24 hours-- in your day bag in case of emergency. It also doesn't hurt to travel with a few basic medical supplies like Aspirin, Neosporin, butterfly Band-Aids, etc.
10. Check local and international news.
In case of emergency (like a typhoon, protests, coup attempt, etc.) pay attention to what the locals do, as they've probably dealt with those situations before. But also watch international news and research global Internet stories so your information is well rounded.
11. Have an "Oh, sh*t!" bag ready.
Of course I use much stronger language (but it may be a family vacation you're on). Keep one backpack or day bag stuffed with everything you would need if you had to make a quick exit or evacuate in case of catastrophe.
12. Book several flights in case of evacuation.
In case you need to fly out, such as in the event of a bad earthquake or hurricane, etc., the airlines are going to be swamped and many flights might get canceled. Go on a booking website immediately and book several flights over the next few days. As long as you book them with travel insurance (and some might be canceled) you can always get some or all of your money back, but the most important thing is just to get to safety!
13. Err on the side of caution.
The good news is that nothing out of the ordinary happens to 99.999% of vacationers, but in case there is an issue, play it safe. Don't try to be a hero, don't put yourself or your family in danger, and please don't think it's a good time to be macho. It's much better to be overly cautious and get through the situation unscathed, alive and well to go on vacation again.
Stay safe and pura vida!
The official expat,
For more great and helpful advice on moving to Costa Rica or just visiting, check out the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
Starting a Business in Costa Rica
Some people move down to Costa Rica to retire, with plenty of savings and other funds to kick back and relax. But more often than not, expats that choose to make Costa Rica their new home have to work for a living to bring in enough income to get by.
Don’t fall for the misconception that everything will be cheap and easy becausRica is a tropical Central American country. But in fact, Costa Rica is no banana republic; in the nicest neighborhoods of San José, or in popular international tourist destinations like Tamarindo, costs can rival that of in the United States or Canada. So, you’ll probably find yourself working – or opening your own business.
As we’ve documented in this guide, getting work may be no insignificant proposition, but very rewarding once you’ve landed the right income stream (you won’t feel like you’re in the “rat race”).
Likewise, opening your own business may be the best path to earning money. To do it properly, I encourage you to take your time, study the area, the market for your services and the competition, talk to a lot of business owners, network with the right locals and expats, and build a super conservative business plan.
Owning a business can be a supreme headache in Costa Rica if you’re not prepared and don’t have the right, trustworthy people on board. But once you’ve carved out your niche and done all the hard work to get the doors open and promote your business, it can bear huge fruit, giving you the opportunity not only to live in paradise but also make great money at the same time!
Here are some tips and notes on opening a business in Costa Rica:
The government makes it easy for foreigners to do business here in part because they want more jobs created for Ticos.
You don’t even have to be a resident – you can start a business on a tourist visa.
In fact, Costa Rica commercial law does not mandate that owners and shareholders in companies have to be citizens. Foreign business owners do, however, name a local Tico licensed attorney to be their “resident agent.
A standard 90-day tourist visa allows you to buy an existing business, like a hotel or B&B, or to build your own.
Keep in mind that only two out of three expats who go into business here succeed.
Whatever you do, don’t expect to strike it rich. With luck, you can make a good living and enjoy an amazing quality of life in Costa Rica!
When opening a business in Costa Rica, there are several options for corporate structure:
1. General partnership, or Sociedad en Nombre Colectivo
The business entity is owned by partners, who share the liabilities and responsibilities. Since not a common or attractive choice since there is little liability protection, with the company typically just the owners’ last names followed by the word “Compañia.”
2. Limited partnership, or Sociedad en Comandita
This entity is operated by a group – sort of like a board – that is responsible to the interests of shareholders. Their liability is limited to the original declared value of the enterprise.
Last week, someone emailed me with an important question. He was thinking about moving down to Costa Rica, along with his family and young children, and posed a question about something that may be in the back of all of our minds:
"Is Costa Rica safe?"
Like everything, there's a simple answer and a much more complex, detailed answer. (For instance, I emailed him back asking if he considered life in the U.S. these days safe?)
In the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook, I went to great lengths to explore all aspects of staying safe while living or even just vacationing in Costa Rica. Of course, if you're moving your family and children down to Costa Rica, this is of the utmost importance.
In fact, I've written extensively for publications like the Huffington Post and others about safety while traveling and living abroad.
Here are a few notes, thoughts and highlights from that guide for you today:
Costa Rica can be considered a safe country, but it’s important to use common sense and act responsibly at all times, just like you would in your home country.
The reality is that you have to be careful no matter where you are in the world, but with some common sense, you can stay super safe in Costa Rica.
Every country (including the U.S.!) suffers from street crime. But you want to avoid countries where there’s political upheaval or religious extremist groups — and Costa Rica definitely doesn’t have those problems.
But whether people want to face the facts or not, Costa Rica is a major transit point for drug trafficking (especially cocaine that comes from Colombia and South America, is dropped off the shores of Costa Rica, and then makes its way up the Pan American highway and into the U.S.)
So, it goes without saying that NEVER buy drugs or go into places, neighborhoods, remote coastal areas, etc. you shouldn't be in.
Travelers who run into problems are usually doing something illegal, wandering around drunk at night, in a place they shouldn’t be, or not keeping their wits about them.
I've found that the local guys can get really feisty at the bars or when drinking, and often becoming aggressive and territorial towards foreigners. The easiest way to counter this is just to make friends with some local guys, who will then watch out for you! But be careful where you go, who you talk to, always pay respect, and don't get too drunk.
Petty theft is also a big problem in Costa Rica, although it's usually just break-ins to homes and cars, not violent muggings. In the handbook, I cover plenty of methods to protect yourself from theft.
Here is just one of those many safety tips:
Use official taxis.
It’s usually best to arrange taxis and car service through your hotel or legit tourist agency because then you know they are accountable and official. But if you do need to hail a cab on the streets of Jacó or late at night out by the beach, it’s a good idea to ask for the river’s ID and then snap a photo of it.
Also, if you need to get out for any reason, snap a photo of the car’s license plate number. Show them you’re doing this so they understand that you’re on guard, and also you can pretend to talk on your cell phone while driving, too. But usually just making small talk and asking about their family, their hometown, and their favorite futbol (soccer) team will do the trick as well!
Moving to Costa Rica tip: Enroll in the U.S. embassy's STEP program:
The United States State Department also has a program called STEP you may want to log on and register with. https://step.state.gov/step/
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Benefits of Enrolling in STEP:
• Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
• Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
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