Saturday, April 16, 2022

Costa Rica-- the Positives and Negatives of Living There + Why We Chose to Leave

Our previous host country (Thailand) went into full Covid fear mode; mandating a PCR test at 38 weeks of pregnancy. Should an unlucky to-be mother test positive, an immediate forced C-section would be performed, and afterwards both baby and mother would be quarantined; but not together, in separate rooms, and Mommy would not touch her baby, nor would the baby be fed her milk, for 14 days. 

Even assuming a 1% risk, we deemed it waaayyyy too high, so at 32 weeks pregnant, we hopped on a plane to Costa Rica.

Having moved far too much for my liking in the 5 years, we really wanted to make it work there, especially since, as parents to a baby born on Costa Rican soil, we would be given the right to apply for permanent resident status, and our baby would automatically be granted Tico (the local slang word for Costa Rican) citizenship.


So, with that, let's go over the positives and negatives of living in Costa Rica, and why we ultimately ended up leaving. 


Positives

The weather- I spent most of my life in California, between the Bay Area, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, and the climate in the central valley of the Costa Rica, puts the Golden State to shame. It is perfect, year round. 64-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s more hot and humid in the beach areas, but the climate here in general is unbeatable.


waterfall in the distance amidst the emerald forest

Nature— one of the last places on the planet with actual wildlife in its forests.
In Asian countries, like Laos, much of the animal life has been hunted out of existence- the jungles sit silent, and neutered.
The opposite is the case here. Just looking for housing in a wealthy gated community along the coast in Guanacaste, I encountered a Howler monkey walking the golf course, who decided I was a little too close and bared his teeth at me to back away, a coati-mundi (South American version of a raccoon,) and two different species of snakes as well. 
If you want to interact with the planet as it once was, you won’t find much better than Costa Rica.

video: Howler monkey warns me on the golf course to put my mask on


video: venomous coral snake eats a competing snake on the forest floor near Arenal volcano



Beauty- the country is gorgeous, particularly the area around Uvita, near the Panama border, where the rainforest descends down the mountains to meet the sea. The emerald hues, and many waterfalls make it a paradise to behold. 
video: sliding down the jungle waterfall in Uvita


Negatives


Expensive- My friend, who is Filipina but living in Costa Rica, described the country as the most expensive on earth, and she’s lived in Norway.
“There is no way Costa Rica is more expensive than Oslo,” I gently corrected her, “Or Bermuda,” — 

“No, it is,” she rightfully interrupted, “Because in Norway I got paid far more, and even though things cost more, I could still save.”
And I stood corrected, understanding her paradigm completely.

video: Costa Rica- the world's most expensive country



Costa Ricans earn very little, and staples like cars, gasoline, and food (both groceries and restaurants) cost more than in the US. And again, the prices in relation to the median salary makes survival here very difficult for the average Tico.
It also means that the money I worked so diligently to save, has a burn rate much higher than I am comfortable with.

Food-- The country wins the world bronze for least tasty food, (Colombia- gold, Myanmar- silver.) It's not particularly healthy either. 


The Roads— Costa Rican roads are notoriously bad, aside of the main highway connecting San Jose to the beaches, where they have toll booths every ten miles or so to extract more out of the underpaid Ticos, driving here means constantly keeping your head on a swivel to avoid the potholes that dream of destroying your car’s suspension.

Government corruption— Even in Los Laureles, the wealthiest area of the capitol city, potholes are plentiful. And should the government, by some miracle, authorize repairs, like everything in Costa Rica, they’ll take at least twice as long as they would in the United States. 

To boot, there is a high rate of taxation, and the government offers little in return except an ever expanding bureaucracy, and a government health care system that is spurned by the wealthy in favor of private providers. 
100% of the Ticos I spoke with on the subject affirmed the story of massive corruption, they only differed in the level of visible frustration outwardly expressed on the topic. 
To add injury to insult, none of the taxes go towards paying for a military, which the country has successfully eschewed since 1948, meaning a greater percentage of revenue collected is able to find its way into the pockets of government bureaucrats. 


Covidiots— In December 2021, outside the national airport, I was nearly arrested for not wearing a mask. I was, once again, OUTSIDE. 

Inside, when leaving the country by way of SJO, my mask was below my nose, the police gave me an incredibly stern warning, and their anger was palpable. 

True, outside of the capitol things are a lot more lax, and most people dislike the mandates, but nearly everyone complies, often for fear of being fined.

video: a store owner scared of being fined, chases my business away


Also, in terms of our decision to leave, it definitely did not help that the school we were sending our 4 year old to, banned us from attending the end of the semester party that was, again, an outside event, after determining we were not vaccinated.


Leadership — Until the election of April 2022, the ruling party had the same blueprint for the country as the incredibly successful socialist paradise of Venezuela, and its President was a disciple of Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum.


The Vaccine— the government has been trying to mandate the vaccine for 5 year olds and up, and rumors (unconfirmed at this moment) are they are making it a mandatory Annual vaccine for everyone. We know the vaccine doesn’t even prevent transmission …
What happened to "my body, my choice?"
No, this is Communism in action, where a centralized power believes they know what is best for everyone.
Also, who is to say that Pfizer didn’t pay a massive bribe to a couple well placed government officials? Imagine a yearly revenue stream from millions of people. That’s gotta be worth the bribe.


It’s a Giant pain in the Ass — The bureaucracy of Costa Rica is slow, expensive, and deadly. Examples:
In order to purchase a 2005 Honda with 178,000 miles on it, it cost nearly $700 in taxes and lawyer fees. That prices rises dramatically with newer cars, adding substantial friction and expense to the process. 

Applying for permanent residence, the number of documents needed is startling. We spent thousands of dollars, and, partly due to our extensive travels, we were unable to procure all the necessary paperwork.
Want to stock up on food en masse and live outside the capitol- good luck. The Pricesmart (Costco like warehouse ) are few and far between, and the prices there aren’t even good.
A 13% sales/VAT tax is applied to nearly everything (and who knows the import taxes,) and because Costa Rica is a small, hard to get to country, it simply costs more to ship and distribute within, but gosh darn it, if you value efficiency, this country is not for you. 


The beauty of Costa Rica is the nature. It’s gorgeous and wild. There are large amounts of water as rainfall is plentiful, and the climate of the central valley is positively unbeatable.

Unfortunately, even as nature lovers, the negatives outweighed the positives, especially because we refuse to subject our children to the Covid vax, the government seems so eager to impose on everyone, and well, for us Costa Rica is an amazing country to visit, but I’ll chose to live in a more efficient country with greater personal liberty.


video: rainfall of the central Valley

38 comments:

  1. Awesome read!!!! Great insight and really informative 👍🏽

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  2. Great article. We are US citizens from Texas. We lived in Australia for 2 years and when we visited Costa Rica, it reminded us of Australia in many ways, which was good when we were there in 2019, but not so good now. We are back in Texas, and hoping to move to a warmer, beach area in a couple of years. Now we're looking at Mexico or Nicaragua.

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    1. thanks for the nice comment, we are currently in MX and really liking it. The food is great (compared to CR especially) and the people warm. So far so good here. I have never been to Nicaragua. I hear it is super cheap, but more dangerous.

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  4. Great to get a perspective from another American expat's point of view. My 4 year old son and I just got back from a vacay there and I was wondering what it would be like to live there. I know it is cheaper in general for ticos, but it still seemed very expensive in relation to most people's wages or apparent living conditions. I also was surprised about how adament they are on masks. They would not let me into Manuel Antonio without a mask so I had to return to my room and grab one. It's a beautiful country. Too bad it's not run more efficiently.

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    1. The country is very beautiful, but as I stated, for the average Tico, their salary is no match for the heavy prices. I hope you had a great vacation with your son.

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  5. Good information, I was thinking of moving there but now I will absolutely Not.
    If the Government is corrupt, I could only imagine what it could be like for an American if things ever went south for some reason.
    Pass…
    Thanks

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    1. The government does want expats there, because we pay for many things with our taxes and have harder currency. I found it expensive and frustrating. I still loved aspects of the country however.

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  6. left to avoid vaccination, onward and downward.

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    1. Getting a vaccine sis a choice and should never be forced on anyone especially children who are unaffected by Covid. THe vaccine was not as billed from the start it protects against infection NO IT DOES NOT..You won't get Covid YES YOU CAN STILL GET COVID IF VAXXED...Now more boosters tells me the vaxx doesn't work real well so stop mandating it

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    2. Kevy- thank you. I agree 100%

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  7. Good Honest read. Sorry you had so many negatives. Costa Rica is a challenge but to conquer negatives and correct them is how one needs to play this game here. Food is so healthy and good, Clean air and no signals for 60 miles, Love it here

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    1. so glad you do! CR has great air, great nature ... I disagree on the food however :)

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  8. Life is about yin/yang. Trading living in a jungle as God intended nature, well that to me outweigh the negatives of living in CR. Grow your own vegetables and raise some chickens. :-) Pura Vida and Pur Uvita!!

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    1. My wife really wanted to grow her veggies and raise chickens. She really did. What ultimately moved us away was their insistence of vaxxing kids and the ridiculous bureaucracy.

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    2. I am growing vegetable, fruits and chicken, I paid a fraction of the cost for a house with a casita and about 3 acres, all flat. Beer cost 40 cents, a Toyota Hilux brand new at the door diesel 4x4 cost me 25,500$. I like the monkeys and the slots but not that much. We know CR, as we own property there. We will sell it and sayonara

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  9. You are absolutely right. Monkeys and the slots are like a house with a view. @ weeks after you don't give a damn, or you will hate the monkeys guts for stealing your car keys or your 5000$ camera. The "Obligativity" about Covid hoax, piss me of the most, of course, I am not a fan of overpriced merchendise. But the " BEST" is yet to come. Do you guys know who the new Prez is???? A World bank guy with 30 years "experience" in destroying economies and cointries. Wait and you will see. I hope I am wrong. Look at all the countries that "baited" into the "help" from IMF and World Bank. They are all done. Bought and paid for. When these white collar Mafia, will finish with CR, the Ticos won't own not even their monkeys.

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    1. We fear CR is being destroyed by the political class and globalists. I hope we are wrong!

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  10. Youre right you should of moved from pura vida , I cant even begin to list the far worse problems with mexico specifically highlightening its corrupt political world interwined with drug lords which cause an astronomical amounts of deaths for the whole north american portion of this continent for no biggy there . Perhaps you should reconsider your written thoughts for they are not logically supporting your argumentative insights. Written by a COSTA
    RICAN WHO LOVES HER COUNTRY DESPITE KNOWING ITS UNPERFECT FOR NO - THING IS .

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    1. TICA: I must apologize for the jerk that wrote this article. He is the reason we are leaving US. Its been a pleasant year with our crooked politician out of office. We have snakes that eat small mammals, we have drugs all over our government. A witness came forward recently reporting how he was invited to the politicians cocaine party. We have the white man that is upset about a "choice" to wear a mask, yet he is the same white man that voted to take away a woman's right to make decisions about her own body. You have a wonderful country and like any other country the workers are underpaid and the executives have the beach homes, yachts and plastic surgery and help assist in taking away our rights to voting and they kill the blacks and beat up the Asians. So TICO continue to love your wonderful country. I've had wonderful experiences every time I've been in CR. I go to dentist there as US is too expensive. I save thousands even after trip expenses. Love you

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    2. lol- I'm a jerk for expressing opinions that differ from yours. You're also clearly a racist leftist. Feel bad for people like you, such misery.

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  11. Yes & no.
    Prices are, on average, twice what I paid in Florida. (Food, clothes,appliances, etc...) Rents, however are about 1/2. The place I'm in now would be well over $1,000.00/month in the states. I would have to pay extra for having pets and have my own furniture.
    The CAJA system they have here for healthcare is a joke.
    Unless you are a pensioner or have a great deal of money, trying to get residency is ridiculous.
    Another thing not mentioned is crime. San Ramon in the Central Valley was reasonably safe, but it's getting bad here on the Nicoya Peninsula. The population is on the rise. Unfortunately, the crime rate goes up with that number.
    The Ticos in San Ramon were very congenial & helpful. In this beach area, not so much.
    I made the choice to leave the States because of D. Trump. I'm not sorry about that decision. I chose CR for many reasons & spent about 9 months researching before I moved.
    All I can say now is Live & Learn.

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    1. one of the few people who stands by their convictions and leaves America because they dislike the leader. That puts you in a different camp than all those who threatened to leave, and didn't.
      I really should have mentioned the crime. Maybe I'll add it in. We did have one experience with it.
      Hope you continue to enjoy the country. Cheers

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  12. Where in Mexico did you go? A concern to me about Mexico is the cartel violence. What are your thoughts on that?

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    1. If I can share with you my prejudice.
      I went into the Syrian desert right before the country blew up - http://www.richtrek.com/2010/11/caught-in-syrian-sandstorm.html

      I got kicked out Russia and crossed the Mongolian border on foot-- http://www.richtrek.com/2014/11/crazy-journey-to-and-across.html (a great read)

      But my wife wanted to move to Mexico rather than Costa Rica originally, and I refused because of cartel activity.
      Where we are is a tourist area, and super safe. This area is protected. However, the police/army do walk around with large guns. Reminds me of when I went to Colombia.
      I did all these risky things in my travels, but was prejudiced against Mexico .... I'm loving it so far ...

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  13. Excellent read, Richard! Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Life is what you make it. Look in the mirror and see what others see.

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    1. You're neither eloquent nor profound. I love how in your previous comment, you describe "white men", and then likely accuse other people of being racist as you make it a priority to point out someone's skin.

      I'm a very happy person with a great life. Wishing better for you.

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  15. I lived in CR 10 yrs. I loved it!! But everything u said, is very TRUE!!! Good Luck in Mexico.

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    1. I think that Costa Rica has a lot to offer, it's incredibly beautiful, and as nature lovers it was a huge draw for us. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, it is appreciated

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  16. Thank you , Richard for the deep dive into CR affairs. Which country are you, guys, going? We have 4 kids, ages10 to 4, and are terrified about the vax mandates! You are experienced in living in different countries, could you, please, share, where you are going! Thanks again!
    Irina C.

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    1. Hi Irina, nice to meet you online in this manner. The vaccine mandates for children especially terrify me and my wife as we see no benefit to the kids, and definitely potential downside. We have moved to Mexico, where things are much more loose regarding the vaccine, enforcement of mask, etc.
      We are still considering possibly moving back to the US, but to a state that values freedom (Florida, Texas, Idaho)

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