The three best retirement spots in
By the Retire NOW
in Costa Rica staff
Among the biggest gripes of expats in Costa Rica
is the cost of living.
Overall the country continues to be a top
retirement refuge for North Americans. It is rated
sixth in the world by the third annual
InterNations Expat Insider 2016 survey that asked
opinions from more than 14,000 expats all over the
Costa Rica would have been higher on the index
except that the country scored 43rd place in the
personal financial category and 48th out of 67
countries in cost of living.
The concern about personal finances comes despite
some organizations promoting the country as a
cheap place for retirement. Some of these
organizations are more interested in selling books
and filling seminar seats.
Costa Rica still ranks as one of the best places
for expats to live in Latin America along with
Ecuador and México in the survey. Brazil,
Argentina and Peru come in at the bottom of the
Latin American ranking.
InterNations says its survey is one of the most
extensive studies ever conducted to explore the
general living situation of expatriates.
Rather unsurprisingly, most of the Latin American
countries do well in terms of friendliness, but
Ecuador and Mexico also rank in the global top 10
for personal finances and the cost of living.
Just 39 percent of Costa Rican expats say in the
survey that their disposable income is more than
enough to cover their daily expenses, compared to
48 percent globally.
In fact, 46 percent even say the cost of living is
too high. The country is not all bad news, though.
Family life in the country is rated generally
positively. None of the respondents rates the
attitude towards families with children
negatively, or do any expats say they are
unsatisfied with family life in general. Of course
climate is a real plus.
Health care in the country is also considered
positively by those who moved to Costa Rica: 79
percent say the quality of medical care is good
compared to a significantly lower 62 percent
around the world.
The InterNations organization did not explore the
reason for Costa Rica’s higher cost of living, but
one reason is the central banks effort to control
inflation. The bank has been fixing the
dollar-colon exchange rate for years rather than
letting the value of the dollar be determined by
This has hurt expats, tourists and exporters who
receive their payments in dollars. The current
exchange rate is 545 colons to sell a dollar and
557 colons to buy one. The central bank has spent
millions to hold the line on dollars despite a
growing national deficit.
Another reason for the higher cost of living here
is the generosity of agreements that the
government has made in the past with the various
public employee unions. For example, the agreement
with the state-owned public petroleum importing
monopoly has caused the price of gasoline to be
the highest in Central America at $3.93 a U.S.
The impact of Costa Rica’s environmental policies
are hard to calculate, but there is no doubt the
policies that protect the forests, beaches and
oceans have an effect on local prices. For many
expats this is a good thing.
The top rated country in the InterNations survey
is Taiwan, but the distance from North America is
a problem, as is the language.
A recent major earthquake in Ecuador may have
changed the opinion of that country in the eyes of
expats. México gets high marks for being cheap,
too, but the continuing drug violence there has
concerned many expats and potential residents.
-- Sept. 3, 2016