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Costa Rica wins praise once again in survey by expats

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Costa Rica
wins praise
once again
in survey
by expats

latin graphic
InterNations-Retire NOW grpahic
The three best retirement spots in Latin America

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 world.

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 the market.

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. gallon.

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

Copyrighted 2016 Consultantes Río Coorado S.A., San José, Costa Rica