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An Expat Talks about Retiring in Escazu, Costa Rica

Feb 04, 2019


Escazu, Costa Rica

An expat talks about being retired in Escazu, Costa Rica. She appreciates leaving the rat race behind, meeting others through expat groups and volunteering, that buying a property is much easier than selling one, the need for private health insurance in Costa Rica and more.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Escazu

Why did you choose to retire abroad?

Honestly, I retired at a very very young age, and I was only able to do that because I chose to retire abroad. The cost of living in Costa Rica verus Miami Beach was like night and day for us. It was one of the best decisions that we ever made!

Are you retired abroad all year or part of the year?

I am not sure how to answer this because I now have a couple of

Why did you choose the country you retired to?

Costa Rica was affordable and we found our dream home. The weather is amazing in the Central Valley - like a perfect spring day each morning. It was also a short plane ride to Miami in case we needed to attend to family.

Did you ever live abroad before you retired abroad?

No.

How long have you lived abroad since you retired abroad?

15 years.

How many countries (other than your home country) have you lived in as a retiree?

Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, Spain, Italy

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What have been the most challenging aspects of being retired abroad?

Having patience. Everything seems to move a lot slower outside of the US. And ironically, this was one of the main reasons why we left the US. If you are retired, you do have time on your hands, but when someone says they are showing up to your house on Tuesday to fix a leaky faucet, you have to make sure to ask "which Tuesday"!

What have been the most rewarding aspects of being retired abroad?

Getting out of the "rat race" in the US. Seeing that you don't need all the "stuff" you thought you needed in the US. Understanding that what you have is not as important as your experiences and your quality of life with friends and family.

What would you do differently if you were just starting the retire abroad process?

I would be more cautious of investing without really knowing how things work.

What is life like for a retiree in your city and its surroundings? (Is there an active expat community? Cultural Attractions? Recreation? Nightlife?)

When we first moved to Costa Rica, I went to Women's groups and my husband and I went to Expat gatherings. We also attend a English speaking non-denominational church called Unity. It is very easy to meet other expats in Costa Rica, but I would recommend putting yourself out there. Volunteer work is another great way to meet people.

What residency documents or visas did you need to obtain to retire in your host country? How difficult was this process? (Please describe)

We had our attorney help us with our residency. It is a bit of a tedious process.

Did you buy a home or apartment, or rent one? Is this a difficult process? (Please describe)

We have bought and sold several properties in Costa Rica. We had the help of an attorney and it was simple. Properties are bought in the name of corporations. One thing to remember though, it is always easy to buy, but not always easy to sell. The market is SLOW...nothing like the fast turning market in the US. Most people pay cash as financing is a nightmare.

Financially, has living abroad in your host country met your expectations? Exceeded them?

Well, we have made some good investments and we have made some bad ones. My advice, be cautious. Best to have your resources set up in your home country before you take the plunge.

What are the most important financial considerations for retiring to your host country?

Again, Best to have your resources set up in your home country before you take the plunge.

How much can a retiree live on comfortably in your host country?

This is probably the number one question that people ask. Honestly, there is no "correct" answer to this because everyone has different needs. All I can say is Costa Rica is NOT as cheap as it used to be. It is one of the more expensive destinations but it is still much cheaper than the US. Housing, taxes, maid service, drivers, medical...these items are significantly less. Food, utilities, gasoline, dining out....can be close to US prices in an affordable city. Shopping at the "feria" for produce is your best bet for keeping costs very low.

Do you have access to quality medical care? (Please describe - is it close? Expensive?)

The medical care here is excellent - ONLY IF YOU GO PRIVATE.! It is CRITICAL TO HAVE PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE in Costa Rica. I have quite a long story, but when we first arrived I was hit by a taxi cab. I ended up in a PUBLIC hospital. At that point, I did not care how badly beat up I was, I just had to get out there. It was beyond disgusting... including bathrooms with NO SOAP or toilet paper. Anyway, it led me to a new "career path" when I went on the hunt for Private Health Insurance. I found an very import niche that needed to be filled for expats. We expect clean hospitals, with up to date equipment, and it always helps to have talented bi-lingual doctors. This can be found in the private hospitals in Costa Rica. Specifically - CIMA in Escazu. Top notch - but you will pay for this service. I found an insurance company perfectly suited for expats which allows them to choose any hospital or doctor they wish outside of the US. For my policy, I chose one which includes US coverage. It is a FRACTION of the cost I was paying in the US. I am not old enough for Medicare, but Medicare will not cover you outside of the US anyway. I knew my friends needed this type of coverage as well, so I asked if I could get involved in representing this insurance. So even though I consider myself technically "retired". I am very active in assisting expats with their health insurance needs.

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Is there a lot of crime where you live? (Please describe)

Crime is something that is always concerning no matter where you live. In our area, there are home invasions. We had this in Miami too. We are not flashy with jewelry (I only wear a simple silver wedding band). Petty theft seems to be an issue so many people have gates around their homes. I really hate this. We have been lucky so far with no incidents.

Describe available transportation where you live. Do you need a car? Is there access to safe public transportation?

We have a car. You really can not live in Costa Rica without a car OR a DRIVER. My "driver" is my husband because the roads are very poorly maintained with lots of potholes, twists and turns, and at night sometimes no lighting. So a driver costs about $300 a month, and I believe it would be well worth it. This is what many of our friend do. There are buses and taxi's but honestly, if you can afford it, it is much safer and easier by hiring a driver.

Is there high-speed internet access where you live?

Yes there is but it is not dependable and not up to the US standards.

Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share about retiring abroad?

Do it!!! It is not that difficult and I have a hard time ever seeing myself living in the US after having this experience. I am truly grateful for this experience and love the freedom I have. Many of our friends are still in the US grind and wish they were able to do what we did. It is possible, but you might need to just plan a bit.

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Write a Comment about this Expat Report

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Comments about this Report

HeyU
Feb 25, 2019 07:14

Well written and very informative. Your comments on private health insurance were interesting. You mentioned you represent a company. Would it be possible for us to make contact privately to discuss coverage? Thank you Who new

HeyU
Feb 25, 2019 07:16

Well written. Thank you. Could you contact me privately as I would like to explore the private insurance you mention. Best. Whonew

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