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Chinatown in San Jose, Costa Rica

Retire in San Jose, Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Jan 20, 2023

Summary: What is it like to retire in San Jose, Costa Rica? Retirees share their experiences living in San Jose.

What is it like to retire in San Jose?

"For me there is not enough cultural activity in San Jose and you really, morally have to pay attention or you'll miss an event, show, performance. Things are poorly promoted here. I don't go in for nightlife but in general Costa Ricans are not late night partyers like other Latins. I do not mingle with expats, but I know there are a LOT of them. My routine is walking all over the city, taking pictures, soaking up the atmosphere," said another retiree in living in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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What advice do overseas retirees have for others considering retiring abroad?

"Make sure you have a plan. Research everything. Don't come with vices like drugs, heavy drinking. And make sure you keep busy. Hobbies, events, etc. I don't sit around," commented one retiree living in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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What are the most challenging aspects of retiring in San Jose?

"Finding a place to live. Since Costa Rica does not have addresses, it was difficult finding my way around at first and trying to find an apartment based on an ad that said "200 metros detras del Pali."," explained a retiree in San Jose.

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What are the most rewarding aspects of retiring in San Jose?

"Making new friends in Costa Rica. Not expats so much, but Ticos. I also enjoy traveling around the country on the buses which are safe and comfortable. I have my own routine. I walk a lot, eat healthier food," commented one retiree living in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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What are healthcare services like in San Jose?

We asked retirees if they have access to good medical care in San Jose. They wrote:

"My insurance provides coverage at Hospital Biblical, a private hospital with an excellent reputation. It is not close: two buses and a short walk. Or a 6,000 colon cab ride ($11.50). Minor things like colds, infections, etc I go to the pharmacy," added another person in San Jose.

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How do I meet people in San Jose?

When we asked people living in San Jose about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"There are many Yahoo! list serves available that help expats get to know where others meet and socialize. Also, Costa Rica AM (www.costaricaam.com) is an English-language e-newspaper that provides a lot of good information," said another retiree in living in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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What is life like in San Jose?

When we asked people living in San Jose what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Family is everything as with all Latin American cultures. Ticos make very good friends and once you are introduced into their families you become part of it. They will go out of their way to help you in every way possible," explained a retiree in San Jose.

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What do I need to know before retiring in San Jose?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to San Jose, they said:

"Come and see for yourself before you make a commitment to moving here. There is a lot of hype about Costa Rica being a paradise, a cheap place to live or retire, and a safe place because it eliminated its army in 1948. The reality is that San Jose has a high crime rate, the iron grates on all of the houses and businesses can be off-putting - as can the security guards with loaded riffles - and it isn't a cheap place to live. Food, utilities and rent in certain areas of the city are quite high especially for a developing nation. Other issues in San Jose: air pollution from cars is pretty bad; noise pollution gets on your nerves after a while; it isn't safe to walk outside in the late evening or night; the streets, sidewalks and highways are in terrible shape; and government monopolies make it near impossible to get a cell phone and makes renting cars super-expensive because of the mandatory insurance. People must visit and spend a few weeks talking to people before deciding to move here," explained a retiree in San Jose.

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What type of recreational activities are there in San Jose?

"Soccer is hands down the most popular recreational activity, but adults seem to prefer watching the games on TV than playing. A fair number of people are bicycling these days. Almost everybody likes going to the mountains or the beach, but these are more weekend excursions than daily activities. My neighborhood has several gyms for those who work out. People do play tennis and swim in pools, but this seems to involve finding and paying for access to the courts or the pools. Foreigners often like to play golf, and there are courses, but none near me. You have to go to the golf courses. Basically mine is an urban setting where sports-like recreational facilities aren't widely available to the general public, but people who like various sports and recreational activities find the venues. Some even take day trips to the ocean beaches--a couple are close enough--but that's ambitious. Most people would want those trips as well as those into the mountains to be overnight excursions, but they can be done in a day," said another retiree in San Jose.

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Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in San Jose?

"Most people shop in supermarkets similar to those the world over. Indeed, in addition to Walmart, Walmart owns two or three supermarket chains, although there are others. I have two supermarkets three blocks away and another one about six blocks away.. There are also chain office supply stores, PriceMart, chain convenience stores, McDonald's and all the rest, It's all pretty normal. Unique are the separate fruit and vegetable stores, farmers selling fruits and vegetables out of trucks on the side of the roads, and so on. Unfortunately also unique is the dearth of large department stores, even furniture stores. Specialty shopping, so to speak, can require going to a bunch of different stores and still not finding what you're looking for.," said another person who retired in San Jose.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

Chinatown in San Jose, Costa Rica

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