Facts about Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been called “the Jewel of Central America” and considered a top location in eco-tourism. This peaceful and prosperous nation has nearly 27% of its territory in designated protected areas, national parks and reserves. There is plenty of land for sale in Costa Rica and many foreigners have chosen to relocate there.
Natural wonders abound on it’s unspoiled beaches, rain forests, mountains and rivers. With an average temperature of between 71 and 81 degrees year round and 10 degrees above the equator, it is tropical and sub tropical. Emphasis on the environment makes Costa Rica the envy of many developed nations. Quality of life is rated as one of the highest in the western hemisphere. Astounding beauty, pure air and clean drinking water, abundant hydro electric energy and a stable democratic society all contribute to the high ranks of this tiny nation, by international travelers. The government’s encouragement toward foreign investment and the right to own property by foreigners has done much to put Costa Rica in the spotlight internationally. Baby Boomers looking for quality of life, affordable health care, a welcoming people, a relaxed life style and healthy living are quickly discovering this gem. With two modern international airports and a third on the way, travelers can find convenient direct flights from many major gateway cities in the US in just over two hours. Americans need only a passport to visit Costa Rica and there are a number of ways to be granted residency, without giving up your US Passport.
Costa Ricans, locally called Ticos, are predominately of European descent. The Tico ideal is that of a very friendly, helpful, laid back, unhurried, educated and environmentally aware people. Spanish is the official language though many speak English as well. Costa Rica’s main foreign policy objective is to foster human rights and sustainable development as a way to secure stability and growth. Costa Rica is an active member of the United Nations, as well as the Organization of American States. The phrase “Pura Vida” (literally pure life) is a motto ubiquitous in Costa Rica. It encapsulates the pervading ideology of living in peace in a calm, unhurried manner, appreciating a life surrounded by nature, family and friends. The population is roughly 4 million as of November 2006, with 94% white and 76% catholic, though they are not overly religious. The literacy rate is 96%, one of the highest in the world.
The economy in Costa Rica relies on tourism, agriculture and exports of building materials, software and electronic components. Tourism has been growing and has recently surpassed agriculture in contribution to their Gross Domestic Product. Average per capita income was $9,400 in 2005, compared to $41,000 in the United States and unemployment is about 6%. The official currency is the Colon at an exchange rate of about 500 to the dollar in December 2006.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Costa Rica is significantly lower than in the US. Many Americans have chosen to live in Costa Rica since their income buys much more than in the states by American standards. There’s an abundance of inexpensive labor, so domestic services, construction costs and the like are much less than in the United States. Hiring a maid, cook, gardener or caretaker is very inexpensive. Property taxes are also low relative to American standards and there are no capital gains taxes. Medical and dental care is very affordable. Inexpensive public transportation is widely available and food, shelter and clothing are affordable within the domestic economy, while being very cheap to ex-pats from most other countries. For a summary of living expenses, click here
After Costa Rica decided to abolish its army in 1949, resources that were used for military purposes were redirected toward education and health. This has allowed the country to achieve the best health indicators of Latin America, comparable only to those of developed countries. Free universal health care is available to all Costa Ricans. Beside the public health system, the country has a strong private health network that counts on many hospitals and clinics of great prestige and reputation. According to the United Nations Population Fund, Costa Rica has the highest life expectancy at birth within Latin America, at 78.1 years. Costa Rica’s rate beats the US’s life expectancy of 77.5. This is surprising since the US spends almost 10 times as much as Costa Rica per capita on health. Furthermore the average cost of a hospital outpatient visit in Costa Rica is $17; in the US it’s $366. In the unfortunate event that hospitalization is needed it’s $52 for those in Costa Rica versus $907 in the US! Many foreigners travel to Costa Rica for medical and dental procedures that cost much less than in the United States, recently aptly named “health tourists”.
Costa Rica places high emphasis on education. 28% of their national budget is spent on education. In 1869, they were one of the first countries to make education free and obligatory. Elementary and High schools are to be found in every community. Elementary school has 6 year levels, where as high school has 5 year levels. There are four state run universities and many smaller private ones.
Costa Rica is located in the tropics, less than 10 degrees above the equator and outside the hurricane belt. Seasons vary from the green season to the dry season, with the primary difference being the amount of rain that falls. During the green season, you will wake to sunny skies but should expect rain later in the afternoon after the clouds have built up from moisture brought in by the gentle Pacific breezes. It generally rains for an hour or two, although occasionally it can rain all day. This is, after all, a rain forest. The dry season runs from December to May, and we only experience an occasional shower during this time of year. This is considered to be the high tourist season, with a second strong season during the summer months.
Covering only 19,560 square miles (50,900 square kilometers), an area about the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica contains an astonishing quantity of plant and animal life - about five percent of all known species on Earth. Its resident plants include more than 800 ferns, 1,000 orchids and 2,000 kinds of trees. Among its 200 animal species are jaguars, sloths, scarlet macaws, toucans, monkeys and the extravagantly plumed quetzal bird. An hour’s journey from the capital of San José would take a traveler through a dizzying array of ecosystems: dense rain forest, rare tropical dry forests, mountain cloud forests cloaking the slopes of volcanoes, dry savanna, and soft white beaches. Just beyond the breakers lie jeweled strands of coral reefs. One side of the country is lapped by the usually gentle waves of the Caribbean and is lined with five species of mangroves, along with swamps and sandy beaches. On the other side is the wild Pacific Ocean with its rugged gulfs and headlands. Costa Rican rain forests have been compared to vaulted cathedrals, magisterial in their proportions.
(National Geographic Magazine).
The natural topography of the land is amazing. With the highest peaks topping 12,000 feet, it is typical to see 5,000 foot mountains set just a few miles back from gorgeous Pacific Beaches. The climate is tropical and subtropical, with rugged mountains, including a few active volcanoes. There are 774 miles of coastline on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean combined. Costa Rica still contains unspoiled virgin primary forests. Local Weather Link
The huge number of international airlines offering direct jet service to Costa Rica from the United States has kept the cost to visit significantly lower than many other Central American or South American destinations. American, Delta, Continental, United, US Airlines, Jet Blue, Frontier, Spirit Airlines, Mexicana, Taca, American West, Air Canada, LACSA (Costa Rican Airline) and MartinAir all offer regular service. Nature Air and Sansa provide commuter flights from San Jose to Palmar Sur, just a 20 minute drive from our property. You can also drive from San Jose, with much of the trip along the scenic Pan American Highway or along the new Caldera toll road and the Costanera highway.
Costa Rica’s national constitution guarantees the right to own property to anyone, with foreign nationals enjoying the same rights as Costa Ricans. Land can be owned outright with a deed, allowing the owner to sell or pass it along to their heirs. Homes, living expenses, insurance and property taxes are all significantly lower than in the US. Owning property in Costa Rica is a great way to diversify your retirement investments by holding international real estate. There is ample amounts of land for sale in Costa Rica.
Although Costa Rica is not an offshore financial center in the traditional sense, its favorable tax regime means that it could be classified as a tax haven. Fairly recently the government has begun actively to both legislate for and market this sector of economic activity. Costa Rica does not discriminate between residents and non-residents for tax purposes. The state banking monopoly ended in 1995 and in 2003 there were 19 banks in Costa Rica, of which 4 were public banks. Financial institutions in Costa Rica are regulated by the Central Bank, through the General Superintendent of Financial Entities. Costa Rica has strict banking secrecy laws. The banks do not share any banking information with the tax department or with any other government departments other than the central bank. A combination of strict secrecy laws, the country’s offshore status and legislative changes aimed at increasing competition and efficiency will probably result in major growth in the banking sector in the near future. Deposits in any of the state owned banks are fully guaranteed and you may open an account in either colons or dollars. Private banks in Costa Rica must meet rigid standards to support their deposits.
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