Costa Rica’s Commonly Asked Questions

Costa Rica’s FAQ

Living in, or even visiting, another country is always an unforgettable experience. It is always useful to know something about the country, its people, amenities, services, culture, etc. before you settle in.

Costa Rica encompasses 19,730 square miles (51,100 sq kilometers), slightly larger than Vermont, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. This small Central American country is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the West and the Caribbean on the East; Nicaragua to the North, and Panamá to the South. Crossing from one coast to the other takes about six hours by land; traveling overland from the northern to southern border takes about 10-11 hours on the Interamerican Highway.

Property Ownership
Everyone – Costa Rican nationals, foreign residents and even non-residents – can own property in Costa Rica. Certain areas are exempt, such as those near proximity to national borders and beaches. All land up to 50 meters (about 55 yards) from the ocean tide line is public property, with the exception of old Spanish land grants; land from 50 to 200 meters (about 220 yards) is concession land, which is not owned outright, but leased from the local municipality (again with the exception of old Spanish land grants). All other available land is titled, or fee simple.

Arenal volcanoEntry Requirements
With a valid passport and a round-trip or continuing ticket, citizens of the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. can travel to Costa Rica for a 90-day stay without a visa. Many non-residents who own homes here leave Costa Rica (many travel to nearby Panamá, Nicaragua or visit their family and friends at home) every 90 days, spend the required 72 hours outside the country there, and then return.However, this practice is frowned on now, and might create problems, so it is best to apply for residency once you buy real estate in Costa Rica and begin living here.

Income taxes
There is no income tax on money earned outside Costa Rica and brought into the country. Personal income taxes are low for those operating a business here; many personal expenses are deductible. Corporate taxes are also very low. There is a 13% sales tax and a 10% tax for table service at bars and restaurants.

alajuela rainforestPermanent residency is available to those individuals who can prove a permanent and stable income from investments, pension or retirement benefits. Your local Costa Rican embassy/consulate can usually inform you of the terms and requirements, but the law is always being revised and changed, so it is best to ask a competent local attorney what the current requirements are (they change without notice).

Political Stability
Costa Ricans are very proud of their democracy – one of the oldest in Latin America – and peaceful history. Costa Rica abolished its standing army in 1948 (this is enshrined in the Constitution) and invested the resources previously committed to defense in conservation, education and public health. Several political parties exist in Costa Rica, and over 80 percent of the citizens participate in the political process.

Costa Rica is a tropical country located between 8 and 11 degrees north of the Equator. There are two well defined seasons: the rainy season or winter (invierno), and the dry season or summer (verano), with basically one main difference between them: rainfall averages. The Dry season runs from December to April, and the Rainy season from May to November. Seasonal changes do not bring significant changes in temperatures, although nights may be cooler in some areas during the rainy season. Mornings will usually be sunny basically all year round.

Costa Rica’s basically stable economy depends on tourism, exports of microchips, and agriculture. Real poverty has been substantially reduced over the past 15 years, and a strong social security safety net has been put into place. However, almost as many people as before, 20-25%, still live below the official poverty line. Foreign investors are attracted by the country’s political stability and high education levels of potential employees.

Cost of Living
For ex-patriots, the cost of living in Costa Rica is significantly less than it is in the United States, Canada or Europe. Property taxes are very low and there are no capital gains taxes. Excellent food, housing, entertainment and medical care are available and affordable. About the only things more expensive in Costa Rica than in the U.S., Canada or Europe are cars (because of import taxes) and gasoline, and just about anything else imported from Canada, the USA and Europe, including food, furniture and electrical appliances. Go to Costa Rica Cost of Living for a more detail list.

There are government-owned (Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Popular and Banco Crédito Agrícola) and private banks operating in Costa Rica. All money placed in government-owned banks (checking and savings accounts, term deposits, mortgages, etc.) is guaranteed.

Costa Ricans are a highly literate people. The literacy rate is 95%, the highest in Latin America. Public education in the Spanish language is available everywhere to all, including children of foreign residents, at no cost (except for text books, uniforms, school supplies, etc.) at the primary level (six years, compulsory) and at a very minimum cost at the secondary level (five years). Apart from public schools, there are many private schools throughout the country, some of them bilingual, where more well-to-do families send their children. If you are thinking of living here most of the year and sending your kids to school, talk to others who are doing so, and consult Costa Rica’s ministry of public education about requirements.

Medical Care
Costa Rica has a very good health care system, one of Latin America’s best, offering both public and private care. Many of the doctors are foreign trained, most in the United States. Universal accessibility to public health care is guaranteed. All employees and employers pay health-care contributions, while those who are self-employed are required by law, if not in fact, to acquire public health coverage. Those who obtain residency are now required by law to enroll in the public health insurance program. There are also private health-care schemes that residents can join.

If you enjoy shopping in the U.S. and Canada, you will love shopping in Costa Rica. Almost all important products that you buy at home – foods, domestic appliances, clothing, motor vehicles, etc. – can be found here, especially in San José at Supermarkets such as Price Smart and Auto Mercado, and at huge shopping malls such as San Pedro and Multiplaza.

Sportfishing Charters in Costa Rica
When looking at Costa Rica real estate, take a day of two off for some Costa Rica fishing. Enjoy a unique and exciting saltwater sportfishing adventure with tournament-class Costa Rican sport fishing captains. Experience the unparalleled thrill of seeing a beautiful Marlin or Sailfish execute their elegant, acrobatic leaps. Fish Costa Rica and bring a delicious Snapper or Grouper to your boat for dinner. Costa Rica has the world’s best saltwater fishing. Don’t miss out on sportfishing action. Contact the experts at FishCostaRica, the most respected name in Costa Rica fishing for over a quarter century.