Dreaming of retiring to a warm and sunny place? How about Costa Rica? With beautiful weather, surfable beaches, and mountain adventures, there’s a little bit of everything in this Central American nation.
But moving from Canada to a new country can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. That’s why it’s best to do your homework so you’ll be prepared when it’s time for the big move.
Following these steps on how to retire in Costa Rica from Canada can help make your goals a reality.
- Figure out the amount of money you’ll need per month.
- Find a place to live. Will you rent? Will you live in the city, by the beach, or in the mountains?
- Consider all your incidentals – healthcare, your driving situation, and your moving arrangements.
- Figure out your visa options and what documents you’ll need.
As long as you follow tourist and residency requirements, Canadians are welcome to live and visit the country.
Tourists can enter without a visa for 90 days, at which time they can either leave or present a residency application. This is covered more in-depth below.
Making the move to another country is a bold choice. You’re leaving the familiar and beginning a new adventure. Before making the trip a reality, here’s what you’ll need to start your journey.
- A computer. Get ready to do a lot of research before moving. From looking at places to live to filling out forms for your immigration documents, getting online is a must.
- A real estate agent. If you plan on selling your home when you move, an agent can help ease that burden. However, a knowledgeable real estate agent in Costa Rica is also just as important. They can tell you the best areas to live in and give you insight into housing prices.
- A trial run. Going on vacation in Costa Rica is much different than living there full time. If you’re serious about moving, it’s best to spend some time in the country beforehand.
- Expat’s advice. There’s an influx of retirees moving to Costa Rica. You’ve probably already met some on one of your excursions there. Pick their brains. Because they’re already living there, they can offer solid advice on what they wish they’d known before making the move.
Detailed Steps to Retire in Costa Rica from Canada
1. Figure Out the Money – How Much Money Do I Need to Retire In Costa Rica?
Most retirees quickly find out their money goes much further in Costa Rica than Canada. The cost of living is lower. Because of that, the general consensus is that a retired couple can live quite comfortably on $2,000 to $3,000 per month.
Of course, you will need to factor in your lifestyle as well as where you’re living. Living near the beach or in touristy spots will often carry a higher price tag for just about everything.
2. Find a Place to Live
(Living in Costa Rica and Off-Grid Homestead)
Your preferences, as well as your budget, will likely determine where you live. Housing prices, whether you buy or rent, are usually cheaper than those in Canada.
As noted earlier, it’s always a good idea to give your housing option a trial run before making a final decision. That might mean renting in one area for a while to make sure you like the location.
Besides price, there are other factors to consider. Temperature is a big one. Living near the beach or rainforest, you’ll experience high temperatures and humidity.
The mountainous regions have more moderate temperatures, and in some cases, you can find areas that aren’t too far from the beach.
The Central Valley and Pacific Coast are two areas with higher housing prices. San Jose, Escazu, and Jaco are popular retiree destinations.
3. Make Arrangements for Your Other Incidentals – Healthcare, Driving, and Shipping
(Living Overseas TV)
Costa Rica has an advanced healthcare system, but it’s much cheaper than Canada, the U.S., or other European countries. You can access either private or public, government-run healthcare options.
Once you apply and get approved for residency, you can sign up to become a member of the Caja (the national healthcare system). You can get everything as a member – basic checkups, prescriptions, appointments with specialists, and surgeries. Residents pay a monthly fee for these services – usually 7% to 11% of your monthly income.
As for the private sector, you can pay out of pocket or use insurance. There are different policies available (both local and international), so if you decide to go that route, you should do your research ahead of time.
The second you hit the road in Costa Rica, you’ll know you aren’t in Canada anymore. Many of the roads aren’t properly paved, and you’ll find it difficult to locate street signs. In addition, pedestrians, motorcycles, even livestock travel on the same roadways, clogging it up and creating hazards many retirees aren’t used to.
As overwhelming as that sounds, cars are expensive because of hefty import taxes. Same thing for gasoline. If you live in a city, it might be better to rely on public transportation or ride-sharing.
When you make the move, you need to determine what to do with your belongings. Do you plan on shipping them? Maybe it’s a better idea to buy new furniture?
Consider that most apartments within Costa Rica come furnished, a huge savings when you realize shipping containers can cost between $6,000 to $15,000. But you might want to consider bringing a few things. Many items in Costa Rica are more expensive than in Canada because of import taxes. Electronics, furniture, and even linens will be a great deal more.
4. Visa Options
If you’re entering the country as a Canadian tourist, you don’t need a visa. Instead, you just need proof that you’re leaving in 90 days (usually, a return plane ticket will suffice).
However, if you plan on permanent residency, there are a couple of different options. The most popular is the Pensionado Program. This requires applicants to provide proof they have at least $1,000 a month of pension income. This can include social security, pensions, or annuities.
Once approved, the visa is valid for two years, after which you’ll have to go through the income verification process again. In addition, the government will check that you lived in Costa Rica for at least four months per year.
Oftentimes, you only hear the upsides of retiring in Costa Rica, but some disadvantages might make you think twice about making the move.
When you picture your retirement, you might imagine relaxing on the beach with a drink in your hand. While that can certainly happen in Costa Rica, don’t expect it to be sunny every day.
Because Costa Rica is a rainforest, there’s lots of rain, even a rainy season. That’s something you might not expect unless you spend an ample amount of time in the country beforehand.
There can also be extreme weather and potential disasters. Costa Rica has 14 volcanoes, with six of them being active. In addition, due to its location, earthquakes are a common occurrence.
While many consider Costa Rica safe, there is the potential for crimes. Often, tourists and ex-pats are targets of these crimes, usually burglaries.
No matter where you decide to retire, there will be pros and cons to each. However, if it’s a place you love and gives you peace, then you probably won’t notice the disadvantages.
Adjusting to Life in Costa Rica
When shifting from Canada to Costa Rica, there’s a lot more to consider beyond finances and housing. You’re not just moving homes; you’re shifting to a new culture, language, and way of life.
One of the first things many expats notice is the concept of “Tico Time.” Ticos, the colloquial term for Costa Ricans, have a relaxed attitude towards punctuality. Events often start later than advertised, and there’s a laid-back approach to schedules.
Another adjustment pertains to the language. While many in the tourist areas speak English, a basic understanding of Spanish can go a long way in daily life. From buying groceries to seeking directions, knowing Spanish will greatly enhance your experience.
Lastly, while Costa Rica is modern in many respects, there are aspects of life that might seem less convenient than in Canada. For example, in many areas, you cannot flush toilet paper due to plumbing concerns. Internet speeds might be slower, and power outages, while not common, can be more frequent than what you’re used to.
Adjusting requires patience and a willingness to embrace change. If you can navigate these nuances with an open heart and mind, you’ll find integrating into Tico culture a rewarding experience!
It’s not easy picking a place to live for retirement. If you’ve lived in Canada for your whole life and want to enjoy warmer weather, Costa Rica might fit the bill.
With a lower cost of living, a sound healthcare system, and natural beauty throughout the country, picking up and spending your golden years here isn’t such a bad thought.
If you’re getting closer to retirement and think a future in Costa Rica is in the cards, check out this ultimate retirement planning guide.