QCOSTARICA – Costa Rica was placed in the first place as a destination for retirees in 2021, according to the annual ranking by International Living (IL), surpassing countries such as Panama, Mexico, Colombia and Portugal.
According to IL’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2021, which has been published since 1979, Costa Rica advanced from last year’s third place, when it was behind Portugal and Panama.
“The Retirement Index is the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. It’s the best way we know of to sift through the wealth of opportunity the world offers, bring some order, and help you pinpoint the best destination for you,” says the IL wesbite.
The index is informed by hundreds of opinions and real-life experiences — information— compiled by trusted sources in the best retirement destinations across the globe. We think of it as a tool for you, our reader.
Each of the 25 countries in the Index are ranked and scoredacross the following 10 categories: Housing, Benefits & Discounts, Visas & Residence, Fitting In/Entertainment, Development, Climate, Healthcare, Governance, Opportunity, and Cost of Living.
“A country has to be affordable to be a great retirement spot. It’s that simple. And to assess how affordable each country is, we got our experts on the ground to ﬁll out a comprehensive monthly budget. Everything from the cost of a liter of milk to a bottle of beer to a movie ticket was factored in,” says IL.
What is the Annual Global Retirement Index?
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For this year’s classification, in the average of the 10 indicators, Costa Rica obtained a score of 85.2, which places it in first place. They are followed in the ranking by Panama, with 84.4, and Mexico, with 83.5.
Other notable positions followed are those of Colombia, Portugal, Ecuador and Malaysia.
In the index breakdown, however, Costa Rica lags behind most of the top 20 countries in cost of living. Costa Rica’s score in this regard is 84, compared to 87 for Mexico, 89 for Colombia, 93 for Ecuador or 91 for Malaysia.
Click here for IL interactive table and their description from InternationaLiving.com.
Costa Rica’s qualities
By justifying Costa Rica’s position, the IL assures that the country offers a simple life, in a society where it is cared for, with a cost of living that it can easily afford.
“These are places where, as expats on the ground regularly report, it’s easy to feel healthier, happier and less stressed. As Washington state expats Tom and Diane Brown put it, speaking from their new home in Costa Rica’s Central Valley: We live very comfortably on our two Social Security checks and my pension. Here we can easily live on US$3,000 a month, including a gardener and a maid. We also save US$500 each month for travel,” the publication notes.
And it continues: “Costa Rica attracts millions of foreign visitors and residents throughout the year with its tropical climate; lower cost of living; friendly locals; affordable health care; vast real estate options; and, of course, its natural beauty”.
The high rating of the other factors affected the global index for Costa Rica to reach first place.
IL also includes statements from Kathleen Evans, International Living correspondent in Costa Rica:
On the narrow, volcanic isthmus of land between the continents of North and South America, there exists a country so rich in natural beauty, the adjective is actually in its name. “Rich Coast” or Costa Rica attracts millions of visitors and foreign residents throughout the year with its tropical climate; lower cost of living; friendly locals; affordable medical care; vast real estate options; and, of course, its natural beauty.
Earning the nickname “Switzerland of Central America” this peace-loving democracy shines in a region often plagued by political and civil unrest. Costa Rica abolished their army in 1948 and pledged that budget to education and healthcare. Resulting in a well-educated population and medical access for all citizens and legal residents.
This republic is internationally known for its safety, neutrality, and commitment to the environment—with roughly a quarter of its land protected as national parks and wildlife refuges. The current democratic government, under Carlos Alvarado Quesada, is considered progressive and LGBTQ equal rights are mandated—officially legalizing same-sex marriage in May 2020. A rare policy to find in Latin America.
Once you have acquired your residency, you pay approximately 7% to 11% of your reported monthly income into the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social healthcare system (Caja for short) and the national medical program is available to you without pre-existing exclusions or age disallowance. Residents have the option to blend public healthcare with private medical care either through out-of-pocket self-insuring or with the purchase of insurance policies. You can purchase these through familiar names like Blue Cross/Blue Shield, CIGNA, Aetna, or a Costa Rican private policy. All at a fraction of the cost compared to the U.S. You will find three JCI accredited private hospitals in the San José area, as well as numerous private clinics throughout the country. The public system has over 29 hospitals and nearly 250 regional clinics, making it easy to find healthcare no matter where you choose to settle.
A couple can live comfortably, but not necessarily extravagantly, here for around $2,000 a month. This includes renting a two-bedroom home with North American amenities, air conditioning, plus groceries, entertainment, transportation, and healthcare. If your monthly budget is closer to $2,500 to $3,000, you will find a relaxed lifestyle with every comfort you require.
One of the things you hear often from expats is how warm and welcoming the ticos (Costa Ricans) are. They are wonderful people, eager to share the magic of their culture, food, and traditions with foreigners. You will also find engaging international communities of expats who will help you through the process of acclimation. The vast majority of new arrivals say it is very easy to make friends and fit in here. Black Americans are also finding peace in Costa Rica away from the systemic racism associated with the U.S. The Costa Rican government’s official proclamation rejects all forms of racism and discrimination.
Pura Vida is a common Costa Rican phrase. Although it translates to “pure life,” this definition merely scratches the surface of a phrase deeply woven into Costa Rican culture, and used to convey anything from “hello” and “goodbye,” to “great news,” “cheers!” and countless declarations in between.
Expat, Nicole Rangel, explains it in this way, “What makes Pura Vida such a check-all statement is that it translates to more than just a greeting. It is a solution, an action, and a way of life. When you approach life with a Pura Vida state of mind, you are opening yourself up to the possibilities of life beyond what you experienced before. You are sharing together in this communal acceptance that life doesn’t have to be controlled or mandated, you can make it what you want, you can have friends you never thought you would have, you experience things you never thought possible because you are opening up to a life less complicated.
“That is why so many people come to Costa Rica and find the best version of themselves—they embrace a new appreciation on life. It is just a bonus that it is in such a beautiful setting,” she continues.
Most expats will confirm living a healthier lifestyle once they arrive. Costa Rica is an outdoor culture—with no shortage of physical activities from fishing, golfing, and horseback riding to hiking, surfing, and yoga. Plus, there are less processed foods, and abundantly healthy choices of locally grown fruits, vegetables, organic eggs, and endless seafood and grass-fed beef. It is no surprise to hear reports about expats having shed unwanted weight, taking fewer prescription drugs, and overall better fitness of mind, body, and soul.
This revelation should come as little surprise since Costa Rica possesses one of only five “Blue Zones” on the entire planet—located on the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste. These zones were discovered by National Geographic scientists and longevity researchers in the early 2000s. They consist of regions that have an unusually high population of centenarians (100+ year-olds). Ten times greater than in the U.S. The research confirms qualities such as healthy diets, natural calcium-enriched water, sunshine, active lifestyles, strong familial and friendship ties, and faith contribute greatly to their longevity.
Costa Rica, like all of Latin America, is predominantly Roman Catholic with approximately 75% identifying with Catholicism. However, you will not find the deeply rooted religious holiday traditions you find in other Latin countries. Costa Rica is considered quite secular. The government assures religious freedom for all. You will also find Evangelicals, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and small numbers of Jews, Mormons, and Muslims. Expats who settle in larger international communities will find English-speaking churches—primarily nondenominational Protestants.
With a dozen official climate zones and hundreds of microclimates, there is someplace for everyone’s personal weather preferences. Many people love the temperate “eternal spring” climate of San José, the capital, and the surrounding Central Valley. Or the dry, hot beaches of Guanacaste, or the lush, green landscape of the jungles in the south and Caribbean side.
Like everywhere in the world, the pandemic has dealt the Costa Rican economy a harsh blow and put strains on the healthcare system. Even so, the country remains a good long-term bet as we move toward a post-COVID world, given its natural beauty, resilient population, and progressive vision.