Expat Life in Costa Rica

Why Costa Rica Is No Longer On My Top 10 List

“I would have sworn that I had read in one of your reports that Costa Rica is on the list of the world’s top 10 overseas retirement spots. Am I wrong, or have you reconsidered your list?”

— Don P., United States

I’ve reconsidered.

Costa Rica is a good case study. About three decades ago, this country decided to make a business of the foreign retiree. The Costa Ricans invested in a formal and successful advertising campaign, targeting Americans primarily. Tens of thousands of would-be retirees from the States took the Costa Ricans upon their invitation and relocated for this phase of their lives to the land of the Ticos to take advantage of tax breaks, special retiree discounts, great weather, and, especially, the super-cheap cost both of living and of owning beachfront real estate.

Nevermind, these retirees told themselves, that the country is undeveloped and the infrastructure lacking. With a cost of living this low, who are we to complain that the roads are pot-holed and the bridges crumbling?

Along with the retirees came the investors and the speculators. Fast forward a couple of decades, and Costa Rica wasn’t so cheap anymore, neither its cost of living nor its beachfront real estate. Meantime, while prices had risen dramatically, the infrastructure hadn’t improved at all. The infrastructure in Costa Rica today is, by all accounts, no better than the infrastructure in Costa Rica when it rolled out the foreign-retiree welcome mat all those years ago.

As A.M. Costa Rica coincidentally reports today, the country’s “deplorable road and bridge conditions have created a recipe for disaster.

“Roads in Costa Rica,” the article continues, “are much the same as they were 30 years ago. However, during that time, the population has doubled and so has the number of cars on the roadways. Obsolete traffic circles are still used in San Jose, and a minor traffic accident can cause jams of up to five hours. For a country that wants to become part of the developed world, Costa Rica has to address governmental institutions plagued with problems and delays. The problem, of course, is that the country is broke.”

Costa Rica is not ready for real-world business, yet it’s been charging real-world prices for its real estate for some time. That’s the primary reason why, about a half-dozen years ago, I took the country off my list of the world’s top retirement havens.


“Kathleen, I subscribed to your e-letter with the hope of receiving information about countries that offer opportunity. To me this doesn’t mean only Mexico, Nicaragua, Belize, Panama, etc., but European countries, as well. Why do you not provide information for Europe?”

— V.P., United States

We’ve published complete Country Retirement Reports on the following Euro-havens:

And we’re in production now with a new “Around Europe” guide to these and other top Euro-options.

Meantime, watch this space. These dispatches regularly contain real-time reports from correspondents on the Continent.


“Kathleen, I hope you all saw House Hunters International the other night. It was on Casco Viejo, Panama. They did a very good job showing lots of businesses and people in that area of the city. I was thrilled to see more of

— Nancy Y., United States


“Just finished reading your very accurate comments on Medellin, Colombia. I have been visiting Colombia far the past eight years, usually twice a year. I land at Cordova Airport in Rio Negro, then travel to my second home in the pueblo of El Carmen de Viboral, about 30 minutes south.

“Everything you mentioned about Medellin is true. I enjoy this big, cosmopolitan city more than many other I have visited, including Rio, London, Toronto, Frankfort, or Niarobi. But what I really like about Colombia are the smaller towns and pueblos that you find everywhere. These are the places to go to really get to know the country and the people.

“I plan to move to El Carmen before Easter 2010 to teach English. For me, at 68 years of age, it will be quite a change! I’ll be living in the beauty of the Andes foothills. If I need a quick Caribbean fix, I can hop on Avianca, and, an hour later, I am in Cartagena.

“I recommend Colombia enthusiastically. It is safe, beautiful, and very affordable.”

— Ken M., United States


“I would like to know if you have a contact in Uruguay. We are planning to retire in that country and would like to know more about it.”

— Carina T., United States

We have a good and trusted legal resource in Uruguay named Juan Fischer. Reach him here.

And we are finalizing plans as I write for our Live & Invest in Argentina & Uruguay Conference April 18-24, 2010. Register your interest here for special pre-registrations discounts.


“Kathleen, I just took out a one-year subscription to your Overseas Retirement Letter. When will you cover Thailand? Can I request a copy of a past report if you’ve covered the country recently?

“Also, is this publication aimed primarily at Americans? I’m British.”

— Peter W., United Kingdom

We’ve just published a full report on Chiang Mai, Thailand. Yes, as an active subscriber, you have access to past issues. We’ll forward this one to you.

While the majority of our readers are American, our non-American readership is growing. We do our best to address it. Nearly all the information included in each issue of the Overseas Retirement Letter, therefore, is relevant regardless of your nationality. One issue where important distinctions must sometimes be made is taxes. We try to remember this.

It’s worth noting that our ORL Editor-in-Chief Lynn Mulvihill is not American but Irish (hailing from that country’s Sunny Southeast), and two of our key ORL Contributing Editors are Englishwomen expats (Lucy Culpepper, who currently resides with her family in France, and Roseanna Keats, who right now calls the west of Ireland home).

Kathleen Peddicord