Private Health Care in Costa Rica

The public health care system in Costa Rica is based on socialized medicine and is actually very good treatment once you are seen by the doctor.  However, due to the bureaucracy of public medicine scheduled appointments can be months, if not years, away.  If there is an emergency they will admit you to the emergency room, but for exams, tests, etc the waiting period can be too long for some to endure.  That is why many opt for the private medicine sector for immediate medical attention and top quality professionals.

You have to pay for private medicine and the public option is free to those that cannot afford it and a small monthly insurance policy for those that can, plus it is part of benefits for full time employees.  However, the private costs are a fraction of that in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  For example we paid only $3,500 for my wife’s C-section for our most recent daughter’s birth and that included all the medicine and a night in the hospital; compared to $15,000 to $20,000 plus in the U.S.  Costa Rica is also becoming a center for medical tourism due to more affordable plastic surgery, operations, and dental implants.  Customers come from all over the World to have procedures done and then recover in a luxury hotel resort in paradise.

There are also private medical insurance policies you can pay annually that cover part of the costs.  You pay in full for appointments and medical procedures, and then are reimbursed for 60% to 80% of the cost depending on the type of procedure or appointment.  San Jose has some the best private medical facilities and most all of the doctors studied abroad in the U.S. or Europe, speak English, and highly qualified professionals.

The best private hospitals in the country are:
CIMA – http://www.hospitalsanjose.net/index.aspx
Hospital Catolica – http://www.hospitallacatolica.com/eng/index.php
Hospital Clinica Biblia – http://www.clinicabiblica.com/eng/index.php

There are also private clinics throughout the country and CIMA even has a satellite hospital in the Guanacaste.  Both of our children were born in San Isidro, Perez Zeledon at the Hospital Clinica Labrador.  We still go there for our pediatrician who that has an office in the building.   Regular doctor checkups and dentist appointments range for $40 to $75.  And all pharmacies have an onsite doctor you can visit for $20 to $40 for a consultation.

If you are considering moving to Costa Rica and one of your concerns is medical treatment, rest assure there are great options.  Also if you are in need of surgery or dental implants consider traveling to Costa Rica for medical tourism.

Residency vs Perpetual Tourist Visa

Many people live in Costa Rica full time without residency by constantly renewing their 90 day tourism visa.  This is because some do not qualify for residency and others just choose not to go through the process.  However, renewing the tourist visa requires leaving the country for 72 hours every 90 days and is a technicality and not a legally recommend process.

Perpetual Tourism

I know people that have been here for years by just going to Panama for the weekend once every 3 months or 90 days.  They get their new stamp in their passport and have another 90 days in Costa Rica to enjoy before doing it all over again.

Example of Passport Visa Stamps

Also if they travel back to the U.S., Canada, or Europe often it is easier to keep renewing the tourist permit visa.  When re-entering the country the immigration official will want to see you have plans to leave within 90 days; so an airline or bus ticket out of the country will work as proof.  Although at first this is great and seems like a mandatory vacation, the 90 days begin to move quicker and it gets old going to Panama or Nicaragua every 3 months.  There are also services that someone will take your passport and do the stamps for you, but I personally would rather have my passport in my possession at all times.  This perpetual tourism is not exactly a legal way to reside in Costa Rica and immigration official could potential deport you if they chose to, but again many people have gotten away with this for years and it is up to the individual of you want to go this route or apply for legal residency.

Residency

Residency can be obtained a few different ways.  One is to get married and have kids, which is what I did and permanent residency was an inadvertent side effect of this.  However, this is not in the plans for most people.  The other ways are investor status, rentista status, and pensianado status.   All three of these options are forms of temporary residency that will have to be renewed after 2 years and one can upgrade to permanent residency after 3 years.

Example of Costa Rica Residency Card

Investor Status – An investment in Costa Rica of over $200,000 in a working business or other approved types of investment.  Typically this investment must supply jobs for locals, pay proper taxes, and pay insurance policies for their employees.  Commonly buying or constructing a B&B, hotel, or restaurant may fall into this category.  This can be renewed after 2 years with proof you are employing locals, pay national insurance to the “Caja”, and have been in the country 6 months minimum of each year.

Rentista Status – This is common for families moving to Costa Rica and one must prove $2,500 of monthly income for themselves, spouse, and any children under the age of 25 years.  Therefore you must prove you have at least $60,000 in a bank account that will be transferred to Costa Rica steadily every month $2,500 at a time.  The residency must be renewed after 2 years and another $60,000 proven to immigration, along with proof of “Caja” insurance, and you must reside in Costa Rica a minimum of 4 months each year.  After 3 years you may upgrade to permanent residency.

Pensionado Status – This means a lifetime pension will be received of no less than $1,000 per month by the applicant whether through social security, retirement benefits, military pension, or a lifetime annuity payment.  Although this is the most common form of residency for retirees, there is not minimum age limit and if you can prove a $1,000 monthly pension payment you may qualify.  This type is also good for 2 years and can be renewed with proof you still receive the pension, pay monthly insurance into the “Caja”, and have resided in Costa Rica 4 months of each year.  May also upgrade to permanent residency after 3 years.

Other less common forms of receiving residency are working for a multi-national company and being positioned in Costa Rica, international government work, or international mission work.  Investor, Rentista, and Pensionado are the most common and for more details on the requirements and paper work need visit Costa Rica Law at: http://www.costaricalaw.com/legalnet/residency.html

Getting professional counsel is highly advised for the residency process that will take 1 year or even more and requires Costa Rica Consulate approved paperwork and certificates from your country of origin.  Many people have tried to save a few hundred dollars and not received their residency after years of trying with an incompetent attorney.  The Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR) have been doing this process for foreigners for many years.  I personally used an attorney in San Jose named Federico Guzmán and he did a terrific job.  Below is his contact information for anyone considering residency in Costa Rica:

Federico Guzmán
Partner | Attorney at Law
INGEAA
http://www.ingeaa.com
Alvasa Building, 1st Floor
Tournon, San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 2233-2006 | (506) 2233-2024
Fax: (506) 2221-7368 | US: (202) 742-2752
Email: fguzman@ingeaa.com

How to Move to Costa Rica with Only $50,000 USD

Most people dream about moving to a tropical paradise and enjoying the beach and beautiful scenery while living a laid back lifestyle.  Then reality strikes and they think it is an impossible dream only for the wealthy and they go back to plugging away at the ‘rat race’.  Well, this dream can become a reality and for less than one would imagine.  In this blog we will discuss on how to leave it all behind and move to Costa Rica on a budget of $50,000 USD.

First you will need to find the right land for an affordable price.  This is surely the most important aspect because this will be your largest investment in the process and the more you can save here, the better for building and living expenses down the road.  We have affordable lot listings starting at $25,000 USD and keeping it under $30,000 USD will be essential to making the numbers work.  Properties in this price range are tough to find and are usually undeveloped or with bad access, so finding one that is ready or close to ready to build will be an important factor

This titled property is only $25,000 USD for 2.14 acres with jungle views and bordering a small mountain creek at the bottom.  Actually a good amount of land and plenty of it usable as well.  The property has decent access, a finished building site, and plenty of its own forest which you could have a hiking trail down to the stream.   Wildlife and nature all around, plus only 15 minutes to Dominical and the beaches.

Now you got the property you need a home, so build yourself a YurtWhat is a Yurt?  It is an octagonal home that is easily constructed in days, not months.  The basic ‘Enduro’ is base priced at only $15,000 for delivery and construction including windows and door.

Let’s say $20,000 to $22,000 USD once you build a platform for it, buy light fixtures, water faucets, toilet, furniture, and maybe add a few upgrades like wood paneled ceiling pictured above.

So far we are invested $45,000 to $47,000 USD and have titled property and a finished roof over our heads.  Now it’s time to plant your organic veggies and fruits and raise some free range chickens that also lay eggs and possibly dig a Tilapia pond (which could be done on the property above using the creek as the water source).   Corn, papaya, bananas, platanos, yucca, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, lettuce, and more all grow fairly quickly.  Tilapia and chickens both grow large enough to eat in just 3 months!

Here comes the frugality part, live modestly one whatever savings you have left while your fruits, veggies, chickens, and Tilapia grow enough to sustain your life in paradise!

*Price of vehicle for transportation not included in $50,000 USD.  A cheap car, decent ATV 4-wheeler, or good motorcycle could be purchased for around $5,000 USD; otherwise it’s walking and catching the bus to get around.

Casa Cartago – FIRE SALE Luxury Home

Once in a while a deal comes along that seems too good to be true and this is one of them!  The Casa Cartago is an amazing luxury home minutes from Dominical and the beaches located in the most exclusive gated communities in the Southern Zone.  The other homes in the neighborhood are all million dollar plus range and all have some of the best views Dominical, Costa Rica has to offer!

Casa Cartago is an elegant luxury home for sale at a discounted price only 1-2 minutes off the pavement and inside the gates of a 24 hour guarded neighborhood.

This 3 bedroom and 3.5 bath home overlooks Dominicalito Bay, Playa Dominical, and all the way up the coast to Manuel Antonio.

The home is designed in an old World classic Spanish-Colonial style with red barreled tile roof and arches yet has all the comforts of a modern luxury home.

Downstairs there is a living room with built in entertainment center leading to an arched walk way lined with antique bricks into the full U-shaped kitchen.

The full gourmet kitchen has an island, breakfast bar, and pass through window to the porch area bar.

There are two master bedrooms downstairs, both with en suite bathrooms for added privacy.

The open living room flows onto a covered porch next to the infinity edge pool that appears to drop off into the Pacific Ocean.

The upstairs has another master suite even more spacious than the ones downstairs and the en suite bathroom has large shower and bath tub.

The master bedroom’s private upstairs balcony offers some of the best views in Dominical, Costa Rica area.

All three master bedrooms have bathrooms with over sized showers, dual vanities, built in armoires, and walk-in closets.

Throughout the house top of the line finishes, intricate details, and hand crafted local wood cabinets and doors make this luxury home and absolute bargain in a neighborhood of million dollar plus homes!!

Call or Click Today to schedule a viewing of this once in a lifetime investment opportunity!!

Why it’s Safe to Live and Travel in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been a favorite destination for tourists, retirees, and second home owners for many years.  It is perfectly safe to travel and live full time in this country.  Of course you have to use caution in certain areas of the San Jose due to crime concerns and use common sense to avoid petty theft when travelling with cash, passports, and electronics throughout the country.  In tourism areas there is always petty theft of thieves breaking into cars and taking wallets, cameras, and cell phones or snatching an unattended bag in a crowded public place.  In the capital city of San Jose crime is of greater concern and many home owners have bars on their windows and live in gated communities with 24 hour security.

I have lived here for over 7 years and been traveling here since 1998, over 14 years.  I have not ever felt unsafe or threatened.  Crime rates have increased during this time, but out where we live in the rural area around Dominical it is not as much a concern as in other areas.  There is also the C.A.P. (Crime Awareness & Prevention) on Crime of Costa Rica that was founded in Playa Dominical. They have taken many steps to reduce crime in the area and have even installed cameras at many local area establishments and near the beach.  Below are some good tips published by C.A.P. on how to travel safely around the country.

  1. During your stay here use caution when contacting unknown people.
  2. When swimming or playing in the ocean, make sure someone is watching your valuables.
  3. Use caution when visiting remote locations or isolated beaches.
  4. When in restaurants, markets, or other public areas NEVER leave your valuables unattended.
  5. When you travel by car, always lock the doors, and never leave your personal items in sight.
  6. When staying in hotels use the safety boxes to keep cash, jewels and documents protected.
  7. Lock doors and windows in your place of lodging.
  8. Keep a photocopy of all documents/passports in order to facilitate the retrieval of any lost item.
  9. Don’t be a victim.  Be aware of your surroundings and know WHERE you are at all times.
  10. Do not wear valuable jewelry that can draw attention to you.
  11. In the city carry small backpacks in front of you.
  12. Stay alert if someone approaches or pushes you, or you feel that you are being followed. Notify the nearest police officer or walk into the nearest public establishment.
  13. To exchange money only use banks or authorized exchange windows.  You will need your passport for all bank transactions.
  14. Use ATM’s that are located in public and well lit areas.  Avoid help from strangers.  Withdraw, count your money, and put it away before leaving.
  15. If traveling by bus keep all carry-ons in your possession.  Verify you have all items before departing bus.
  16. In the event of an emergency always call 911 first.  Ask for an English speaking operator.  Identify your local police station and/or town.
  17. If during your travels you feel lost or experience any difficulties you can call 800-TURISMO.

Costa Rica is a safe and peaceful country with the exception of a few bad apples.  As long as you follow these suggestions above you should have a fun vacation or be able to live here tranquilly.  If you are interested in donating funds towards preventing crime, then visit the C.A.P. on Crime website for more information.

Why it’s Safe to Buy in Costa Rica

Buying real estate in Costa Rica carries similar risk as anywhere else in the World, but there are processes and legal procedures in place to ensure a buyer’s safety.  The following are steps you should take in order to eliminate any ambiguity in a real estate transaction.

  • Use a professional and experienced realtor/broker that has lived and worked in the area for a few years in which they are selling real estate.  Make sure your realtor/broker has residency or citizenship, has the right to work in Costa Rica, and are in the country to stay.  Not just on extended vacation visa hoping to sell real estate in order to keep their vacation going.

  • Anyone can sell real estate in Costa Rica without a license, so ask if they have at least completed the equivalent of the Real Estate Board’s course (Camara Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raices) and are affiliated with this national association.  If there is ever a law requiring a license to sell real estate in Costa Rica, membership with the CCCBR would be the logical first step.
  • Also use someone that speaks fluent Spanish; as you would not buy property in the U.S. with a realtor/broker that does not speak English.

One of Paragon’s many Unfinished Projects

  • -Avoid pre-development mega projects that have yet to show real construction progress and rely on pre-selling to generate the capital to develop.  There have been past real estate scams such as Paragon Properties Ponzi-scheme and more recently Hacienda Matapalo.  Hundreds of millions worth of deposits were taken and residential lots and homes were never delivered as promised.  Unless a developer can show they are financially capable of finishing a project or there are already finished homes and condominiums constructed, then be very cautious with pre-sale all inclusive type mega developments.
  • Always use an established licensed and reputable attorney when purchasing real estate in Costa Rica.  An attorney can do the proper due diligence to study the history of the property and its title to make sure there is nothing out of the ordinary, all property taxes are up to date, and no leans or loans are pending against the property.
  • Use a registered escrow account your attorney recommends or Stewart Title and never send a deposit directly to a seller.  Typically a deposit of around 10% is placed in escrow during due diligence, which is refundable if the property does not check out.  Then the full amount of the sales price is sent to the escrow account prior to closing.

  

  • Stewart Title and Chicago Title both operate in Costa Rica and you can use them for title insurance and provide even more peace of mind over your investment.
  • Avoid “Concession” properties unless your attorney can ensure you of its safety.  Concession properties are those directly on the beach in the Maritime Zone of Costa Rica and it is basically leasing the property from the government; as opposed to owning fee simple title outside of the Maritime Zone. There are many perfectly legal concessions, however, there are much more that are awaiting concession or are possession only properties and those are the ones to avoid completely.  If someone says they almost have their concession then use extreme caution and better yet look for a different property.

The purchase process should be a fun and rewarding experience; after all you get to go on a tropical vacation to look for the right property.  Just follow these steps, use caution, and enjoy!  Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the buying process in Costa Rica.

San Isidro, Costa Rica

The city of San Isidro del General is located about 45 minutes inland from Dominical and is very convenient for shopping, hardware stores, doctors, dentists, lawyers, and more.  San Isidro I have heard called “the fastest growing city in Central America”, but do not know if there is any truth to that.  The area around San Isidro is known as Perez Zeledon and includes towns such as; La Palma, Cajon, Rivas, San Rafael, Palmares, San Gerardo, and more.

San Isidro has everything you need without making a trip to San Jose.  Large department stores of appliances and televisions, tons of clothing stores, lots of shoe stores for some reason, cell phone and electronic stores, plenty of pharmacies, big hardware store for construction supplies, and anything else you may be looking for.  There are many professional services as well such as; mechanics, lawyers, doctors, dentists, architects, topographers, insurance offices, car rentals, and more.  Every Thursday and Friday there is a Farmer’s Market where locally grown fruits and produce are sold by vendors.  San Isidro is a place you end up going every couple weeks once you live here full time for supplies, services, or just fun shopping.

The national park of Chirripo is nearby and Mount Chirripo is the highest point in Costa Rica at 12,000 feet above sea level.  Tourists can hike to the top and stay in a rustic cabin over night before reaching the summit in the morning.

Property and homes around the Perez Zeledon area are more affordable than that near the beaches and coast.  The surrounding mountain towns offer a cooler climate, close proximity to amenities of the city, and are still usually an hour to hour and a half from the beach.  Many retirees like the San Isidro area if living on the coast is not as important as climate and services nearby.  Also many families chose to be close to San Isidro for school for their kids.