Costa Rica is considered to be a popular destination among Canadian expats. Known for its beautiful beaches, tropical climate, low cost of living, and friendly people, Costa Rica is an attractive place to live for many Canadians. Additionally, Costa Rica’s political stability and strong healthcare system make it a desirable location for retirees. In 2019, it was reported that there were around 20,000 Canadians living in Costa Rica with numbers increasing exponentially over the last 3 years, especially during the pandemic. This great influx of expats, not just from Canada but from all over the world, is boosting Costa Rica’s economy and promoting rapid development and opportunities for locals and expats alike.
Are you a Canadian moving to Costa Rica?
Then you probably have a few questions! And rightly so. Moving to a new country is exhilarating, but the unknowns can also be daunting. Learning a bit about what you should know can help. Here are a few important things any Canadian should know before deciding to move to Costa Rica.
The Official Language in Costa Rica is Spanish
Learning Spanish before moving to Costa Rica is beneficial for several reasons: communication, cultural understanding, business, travel and safety. As the official language of Costa Rica, Spanish is widely spoken throughout the country. Of course, it has its own nuances, differing from the Spanish in other countries like Mexico or Spain. Learning the nuances comes with practice, experience and application once you are living there, but just knowing some basic Spanish will make it easier for you to communicate with locals and navigate daily life. It will also give you a deeper understanding of Costa Rican culture, which will help you to integrate more easily into the local community. Costa Rica is a popular destination for retirees and digital nomads, so if you plan to work or start a business in Costa Rica, knowing the language will give you a significant advantage in the job market and to establish connections. It will also make it easier for you to travel around Costa Rica and other Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America. Lastly, knowing Spanish can be very useful in emergency situations, as it will allow you to communicate with local authorities and medical professionals. Overall, learning Spanish before moving to Costa Rica will enhance your experience and make it much more enjoyable.
Costa Rica has Different Regions Experiencing Different Climates and Weather Patterns
Costa Rica is a small country with a varied landscape and diverse climate. The country can be broadly divided into several regions, each with its own unique climate:
Central Valley: This region includes the capital city of San José and is characterized by a mild climate with temperatures averaging around 25°C (77°F). The Central Valley is the most populous region of Costa Rica and is home to the majority of the country’s industries and businesses.
Pacific Coast: The Pacific Coast is home to some of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches and is known for its warm, humid climate. This region experiences a dry season from December to April and a rainy season from May to November.
Caribbean Coast: The Caribbean Coast has a different climate than the Pacific coast and is known for its heavy rainfall, which can occur year-round. The region has a humid tropical climate and is known for its lush vegetation and diverse wildlife.
Northern Plains: This region is known for its hot and dry climate, with temperatures often reaching above 35°C (95°F). The Northern Plains are home to several national parks and reserves, and are known for their biodiversity.
Southern Pacific: This region is known for its relatively dry and hot climate, with temperatures often reaching above 35°C (95°F). The Southern Pacific is home to the Osa Peninsula which is known for its biodiversity and ecotourism.
Mountainous region: The mountainous region of Costa Rica has a cooler climate than the rest of the country, with temperatures averaging around 15°C (59°F). The region is known for its scenic beauty and is home to several national parks and reserves.
It’s important to note that the climate can vary depending on the altitude, proximity to the coast and the topography, so it’s a good idea to research the climate and weather of the specific area you will be living in.
The Cost of Living Costa Rica vs Canada
There are several major differences in the cost of living between Canada and Costa Rica, however prices for goods and services can vary depending on location. That’s why some expats find that their overall cost of living is lower in Costa Rica than in Canada, while others find it to be higher! It’s a good idea to research the specific area you will be living in and budget accordingly.
Housing: The cost of a home in a city in Costa Rica can be significantly less than the cost of a similar home in a Canadian city. Additionally, property taxes and utility costs in Costa Rica are also generally lower than in Canada. However, it’s worth noting that there are also areas in Costa Rica where housing costs can be quite high, particularly in popular tourist areas such as Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio and Jaco. The cost of renting a home in Costa Rica is also significantly lower than in Canada, especially in urban areas.
Groceries: The cost of groceries in Costa Rica is generally lower than in Canada. However, due to import taxes, the cost of imported goods in Costa Rica can be higher than in Canada. Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as local products like rice and beans tend to be less expensive in Costa Rica compared to Canada. However, meat, dairy and certain imported goods like processed food can have similar costs to that in Canada. Food costs also tend to increase in tourist areas. Electronics and vehicles tend to be more expensive in Costa Rica so these are worth bringing into the country when moving, as there are allowances for immigrants with exempt taxes. Additionally, it is worth noting that some goods may not be available in Costa Rica or may be difficult to find, so this could affect the overall cost of groceries.
Transportation: Transportation in Costa Rica typically costs less than in Canada. The cost of fuel is also somewhat lower. Public transportation is relatively inexpensive in Costa Rica, and there are many options for getting around including buses, taxis, and private shuttles. However, it’s worth noting that public transportation may not be as reliable or efficient as in Canada. The cost of owning and maintaining a car can also be relatively high in Costa Rica, particularly for imported vehicles. Additionally, the road infrastructure may not be as well-developed in Costa Rica as in Canada, which could affect transportation costs.
Healthcare: Costa Rica has a well-regarded national healthcare system, which provides coverage for most medical services at a relatively low cost. However, the availability of certain specialized treatments or medical equipment may be limited. Additionally, wait times for certain medical procedures may be longer in Costa Rica than in Canada. On the other hand, Canada’s healthcare system is known for its quality of care and universality, but can be more expensive for certain services and treatments. Costa Rica is growing is the area of medical tourism for this reason. It’s worth noting that for some expats, specialized healthcare costs can be higher, as they may not be covered by the national healthcare system. So, if you are comparing the costs of healthcare between Canada and Costa Rica, it’s important to consider the cost and quality of care.
Taxes: The overall tax burden is lower in Costa Rica than in Canada. The tax systems in Costa Rica and Canada are quite different. In Canada, taxes are collected at the federal, provincial, and sometimes municipal levels. The federal government collects income taxes, while the provinces collect sales taxes. Canada has a progressive income tax system, which means that people with higher incomes pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes. The federal income tax rate ranges from 15% to 33% and varies depending on the province. In Costa Rica, taxes are collected by the government at the central level. The country has a value-added tax (VAT) of 13% which is added to most goods and services, and a progressive income tax system with rates ranging from 1% to 35%. There is also a property tax of 0.25% on the value of the property.
Healthcare in Costa Rica is Different than in Canada
The healthcare system in Costa Rica is considered to be good and much more affordable than in Canada, but it is important to consider private health insurance as a backup for the following reasons:
Access: In Costa Rica, public healthcare is provided by the government and is available to all citizens and legal residents, but it is not always widely accessible in rural areas.
Quality: Public healthcare quality in Costa Rica can vary depending on the location, with some areas having excellent facilities and staff, while others are more limited. Private clinics give you more options.
Wait times: Wait times for non-emergency medical procedures can be longer in Canada than in Costa Rica, especially for certain specialists. But wait times in Costa Rica can still be longer in the public system than the private one.
Cost: In Canada, healthcare is provided free of charge to citizens and permanent residents, while in Costa Rica, public healthcare is provided to citizens and legal residents with a monthly fee. You may also have to pay for some services, such as certain medications or medical procedures.
In Costa Rica, private health insurance options provide access to higher quality care and shorter wait times. This type of private healthcare is not as common in Canada. It’s important to note that the healthcare system can vary depending on the location and the specific needs of the individual, so it’s a good idea to research the healthcare options available in the specific area where you will be living in.
Costa Rica is Known for its Biodiversity and Eco-tourism
Costa Rica is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Some of the key features of Costa Rica’s biodiversity include:
Rainforests: Costa Rica boasts a wide variety of rainforests, including the tropical rainforest, the cloud forest, and the premontane rainforest. These forests are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including monkeys, sloths, parrots, and jaguars.
Coral reefs: Costa Rica has a number of coral reefs, which support a vast array of marine life, including fish, sharks, and dolphins.
Volcanoes: Costa Rica has several active volcanoes, which are home to unique species of plants and animals that have adapted to living in the volcanic environment.
Wetlands: Several wetland areas can be found in Costa Rica, including mangrove swamps, containing a number of unique plant and animal species, including crocodiles, monkeys, and birds.
National Parks and Reserves: Costa Rica has a large network of protected areas, such as national parks and reserves, teeming with many plant and animal species. These areas are important for the conservation of biodiversity and are popular destinations for ecotourism.
Endemism: Costa Rica has a high level of endemism, which means that many of its species are found only in this country and nowhere else. This is due to its location between two continents, its varied topography and climate, which allows for the evolution of unique species.
Costa Rica’s biodiversity is important for the ecological balance of the planet, and for the well-being of its inhabitants. The country is committed to the conservation of its natural resources and has implemented several programs for the protection of its biodiversity.
Immigration to Costa Rica from Canada can be Approached in Different Ways
Before deciding to move to Costa Rica, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the different immigration options available to you. There are different options that are suited to different individuals or families depending on finances, life stage and how long or how often you want to stay in Costa Rica.
The different immigration options when moving to Costa Rica are:
Tourist visa: This option is easiest for those who wish to stay in Costa Rica on an intermittent basis for no more than three months at a time. It requires no application or investment. This kind of visa is renewed each time you leave the country.
Temporary residency visa: There are a few different types of temporary residency options including pensioner, rentier, investor or digital nomad. These involve varying levels of investment and income as well as a legal application process.
Permanent residency visa: Permanent residency is available for application once you have lived in Costa Rica for three years.
Citizenship by relationship: Those who are married or related to a Costa Rican and children born in Costa Rica have the right to citizenship.
It is important to research the immigration requirements and procedures before moving, as well as the process for obtaining permanent residency or citizenship.
There are several reasons why Canadians might want to move to Costa Rica. It has a tropical climate, with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine throughout the year. This can be a major draw for Canadians who are looking to escape the cold and snowy winters. With its rich biodiversity and natural beauty, the country offers a wide range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, surfing, and wildlife watching. Costa Rica’s cost of living is generally lower than that of Canada and its healthcare system is considered to be good and more affordable than healthcare in Canada. The laid-back, Pura Vida lifestyle there is a major draw for those who are looking to simplify their lives and escape the fast pace of North American cities. With English widely spoken in tourist areas and business opportunities growing, it makes it easier for Canadians to adapt to life in Costa Rica. Lastly, Costa Rica is a multicultural country with a diverse population, which can make it an attractive destination for Canadians looking to experience a different culture. Doing research and visiting the country can help you make a decision about whether moving to Costa Rica from Canada is the right choice for you!