Introduction to Costa Rica

Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica!

Costa Rica’s friendly 4 million people, or ticos as they affectionately
call themselves, invite you to come and experience their tranquil country,
with its long and beautiful coastlines, alluring Caribbean and Pacific waters,
pristine beaches and some of the most picturesque surroundings you have
ever laid eyes on.

Many visitors say Costa Rica is even more beautiful than Hawaii, and,
best of all, still unspoiled. In fact, Costa Rica took over Hawaii’s place as
best adventure destination last year, according to the publication Pacific
Business News.

Travel Weekly selected Costa Rica as “the 2004 best destination for
tourists traveling from the United States.” — Costa Rica has Hawaii’s
weather, spectacular green mountains, and beaches without the high prices.
The country offers more beauty and adventure per acre than any other place
in the world.

In the heart of the Central Valley, surrounded by beautiful rolling
mountains and volcanoes, sits San José, the capital and largest city in the
country. Viewed from above, this area looks like some parts of Switzerland.

Downtown San José is always bustling with activity

San José is the center of the country’s politics and cultural events. It
has a mixture of modern and colonial architecture, yet remains charmingly
quaint and retains a small-town feel despite being a fairly large city with a
slightly international flavor. It feels more like a town that has grown in all
directions, rather than a metropolis. Though San José and adjacent suburbs
have a population of approximately 1 million, you get a small-town feeling
because of the layout of the city. San José and Panama City are considered
the most cosmopolitan cities in Central America.

In a 2004 survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, San José ranked
130 out of 140 cities world wide with respect to cost of living. Tokyo and
London were at the head of the list. The British publication The Economist
ranked San José as the second most affordable city in Latin America. The
cost of living is only 45 percent of that of New York.

San José or Chepe, as the locals call it, is also the cultural and business
center of the country and a mecca for North Americans. There is something
here for everyone. The city and surrounding areas boast the three largest
shopping malls in Central America, with lots of stores to which you are
accustomed back home.

San José and its suburbs also offer a variety of night life, a wide range of
hotels, restaurants serving international cuisine, casinos, quaint cafés, lovely
parks, the old National Theater with a wonderful orchestra and lots of outside
attractions on a regular basis. Also of interest are a zoo, art galleries, theaters,
museums, parks, an English-language newspaper, places for people watching
and much more. Virtually everything in a large U.S. city can be found here.
Americans have no trouble feeling at home. It is very easy to find something
to do to entertain yourself. At an altitude of just over 3,750 feet above sea
level, San José adds year-round spring-like temperatures to its appeal.

The city is laid out in a grid. Calles (streets) run north and south and
avenidas (avenues) run east and west. Avenues to the north of Avenida
Central have odd numbers and those to the south even numbers. Streets
to the east of Calle Central have odd numbers and those to the west even.
There are a number of pedestrian closed to traffic streets which are idea for
taking stroll and enjoying the sites.

San José’s convenient central location makes any part of the country
accessible in a matter of hours by automobile. We recommend you use San
José as a gateway, starting point or home base while you explore Costa Rica
and look for a permanent place to reside.

Because of the country’s small size, it is possible to spend the morning
at the beach, visit a volcano at noon and enjoy dinner at a mountain resort
overlooking the Central Valley.

COSTA RICA – A country that lives up to its name
by Julie Campbe

“In my capacity as Fashion and Travel Editor of Sports Illustrated
magazine, I’ve produced every one of the magazine’s swimsuit issues
from 1965 to 1996, thirty-two in all. My annual search for beautiful and
unspoiled locations has led me to every continent except Antarctica,
and I’ve walked literally hundreds of miles of beaches, mountain trails,
deserts, and even glaciers in order to take our readers to some of the
most exotic, and often overlooked, corners of our planet. Sometimes
my choice was a resort so new that it could only be envisioned from an
architect’s blueprint; in other years I’ve settled on an island or a country
or even an entire continent— Australia.

So what brought me to Dominical, Costa Rica? Looking at the
map I was struck for the first time by how near a neighbor Central
America was, and at the same time how little I knew about it. I had to
know more, and when I discovered Costa Rica, the jewel of the Central
American chain, and traveled its length and breadth, I knew I had
found something very special—a country that truly lives up to its name.

Costa Rica means Coast of Abundance or richness of nature. Its
rainforests comprise a virtual cornucopia of flowers, lush vegetation,
birds and wildlife—all still unspoiled. Rising from the coastline at
Dominical are the majestic green mountains with rushing clear streams
leading to crystal waterfalls and swimable fresh-water pools.

Coming down from mountains that were often tucked behind mist
and clouds I found myself in a beautiful and varied stretch of coast.
One side of the country faces the Pacific and the other the Caribbean.
For our shoot I chose the Pacific at a place called Dominical, where
one beach is more lovely and dramatic than the next. The diversity
was breathtaking. And on these immaculate beaches there is no one to
step over you while sunning, and only the sound of tropical birds and
rolling surf.

I came to Dominical to take gorgeous pictures of gorgeous models
in a gorgeous setting, and indeed I was able to do that. But the real
discovery was a small piece of God’s Country that I’ll want to revisit
again and again—and on my own time!

*Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Costa Rica Love Song
Written by: Lair Davis
Costa Rica Love Song
Written by: Lair Davis
I love you, Costa Rica, my home. Let me count the ways.

I love the fact that I have no mailbox, which means I receive no
junk mail. I do have a post office box, however. There is never
any junk mail in it, either.

I love my neighborhood bar, where they welcomed me effusively
and let me run a tab the first time they ever laid eyes on me. Each
time I go to that happy place, you would think I am their most
regular customer. I’ve been there three times in the past year.

I love being able to make monthly payments on something the
full cost of which is $25.

I love the iguana that lives in the drainage ditch up the block,
and that he has become so fat because all the neighbors feed
him constantly.

I love never having to think about tomatoes (or other fruits and
vegetables) being out of season.

I love the jugglers who entertain you at street intersections in San
José while you wait for the light to change.

I love the police — wow! Never thought I’d say that! Costa Rican
police really aren’t law enforcers so much as peace-keepers and
information-givers. They seem so much less full of themselves
than police I’ve encountered elsewhere.

I love those wonderful massages given by the fully accredited
physical therapist in my town. It costs $15 for a 90-minute

I love that the buses will stop to pick up and drop off people
anywhere along the road between towns.

I love it that there is a shop where they only repair umbrellas. It
costs about a dollar to have one fixed — while you wait.

I love receiving a discount from just about every store and
business in the country simply because I smile and say buenos
días to everyone when I enter. I enjoy watching other gringos in
the same stores seriously “get right down to business,” having
not learned this little touch of Costa Rican social grace — and
then watching them pay more everywhere every time. You think
cultural differences do not matter? You feel that simple, basic
courtesy doesn’t pay?

I love the continued tradition in this country of doctors, lawyers
and other professionals making “house calls.”

I love watching a teenage boy holding hands with his mother
while walking through the public park in the center of town in
full view of all his friends.

I love never having seen a single child throw a fit in the grocery
store. How have these children learned to behave so well in
public places, I wonder.

I love never having to trim the fat off the beef.

I love knowing when the national soccer team scores without
even watching the game. Everyone else is watching, though.
With every goal, the whole community lets out a roar.

I love when I ask someone for directions and he or she completely
stops what they are doing in order to escort me personally halfway
across town, deliver me to the door, and proudly introduce me
to the proprietor.

I love the politeness most teenagers display to people my age.
Yesterday I watched a teenage boy leave his friends waiting while
he went back across the street and assisted an elderly gentleman
in making his way. No snide, smart-alecky remarks greeted the
good Samaritan when he returned to his group of friends.

I love not knowing the weather forecast. Actually, I DO know
the forecast. Everyone who lives in Costa Rica knows what the
weather will be like today.

I love not having to decide what to wear today.

I love not being able to hear the televisions in so many places
because of the sound of the rain falling on the tin roofs.

I love when the clouds suddenly roll in and hide that tremendous
mountain across the valley, and then just as suddenly roll out again.

I love having sidewalks along country roads.

I love sunsets that take my breath away, and the necklaces of
streetlights that sparkle at night up and down the mountains in
the distance.

I love being awakened at dawn by the noisiest birds on the planet.

I love having a cup of java at the local coffee shop that is as good
as any offered by Starbuck’s — at one-fifth the price.

I love when a storekeeper informs me that I am the greatest living
customer he has ever had the honor and privilege to humbly
serve and that my presence in his establishment has surpassed
any possible visit in the future by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
of England herself. (A slight exaggeration, I suppose but, hey, it
worked — I’ll be back!)

I love the smiles on the faces of the taxi drivers as they go about
their daily work. I love the fact that tipping taxi drivers is not
customary. I love that so many taxistas insist that I take back the
change from my fare, even when it amounts to less than a nickel.

I love that I am coming to understand the joy of “now.”
Tomorrow will come — or not — but “now” is this moment’s
pleasure. ¡Pura vida! Pure life!

* Printed with the author’s permission.

Things to think about before moving to a new country or making foreign investments
What is required to become a legal resident?  Can I meet these requirements?
What is the cost?  How often does residency have to be renewed, what are
the conditions of renewal and what is the cost?
What is required to visit, or stay while I’m waiting for residency?
What is the political situation?  How stable is the country?
Weather — Will I like the weather year-round?
Income taxes — Will I be taxed on income brought into the country? — Am
I allowed to earn income in the country?  If yes, how is it taxed?
Other taxes — Sales tax, import duties, exit taxes, vehicle taxes, etc.
How much will it cost in fees, duties and import taxes to bring my personal
possessions into the country— cars, boats, appliances, electronic equipment,
Rental property — How much?  Availability?
Purchase property — property taxes, restrictions on foreign ownership of
property, expropriation laws, building regulations, squatters rights, etc. Is
there a capital gains tax?
Communications — Are there reliable phone and fax lines, cellular phones,
beepers, connections to Internet and other computer communication services?
Is there good mail service between the country and the rest of the world? Are
there private express mail services such as DHL, UPS and FedEx? Are there
local newspapers, radio and TV in a language I will understand? Is cable or
satellite TV available?
Transportation — How are the roads?  Are flights available to places I will
want to go?  How are the buses and taxis ?  How costly is it to travel to and
from other international destinations?
Is it difficult for friends and family to visit?
Shopping — Are replacement parts available for the items I have brought
from home? If so, what are the costs? If not, how much will it cost to import
what I need?
Are the types of food to which I am accustomed readily available in both
markets and restaurants?

If I have hobbies, are clubs, supplies and assistance available?

What cultural activities are available – (art, music, theater, museums, etc.)?
The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica

What entertainment is available -(sports, movies, nightclubs, dancing, etc.)?

What recreational facilities are available? (golf courses, tennis, health clubs,
recreational centers, parks, etc.)?

If I like the beach, are good beaches available? Can they be reached easily?
What is the year round temperature of the water?

What is the violent crime rate? Minor crime (theft, car and house break-ins)?
What support can be expected from the police? Are the police helpful to
foreign residents?

How do local residents treat foreign visitors and residents?

What are the local investment opportunities like? Is there any consumer
or protective legislation for investors? What return can I expect from my

Is the banking system safe and reliable? Can banks transfer funds and convert
foreign currency, checks, drafts, and transfers? Are checking, savings and other
accounts available to foreigners? Is there banking confidentiality? Is there a
favorable rate of exchange with the U.S. dollar?

Are good lawyers, accountants, investment advisors and other professionals

How difficult is it to start a business? What kinds of opportunities are there?

How is the health care system? Is it affordable? Do they honor U.S. and
Canadian health insurance? Are there any dangerous diseases, and if so,
does the local health care system address the problem? What is the quality
of hospitals, clinics, doctors and dentists? What is the availability of good

How is the sanitation? Can I drink the water? Do the restaurants have good
sanitation standards? Are pasteurized milk and other dairy products available? Do
meat, fish and vegetable markets have satisfactory sanitary standards?

If I am interested in domestic staff, what is the cost of cooks, housekeepers
and gardeners, etc.? Is the local help reliable?  What regulations are involved
in hiring employees?  What are employers’ responsibilities to workers?

What legislation is there to protect foreign residents?  What rights do foreign
residents have in comparison to citizens?

What natural disasters are there — hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons,
earthquakes, droughts, floods?

Can pets be brought into the country?

Is there religious freedom?

*Courtesy of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica

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