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Costa Rica - Overview

The Republic of Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordering Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, with the Pacific Ocean on its west coast and the Caribbean Sea on its east coast. The vast majority of the population are of Spanish descent.

Compared to many other Central American countries, Costa Rica is relatively affluent and politically stable, and has as a result become a popular retirement destination particularly for North Americans, and also many European nationalities. It is also a very popular tourist destination, and the government has taken advantage of the country's environmental and wildlife assets to promote the growth of eco-tourism. Around a quarter of the land consists of national parks and other protected areas in which there is an abundance of wildlife and plant species. Tourists and expatriates alike are also attracted by the pleasant tropical climate, diverse landscapes and many sandy beaches along the long coastline. The country has eight active volcanoes which are also tourist attractions.

The bustling capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, is an interesting mix of modern high-rise blocks and traditional Spanish architecture, with many shopping malls, restaurants, nightclubs, a number of museums, theatres and cinemas, and a cathedral.

Expatriates have also been particularly attracted to Costa Rica because of its relatively low cost of living and low property prices, although the cost of real estate in Costa Rica is rising rapidly due to the influx of foreign nationals.

There is a modern, low-cost health care system, with good hospitals and clinics in most main towns. Expatriates are exempt from tax on overseas income, and there are lower property taxes than in the U.S. and no capital gains taxes.

On the downside, Costa Rica has a high level of petty crime, some violent crime, and it is alleged that there is considerable corruption. Unemployment and poverty are high among the local population, although it is claimed that Costa Rica has the most equal distribution of wealth among Latin American countries.

Overall, Costa Rica is probably a good choice of retirement destination for expatriates, but the low level of wages and salaries in the country make it more difficult for foreign employees to have a good standard of living here, unless they are employed by an overseas-based company.

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.