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Is it a bit like North Norfolk?

Hello

Strange subject header, I know. And apologies for the long post.

I was hoping for some advice. I've spent days browsing the forum and have learned a lot, but I've now got 'analysis paralysis' and have totally confused myself, so thought I'd just ask. It basically comes down to finances and social life

I'm a 46yr old single English guy whose kind of reached one of those 'life crossroads', and have been thinking about semi-retiring to Costa Rica for the last few months. I've only been there twice, though - two fortnight-long holidays, but I totally felt at home. I spent 20yrs working in the oil industry (currently on a career break) and am used to accepting cultural differences. E.g. 'Tico time' sounds very much like 'Thai time'. I can budget for about $3250/month.

So, my question is, what sort of life I could expect to lead with just over $3k/month. I know that in the UK, I'd be constantly strapped for cash if I tried to survive on that. I've read many posts about this on the forum which suggest $2k/month is enough, but they seem to be overwhelmingly geared towards the retired.

I don't mean any offence towards the retired, but I guess the simple fact is that when you get older, you tend to spend less. At the moment, I like to eat out a lot, go to the pub 3 or 4 times per week, socialise a lot, etc. I don't need fancy western food or imported beers, happy with local produce, but I'm unlikely to stay home for five or six nights a week. Could I still do that in CR on $3k/m?

I currently live in North Norfolk, UK, which is basically where the Brits go to retire. I really just came here because the history is so rich and I'm passionate about metal detecting (the county has been heavily populated since the Bronze Age). Consequently, almost all of my friends are in their 60's and 70's, and while I love chatting to the older folk, I think I'll be single for the rest of my life if I stay here.

So, my second question is, as a mid-forties bloke, can I expect much of a social life? I'm not a city-lover, much preferring small towns. I prefer beach to jungle/mountains. Don't speak a single word of Spanish, although keen to learn. Way too old for clubbing and late nights, but I do like to find myself a friendly local pub! Also, I don't need luxuries or huge apartments, but somewhere clean and safe and with enough room for a study.

Thanks for any advice. All a bit vague, sorry about that.

Jon

Jon, have you read the requirements for applying for residency here in Costa Rica?

Unfortunately, if one is under 55, the mandatory healthcare premiums are high, so that could take a big bite out of your very healthy budget. Your 'career break' may have to be extended as until you have Permanent residency you can't legally work unless you have a work visa, however you could work on contracts else where in the world, and then return. In this case, best to rent a condo that will be more secure, for your possession if you are away. Applying for residency may not be beneficial and you may be better to continue to enter Costa Rica as a tourist.

The pubs are nothing like British pubs... :top:

Thanks for the quick reply, Kohlerias.

I have looked into it, although I should probably spend more time on it. I'm probably being naive (as usual), but I thought I'd just be able to put $60k/yr into a CR bank account and apply for the rentista option, then repeat every two years.

My plan was to do that a couple of times, and if everything worked out and CR turned out to be the right place for me, I'd then apply for permanent residency, sell a property in the UK and buy one in CR.

I hadn't planned on looking for employment. I make a (very small) income from freelance fiction writing at the moment, and would probably look to expand upon that, so I guess I'd be self-employed. The last thing I want to do is to return to the oil industry - it's nothing but stress and ego-battles, and there's just more to life than that. :)

You're right about the mandatory health care thing! I just had a quick google, and it seems to be around $442/month for an under 55 rentista. Should I put private medical insurance on top of that? It would take the total to about $550/month I guess. So, I'd be left with about $2700-$2800/month to live off, before any earnings from writing.

My understanding is that the health care costs would drop significantly if I did decide to stay and apply for permanent residency, though?

Thanks again for that insight!

Jon

We have a friend here who also moans about working in the oil industry... :dumbom:

In regards to a lesser amount for your healthcare premium, after gaining Permanent residency, it will still be approx double that of someone over 55...although who knows what will happen in the future.

Yes, many expats also purchase private healthcare insurance.

With your budget you should be able to enjoy the benefits of living here.

Hola Shortcross,

Welcome to Expat.com!

Re the cost of the CAJA/health care, you would need to have someone refer you to an attorney when you set it up.  If you use the "right" attorney, it will cost you a lot less.  If you do end up crossing over this way, send me a PM and I can refer you to someone that I used.  He cut my CAJA month fee by 1/3... legally.

As I'm sure you've read already, the amount that you can live on is entirely dependent on "your" lifestyle.  If you live outside of the more expensive areas of the cities - as you suggest, you can rent a nice Gringo style house for around $550 per month.  To get an idea on housing costs, check out the Housing section above, Craigslist Costa Rica and/or Ecuentra24.

With the income you stated, especially if you're by yourself, you can live very comfortably.  I had a friend from Britain help me build my house and he was living on about $1,500 per month.  Being a Brit, about 1/3 of that of course went into beer  :lol: , but he lived what he considered to be a comfortable lifestyle.

My friend also liked to hang out at the local pubs and the little espanol he spoke was on the comical side.  Tico's seemed to get a kick out of his accent so he found it easy to meet people and to socialize.

Bottom line, from what you describe as your lifestyle and income, I think you'd be quite comfortable here and sounds like you'd assimilate quickly.

Best of luck on your adventure!

- Expat Dave
Expat.com Team Member

I think you could live like a king on $3000 a month, any more than that is just icing on the cake. I am retired but I used to come here when I was single and lived here for 6 months at a time a couple times then.

Don't know if you like the beach but a popular beach area would give you the opportunity to meet people - including women of course - and most beaches have a bar or two where people hang out. I'm not an expert on beach areas here but maybe Jaco or Manuel Antonio or Tamarindo or Montezuma... others can weigh in on that.

As Kohlerias said the one hangup of being a rentista would be the potentially high cost of the CAJA health care which is required. However I know at least one rentista who really doesn't pay that much. It does seem that the attorney you use has an impact on how much a rentista pays. It *may* have something to do with hiding or not divulging assets ...?

But your best bet would be to live here as a tourist or "permanent tourist" for a year or so anyway to make sure you like it, and meanwhile no health care is required. You could get a private policy and I'm not sure but I think maybe $300 a month for that? Someone else can weigh in on that.

Or unless you have health issues just keep health care in your own country for "catastrophic" illness and pay out of pocket for health care here until or unless you decide to become a permanent resident.

San Jose and Alajuela have the most single women and dating scene from what I know, and it is very good in San Jose! But if you don't like city life, then the beach area would be the best option imho.

To anyone who may know: If you have private health insurance here in Costa Rica, do you still have to pay into CAJA or can you get out of it then?

At least with Obamacare you can substitute private ins. for it...
Just curious.
And does anyone know what it does cost - ball park figure of course - for private insurance like to go to CIMA ?

Yes, you're required to pay CAJA even if you have private insurance.

I checked into private insurance last year with Cigna.  Very good coverage with a $1,500.00 deductible was quoted at $360 per month.  That was for me only, did not include my daughter.

- Expat Dave

During my travels around the country, I can say as someone who has walked, driven and hiked  across the UK many times and reads history books for fun, that it is nothing like Norfolk. England has so much more history to share, not like here. Nicaragua has many more historic buildings.
It has its own good points, though.

Only if you become a Costa Rican citizen, can you get out of being affiliated with CAJA...and join it again, whenever you wish.

Thanks so much for your replies, ExpatDave, samramon, kohlerias & crtraveller.

My experience so far of city life is that it's very difficult to get to know anyone and people are generally very wary of other people. London is really bad for that - probably the worst I've ever seen - but I've experienced the same thing in other cities around the world. Small towns and villages just seem to be a bit more welcoming.

I did think about trying the 'permanent tourist' thing, but read that immigration are stamping down on that now. Shame, as that would have been the perfect way to 'try out' CR.

It's great to hear $3000/month is enough to live off, thanks for that. Of all those places you mentioned (Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Montezuma), Jaco is the only place I've previously visited. I liked it, but it was quite a party town (although I guess that's seasonal).

The perfect place for me would be a place perhaps a 20min drive from somewhere like Jaco. I.e. cheaper/quieter and somewhere I could get to know the locals, but if I did fancy a night out on the town then it's only a 20min taxi ride away. Maybe I should attempt the permanent tourist thing for a year and just travel around.

Actually, when I was in Jaco with a couple of mates, we totally overdid it. Just acting like twenty-year olds - out all night, non-stop booze, smoking 60 fags a day, etc. Anyway, the end result was that I had this weird blood pressure spike (I dont have high blood pressure normally). It went up to 160/120 and I felt like my body was shutting down in stages. Went to see the doc (she turned out to be about 25yrs old and looked like a model) and she plied me with pills and said no more booze/fags/coffee/salt/energy drinks for the rest of my life!

Two months later, back home in Australia, blood pressure was back to normal and I was already back on the wine, salting my food, etc. Never smoked again, though, so I have Jaco to thank for that, lol. Strangely, the hardest thing to give up was salt. Have you ever tried totally cutting it out of your diet? Nothing tastes of anything!

I did think about trying the 'permanent tourist' thing, but read that immigration are stamping down on that now. Shame, as that would have been the perfect way to 'try out' CR........................This has been said to the 13 years I have lived here. Best not to pay too much attention to the nay sayers.

ExpatDave :

Yes, you're required to pay CAJA even if you have private insurance.

I checked into private insurance last year with Cigna.  Very good coverage with a $1,500.00 deductible was quoted at $360 per month.  That was for me only, did not include my daughter.

- Expat Dave

Thanks Dave, that's good info. A shame you have to pay CAJA even if you have private insurance - that kills it for me.

rendrag :

This has been said to the 13 years I have lived here. Best not to pay too much attention to the nay sayers.

I should have guessed! Thanks for the info, rendrag.

Shortcross :

Thanks so much for your replies, ExpatDave, samramon, kohlerias & crtraveller.

My experience so far of city life is that it's very difficult to get to know anyone and people are generally very wary of other people. London is really bad for that - probably the worst I've ever seen - but I've experienced the same thing in other cities around the world. Small towns and villages just seem to be a bit more welcoming.

I did think about trying the 'permanent tourist' thing, but read that immigration are stamping down on that now. Shame, as that would have been the perfect way to 'try out' CR.

It's great to hear $3000/month is enough to live off, thanks for that. Of all those places you mentioned (Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Montezuma), Jaco is the only place I've previously visited. I liked it, but it was quite a party town (although I guess that's seasonal).

The perfect place for me would be a place perhaps a 20min drive from somewhere like Jaco. I.e. cheaper/quieter and somewhere I could get to know the locals, but if I did fancy a night out on the town then it's only a 20min taxi ride away. Maybe I should attempt the permanent tourist thing for a year and just travel around.

Actually, when I was in Jaco with a couple of mates, we totally overdid it. Just acting like twenty-year olds - out all night, non-stop booze, smoking 60 fags a day, etc. Anyway, the end result was that I had this weird blood pressure spike (I dont have high blood pressure normally). It went up to 160/120 and I felt like my body was shutting down in stages. Went to see the doc (she turned out to be about 25yrs old and looked like a model) and she plied me with pills and said no more booze/fags/coffee/salt/energy drinks for the rest of my life!

Two months later, back home in Australia, blood pressure was back to normal and I was already back on the wine, salting my food, etc. Never smoked again, though, so I have Jaco to thank for that, lol. Strangely, the hardest thing to give up was salt. Have you ever tried totally cutting it out of your diet? Nothing tastes of anything!

First of all do not let the "they're cracking down on perpetual tourism" thing slow you down in your plans. I know a guy who has been doing it for over 10 years. When you are applying for residency you have to do it for 6-12 or more months while you wait, if you want to drive here. (Long story on that law...) So when we did it, we were never even asked if we had papers to show we were applying for residency. They didn't care, they just rubber stamped our entry.

There are MANY people who do the perpetual tourism thing for years and years and I've known several and not one has ever had a problem. Is it possible to have a problem? I'd say very very unlikely, especially if you behave nicely at the crossing and don't act like a jerk.

I have a friend who is very outgoing (unlike me) and likes to meet the locals and he lived here in San Ramon for awhile. I went around with him sometimes as he would talk to everyone he met, seemingly every store worker, every waiter or waitress etc and he found the people very friendly. He was always talking to everyone and exchanging phone numbers and yes sometimes he did follow through and hear from people he exchanged numbers with. So my point is that in the smaller towns outside the San Jose area I imagine the people are much friendlier. I know they are here in San Ramon.

I lived in a big city before coming to Costa Rica, and in my city everyone was cold and afraid to talk to others. I even had people in my  apartment building who I saw for years who wouldn't bother to say hi to me or return my "hi"! Imagine that! (And no, no reason, they lived on the other end of the building and had no reason to dislike me or anything.) So big cities breed that kind of coldness I think,
Jaco is indeed THE beach party capitol of Costa Rica I think, but there are many other smaller yet not too small beach areas where you can meet people and party and yes, live outside town and then take a taxi into town.

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