The Cons of Moving to Costa Rica

A reader discuses the cons of moving to Costa Rica, including entering the country, the price of land and the real estate industry.

| November/December 1974

For any of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers who are considering moving to Costa Rica, I'd like to point out a few facts that are too realistic for tourist brochures and land sale ads and too current for encyclopedias.

Costa Rica is publicized as a "storybook" country. That, however, simply isn't true any longer . . . as many Americans are finding out at considerable expense. I've lived here not quite six months and have felt a change in just that time. Before I leave I want to report on the local situation, the problems an immigrant can expect to face and the reasons behind those problems.

First, about entering Costa Rica: Possibly the smallest of the difficulties you'll encounter will begin well before you reach the border. Although the fact isn't publicized, you must meet certain qualifications even to buy a plane ticket to visit Costa Rica. Your physical appearance at the airport can make a substantial difference, since stereotype "hippies" are officially unwelcome and are discouraged as a matter of policy by the government-owned airline, Lacsa. Also, to ensure that no vagabonds come to stay permanently, you must hold a return ticket out of the country before you'll even be allowed to enter.

If you pass the appearance test, the only documentation you'll need is proof of U.S. citizenship (a passport, voter's registration card or driver's license will do) and a current smallpox vaccination certificate. With these and $2.00 you can obtain a 30-day tourist card from the airline. This permit may be extended for up to half a year. Occasionally, though, an extension is refused on the basis of appearance or any trouble with the police the visitor may have had during his first month in Costa Rica.

Other visas, or resident status, are available to qualified persons. Since information on these is subject to change without notice, check with the nearest Costa Rican consulate for current immigration regulations before you start packing. If you have an outside income of at least $300 a month, you should investigate pensionado status with its lucrative tax dodges.

Before you make travel plans, however, you must understand one important fact: Costa Rica is no longer an inexpensive, quiet country with the welcome mat out for more North Americans. The biggest problem facing the would-be homesteader is an inflation rate that has been estimated at 30 percent a year. That's about three times the figure for the U.S., and the second highest in this hemisphere . . . surpassed only in Chile.

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