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Costa Rica vs. Lakeside (and Mexico in general)


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I have friends who are seriously considering moving to Costa Rica and as it's been quite a few years since I last spent time there thought there might be folks here with more up-to-date perspective. l

I did a lot of business travel in CR (since I was a coffee buyer) and mostly remember lovely people, bland food, lots of natural beauty and a pretty "white bread" culture compared to, say, Guatemala or Mexico. But I do know they have a vibrant democracy (maybe the healthiest in the Americas) and good quality of life. My sense is that cost of llving in the highland cities near San José where year-round expats congregate is at least as high as Lakeside or San Miguel de Allende, maybe higher, but that could be outdated info. 

Any thoughts from folks who've lived in both places or traveled recently would be appreciated. 

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A friend of mine lived in Costa Rica for several years, moved here a year ago, and is moving back to CR as soon as it is safe to travel. She would be an excellent person to connect with about this.  I will pm you with a way to contact her.

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6 hours ago, Kevin K said:

I have friends who are seriously considering moving to Costa Rica and as it's been quite a few years since I last spent time there thought there might be folks here with more up-to-date perspective. l

I did a lot of business travel in CR (since I was a coffee buyer) and mostly remember lovely people, bland food, lots of natural beauty and a pretty "white bread" culture compared to, say, Guatemala or Mexico. But I do know they have a vibrant democracy (maybe the healthiest in the Americas) and good quality of life. My sense is that cost of llving in the highland cities near San José where year-round expats congregate is at least as high as Lakeside or San Miguel de Allende, maybe higher, but that could be outdated info. 

Any thoughts from folks who've lived in both places or traveled recently would be appreciated. 

Costa Rica is quite expensive. Cost of living + rent Mexico is 20.91

                                                       Cost of living + rent Costa Rica is 35.31

cost of living index https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_by_country.jsp

 

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11 hours ago, Kevin K said:

I did a lot of business travel in CR (since I was a coffee buyer) and mostly remember lovely people, bland food, lots of natural beauty 

In the time I spent in Costa Rica the only negative thing I remember 20 years later is bland food.  If you are freaked out by cartel violence I had read that CR is off limits to that violence but I have no clue if that is true.

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Me too. And going north a couple of times per year for short visits to Seattle or Vancouver Island,, I found the trip from Guadalajara via air to be much faster than from anywhere in Costa Rica

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Extremely expensive compared to here. Costa Rica is extremely clean, they take great pride in their country and everyone seems to respect the environment. We were shocked at the restaurant prices, wine etc is all very expensive. Very very hot and always humid. People are friendly.

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I've been in every country in Central America and all of western South America.  There is not another place that suits our needs quite like this area.  We have lived in San Miguel de Allende and I lived in Patzcuaro. I have been in 26 different states of Mexico.  Always with an eye out for potential living or retirement.  The combination of elements that exist here does not exist anywhere else that I have ever been.  If you feel like Ajijic is too much like "gringolandia" then consider places like San Nicolas or Santa Cruz or even Jocotepec.  Same weather, proximity to Guad and airport, four hours from the best beaches in Mexico, and Ajijic amenities within a short drive.  It can depend on your comfort with the language.  There is crime and corruption in all of Latin America as well as in many places in the US.  Some folks just love South Texas, Florida, or Arizona.  Not our choice though.  Half of the fun of expat living is exploring your options...something that much of the world just does not have the luxury of doing.  Alan

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Everyone I've ever talked to about Costa Rica always mentions the bland food. I wonder how they arrived at such cuisine when they are surrounded by countries that use spices and have flavorful food.

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Gallo Pinto, CRs' national dish, even when made with good L&P Worcestershire sauce rather than fresh spices, is so simple and delicious.  See https://hispanickitchen.com/recipes/gallo-pinto/

It's said that CR was very thinly populated with indigenous communities when it was colonized, resulting in more European genes per customer.  So maybe bland taste is genetic, though I once participated in a poll on a bus in the Bolivian Andes that determined that white kids from around the world favored Mexican. Here in California, that was certainly true 50 years ago, but as Asian influences jumped the border, Thai, Indian, Sichuan, Hunan and all manner of hot stuff has been easily assimilated.

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, mudgirl said:

Well, I've been to the Caribbean and didn't find the food there to be bland.

 That´s what I meant by saying it was different. I think the bland food comments are meant about San Jose and the tourist areas. Seafood is not bad all over the country but beef is mostly Brahmans and Cebus.  Imagine the worst steak you ever ate in Mexico.

When I lived there 40 years ago, the most popular restaurant was a Mexican restaurant on the main street in San Jose, and Mexicans were referred to as "Andales"

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I haven't been there for almost 20 years. Do you remember the San Jose suburb called Escazu?  It" is often referred to as “Little America,” thanks to its huge population of English-speaking expats," It is sort of like Ajijic if it were a neighborhood in a larger city.  San Jose's population is about 400,000

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On 7/18/2020 at 9:42 AM, Guiness said:

Costa Rica is extremely clean, they take great pride in their country and everyone seems to respect the environment.

Things must've changed since I was there last. I even took a picture of the "tira la basura por la ventana" sign in one of the buses. Clean bus, highways littered. My tica wife didn't think twice about throwing wrappers and other trash on the ground.

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On ‎7‎/‎17‎/‎2020 at 10:58 PM, Kiko said:

In the time I spent in Costa Rica the only negative thing I remember 20 years later is bland food.  If you are freaked out by cartel violence I had read that CR is off limits to that violence but I have no clue if that is true.

No cartel violence but a lot of petty crime like pick pockets, purse snatchers, domestic help theft, etc., etc.  Even entering the country, Aduana is legalized theft.  And unlike Mexico where cartel crime doesn´t have much to do with tourists and foreigners, in CR, it´s all about tourists and foreigners.  Not dangerous, but aggravating and time consuming, replacing passports, credit cards, and other vital items travelers carry.  Never, never leave anything in a hotel room that you might have to replace.

I had a friend that spent a couple of years there and  came back fairly recently,  and said,  "never again".   They weren´t the most careful about not leaving things lying around that you didn´t want to come up missing.

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Don't remember littering as a prominent feature of CR (especially compared to, say, Bali), but the lack of both (tax-expensive) police services and road maintenance did result in a different kind of environment than gringos are accustomed to.  At night, a sort of petty-criminal demimonde seemed to emerge, and several years ago anyway, the law sanctioned 'squatters rights' to the point that house invasions and appropriations could and did happen (after a few years of owner neglect), compelling foreign owners to employ caretakers.  My overall impression of the Ticos was very favorable - went out to the very edges of different cities and towns (looking at real estate), and even shacks seemed to have all the basic utilities, and bespoke a modest but decent and casual sub-tropical lifestyle.

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8 hours ago, slainte39 said:

No cartel violence but a lot of petty crime like pick pockets, purse snatchers, domestic help theft, etc., etc.  Even entering the country, Aduana is legalized theft.  

Por el dinero baila el perro,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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Thanks everyone for the very helpful feedback. I'll pass it along to my friend. 

Costa Rica would definitely be too bland for me, culturally and culinarily. And I have a feeling their tourism-dependent economy is going to suffer as much or more than Mexico's from the pandemic. But one has to admire the many things they do right as a country, wish them well and dream of other countries learning from their efforts to preserve nature (and democracy). 

Thanks again!

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