Costa Rica vs Colombia for Retirement?

Medellin, Colombia

Last year one of my neighbors, an 84 year old lady, decided to change her retirement from living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica to the huge city of Medellin, Colombia (above photo). It was her son’s idea and he was promising to move there also and work from there (though he hasn’t done that yet). Thus I was interested in Christopher Howard’s comparison article on his “Live in Costa Rica” website blog today (just click title to read):

Costa Rica (Central Valley) vs Medellín: a difficult comparison
Disclaimer: His article is more a city comparison than a country comparison in my opinion.

San Jose, Costa Rica

Like so many other things, it boils down to a matter of personal taste and interests and maybe even more so what you have experienced in each place before deciding to move there. You absolutely must make several visits to a place before you decide to live the rest of your life there! Tours like Chris’s are very helpful but you also need to visit on your own. I visited Costa Rica 4 times before moving and even more visits would have been better, though it was kind of “love at first sight” for me.

My old neighbor lives in a high-rise apartment in the middle of a huge city, Medellin. (So a real comparison would be to an apartment in downtown San Jose.) I live in a semi-rural setting on the edge of a small farming town. A huge difference! Yet I’m an hour from everything the big city offers and I have quicker access to every corner of my smaller country, Costa Rica, than she has to her larger country of Colombia. That is important to me as I seek to photograph birds and other nature in national parks, reserves, etc. She has close-by more dining, shopping variety, arts, theaters, concerts and other urban entertainment close at hand than I do. So what is important to you? We are all different with different priorities. And we have a very stable government in Costa Rica while Columbia is, well, hoping to be! Better now than in several generations!

Someone could similarly compare (and Chris probably has in the past) retirement in Costa Rica to Panama which is more Americanized and has more English spoken and maybe more cosmopolitan if in Panama City or its suburbs. Two visits there told me that overall I wouldn’t like living there as well as in Costa Rica for my love of nature. While for nature and birding, Nicaragua (our other neighbor) would be competitive with Costa Rica or close maybe, but the questionable government and less-developed infrastructure keeps it from being quite as appealing, though cost of living would be a lot lower than Costa Rica and a big plus! I visited there twice also and I could live there after my Spanish is better, but Spanish is absolutely needed there! Ecuador has been pushed by the International Living magazine, because I think they have real estate investments there. I tried that magazine for a year and basically don’t trust them, though you can glean a lot of information from it. Just beware of them speaking authoritatively. For now, I am quite pleased with my choice of Costa Rica and still working on getting to know this country better. Eventually I will have visited all of the National Parks and many reserves. But to absorb all of the nature and photograph it will take the rest of my life and that sounds like a good plan!  🙂

International Living magazine again ranks Costa Rica the #1 Place to Retire!   FLASH addition

¡Pura Vida!

Red-eyed Tree Frog
Tortuguero, Costa Rica
by Charlie Doggett

For more of my take on retirement in Cost Rica, browse through my photo galleries at: 

Call From Tour Leader – Ready to Go!

Yesterday Christopher Howard, the director of “Live in Costa Rica Tours” called me to give last minute details about pickup at airport Saturday and answer the many questions I keep asking. I’m excited about having “boots on the ground” in my continued search for whether or not this is the best thing for me to do. Right now I’m certainly favoring a move while looking for good reasons why I shouldn’t do it. I’m in Costa Rica August 23–September 5 and plan to post a photo and report each night that I have internet connection and it isn’t too late when I get in my hotel room. See my itinerary.

Now that it is widely known what I am doing next week, it is fun hearing the questions and comments from friends who find this concept of moving abroad rather strange and some even dangerous. Of course I’m the forever educator and helping many Nashvillians learn a lot about life in Costa Rica.   🙂  While other friends who know be pretty well are not surprised at all that I would consider moving to Costa Rica!

Landing at the San Jose International Airport 2009
Click to enlarge.

Going on the Tour

I’m now signed up for the “Live In Costa Rica” Tour later this summer. It doesn’t mean I’m moving, but that I am really serious about considering it. I’ll get to see my beloved country again and experience from a totally new angle. We will see some sights of course, but the focus is on living there this time, visiting in some expat homes, see what living is like in the city, valley, mountains, and coast. Then I am staying over 4 extra days to personally check out some rental houses, apartments and condos. The tour is not a real estate tour, but I want to see first hand what I can live in for about a third of what I’m paying now. I’m having some doubts and questioning a few things that hopefully the tour will help me answer and make my big decision.

Click here to see the itinerary of the “Combination Tour” which just means both the valley and the coast, since some select just one or the other. In between the two tours we have a two-day seminar which is really where I will get my questions answered and be more ready to make the decision. This tour will be the best part of my decision process. I will try to post nightly while on the tour, assuming I will have internet connections in all the areas, which is another qualifier for me. Of course they have satellite TV which I don’t even care about, but the promise of high-speed internet is essential for me.

Yes, I’m a little scared that I may be wasting money, though I always love being in Costa Rica. I’m reading a lot and even have two books ordered from Nashville Public Library, but this “boots on the ground” tour will be the real test and I will love it even if I decide to not move. At least I will have given it a whirl!