Costa Rica is an island
A quick google search will show you know that Costa Rica is most definitely NOT an island! It is a small country nestled between Nicaragua and Panama with the Pacific Ocean along the West coast and the Caribbean sea along its East coast. It is situated in Central America, which is considered part of the North American continent.
I'll admit that before we started thinking about moving to Costa Rica I was also unaware of its exact location. So much for that great public education, huh?!
Costa Rica is a third world country
Do we even really use these terms anymore? Costa Rica is not a third world country. It may not be up to the same standards as America, but Costa Rica is listed as a high developing country.
They have wonderful healthcare, 96% literacy rate, affordable higher education, and its #1 industry is tourism. So put aside any thoughts of driving around on dirt roads as you feel sad for the locals suffering inside their small huts. You may get some dirt roads, but the poverty and lack of development are much more scarce than one would imagine and are only found in the extremely rural areas.
Costa Rica is dangerous and people get kidnapped ALL the time
Before we moved there a friend asked us "what about the guerrillas there?" We said there's only gorillas in Africa, clearly not getting his meaning. People think that blonde-haired children get kidnapped all the time in Latin America which must mean Costa Rica is dangerous. Too many made-for-TV-movies I guess.
I traveled all around Costa Rica with my 3 young children and never encountered a single problem. We were constantly greeted by kind faces, sweet words, and generous actions. I never for a moment felt unsafe. I haven’t heard of anyone getting kidnapped. Although petty crime does occur, especially in the more tourist filled areas, violent crime is practically unheard of.
Please do not scratch Costa Rica off your bucket list because of some crime list you’ve heard about. It is a peaceful (no army for decades) and friendly country that adores children, so put it at the top of your list and head there before it gets too expensive.
All there is to Costa Rica is beaches
Costa Rica does offer some pretty amazing and secluded beaches but that is certainly not all this small country has to offer. There are small mountain towns with perfect climates, volcanoes, beautiful rivers and lakes, rain forests, cloud forests, a diverse selection of animals, beautiful national parks, and so much more.
If beaches are not your thing, Costa Rica still has something for everyone. From adventure sports, to lazing in a hammock watching monkeys frolic around you deep in the rainforest!
The healthcare is not good, certainly not as good as in the US
Costa Rica’s healthcare system, in my opinion, is actually better than in the US. They provide a socialized benefit to all its citizens as well as free care to any child in the country even if they are foreign born and do not have residency. The thing that sets it apart though is the fact that there is also a private care system which remains quite affordable due to the low-cost and better-than-adequate public system. This allows the public system to be freed up a bit so the common complaint of waiting for care is minimized. The doctors swap between both systems so the actual level of care tends to be the same.
As a nurse in the US, I was quite worried about this before we moved to Costa Rica. But after 5 years there I gave birth to my last son in the private system, one son broke his arm and we used private heath care, one son had a concussion and we used the public system, and another son cut his head a couple times at which point we also used the public system for care. What I found set my mind at ease. In each setting the care was amazing, there was always someone available to speak English and, in truth, I was never taken better care of in any US hospital. The public treatment was all entirely free while the private sector cost was a fraction of U.S. prices.
You can't drink the water and the roads are horrible
My children, husband and I are living proof that the water is indeed potable. I drink about 3-4 liters myself in a day and did so for the entire duration of living in Costa Rica. Nothing about it is unsafe, makes you sick, or leads to any health issues. It is nearly potable throughout the entire country. However, the water sources and treatment vary from one micro-municipality to the next, so check with locals. In the few instances that it is not potable there will usually be a sign letting you know.
Now the roads I had heard were just awful before I moved there and truth be told some of them are treacherous, full of potholes, lacking guardrails, and downright death defying BUT, that is not the norm for main roads and they're improving them slowly but surely. It was definitely not nearly as bad as the picture I had painted in my head!
Costa Rica is super cheap
Finally, the money question. Why is it always about money?? Well, most North Americans will find that Costa Rica is substantially cheaper than their home country but it is also probably one of the more expensive countries in Central America. With the added safety, stability of government, focus on tourism, and provision of basic social systems, naturally a higher cost of living will coincide.
Many people expect to live on even less than they are able to in North America, and if one wishes to live like a local and minimize their needs, then Costa Rica can be a very inexpensive place to retire or lay down roots. But if you are not willing to make small sacrifices of certain comforts and expect to maintain the "American" lifestyle, you will find the cost is very comparable.
In closing, I think the best advice when considering a trip or a move to any foreign country is to do as much research as you can. Also, connect via Facebook or chat rooms with people that are actually living there now. In my opinion it is usually best to get a real insiders view rather than a media portrayal or the opinion of someone that spent just a week there.
What do you think? Are there any misconceptions about Costa Rica that I missed??
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