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Would anybody like to offer thoughts and experiences about a comparison of Costa Rica with its neighbors, Nicaragua and Panama?

Especially in regards to ...

  • Immigration - rights, time frame, cost and process in general
  • Health care - cost and quality
  • Crime and Safety
  • Weather
  • Value of Money / Buying Power
  • Infrastructure and technology
  • Overall lifestyle


I'm sure at least some of you must have formed opinions about it. I'd love to hear (read) them.

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I have been sorting my way through this very question for a few years now. I just visited CR but have never been to Nicarauga or Panama except for a layover. But I've been doing the online thing for a long time and my impressions are these. Very simplified.


Nicarauga offers a lower cost of living. The country is the 2nd poorest in the world after Haiti. Granada popular and very hot. Many very poor people everywhere (not judging the poor, just saying). Some say they feel safer in Nicarauga. Others not so much.


Panama is on the dollar currency-wise and has a good socialized health care system. Infrastructure is more first world. Hotter and humider even than CR. Live inland. Shop in David. Or live on the very hot and deserted-out-of-season coast.


Just throwing this out here. I'd love to hear more. I think it's probably a very personal gut feeling and I think I know why it would be CR for me. With no real basis for comparison of course.

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Panama does not have socialized health care. Similar in USA some time back. Buy insurance,co-pays,approval for procedures, getting reimbursed for when you must pay up front. Sort of 20/80 with co-pays. lab, xrays, is pay up front. Insurance may approve x amt. dollars they will pay for your surgery but the cost of the surgery probably much higher. Lots about their health care on the web.

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Nicaragua in general is a bit too backwards for my taste and then there's the govt there which I would not completely trust, especially after thngs like it's attempted incursions into CR territories.


And Panamá would be OK if here were more altitude in general but the area I would want to live in is either in the cooler province of Chiriquí up on the E or W side of Volcán Barú, or in slightly temperate Santa Fé just N above Santiago, even though it has no prtrol station in the town. (Lots of orchids there, though.) But both places are at a significant distance from Panama City if I wanted to go there for some entertainment like cinema, the symphony, or theater.


Those things would also be mostly missing the cooler areas of Nicaragua, which are distant from Managua.


So CR has all that and cooler temps and mostly together in the Central Valley, which therefore gets my vote as the palce to be. (Well so far, anyway.)




Paul M.


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Thanks for the good input.

We'll stay in CR for a considerably long time first anyway but we're also trying to keep our eyes and minds open to possible options and alternatives and we're wondering if we should plan on exploring these options.


I'm trying to collect information to make a pro/con list. Please feels free to correct me if I'm wrong and let me know what needs to be added. Most of the information is based on more or less credible internet sources.


CR Pros

  • diverse landscape
  • diverse climate
  • many English speaking areas
  • cost of health care once you're a permanent resident
  • Politically stable democracy

CR Cons

  • long process of immigration
  • high crime rate
  • high cost of health care until you become a permanent resident (compared to)


Panama Pros

  • health care (quality and cost)
  • infrastructure and technology

Panama Cons

  • cost of living (highest compared to ...?)
  • climate (hot and humid)

Nicaragua Pros

  • low cost of living
  • affordable health care
  • safest country in Central America

Nicaragua Cons

  • Politically questionable
  • weak infrastructure and technology
  • possible occurrence of Hurricanes
Edited by Redneck
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What do you mean by "English speaking areas" of CR? You will find some English speakers in certain pockets (tourist towns, Escazu or San Jose where many Ticos have learned it in private schools, or any town where you see a group of gringos socializing), but you're not going to find "English speaking areas" as if that is the dominant language being spoken in the area...unless you mean in the Caribbean area (& I don't know how much English vs. Spanish is spoken in that area as I've never been there).



Edited by ReevesTribe
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You should seriously consider visiting and 'test driving' CR and the neighboring countries, for appropriate amount of time, before applying for residency. Belize is where you will find the English speaking areas.


We already know that we'll "test drive" CR. We're trying to make up our minds about if or if not we should spend more time and money on other countries as well. BTW, Belize has initially been on our consideration list some time ago too but we took it off because of its high violent crime rate, weak infrastructure and technology, high risk of hurricanes, weak health care.

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Health care in Costa Rica's private sector costs the same whether you're a tourist, a temporary resident, a permanent resident or a citizen. As a legal resident (temporary or permanent), you are required to be enrolled in the national health system, the CAJA, whether you elect to use it or not. As compared to the cost of medical care in the U.S., care here is dirt cheap. Can't speak to Nicaragua or Panama.


There is no evidence that the crime rate in Costa Rica is materially higher than the rate in other Central American countries. In fact, the murder rate is significantly lower.


Panama, too, is subject to governmental instability. Can you say, "Manuel Noriega"? Costa Rica has an unbroken of democracy that dates back to 1948. No other Central American country has a record that approaches that in any way.

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