At lot of us dream about paradise and affordable living. That is because we want to be able to get away for the hassles of big cities, traffic jams; the 9 to 5 entrapment. We want to be free in paradise. Costa Rica has been painted as the paradise of Central America. Those who have had the privilege of visiting and enjoying the constant sun, sea and food, will tell you it is "The" place to be. Apart from all the media hype, reality is always different. Daily life in Costa Rica has nothing to do with the sun and sea. Most tourists who visit Costa Rica tend to stay in the touristic areas. For some, it is hotel, beach, restaurant and souvenirs. If that is all you have been able to see in Costa Rica, it is a paradise. You might also ask why do natives of Costa Rica line up at the US embassy in a bid to get out of the country? Is it a case of the grass is greener on the other side? That might be the case or it might also be that Costa Rica is not the paradise that it is purported to be. We should not forget that Costa Rica is a beautiful country with much to offer with regards to nature and beautiful beaches. As everyone knows, there is more to life than strolling along the sea side.
With regards to food, you cannot beat rice and beans and Gallo Pinto. If you were to stay here for more than a month, you will start to get bored of eating rice and beans. The Ticos, as the locals a called will eat rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You could also offer them rice pudding for dessert and they will be enchanted. There is nothing to worry about, to understand this cultural spectacle, you would need to have been born and raised here. It doesn't mean that there is nothing else to eat. In big towns like Liberia and San Jose there are numerous restaurants and fast food outlets. For the locals, nothing beats the food from the Sodas. Soda is a name given to little restaurants where you can get your fill of rice and beans. Costa Rica can also be considered a rice and beans paradise. Live the dream!
This dream has drawn a lot of foreigners to Costa Rica. The majority are referred to as "Gringos" and they are mostly Americans. You would think that the Costa Rican government doesn't want any more Americans on its soil. That is not the case but the new laws are nevertheless confusing.
So what is perpetual tourism in Costa Rica? To understand this, you need a little more insight to immigration laws in Costa Rica. Once upon a time, it was easy to move to Costa Rica and set up home anywhere you want. At that time, not many people wanted to. Why would you want to come to Costa Rica when you've got it good? Those days are long gone and Costa Rica now wants only rich foreigners. If you are poor and you dream of living in paradise, you better keep dreaming or choose another paradise. The local government has made it very difficult to get any form of residency in Costa Rica. You could either get married to a local; earn more than a thousand dollars in regular income in the form of a pension. If you are already married and are not earning that much on your pension, you are disqualified. If you think that getting permanent residency by virtue of marriage is the easiest thing to do, well beware that it is a cumbersome procedure. What if you are already married? That is a different story but the point is that, it is just never that easy. The government now wants you to come and invest more than 200 thousand dollars in order to be granted residency. If you had that much in your bank account you probably wouldn't be thinking of Costa Rica. With this in mind, how do you live in Costa Rica if you do not meet all these longwinded requirements? Perpetual Tourism!
This basically means you enter Costa Rica on a tourist visa of 90 days. You then leave the country for 72 hours and back again into Costa Rica. Most perpetual tourists will go to Panama or Nicaragua. On your way back, you receive another 90 days. Of course the 90 days visa is only valid for people from the European Union, The United States and other selected countries. If you are unfortunate enough, you will only get a 30 days visa. This of course makes it more difficult as constant travel is very tiring and onerous. Some people have been perpetual tourist for many years. Why is this possible? This is counter intuitive but anyway that is the way it is. You could go to Costa Rica and start a business on a tourist Visa. However, you will be unable to work in that business. You will have to employ local labor to run the daily activities of your business. If your business runs well and you are able to make profit, then you could live of the proceeds of your investment. Owning a business does not guarantee residency in Costa Rica. The same goes for owning a property. This means if you have a bit of savings you could live in Costa Rica for many years travelling back and forth. There are downsides to this as you never really belong. A very zealous immigration officer might make you life miserable or even refuse you re-entry. It doesn't happen a lot but the risk is real.
Early 2010, the government of Costa Rica has decided to make it more difficult for perpetual tourists. The details are still in the pipeline but interpretation of the new laws depends on each immigration official. The new law will make it more difficult for perpetual tourists but not make it impossible.
It is like anything in the world, when a new law comes into existent, there are people who would have already worked out how to bypass it. Nothing really changes in the world nor will the new Immigration law bring about the changes expected. One of the problems will be building a concerted administration to implement the law. If history in Costa Rica is anything to go by, you will already know the outcome.