5 Reasons To Live And Travel Abroad In Central America – Costa Rica, Panama

After nearly a decade of an on again off again romance with Central America, I have finally decided to plant some roots here and settle down, at least for now.

Why here? I spent my eighth grade year in Costa Rica, attending middle school. During that time, I made an excellent group of friends who I’ve stayed in touch with throughout the years. In part, because each summer following that first full year, I returned to Costa Rica to work.

To gain a more worldly perspective, during College I spent a short-term semester in Nicaragua as well as a short-term semester in Spain. While the architecture and lifestyle of Spain is charming, there is also a snobbish and cold underside to the culture there that I never could shake. My host family was friendly, but not overly so. At one point they stopped feeding my roommate and me because they said we ate too much. This wasn’t a huge problem, we simply bought more food for ourselves. I’m not a complainer. While living with the family, our only meal together was during lunch, and rather than practicing my Spanish skills, we sat in front of the television and watched Formula One racing. Again, at the time I didn’t complain, but I was a tad jealous of other student’s whose host families took an interest in them. Yet, in a surprising turn of events, my host family took us out for our last meal. When they finally began asking me questions, such as “where did you learn Spanish?” they were shocked to find out that I had lived and worked in Costa Rica and that, in fact, my brother owned a travel agency. Later that night, my host brother, who was thirty-five and still lived at home, who also put a layer of mayo an inch thick on his toasted bread at every meal, informed me that he had already emailed my brother about a vacation.

This trip greatly contrasted to my short-term in Nicaragua. I can’t say that it is class differences that made my Nicaraguan family more sweet and caring, because that simply isn’t true. While my family in Nicaragua was quite poor, the attitude of Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans is simply a more amiable one than of the Spaniards I encountered. This is just my personal experience and I’m sure there are a lot of nice Spaniards out there. However, maybe it’s the physical geography, the smells in the air, I’m not quite sure what it is, but the Latin people are more at ease with life.

So why am I planting my roots here?

1. The weather- I’m a self diagnosed member of the S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder), while I enjoy seasonal changes, being from the Northeast, I can’t deal with excessive amounts of cold and gloomy weather. Here in Costa Rica we have the rainy season and dry season. It’s nice to have stable weather that never gets too cold. I enjoy the rain as it makes the earth smell fresh and alive, and only lasts for a short while (twenty minutes to an hour-ish) a few times a week.

2. I’m the minority- I like being the new kid in town, and while I’m certainly not, as I’ve been here for a long time and there are many other gringos about, I do feel like I bring a unique perspective to life here.
I am constantly amused, some times annoyed, by how things work here, or don’t work. I just take it easy and enjoy the crazy ride.

3. The People- For the most part, everyone is nice here. Obviously, I can’t be ignorant to think that I wouldn’t get taken advantage of because I’m a gringa, or because there aren’t bad people here too. However, there’s a childish kind of charm to Costa Rica and the general attitude here that I hope never changes. The general populace also drives like teenagers here too, so watch out.

4. The food- que comida mas rica…I miss rice and beans or gallo pinto, when I’m away. I miss fresh fish and delicious chicken and ceviche. I suppose these are foods that could be purchased or made anywhere, but they just don’t taste as good as when you’re on the porch of a funky little restaurant, in the mountains or beach, enjoying a sunny day and taking in the environment.

5. The Geography- beaches, mountains and all so very different with in a short flight or few hours drive. Not to mention, we’re right in between Nicaragua and Panama, which also offer vast amounts of diverse climate/geography/and cultural exploration.

Looking to Buy a Second Home? Central America Offers Great Value

Looking for a second home for vacation, retirement or simply as an investment? If so, then you should consider a location in Central America.

Properties in countries like Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama offer natural beauty as well as great value. Your dollar goes much further in these countries than in the U.S.

Just imagine, you can buy a spacious home on the beach or in the mountains for less than one-third and sometimes one-half of what you would pay for a comparable vacation property at home.

To meet the demand for luxury property in Central America, many developers are now building, upscale, master-planned residential developments.

You’ll find properties that offer everything you could ever want in a second home, from resort-style pools, to world-class golf courses, gourmet restaurants, upscale retailers, beach access and personalized concierge services. And many have rental programs that will keep your home rented and generating revenue for you when you’re not there.

Plus, these countries are encouraging foreign investors, offering tax incentives and generally making it easy and safe for non-citizens to purchase property.

For all these reasons Central America is experiencing a growth spurt that has never been seen before and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. And, as anyone who has ever bought real estate knows, the time to buy is at the start of the upswing.

A second home in Central America offers:

o A low cost of living

o Great weather year-round

o The chance to enjoy another culture

o Quality developments with outstanding amenities

o Beautiful, untouched ocean views

o Beach and mountain locations

o An opportunity to buy real estate at pre-construction prices

o Optional rental programs to generate revenue

o Profit potential when you sell

o Proximity to the U.S.

Investing in real estate in Central America has never been smarter or easier. Using the Internet, you can learn about properties overseas and the requirements for making a purchase. Transactions can be done via e-mail and phone.

Additionally, financial institutions are more willing now to make loans on second homes abroad than they were in the past. The process has been simplified as lenders have become increasingly transparent, global and linked.

Concerned about buying a home in a country that isn’t as modern as the U.S.? Don’t be. Infrastructure in Central America has been greatly improved in recent years. There are new and expanded airports, and more frequent and direct flights from major U.S. and European cities. There are better roads and modern marinas, all enhancing access to new property developments.

Plus, these countries now have up-to-date medical facilities, often staffed by American-trained doctors. Getting advanced and affordable healthcare is no longer a concern. Suddenly, what was once considered an exotic location now offers the same quality and conveniences as home.

If being far away from friends and family causes you to hesitate, don’t worry about being out of touch. In Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica, you’ll find global cellular phone connections and easy Internet access, helping fend off feelings of isolation during time spent outside the U.S.

Owning a vacation or retirement property in Central America countries like Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica can provide great enjoyment, diversify your investments, generate rental income and even ultimately increase your net worth. What more could you ask from a second home!

DR-CAFTA – Maintaining Good Trade Relations Between the US and Central America

When we think of relations between the United States and countries in Central America, the association may spark memory of past US involvement in political unrest (particularly in Nicaragua and El Salvador). In recent years, however, six nations that comprise Central America have come to rely upon the US and each other for economic gain. The Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, has proven advantageous for these countries – where many inhabitants live below the poverty level – to make trade inroads with North America.

The Benefits of DR-CAFTA

Following the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during the Clinton Administration, successor George W. Bush sought to expand American trade relations further along the Western Hemisphere. In 2003, the Bush Administration negotiated with four current members to form the agreement, and by the next year DR-CAFTA had been finalized to allowed free trade within the participating nations:

  • Costa Rica – A largely agricultural nation, Costa Rica imports bananas, coffee, sugar and cocoa.
  • The Dominican Republic – Clothing production represents the largest percent of this country’s export income.
  • El Salvador – Coffee accounts for nearly a quarter of El Salvador’s export revenues, though they also send paper products and sugar to the US.
  • Guatemala – Like Costa Rica, Guatemala exports coffee and bananas, but in recent years has expanded offerings to textiles and cut flowers.
  • Honduras – Coffee, fruits and nuts are among the foodstuffs shipped to the United States and fellow CAFTA nations
  • Nicaragua – The largest of the Central American nations land-wise, Nicaraguan key exports include coffee and shellfish.

Through this trade agreement, DR-CAFTA nations enjoy tariff-free trade on the majority of US imports and exports nearly a third of their product and services into the United States. The state of Florida, in particular, is important to DR-CAFTA in that the majority of trade and communication passes through this area. With a large Spanish-speaking population and airports that offer direct flights to Central America, Florida assists the DR-CAFTA in expediting trade. Close to $20 billion in goods from DR-CAFTA countries ship to the United States, improving overall prosperity.

The Challenges

Despite the economic boost to the poorer nations of Central America, and the potential for American companies to establish international branches and plants without penalization, DR-CAFTA has not operated without its share of detractors. Concern over restrictions with regards to drug testing and quality control of certain products have challenged Central American pharmaceutical companies to produce affordable medicines, while other critics in the economics field like Joseph Stiglitz have suggested the agreement will not necessarily lessen poverty since American imports may threaten the local businesses.

However one views DR-CAFTA, this agreement may be considered critical to maintaining good relations throughout the Americas – not just in these six Central American countries, but beyond. Their accompanying Environmental Cooperation Program serves to aid Central America in strengthening their conservation efforts, while US involvement in enforcement of International Labor standards seeks to improve working conditions in the country. DR-CAFTA is an important stepping stone towards a more ambitious Free Trade Area of the Americas – encompassing Chile, Colombia, and others – which could create profitable trade between the north and south continents for future generations.