The 2022 Expat Insider survey is not picking up exactly where it left off and popular expat destinations like Costa Rica have been entirely left out of this year’s report! 

For the 2022 survey, 11,970 respondents representing 177 nationalities living in 181 countries or territories worldwide were asked to evaluate their lives abroad. For a destination to be listed in the final ranking, a sample size of at least 50 participants is required and 52 countries met this requirement in 2022. The overall ranking is based on 56 criteria in the categories of Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Expat Essentials, and Personal Finance.

Unfortunately, Costa Rica did not meet the minimum requirements for being included in the survey because InterNations did not gather at least 50 respondent expats from this country. So instead of doing our annual review of this important expat report, we have put together a report on how Costa Rica has fared since the start of the Expat Insider survey in 2014 and where we think Costa Rica lands today (had it been included). 

Costa Rica’s Expat Insider Survey Rankings Over The Years (2014 – 2021)


Top 10 Expat Best Destinations in 2014

  1. Ecuador
  2. Luxembourg
  3. Mexico
  4. Switzerland
  5. USA
  6. Singapore
  7. Spain
  8. Philippines
  9. Australia
  10. Hong Kong

*Costa Rica ranked #11

In the first year of InterNations’ Expat Insider survey, Costa Rica scored just out of the top ten in 11th place. Most notably, it placed highly in the category of ‘Work-Life Balance’ and had the highest percentage of very satisfied expats worldwide when it came to this category.

Costa Rica also featured in the top ten in 2014 in the category of ‘Ease of Settling In’, particularly in the subcategories of ‘Family Life’ and ‘Friendliness’.

Top 10 Best Expat Destinations in 2015

  1. Ecuador
  2. Mexico
  3. Malta
  4. Singapore
  5. Luxembourg
  6. New Zealand
  7. Thailand
  8. Panama
  9. Canada
  10. Australia

*Costa Rica ranked #12

In 2015, Costa Rica expats were satisfied with their work-life balance, where a lot of respondents said they work part-time in Costa Rica. Expats this year complained about sacrificing on their quality of life in Costa Rica due to a smaller paycheck and 50% of respondents gave the cost of living in Costa Rica a negative rating in the 2015 survey. 

Costa Rica performed positively in 2015 in general children’s well-being: half of all expat parents are fully satisfied with their children’s overall well-being in the country and 94% say they’re generally satisfied. Not a single respondent was completely dissatisfied. Local private schools were growing in this year as a popular option for expats in Costa Rica.

Top 10 Best Expat Destinations in 2016

  1. Taiwan
  2. Malta
  3. Ecuador
  4. Mexico
  5. New Zealand
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Australia
  8. Austria
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Czech Republic

After two years in sixth place, Costa Rica ranked second in the category of ‘Ease of Settling In’ in 2016. This is largely due to gains in the ‘Language’ subcategory (21st to 12th place) and there was also a large jump in the ‘Feeling Welcome’ subcategory (12th to 4th place). Nearly eight in ten expats (79%) felt “at home” in the local culture and four in ten (41%) were completely satisfied in this regard, over double the global average of 18% in 2016.

Almost nine out of ten expats in 2016’s Expat Insider survey were pleased with the general friendliness of the population, with close to three-fifths considering it to be very friendly in Costa Rica. Comparatively, only 26% were completely satisfied with this factor globally. Befriending the local population was considered easy in Costa Rica in 2016 when compared to the global average, with 28% even agreeing that making local friends is very easy (global average: 12%).

Top 10 Best Expat Destinations in 2017

  1. Bahrain
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Mexico
  4. Taiwan
  5. Portugal
  6. New Zealand
  7. Malta
  8. Colombia
  9. Singapore
  10. Spain

The general Expat Insider list in 2017 was headed by Bahrain, Costa Rica, and Mexico. In this year’s survey results, the tropical Central American paradise made it into the top 10 for three out of five tropical indices: ‘Ease of Settling In,’ ‘Family Life,’ and ‘Quality of Life.’

In 2017, Costa Rica ranked first in the ‘Finding Friends’ subcategory taking the top spot for every question. Expats said that it’s easy to make local friends in 2017, with almost one in five (19%) saying their social circle is mostly Costa Ricans and 63% saying it’s a mix of locals and expatriates.

Costa Rica was recognized in 2017 as offering the freedom to live a peaceful and happy life, surrounded by peaceful, kind, and happy people. It was not just the friendliness of the local residents — Costa Rica placed in the top 10 for three of the five indices. The country made particularly impressive improvements in the latter index, jumping 16 places due to better scores in the ‘Quality of Education’ and the ‘Availability of Childcare and Education’ subcategories.

Costa Rica also made big improvements in the ‘Personal Finance’ index, jumping from 43rd place in 2016 to 24th. Almost seven in ten respondents (68%) were generally satisfied with their financial situation, with 79% saying they have enough or more than enough to cover their daily expenses.

With almost a third of respondents describing themselves as retired (32%), many said that they appreciate the slower pace of life and pura vida vibe. With such a warm welcome and tranquil lifestyle, 48% could see themselves staying forever in 2017.

The third most common type of institution among expat parents in Costa Rica was a local private school, with just over two in ten (21%) choosing this option. Almost half of expat parents in Costa Rica preferred this option in 2017.

Top 10 Best Expat Destinations in 2018

  1. Bahrain
  2. Taiwan
  3. Ecuador
  4. Mexico
  5. Singapore
  6. Portugal
  7. Costa Rica
  8. Spain
  9. Colombia
  10. Czechia

Four of the top 10 countries in 2018’s Expat Insider were located in Latin America, including Ecuador (3rd), Mexico (4th), Costa Rica (7th), and Colombia (9th). Costa Rica was especially recognized to be a great expat destination for making new friends, even without language skills.

Costa Rica took the bronze medal for the second year running in ‘Ease of Settling In’ in 2018’s survey. Over three-quarters (76%) said they have no problem making new friends. Regarding attitudes of the local population towards foreign residents, 87% of expats in Costa Rica rated this factor positively. In the words of one American expat who answered the survey in 2018: “The people are laid back and friendly.”

Almost 8 out of 10 expats in Costa Rica reported in 2018 that they feel at home in the local culture, with 83% agreeing they faced few challenges settling down in the country. 

A lack of job satisfaction played a role in Costa Rica dropping to 38th place in the working abroad index with 19% generally unhappy with this factor. Career prospects also seemed to be less than great for expats, more than one in three 35% are generally dissatisfied with this factor. 

Costa Rica did better with regard for work and leisure in 2018. It ranked 12th for working hours compared to 1th in 2017 and 7th for work life balance, making it into the top 10. However, Costa Rica did not chart at all in the ‘Family Life’ index and it is unclear if there was a lack of responses in this category in the Expat Insider surveys from 2018 onwards.

Top 10 Best Expat Destinations in 2019

  1. Taiwan
  2. Vietnam
  3. Portugal
  4. Mexico
  5. Spain
  6. Singapore
  7. Bahrain
  8. Ecuador
  9. Malaysia
  10. Czechia

*Costa Rica ranked #21

In the 2019 Expat Insider survey, Costa Rica was one of the biggest losers in expat satisfaction with life abroad. This is mainly because expats struggled with the cost of living more than before.

Costa Rica ranked in the top 10 best expat destinations from 2016 to 2018 but only placed 21st in 2019. This drop reflected the respondents’ overall loss of satisfaction: 79% were generally satisfied with their life abroad, compared to 86% in 2018.

Costa Rica had undergone a massive drop in the ‘Personal Finance’ index in 2019 as prices rose in the country. Only 46% of expats believed their disposable household income was more than enough to cover daily expenses and a quarter said that it was not enough compared to 17% in 2018. “Costa Rica is expensive. I am not unhappy here but finances are too tight,” said one Canadian survey respondent in 2019’s Expat Insider survey. 

Top 10 Best Expat Destinations in 2021

  1. Taiwan
  2. Mexico
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Malaysia
  5. Portugal
  6. New Zealand
  7. Australia
  8. Ecuador
  9. Canada
  10. Vietnam

Costa Rica climbed back up from 2019 when it was in 21st place (there was no Expat Insider survey for 2020). Costa Rica did particularly well in 2021 with regards to ‘Personal Finance’ (7th) and ‘Ease of Settling In’ (3rd), while also impressing expats with its ‘Natural Environment’ (5th) and great ‘Work-Life Balance’ (3rd).

Over 9 out of 10 expats described the population as generally friendly in 2021 in Costa Rica (vs. 69% globally) and another 87% described the locals as friendly towards foreigners (vs. 67% globally). 70% found it easy to make local friends (vs. 44% globally). 

Costa Rica also performed particularly well in 2021’s Expat Insider ‘Quality of Life’ index (14th overall), coming in second place worldwide for personal happiness. All things considered, 88% of expats in Costa Rica reported that they were happy with their life in 2021 (vs. 75% globally). 

Costa Rica came 10th in the ‘Quality of the Environment’ subcategory with the majority of expats rating the natural environment (94% vs 84% globally) and the air quality (91% vs. 66% globally) positively. This was the first year that this category was added.

The country landed at the bottom 10 for the ‘Travel and Transportation’ subcategory in 2021 (52nd) and 29% of expats said they were unhappy with the public transportation system (vs. 15% globally). A Canadian expat shared: “Traffic is terrible because of poor drivers, bad roads, and insufficient infrastructure.”

On the upside, Costa Rica made it into the top 10 of the ‘Personal Finance’ index (7th) with 84% of expats considering their disposable household income enough or more than enough to cover all expenses (vs. 77% globally).

Top 10 Best Expat Destinations in 2022

  1. Mexico
  2. Indonesia
  3. Taiwan
  4. Portugal
  5. Spain
  6. UAE
  7. Vietnam
  8. Thailand
  9. Australia
  10. Singapore

*Costa Rica is not on the list of 52 countries in this report.

According to an InterNations representative whom I emailed to ask, “The results of the Expat Insider 2022 survey are based on answers from expats all around the world. For a country to be featured in our Expat Insider report, we need a minimum sample size of 50 respondents. Unfortunately, Costa Rica didn’t meet this requirement this year. Hope this clears things up!”

2022’s Expat Insider report saw the rise of remote work is just one of the outcomes of the pandemic with “The Great Resignation” spreading from the US. More workers have left their job or are at least considering a career change. Many are looking for a sense of purpose and a fresh start abroad. 

Given the chance, we could see Costa Rica growing in the 2022 Expat Insider survey categories of ‘Ease of Settling In,’ ‘Natural Environment,’ and ‘Family Life’. With the increase in young expats moving to Costa Rica thanks to the new Digital Nomad Visa regulations, as well as the significant increase in education facilities and other support systems for families in Costa Rica improving in the past year. We are excited for things to come and we know that we will see Costa Rica popping up on top expat destination lists again soon.

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