If you wish to visit Costa Rica, you may have questions about it. One of the most common ones is if it is a third world country. The definition of third world countries has changed from the cold war times and it is easy to be confused.
Is Costa Rica a third world country? Yes, it is. Even though it is one of the safest countries, the poor outnumber the rich and middle class by far. Even though the economy is stable, the country struggles with a huge public debt and low domestic revenue.
The term ‘Third world country is now commonly used to describe poorly developed countries. According to the United Nations, the Least Developed Countries are those with low Human Development Index ratings and socioeconomic development. They may have high rates of unemployment and poor economies. If you are curious about Costa Rica and how it is rated, keep reading to learn more.
Even though Costa Rica is amazing, the gap between the rich and the poor is big. There are high levels of femicide, crime, and poor infrastructure. Costa Rica can be considered a success story in various aspects of development. However, it is still an upper-middle-income economy. It has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years but there is still a lot to be done.
- The Education System
Costa Rica’s education system is divided into four levels; pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher education. The government requires that all children complete preschool and the general levels of education. Costa Rica’s education system is great. It is one of the best in America.
The country has impressive rates of educational coverage, public spending, and literacy. Walking through any streets in Costa Rica, you will come across children in their uniform. Education is state-funded and comprehensive.
The country is relatively safe. One of its biggest problems is drug trafficking. The country’s geographical position is the biggest contributor to the issue. The police have a hard time monitoring the drug problem because their maritime jurisdiction is a lot larger than the landmass.
The country has a low rate of violent crimes. However, the rate has been increasing since 2015. The murder rate surpassed the epidemic threshold of the World Health Organization.
In 2016, the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security country declared Costa Rica a ‘high-level of crime risk.’ Three years later, the Canadian government issued warnings to ‘Exercise high degrees of caution’ because of the crime levels in Costa Rica.
The country has high rates of femicide. The culture is macho and the physical or sexual partner violence rate is about 35.9%. The number of femicide cases is worrisome. According to the Observatory on Gender Violence Against Women and Access to Justice, two women are killed every month.
- Poverty Rates
Costa Rica has a fairly low poverty rate. Its poverty rate is the lowest in Central America. The rate of unemployment is about 8% and the average per capita income is slightly below $8,000. 20% of the population lives in poverty.
Less than 2% live below the international poverty line. Some of the country’s biggest employers are FedEx, Microsoft, and PokerStars. The biggest industries in Costa Rica include; tourism, agriculture, and technology exports.
What Are Some Interesting Facts About Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is an interesting country and there are lots of things that you may not know about it. Some of the most interesting ones include;
- It Has no Street Addresses
Unlike many countries, most parts of Costa Rica have no street addresses. Even though many cities are starting to use addresses to minimize confusion, most of them have no building numbers or street names. When giving directions, most people refer to landmarks.
- Nicoya Is One of the Planet’s Blue Zones
A blue zone is a zone where people have a significantly longer lifespan. There are five blue zones on the planet and Nicoya is one of them. The locals typically live to 90 years or more. Nicoya is religious. The locals rely on organic food and their water is rich in Magnesium and Calcium.
- People Refer to Themselves as Ticas or Ticos
Like most foreigners, I refer to the people of Costa Rica as Costa Ricans. However, the locals fondly refer to themselves as ‘Ticos’ or ‘Ticas.’ Males are referred to as Ticos while females are referred to as Ticas.
- The Locals Brush After Every Meal
In most countries, it is common for people to brush their teeth twice a day. However, things are different in Costa Rica. Many people like to brush after every meal.
- It is Very Eco-Friendly
Costa Rica strives to be one of the most eco-friendly countries. Almost 99% of its energy is renewable. The country is putting to be fossil-free. Their national slogan is ‘Pura Vida.’ Its literal translation is ‘Pure life.’ They apply the slogan in most aspects.
- Over 25% of the Land is Covered by Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, and Reserves
Tourism plays a major role in the economy of Costa Rica. As a result, they have dedicated a lot of lands to conserve nature and boost eco-tourism.
- It Is One of the Biggest Banana Exporters
If you visit Costa Rica, I suggest that you sample their bananas. Costa Rica is the second-largest exporter of bananas in the world.
What Are the Main Attractions in Costa Rica?
Even though Costa Rica is a small country, it has plenty of top-rated tourist attractions. Its attractions include; beautiful beaches, volcanoes, and unique wildlife. I recommend it as a tourist destination for birdwatchers and luxury travellers. Some of the most common attractions include;
· Manuel Antonio National Park
The Manuel Antonio National Park is a fun place for both tourists and locals. It is popular for its beaches and wildlife. Manual Antonio is a small town with lots of shopping, accommodation, transportation, and entertainment options. Take a walk in the park and experience the wildlife. Even without a guided walk, you can see a variety of birds, squirrels, and sloths. On the hillside, there are a few stores and diners. The nightlife is amazing.
Dominical is the perfect place for surfers. It has dirt-filled streets, cheap accommodation, varied cuisine, and beautiful beaches. The general vibe is amazing. Dominical may also be great for luxury travellers. It has lots of high-end accommodation options. Outside the town, there are a few quiet beaches. It remains lush even during dry seasons.
Jaco is an amazing destination for those who are looking for a way to get away from the busy San Jose life. The atmosphere is pleasant and the beach is spacious. Jaco give s you the conveniences of city life without having to deal with its challenges. It is preferred by ex-pats. There are plenty of opportunities to surf and swimming is safe. Eating and shopping options are diverse.
· Arenal National Park
Arenal National Park is one of the country’s leading volcano viewing points. It is in the Cordillera de Tilaran. The volcano is the park’s main attraction. However, it has lots of other attractions including a variety of birds and animals. There are plenty of hiking trails nearby and the view is picturesque.
Is Costa Rica Safe?
If you plan on visiting Costa Rica, you may have questions about how safe it is. Even though it is a wonderland with lots of beaches and greenery, you have good reason to be concerned. There are lots of scary stories going around about third world countries.
Costa Rica is generally safe. However, it is a lot like other countries. Travelling alone or staying in secluded places increases your chances of being a victim. It is one of the safest countries for tourists.
The country was lucky to escape gang violence and cold war conflicts that affected many Central American countries. However, the country now struggles with cases of drug trafficking. Fortunately, there is no major threat to tourists.
When travelling through Costa Rica, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some of them include;
- Stay Away from Isolated Areas
Like in all countries, isolated areas can be dangerous. You will be safe travelling in public places and before sundown.
- Be Mindful of Your Items
When travelling through Costa Rica, you may enjoy spending some time on the beaches in Manuel Antonio or Puerto Viejo. Do not leave any of your items unattended. Petty theft is also common in public transportation. Even though Costa Rica is a safe country, you are likely to lose your items if you are careless.
- Be Modest
Petty theft is very common in Costa Rica. Avoid wearing flashy jewellery or flashing money. Be modest and try to blend in. If you are in a robbery, do what the robber says. You can report to the police later.
Costa Rica is a great country. It has an impressive education system, plenty of attractions, and friendly people. However, it is considered a third-world country because of its neutral position during the cold water. It also continues to struggle with many problems that are associated with third-world countries.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.