A few tips on culture and etiquette when you move to Costa Rica:
If you’re planning on visiting the beautiful tropical nation of Costa Rica for a vacation - or maybe a more prolonged stay - it’s important you learn about the culture, etiquette, and traditions of the wonderful Ticos and Ticas (we’ll explain that) who live there.
For that reason, I’ve included a detailed chapter on culture, etiquette, and traditions in my Moving to Costa Rica Handbook. But here, I wanted to give you a few quick notes about adapting culturally to life in Costa Rica.
-My greatest hope is that when you live in Costa Rica, you make a genuine effort to learn the local culture and assimilate. Of course you don’t have to pretend to be a Tico (they won’t let you forget that you’re a foreigner!) but, to me, it shows respect that you want to blend in and adopt some Costa Rican ways, finding a happy medium between who you were in your home country and the new, evolved and more worldly person you will become living in Costa Rica.
-I’ve seen far too many expats that move abroad (in many countries - not just Costa Rica), only to refuse to learn the language, refuse to learn the local etiquette, nor adopt any of the customs or traditions.
(They basically sit around and complain about their new host nation.) In my opinion, that is a travesty!
-Every moment you’re in Costa Rica, think of yourself as a guest in someone’s home and act accordingly. By following this rule, you’ll find that you assimilate and blend into life in Costa Rica seamlessly, enhancing your enjoyment and endearing and representing both yourself and the perception of foreigners to all the Ticos you encounter day to day.
-Costa Ricans are known for their laid back, friendly and hospitable ways. They are almost always cordial and welcoming to foreigners, too, often inviting them to family gatherings or dinners.
-Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas, a reference to their affinity for adding an “ico” to the end of words, which denotes that something is small or little in a cute way.
-For some people, it’s difficult to learn a second language (myself included), so be prepared to put in the work if you are serious. Keep a notebook and write down new words every night and study for half an hour or an hour every morning and you’ll pick up the basic vocabulary very quickly. These days, there are amazing apps and interactive games you can access on your smart phone to help you learn.
You may think that because so many people speak English, you don’t need to learn Spanish. While it’s true that you can probably get by with only English, especially in tourist areas, it’s a travesty if foreigners don’t make an effort, and reinforces the perception among Ticos that people from the U.S. and maybe Canada are lazy and a little arrogant.
-It’s best to start learning the basics before you arrive – you will never be able to fully immerse yourself in the culture unless you understand that.
-To take your language lessons to the next level, look for a local teacher for some lessons in grammar and how to speak in complete sentences correctly.
-Tico time, “la hora tica” means that people generally arrive 30 minutes late or so to a meeting or any event.
-So, remember to be patient! Things do not move as quickly and efficiently as they do in the U.S. and Canada (and you wanted to move out of that fast-paced rat race!).
-Customer service can be painfully slow and frustrating, especially outside of the cities A simple task could take half of your day, so manage your expectations – there is no sense in being that annoying, frustrated gringo. You WILL have to wait longer, so just accept that and try to cope with respect and understanding.
-Costa Rica has been ranked as the happiest country on earth in yearly polls! Some of that Tico happiness will definitely rub off on you when you live there!
Want more tips on culture, ettiquette, and traditions in Costa Rica?
We have a WHOLE lot more to give you in the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
Or you can email me any time with questions or just to say hi!
For the majority of expats and visitors that stay long term in Costa Rica, getting official residency is something that’s not worth the time, money or hassle. That means “living” there as a tourist, not a permanent resident or citizen. That's altogether doable, but it entails a lot of juggling to accommodate the visa situation.
When researching visas and staying in Costa Rica, you’ll notice there is a large gap between fact, rumor, and the blurred lines of what occurs down there every day. For that reason, I suggest doing your research online and from official sources but also, talking to some expats and people who have lived in Costa Rica a while to get insider information.
First, the official word on U.S. citizens getting visas in Costa Rica from the U.S. embassy and its travel site:
This is no longer automatic that the customs worker at the airport or border will give you the full 90 days. In fact, they have been known to ask you how long you are staying for your vacation (it is a tourist visa) and then give you only 10, 15 days, etc. just to cover that period. This is because Costa Rica is trying to stem the prevalence of “perpetual tourists.”
• Americans and Canadians do not need to acquire a visa to enter - you can stay for 90 days as a tourist.
• However, you must have a valid U.S. passport
• Your passport must be valid through the length of your stay (not just upon arrival)
Most countries are now instituting internal measures that mandate visitor passports must be valid for at least six months after the date of departure from the country. That means even if your U.S. passport is good for a few months after you arrive in Costa Rica, you will likely be turned away.
• Make sure your passport is in good physical condition – they will not honor if it is too damaged
• You must present a round trip ticket or proof of travel to another country upon entry
• Immigration is allowed but not required to allow residency/travel within the country for up to 90 days
• If you overstay your visa, you will be charged a fine of up to $100 USD for every month you overstay
• Most schools will help you acquire a student visa if you are studying abroad
• Any airline is allowed to require you to present proof of $100 monthly income for the time you remain in Costa Rica
• Most countries (North America, Europe) require a renewal of a tourist visa every 90 days (some Central American countries require renewal every 30 days)
So with only a 90-day visa, how do most travelers and expats stay long term in Costa Rica?
That’s where “border runs” come into play, or as they’re often casually referred to, “the border shuffle.”
U.S. citizens, Canadians, and other foreigners staying on tourist visas usually just head overland to the neighboring border of Nicaragua to the north or Panama to the south. There, they can cross the border, wait a little bit (usually just long enough to get lunch and a beer before getting back in the long line!) and come right back into Costa Rica, renewing their visa for another 90 days.
Of course, once you enter Nicaragua or Panama you’re welcome to stay and visit for as long as you want, or other travelers have the resources to fly out of Costa Rica to a different country for a vacation.
But make no mistake, this system of crossing the border and then coming right back into Costa Rica is discouraged by Tico authorities. Although the “border shuffle” is inconvenient, time-consuming, and pretty sweaty, it usually goes without a hitch IF you are careful and know what you’re doing.
But there could be more stipulations based on Costa Rican visa requirements:
• According to the Migración y Extranjería, (the Costa Rican immigration department), there is technically no minimum period of time that you have to remain outside the country before reentering
• However, there are plenty of stories from expats about having been solicited for a bribe, denied entry if they do not meet the 90 day requirement, or they try to reenter the country the same day
• Immigrant officials are being more strict with enforcing higher fines for expats
• New laws state that you cannot renew a tourist visa by traveling to the same country twice. (a.k.a. you cannot go to Nicaragua twice in a row, you will have to go to Nicaragua then to Panama after another 90 days.) After two border runs, tourists will have to leave Costa Rica for a minimum of 15 days in order to renew a tourist visa again
• But instead of traveling to another country to renew a tourist visa, a foreigner can go to any immigration location and renew another 90 days for $100. Offices have recently been in San José, but will soon be available at international airports, border posts, ports, marinas and other locations.”
• Tourists are not allowed to work in Costa Rica, but many do so illegally. This puts you at risk of being deported! (We’ll cover a lot more about working later on.)
But there are plenty of foreigners getting scammed, robbed, and paying unnecessarily at the borders. Touts and pickpockets abound, but there are also poor but honest workers willing to carry your bags or expedite paperwork.
I recommend going along with another expat or foreigner that knows the lay of the land and has done border runs before, or sometimes social clubs, community groups, or even bars organize border runs where they provide comfortable transportation.
If you want a real life account of the chaos and confusion at the Las Penas border crossing in northwestern Costa Rica (about 2 hours from the main city of Liberia in Guanacaste,) check out this article I wrote for the Huffington Post:
The Border You’ve Never Heard About: http://ow.ly/lO158
Citizenship and Permanent Residency
Once you start your new life in Costa Rica, your friends back home will be so impressed when you tell them that you live in the beautiful land of pura vida. You might even want to apply for citizenship (or permanent residency) in Costa Rica to make it official!
While citizenship is a viable and smart option for many expats, it isn’t a decision to take lightly. In fact, applying for residency in Costa Rica can actually be a very long, arduous, and frustrating (not to mention expensive!) process for foreigners.
For some, like retirees, people who know they want to live there permanently and open a business, or foreigners who wish to marry a Tico or Tica and start a family, residency will be the best path. But for others, I’ve also seen it’s nothing more than a very entailed way to legitimize their move to Costa Rica, wasting a lot of time and money in the process.
Therefore, do your research, talk to other expats that live there, and consider the pros and cons of all your options before jumping into the citizenship process.
Here are some tips to help you:
• First off, it’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between citizenship and residency in Costa Rica
• Most people from North America/Europe will not qualify for citizenship
• For those wanting to live the normal expat lifestyle having residency is sufficient under the law
• However, that also depends on what category of residency you fall into when you apply (different categories place different restrictions)
• You can stay perpetually in Costa Rica on a tourist visa, but the government is increasingly cracking down on re-entry/exits for North Americans and Europeans, and you can be fined for not having your paperwork in order
• It’s also critical to understand that you can keep your United States citizenship, so you don’t have to renounce the U.S or give up all the benefits of possibilities of living there again. (This is probably the case for Canada and other countries, but check first to confirm before you decide anything)
Permanent residency allows you to:
• Apply if you marry a Costa Rican citizen, or if you have a Costa Rican child
• If not, you can apply after three years for non-permanent residency status, which will take at least a year to process
• Costa Rican officials will say that you do not need to hire a lawyer, but the reality is that navigating the process alone is near impossible, especially for those who are not fluent in Spanish
Here are the various ways to go about getting your residency:
You can apply for residency through a family member or spouse, but you have to be willing to prove cohabitation once a year for a period of three years.
If you are a retiree, you are free to get residency in Costa Rica if you’re able to prove a pension of at least $1,000 USD per month.
Self-employed business people: in order to qualify for this category you have to prove an income of at least $2,500 USD per month.
In order to qualify for this category you need to either:
• Have invested at least $200,000 USD in a project that has a social benefit (this includes something that generates employment)
• Own a home that is worth at least $200,000 USD
• These can be difficult to qualify for
• You must prove that you are filling a position that a Costa Rican is not qualified for or incapable of doing
• An employer must sponsor you
• There are separate residency categories for foreign press, athletes, and technicians
Here is what you need to begin the application process:
• Write a letter addressed to the head of the immigration
department stating the reasons you are applying for residency, complete name, nationality, profession (if applicable), name and nationality of parents, a fax number to receive notifications from the Immigration Department, date and signature
• Notarized birth certificate stamped by the Costa Rican foreign ministry
• Letter from the (home country) police department stating that you have no criminal record for the last three years, stamped by the Costa Rican foreign ministry
• Fingerprints are taken by the Public Security Ministry in Desamparados
• Three recent passport photos
• Passport, and also a photocopy of each page
• Certification of registration with the embassy of the home country
• Receipt that proves you have applied for insurance from the Costa Rica public health system
• Receipt showing you have paid all the necessary taxes for the application process
• If the above documents (letters, etc.) are done in another language, you must have them accompanied by Spanish translations from an official translator
Note: this varies slightly depending on which residency category you fall
• If you are a rentista (living off investment income), you can either provide proof of $2,500 monthly income
• Or you can deposit a minimum of $150,000 in a Costa Rican bank
Other notes on establishing residency in Costa Rica:
• Both retirees and self-employed businesspeople have to remain in the country at least four months per year
• They can claim a spouse and dependents under 18 years of age
• They cannot work as an employee (i.e. take a job away from a local), but they can own a company and receive dividends
• If you fall under the investor category by investing $200,000 in a business, you are entitled to income and dividends from that project
• Investors can NOT claim a spouse or dependents under 18
• If you use a work visa, (aka are a company director,) your company must employ a minimum number of locals in accordance with the labor laws
• This requires financial statements of proof certified by an accountant
• Worker must stay in Costa Rica for at least half the year, and may not claim a spouse or dependents but can collect income from the work
Getting citizenship as a foreigner (someone who was not born in Costa Rica):
There are only three ways to become a Costa Rican citizen:
• Descent: where at least one parent is a Costa Rican citizen
• Naturalization: if you are Spanish or Latin American you can apply
after 5 years of residence in Costa Rica
If you are any other nationality, you can apply after 7 years of residence
• Marriage: if you marry a Costa Rican citizen you can apply after 2
Resources for Assistance:
• Association of Residents of Costa Rica
• Private firms/individuals - the United States embassy lists some English-speaking attorney recommendations.
I’m sure you have a whole lot more questions, and all of them will be answered in The Official Expat’s Moving to Costa Rica Handbook.
Or you can start with the free guide, 50 Facts About Moving to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a traveler’s paradise, as it offers an opportunity to visit amazing places and go through tropical adventures at reasonable student-friendly prices. Costa Rica is the land of everything you have dreamed of, from lush sandy beaches to tropical forests, mountains, volcanoes and vibrant cities! In this country, the climate is perfect all year long: dry season lasts here from November to April and moderate wet from May to October. It is also one of the greenest countries on Earth, therefore it will become a wonderful place for travelers who admire nature.
Are you a student, but all you dream is not about editing thesis official site, but about a cheap journey for students in Costa Rica? Would you like to have a cheap trip there? No problem, because the only thing you need is to plan your daily budget correctly.
In Costa Rica, the subequatorial climate is dominant. Despite the fact that the country's territory is rather small, it is characterized by a huge variety of weather conditions. For example, there are frosts and fogs in the highland regions. The central part of the country is called "the territory of eternal spring", where relatively stuffy and hot weather is preserved all year round.
The best period for all inclusive resorts Costa Rica is winter and spring. The beginning of the high season does not mean that there is no rain. Accordingly, the low season begins in May, when the amount of precipitation increases at times.
If you would like to buy a tour for the winter period, it is better to plan your holiday on Costa on the Pacific coast in advance. Here, the Costa Rica vacation packages will be the best choice! According to many tourists who have been here, we can conclude that winter is the season when riding on Costa Rica is behind the most vivid and diverse emotions.
Here you will find a lot of open-air entertainment: surfing, rafting, hiking tours.
You will get a wonderful experience and enjoy breathtaking landscapes - Costa Rica is not for nothing called "Rich Coast". If you travel and try to save money, here are some tips on how to do it.
Tips for a budget trip to Costa Rica:
# 1 Catch the "green season"
If you are not against some kind of rain, then you might want to go to Costa Rica during the "green" season, which lasts from May to November. During the rainy season, prices are lower here, and rainforests bloom. And, of course, this is the best time to go rafting.
Beaches on the coast are sandy, and the sand is made of a variety of shades - from white and gold to silver and even black. In the south of the Pacific coast are two resort areas - Jaco and Punta Leon. The beaches of Jaco are famous for their nightlife and are suitable for surfing. On the Atlantic Ocean, near the Puerto Limon, the beaches of Portete and Bonita are popular.
# 2 Stay overnight in hostels
In Costa Rica, hostels are incredibly cheap, and you can stay in the capital of the country of San Jose for less than 10 Euro per night. It will help you to save more money for sightseeing and other entertainment. In addition, many hostels will allow you to rent their tent when you go camping, so do not be afraid to ask!
# 3 Change money
This way of exchanging money will help you to save on currency conversions. You will need about 25-45 euro per day for a budget trip.
# 4 Eat Local Food
Beans and rice are very economical options. Family canteens serve traditional cuisine for 4 - 7 Euros per meal. It is much cheaper than tourist restaurants, so if you’d like to eat cheaply, then eat where local people get their meals.
# 5 Take bus to get to places
Traveling by bus from one city to another will cost you only about 2 Euro. If you are willing to drive away, it is less than 20 Euros to drill the whole country.
We wish you a wonderful vacation at low trip to Costa Rica price! Book the most affordable hostels and save money for your future travels!
Robert Everett is a Canadian famous traveling coach, journalist and a host of the popular Canadian TV-show “Bonjour du monde!”. Due to this famous show, he had a visit to 27 countries. Every Sunday Robert Everett publishes interesting traveling tips for camping.
With all of the emails I get from people thinking about moving to Costa Rica, one of the three most common questions is always about healthcare.
It’s not hard to fathom why (they’re usually from the U.S.A. – not Canada, of course) with health insurance premiums and prescription drug prices skyrocketing in the ever-more confusing and ineffective system of medical care in the states.
So what can you really expect when it comes to healthcare if and when you relocate to Costa Rica?
The great news is that Costa Rica has a top notch system of medical care with plenty of options for expats, from utilizing their state-run socialized system for residents, opting for affordable private healthcare insurance, paying out-of-pocket, or mixing in a combination of U.S. and travel insurance coverage.
You should be encouraged by the quality of Costa Rican medicine, too. It’s no coincidence that Costa Ricans are some of the healthiest people in the world, with higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates than those in the United States. In fact, the World Health Organization frequently ranks Costa Rica well ahead of the United States and all other Central American countries for healthcare.
The amazing thing is that Costa Rica earns all of these accolades for its medical care even though healthcare spending is 87% less per capita than in the U.S.!
So as an expat, resident or just visitor to Costa Rica, you’ll enjoy great quality care for surprisingly reasonable prices.
I’m sure you have specific questions, and all of them will be answered in The Official Expat’s Moving to Costa Rica Handbook, including:
To find out everything you need to know about medical treatment, insurance, and healthcare while visiting or living in Costa Rica, purchase my full handbook.
But if you want to save some money, check out the most popular sections from the Handbook for only $9.95.
Whether you're an expat moving down to Costa Rica permanently, a snowbird escaping their for the winters, or just a traveler going on a vacation soon, you'll love these 50 fun and interesting facts about Costa Rica!
1. Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos and Ticas.
2. Costa Rica is slightly smaller than Lake Michigan.
3. There are 800 miles of coastline, both on the Atlantic and Pacific.
4. Costa Rica borders Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south.
5. It only takes up .03% of planet’s surface but holds 5% of its biodiversity!
6. There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies (10% of the world’s butterflies are in Costa Rica!), 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects!
7. More than 25% of Costa Rican land is protected national parks and refuges.
8. They don’t have summers and winter seasons like in the U.S., but a dry season that runs December-April and a rainy season that runs May- November.
9. The average life expectancy of 77 years is one of the highest in the world.
10. Costa Rica had a female president, Laura Chinchilla.
11. Costa Rica has no standing army. It was constitutionally abolished in 1949.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼12. Costa Rica has a 96% literacy rate. In very poor and rural areas, where children can’t get to schools, they teach classes over a national radio station.
13. When a woman is pregnant, they say she is “con luz,” or “with light.”
14. When someone is your significant other (your “other half”), they are your “media naranja,” or the other half of your orange.
15. Like we mentioned, “Pura vida” is the national saying, meaning “pure life.” It’s a sunny, feel-good expression used as a greeting, goodbye, or if someone asks how you are doing.
16. The average Tico makes $6,000 a year, and the average wage labor is $10 per day, the highest in Central America.
17. Costa Rica is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2020.
18. San José is only a 3-hour flight from Miami and 4 1⁄2 from New York. They have nonstop flights from New York, Houston, and Miami.
19. Names can be confusing in Costa Rica. Ticas (female Costa Ricans) do not take their husband’s last name. Instead, the woman uses her full maiden name for life, so she doesn’t need to worry about changing her ID cards, driver’s license, etc. She also adds her mother’s maiden name, but children take their father’s name. Confused yet?
20. The older generations of Ticos are not tall, so most furniture, like chairs, couches, beds, etc. used to be built 6-8 inches lower than in the US.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼21. Locks (on houses, doors, and gates) almost always work backward (from our perspective).
22. Milk, eggs, and other perishable items are usually sold unrefrigerated.
23. It’s common to buy wine in little paper boxes, which are then refrigerated.
24. Milk is commonly sold in a little plastic bag, and you have to cut the edge with scissors to open it, which often results in inexperienced gringos covered in milk and putting water on their cereal. (I’ve learned from personal experience!)
25. Costa Rica is a Catholic country but ensures freedom of religion. 26. Nearly all Catholic churches in the country face west.
27. On the Atlantic Coast (the Caribbean side), most of the population is descended from African roots, like Jamaica, and speak Spanish as well as a patois.
28. A Costa Rican female swimmer won a gold medal in the 1996 summer games in Atlanta.
29. Costa Rica is the longest-standing democracy in Central America.
30. Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, with workers enjoying unions, membership cards, health benefits, and police protection. However, possession of pornography is illegal!
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼31. In most areas, people cannot flush toilet paper because the pipes are old and only 1” wide, so toilet paper goes in the trash basket.
32. Pedestrians have very few rights in Costa Rica. They joke that Ticos love to use their horns but hate to use their brakes! It’s so bad that the Tico word for “speed bumps” is “son muertos,” or “the dead people.”
33. Most Costa Ricans don’t have addresses and there are very few street signs. When mailing something or giving directions, they just point out proximity to nearby landmarks. So when I lived in San Pedro, a suburb of the main city, San José, my address was: “50 meters south and 100 west of the church of San Pedro.”
34. Earthquakes are common in Costa Rica. They may get 2-40 per month depending on the movement of tectonic plates! Almost all of them are small (although we got a 7.6 while I’ve lived here!)
35. Ticos put coffee in their baby’s bottles along with milk, and also give it to young children.
36. The most popular national beer is Imperial. They drink it over ice with lime and salt, called a “michelada.”
37. “Guaro” is the national liquor, sort of like firewater sugarcane tequila.
38. Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken make home deliveries in Costa Rica.
39. The meter in a taxicab is known as the “Maria,” which is a sarcastic reference to the Virgin Mary’s honesty and virtue.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼40. You aren’t allowed to wear sunglasses or hats inside of the banks due to the constant threat of bank heists.
41. Their slang is much different than proper Spanish. One term for street language is “pachuco.”
42. One slang word is to call someone “Mopri.” This is supposed to mean “primo,” or cousin backward. In the 90’s Costa Rican teen culture went through a phase where they were saying words backward.
43. A lot of popular bands play the main stadium in San José, most recently the Red Hot Chili Peppers and then Lady Gaga.
44. Scientist actually named a species of Costa Rican fern after Lady Gaga after she played there.
45. They have bullfights in Costa Rica, but instead of the bull being harmed, it runs free around the ring and tries to maul the brave teens and men who jump in there for sport. Almost every little town has a festival with bullfights during the holidays.
46. Costa Rica is one of the biggest cocaine transit nations in the world. Approximately 95% of the cocaine that ends up in the United States comes from Columbia to Costa Rica, and then up through Central America into Mexico and across the border.
47. Robert August brought the surf scene to Costa Rica with his 1968 documentary, Endless Summer, and then Endless Summer II.
48. If you get pulled over by the police for some minor traffic infraction in Costa Rica (or some imaginary infraction), the cops can probably be paid off for around $40 or less.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼49. You are not allowed to wear shorts in a government or public office in Costa Rica - they see it as disrespectful and may turn you away.
50. Costa Rica is a warm, beautiful, and friendly country! Enjoy!
I get a whole lot of emails from people who have questions about moving to Costa Rica. This morning, I received an email so short and sweet – and on everyone’s mind – that I’d thought I’d share with you.
Erica from the USA asked:
“Can one person live in Costa Rica on $3,000 a month?”
The short answer?
Yes, it is possible to live on $3,000 a month in Costa Rica – or even less.
The in-depth answer?
“It depends,” because each expat, traveler or visitor has a different standard of living. Additionally, different areas within Costa Rica can be more or less expensive, and even the time of year (rainy vs. high season) can make costs fluctuate wildly.
But this I will say: living in Costa Rica isn’t as cheap as you may think.
People often think that because it’s a Central American or tropical country that it must be a paradise where you can live like a king or queen for next to nothing, but that’s not the case anymore. International influences, the spread of resort-quality living and advances in local knowledge, skills and infrastructure have seen costs escalate in past years.
But the good news is that you can still live very well on a modest budget in Costa Rica with some planning and discipline.
For retirees that factor in things like healthcare costs, it can be far less expensive than living in the United States for a better standard of life.
For most people, the biggest costs come from renting a place, and then maybe food a close second.
Here are some notes on cost of living in Costa Rica:
A decent standard of living for a single person is at about $1,500 to $2,000 a month. That is very possible, but if you add eating meals out at restaurants, drinking out or other entertainment, activities and side trips, I’d say you’d be far more comfortable at $2,500 - $3,000.
Likewise, a retired couple can live comfortably for about $2,000 to $3,500 a month for two people including the cost of housing, food, transportation, medical care (that can vary greatly), and entertainment.
While Costa Rica may not be as inexpensive as other Latin American countries, it is still possible to have access to creature comforts and luxury goods that are much cheaper than in the States. Life in Costa Rica allows for a high level of “spending freedom,” meaning you can spend very little if you choose to live more like a local, or you can spend a lot and enjoy the North American-style luxuries.
Expenses vary greatly depending on area and lifestyle, but here are some average monthly expenses for 2016-17:
• Apartment (local standard): $300 - $500
• Condominium (larger or more luxurious): $600 - $900
• House (2-3 bedroom): $500 - $1,200
• Electricity (house): $75 - $200 depending on location and air conditioner use
• Water/sewage (apartment): $12
• Telephone: $13
• Cable TV: $40
• High-speed Internet (ADSL): $25
• Cleaning service or a gardener for $2/hour or $200/month
• Entertainment is very affordable with museum entrance or
concerts around $5
• Import duties make it very expensive to import your car, probably
best to buy locally
• Consumer electronics are much cheaper in the US, bring them
with you instead of buying in Costa Rica
Want more information on the cost of living - and just about everything else - for expats in Costa Rica? Download the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
Thinking about moving to Costa Rica? That's a damn good decision in my opinion. But don't take my word for it, as I've been traveling there since 1999 and made the move there in 2011. So whether you're planning on retiring in Costa Rica, living there for part of the year, or just taking a nice vacation, here are 20 reasons why Costa Rica is the coolest country on earth!
1. It’s ecologically friendly
Costa Rica is considered one of the most ecologically conscious countries in the world, instituting a goal to be carbon neutral way back in 1997 – and coming close these days. In fact, Costa Rica is ranked no. 5 in the world on the Environmental Performance Index, the best country outside of Europe. It’s probably also the no. 1 eco-tourism destination in the world.
2. It has the oldest constitution in Central America
Costa Rica is the longest-standing democracy in Central America, thanks to a national constitution drafted in 1949. This governing document affords many rights and protections to its citizens, allowing Costa Rica to enjoy stable and peaceful growth. Costa Rica consistently ranks the highest of any Latin Nation on the Human Development Index and United Nations Development Program.
3. It’s a country with no army
With their progressive constitution in 1949, Costa Rica decided to ban any armed forces, making it one of only countries in the world without an army, still to this day.
4. A model education system
By investing in education instead of funding an army, Costa Rica now boasts a 96% literacy rate, the highest in Latin America. Their commitment to education has allowed them to attract good skilled jobs and boost income for their citizens.
5. Unmatched natural beauty
Costa Rica has not one but two gorgeous coastlines, with more than 800 miles of shoreline and tropical beaches between the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country.
6. The most diverse wildlife on the planet
There are over 130 species of fish, 220 of reptiles, 1,000 butterflies, 9,000 plants, 20,000 species of spiders and 34,000 species of insects in Costa Rica. That represents 5% of the world’s biodiversity even though it is just about .03% of the earth’s total landmass. Costa Rica is also known for its sloths and turtles, which can be seen in protected habitats and beaches. But if you’re more of a monkey, lizard, or exotic bird lover, Costa Rica will be your favorite place! In fact, the country became the first place in the Americas to ban recreational hunting.
7. Adventure sports galore
Zip lining, sky diving, jumping off waterfalls, repelling, exploring caves, horseback riding, 4×4 runs, jet skiing, and just about every other adventure sport you could imagine are all on the menu in Costa Rica.
The landmass of present day Costa Rica is the result of volcanic eruptions 75 million years ago – and still is active today. In fact, Costa Rica still has five listed active volcanoes and more than 200 volcanic formations. The most famous of these is Arenal Volcano, an easy day trip from San José. It last erupted in 1968, but it’s now considered safe and you can still enjoy the hot springs at its base.
9. Protected nature reserves
Costa Rica is on the forefront of environmental conservation, long ago protecting about 25% of their country as national parks. Manuel Antonio National Park on the west coast is the most famous, but Tortuguero National Park and La Amistad International Park are amazing, too.
10. A top surfing destination
Costa Rica is ranked as one of the three best surfing destinations in the world, home to year-round warm water and a unique microclimate that bring consistent offshore winds. Big competitions like the Billabong World Surfing Games are often hosted by Costa Rica, but even beginners can wax up their boards and catch some waves.
11. Their “pura vida” attitude
A common saying among locals is “pura vida,” which means “pure life.” Everywhere you go in Costa Rica you will be welcomed with a smile by the locals, and they will truly make you feel at home in their country.
12. It’s so close to the U.S. and Canada
One of the best benefits about Costa Rica is its close proximity to the United States and Canada. San José is only a 3-hour flight from Miami and 4 1⁄2 hours from New York, and there are more and more nonstop, cheap, and direct flights all the time.
13. The happiest country on earth
The World Database of Happiness ranks Costa Rica as the #1 happiest nation on earth out of 148 countries. (The United States ranks no. 20, by the way.)
14. Gender equality
According to the World Economic Forum, Costa Rica ranks higher than even the United States in the gender gap index. The female population is educated, enjoys advanced healthcare, voting, and employment equality. In fact, Costa Rica even had a female president recently.
15. Superb coffee and chocolate
Thanks to their mountain terrain and tropical weather, Costa Rica is known for producing some of the best coffee and chocolate in the world. Those just happen to be two of our favorite things!
16. A world-class healthcare system
Costa Rica has a modern and highly rated healthcare system, even more highly ranked than the United States. Costa Rican citizens enjoy universal healthcare insurance and have a life expectancy of 77 years, one of the highest in the world.
17. Modern and improving Infrastructure
Costa Rica has gone to great lengths to modernize and improve their infrastructure in the past decades. There are efficient international airports, paved highways connecting the country, and modern amenities in the capital of San José, as well as any popular touristy area.
18. Diving and marine life
Costa Rica has some of the best diving, snorkeling, and accessible marine life in the world, such as such the Cocos Island National Park (also a World Heritage Site), and the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refugee. In fact, Costa Rica’s oceans are home to at least 6,777 species, which is 3.5% of the known marine species on the planet!
19. Bull fights...that are safe for the bulls
Bullfights are a Costa Rican tradition at every small village festival and the grand events in San José. But unlike the bullfights in Spain and other countries, the bulls are never harmed in Costa Rica...although they do dish out some serious damage to whoever is brave enough to jump in the ring with them!
20. Costa Rica welcomes expats
People from all over the world choose to move down to Costa Rica and make it their new home. Retirees, surfers, young families, and those who just desire the simple, beachside life move there every year by the thousands – and Costa Ricans general welcome them with open arms.
To find out more about life as an expat in Costa Rica, download my free special report, “50 Facts About Moving to Costa Rica” here.
Are you serious about moving to Costa Rica? Download The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook to answer all of your questions.
(This CRexpat.com article was published in the Huffington Post)
Costa Rica welcomes expats!
People from all over the world are choosing to move to the breathtakingly beautiful country of Costa Rica, making it their new home. In fact, every year, about 2.5 million tourists and visitors touch down in the nation ranked #1 on the World Happiness Index, and about 50,000 North American expats and retirees now live there permanently.
Whether they’re retirees, surfers, nature enthusiasts, young families, or those who just desire a simpler, sunny life by the beach, Ticos (what Costa Rican people are called) welcome them with open arms.
But life is not perfect in Costa Rica for expats and retirees – nor is it always easy or cheap. So you'd be wise to seek out plenty of practical information and honest advice before moving there.
Here are 12 facts about moving to Costa Rica to get you started:
1. If you’re going to move to Costa Rica, one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is where to live. While Costa Rica is typically divided into five regions: Central Valley, Gold Coast, Arenal, Southern Zone, and Central Pacific, the expat communities are strongest in the Central Valley, Gold Coast, and a little in the Southern Zone.
Towns like Jacó, Tamarindo, Dominical , Uvita, Ojochal, Escazu, Atenas, Grecia, and Puerto Viejo are most popular with expats.
2. Costa Rica has a modern and highly rated healthcare system, even more highly ranked than the United States. Costa Rican citizens enjoy universal health care insurance and have a life expectancy of 77 years, one of the highest in the world.
3. The government makes it easy for foreigners to do business in Costa Rica, in part because they want more jobs created for Ticos. You don’t even have to be a resident of the country – you can start a business on a tourist visa. A standard 90-day tourist visa allows you to buy an existing business, like a hotel or B&B, or to build your own.
4. Work visa can be a little difficult to qualify for. You must first prove that you are filling a position that a Costa Rican is not qualified for or incapable of doing, and an employer must sponsor you.
5. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica, only a valid U.S. passport (make sure it is still good for at least six months after your trip) and proof of a plane ticket to exit the country. Residents of the U.S., Canada, Australia, France, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, and many other countries do not need a visa, and can enter and stay for 90 days as a tourist.
6. It’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between citizenship and residency in Costa Rica Most people from North America/Europe will not qualify for citizenship. However, for those wanting to live the normal expat lifestyle in Costa Rica, having residency is sufficient under the law.
7. The amazing thing about buying real estate in Costa Rica is that foreigners and locals have the same rights and follow the same laws as Ticos. In fact, property ownership is protected by the Costa Rican constitution. You don’t even need to live in Costa Rica to buy property or own land – you can buy and own outright with a tourist visa.
8. For those looking to rent an apartment or house, accommodations in Costa Rica can range from $400 to $900 for a simple apartment, $700 to $1,800 or more of a small house, and upwards of $2 or even $3k per month for larger homes, private villas, or luxury condos.
9. The state-run health system is called the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, or CCSS. However, you’ll almost always hear it referred to as, “la Caja” or just “Caja.” It includes medical care in any of the 30 hospitals and 250 clinics throughout Costa Rica in this government-sponsored network.
10. All citizens and legal residents to Costa Rica get access to Caja. Each member is required to pay a small monthly fee into Caja based on their individual income. Tourists are eligible and should ensure they have adequate health insurance. However, tourists won’t be turned away from Caja medical facilities in case of emergencies.
11. But for those expats who plan on retiring or living in Costa Rica, it probably is worth it to establish residency, and therefore get access to low-cost medical care through Caja. In fact, if you’re going to be a legal resident of Costa Rica, paying into Caja is REQUIRED – you can’t get any form of residency without proof of existing Caja coverage.
12. You should be able to live modestly for a minimum of about $1,500 a month in Costa Rica, or $50 a day. However, Costa Rica shouldn’t be considered a “cheap” country to live in. A decent local standard of living for a single person is at about $1,500 to $2,000 a month.
While that is possible, if you add eating meals out at restaurants, drinking out or other entertainment, activities and side trips, I’d say you’d be far more comfortable at $2,500 - $3,500. Likewise, a retired couple can live comfortably for about $2,500 to $3,500 a month for two people including the cost of housing, food, transportation, medical care (that can vary greatly), and entertainment.
Want more great information about moving to Costa Rica? Download the free special report, 50 Fun and Useful Facts About Moving to Costa Rica.
“I’m thinking about moving to Costa Rica,” are words I see every day in emails, Facebook messages, and from people who have read my articles about life as an expat in that country. More and more, people in the U.S. and Canada are thinking about making the move down to the Central American tropical paradise to live with the spirit of pura vida — the pure life.
“I want to move down to Costa Rica to live, buy a house, and open a business,” is the usual agenda, but their life-plan isn’t well thought out after that. I see a lot of people rushing into their big move, spurred on by visions of a stress-free, easy life on the beach. Their experience can either truly be “living the dream,” or a complete nightmare based on what happens next.
I go into every nut and bolt about moving down to Costa Rica in my new handbook, but I wanted to give you a snapshot of the most common mistakes people make when they’re considering becoming an expat in Costa Rica. Here are the top five mistakes I see, in no particular order:
1. Costa Rica or bust - without considering other options.
Costa Rica truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but what do you truly know about it? If you think all-day, everyday life there is sitting on a postcard-like beach, you might be shocked to hear that people actually have problems and challenges there, just like they do back home in your current life.
And why does it have to be Costa Rica? Honestly, why haven’t you considered Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia or other similar expat havens?
Of course, Costa Rica is a welcoming, healthy, and positive destination for many expats, but just make sure you think it through, do your homework, and prepare adequately for real life – not a rosy fantasy.
2. Thinking that you need to become a resident immediately.
Establishing residency in Costa Rica can be an expensive and timely proposition (unless you marry a Tica!) So don’t worry about residency just yet — the country will grant you a 90 day tourist visa, so all you have to do is leave the country for a few days — or a few hours — after that (called the Border Shuffle), and come right back in on a new visa. You can still get a driver’s license and function just fine without residency, while still keeping your options open. Take your time and make sure it’s where you want to be before establishing residency.
3. Moving down to Costa Rica permanently before you get to know it.
I recommend visiting for prolonged periods of time, first, to get to know the country, the different towns, the people, and the culture, before you commit to it. Start out with a month or two and go from there. If you really want to see what it’s like, go during their rainy season/low tourist season. Don’t treat your visit like a vacation, but instead, meet as many locals and expats who live there as possible, exploring different parts of the country.
No matter how beautiful Costa Rica may be, it’s always good to get back Stateside for a little bit every year to “recharge the batteries” by seeing family, friends, enjoying cooler weather, etc. The best schedule I can imagine is splitting the year between Central America and the U.S. (or wherever your home country is).
4. Looking to buy real estate too soon.
Err on the side of caution with buying real estate in Costa Rica (or any country) too soon. Not only will you not know or understand their local markets, but there can be issues with holding title, getting loans, etc. You also may fall victim to ridiculously overpriced condominiums and projects plagued by HOA issues.
So wait at least a year before you even think about buying real estate. You can always find a nice, inexpensive place to rent, giving yourself time to research and get to know about the housing market.
5. Rushing into opening a business - or opening the wrong business!
Too many people who move to Costa Rica try to open a business immediately, investing their life savings in it. Unfortunately, many of them lose all of their money, becoming so stressed in the process that they don’t enjoy daily life anymore.
There are a lot of considerations when opening a business in Costa Rica. A Costa Rican (Tico) might need to be on the paperwork for an official business, which could further complicate things. You also need to see what it’s like in the low season, too, before making accurate projections on profitability.
So if you’re going to start a business in Costa Rica, make sure it’s a low-risk endeavor that doesn’t cost you much. Try being an employee, first, just until you understand employment and business practices a little better. Many expats work as teachers, real estate agents, or in tourism in Costa Rica without official work visas.
I have much more advice for you but, to summarize, the best ways to avoid these common mistakes is to the take your time and be conservative: check out a lot of places before committing to one, keep your cash someplace safe, don’t rush into residency, buying a house, or starting a business, keep working abroad to replenish your funds, and perhaps come back to the U.S. to recharge your batteries a few months every year.
This plan will yield you the least amount of risk and stress, and keep things flexible and fun. The rest will work itself out based on what makes sense and feels right!
Get ready for the move of your life to beautiful Costa Rica!
To find out more about life as an expat in Costa Rica, download my free special report, “50 Facts About Moving to Costa Rica” here.
Are you serious about moving to Costa Rica? Download The Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook to answer all of your questions.