Whether you're heading down to Costa Rica for a week's vacation, a month to start scouting out your big move, or finally pulled the trigger on a one-way ticket and officially are an expat, you'll first have to get to Costa Rica - and that usually entails an airline ticket.
However, the price of tickets can fluctuate wildly, from a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand bucks during the holidays and busy season. So, I wanted to put some tools and resources in your hands for finding the best (ok, just cheapest!) airline tickets to Costa Rica!
1. Use reverse searches
If you are flexible with which days you can travel, a lot of cheaper airfares may open up for you. There are several travel search engines that will allow you to search by destination without putting in a hard date.
• AirfareWatchdog.com • Kayak.com
2. Travel off-season
Costa Rica, like many countries in tropical climates, doesn’t have set winters and summers like up north. Instead, they have a dry season from approximately late November through April and a rainy season from May to November. If you don’t mind some clouds and a little rain mixed in with sunshine, it can actually be cooler (but still plenty warm) and far less crowded, meaning cheaper flights, hotels, etc.
3. Let the travel sites do the work
There are some great Internet search sites out there that will do all of the work for you. Even better, register a search to a certain destination or below a certain price, and they will give you automatic email alerts. I like:
4. Check the airline websites directly
Search engines are great, but also search directly on the airlines’ websites. They often offer private deals or promotions that the search engines can’t access. Increasingly they are running cheap deals on social media sites like Facebook, so it’s worth it to Like their page and check in.
5. The best time to search for tickets
Did you know there are up to 10 different ticket prices on the same flight? So how do you get one of the cheap seats? Timing is everything.
Airlines release their new weekly fares on Mondays, so at Tuesday by 3 pm their competitors have released their deals, making it the exact time to search.
Studies show that the cheapest time to book is 49 days before your departure, or 81 days ahead of time for international flights. Interestingly, flights booked 200 days or more in advance are more expensive, and last minute flights may be cheaper, but the seat availability is extremely limited.
If you are flying during the holidays, start searching 10 weeks ahead of time. If you’re headed to a non-vacation destination, shop on a weekend – it will save you 5%.
6. The best time to fly
The majority of air travelers want to fly on a Friday or Sunday, so you’ll find the best deals available for flights on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday.
Flights at the crack of dawn, at dinnertime, or red-eye flights over night are cheapest.
7. Follow the airlines on social media
Almost every airline has a social media page, at least on Facebook and Twitter these days, and often release specials and limited time deals that aren’t publicized elsewhere. Like or follow a few airlines ahead of time so you can track their updates.
8. Book a package deal
Booking a package usually drops your airfare into the leisure travel category, saving you money. Arranging a ticket for your hotel, rental car, and airfare together may give you access to lower prices on internet search engines, and travel agents can be helpful when it comes to these bargains.
9. Ask for organizational discounts
Contact any organizations, unions, or membership sites you belong to, like AAA, AARP, unions, Veterans groups, or even Sam’s Club or Costco, as they may offer bulk discounts.
10. Sign up for frequent flyer miles and points
Always register to earn frequent flyer miles and keep track. Confirm with the booking agent and at the check-in counter to make sure they credited you your miles, and once you get home check to make sure they were registered.
11. Use a credit card that offers award points of frequent flyer miles
Some of them are great but only give you miles on one airline. I have a Chase Sapphire card (they don't pay me anything to give them a shout-out!) that allows me to accumulate points for all flights, hotels, rental cars, or even restaurant meals. I run all of my bills through it but pay it off every month, and the result is that I get at least two free flights every year.
12. Factor the airline’s luggage policy into the total price
When booking a flight, ask about their luggage policy. Slightly cheaper tickets for your family does no good if you are paying $50 each for baggage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines make over $3 billion in baggage fees alone every year!
13. Call back the next day to see if the price went down
After you book your flight, call back the next day, within 24 hours, to check if the fare went lower. Most airlines have a policy where you could cancel and re-book for the lower fare within 24 hours without penalty.
14. Check the airline websites
While it’s convenient to go to one website and search for the best fares among all airlines and schedules, you can often find specials or the best deals on the airline’s own website. So do a little research but then cross reference with the airline.
15. Call and chat with a representative but then book online
I love getting an actual human being on the phone from the airline or travel websites because they can guide you and offer their tricks, tips, and vast experience. But if you want to book over the phone there’s usually a service charge of $15 to $50. So to save money, call and chat to identify what you want and then thank them, hang up, and book online.
Once you move down to Costa Rica, you'll probably realize quickly that transportation is a key issue. In fact, you'll feel fairly isolated and "stuck" if you don't have a vehicle to get around, whether it's adventures at local beaches or just to the market during the rainy season. So, today I want to bring you some great facts and tips about buying and registering a vehicle in Costa Rica, as well as the pros and cons of importing your car.
The pros and cons of importing a car to Costa Rica
I get emails all the time from people who want to drive down to Costa Rica. Number one, I wouldn’t recommend that because it can be extremely dangerous going through Mexico and the southern route until you get to Nicaragua.
Secondly, although people want their own cars, it just doesn’t make financial sense. It’s almost always better to buy (or even rent) a car in Costa Rica rather than importing your own car because of the sky-high import taxes.
The tax for importing vehicles into Costa Rica is 52.29% for models that have been released in the last three years. But in Costa Rica, a car is considered new for tax purposes for up to three years after it was placed on the lot for sale, no matter what its mileage or condition.
The Ministerio de Hacienda (Treasury) regulates the value of imported cars and other vehicles the same way that Kelley Blue Book does in the U.S. – based on make, model, engine, and other features and accessories. However, in Costa Rica, mileage and mechanical condition aren’t taken into consideration for this tax process!
Import taxes for cars that are 4-5 years old are 63.91%, and cars older than 5 years must pay an import tax of 79.03%.
Buying and owning a car in Costa Rica
Owning a car is very expensive when you consider maintenance, insurance, and gas, which is stable now (over $4 a gallon as of 2018), but can get expensive. But if you want to buy a car, check out pricing and find local sellers search http://crautos.com or http://www.encuentra24.com
The best places to buy cars are:
• In and around San José and Grecia
• The best deals are found when you buy directly from the owner
• Get to know the local expats and you will likely find one when someone leaves
• One of your best resources for buying and registering a car in Costa Rica is: http://ticotimes.com/costa-rica/buying-a-new-used-car
• Ideally buy from a dealer or a private seller
• Either way (especially if privately sold,) have the car inspected by a competent and trustworthy mechanic before you sign the papers Inspections are done at one of the many specially constructed locations around the country. They were built and are operated by a Spanish firm that won the contract to perform motor vehicle inspections.
Understanding reteve or revision technica:
• When a car is inspected it is given a decal on the windshield, which needs to be valid in order to avoid a ticket
• Once a mechanic completes the inspection certificate (which is then renewed every year for older cars and every two years for newer cars,) you can get the obligatory limited liability insurance, marchamo, at the MOPT (Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes) or at any number of private locations, including all public and most private banks
• The only insurance required is the marchamo, an annual “liability insurance” fee that every car owner must pay
• To avoid a fine, marchamo must be renewed annually from November 1 and December 31
• The fee depends on the condition and year of the car, and the driver (age, driving record, etc.) which costs around $200
• You have to have this up to date because police are always looking for cars without marchamo sticker
More notes on car ownership in Costa Rica:
• Remember that outside San José, parts can be extremely hard to find!
• Try to purchase a model where you know parts are easy to get and it’s easy to fix – or very reliable.
• If you need work done or parts, it might make sense to order them from San José or even go get them yourself!
• There is no AAA and it’s easy to get stranded way out in the countryside if your car breaks down.
• In the provinces, roads can be really rough, with flooding prevalent in the rainy season.
• For that reason, many expats prefer a SUV or pickup truck. It might be a good idea to get one fitted with a “snorkel” to keep the engine safe during the rainy season
• Chains on tires and towing winches/lines are a good idea, too.
• Always carry a spare tire and your own tools.
The (Costa Rican) Rules of the Road
Expats, foreigners, and visitors who plan to drive in Costa Rica should be aware of the laws and rules of the road.
One important thing to know is that if a foreigner is involved in an accident, the Costa Rican government may prevent the driver from departing Costa Rica until all injury claims have been settled, whether or not the driver is at fault or covered by insurance. This process is often delayed until courts are certain of the damage and responsibility.
Travelers renting vehicles should make sure to have theft insurance that will cover them completely, always park in secure lots (and tip the parking attendant beforehand!), and never leave anything visible inside the car – whether it’s valuable or not.
Note that individual, unlicensed “parking attendants” are everywhere. Often, a local guy or old man just throws on a fluorescent-colored vest and a whistle and become the unofficial parking police for a certain area! Remember that although they may offer to park your car or assist you with finding a spot, it doesn’t ensure that it is a legal spot - your car may still be ticketed or towed.
It’s best to pay these guys a little bit. If you DON’T pay them, you’ll often be amazed to find your car broken into, damaged or something missing when you come back! I usually let them know I’ll pay them well WHEN I get back to the car and it’s in good condition and safe.
Maybe you’re bringing the family down to Costa Rica for a first-time vacation, going with your nuptial entourage for a wedding on the beach, or even planning a few months in Central America during the North American winter to enjoy the warm weather, great beaches, and mellow vibe.
Either way, booking a hotel night-by-night may get insanely expensive – or downright impossible if you have a big crew looking for accommodations during the high season.
But, instead of just perusing the hotel websites, there’s another great option – Airbnb. The good news is that Airbnb is not only present, but thriving in Costa Rica - a fantastic option for vacation rentals, long-term stays, or any other arrangement you need for housing.
So, instead of just sharing a boring list of Airbnb listings in Costa Rica (which you can access on Airbnb Costa Rica, of course), I wanted to bring you a little fun background about the company itself.
1. Based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a privately owned accommodation rental website, with 1,500,000 unique listings in 34,000 cities in 192 countries all over the world.
2. By renting out rooms, space, or even entire private residences, Airbnb is offers cheaper, more flexible, and often more charming and comfortable alternatives to a hotel room.
3. For instance, a recent query showed that a night in a hotel in San Francisco would set you back on average $229, however Airbnb was able to offer room at approximately $165 and cheaper.
4. It’s perfect for families who wish to rent out an entire apartment on vacation, young couples or solo travellers who wish to explore foreign destinations on a budget, or anyone who’s looking for more of an authentic traveling experience.
5. While Airbnb is just about a household name today, the company started from extremely humble beginnings. In fact, Airbnb was born from the desperate attempts of two guys struggling to pay rent to earn a few bucks back in 2008.
6. Roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn’t afford to pay their rent in their San Francisco apartment. So they came up with the idea of setting up and renting out three air mattresses in their apartment for travelers in the area, including breakfast as a perk.
7. They even created a quick website, Airbedandbreakfast.com 8. Soon they had their first guest, 2 men and a woman, who paid $80 each.
8. The light bulb went on that this was a great idea, so they enlisted their ex-room mate, Nathan Blecharczyk, into the fold to create a better website, promoting the concept of personal rentals to others, earning about $200 a week.
9.. The boys even raised their first $20,000 in funding to grow the concept. They decided they needed to advertise and promote their listings with better imagery, so went door to door in New York and took beautiful photos of their listings.
10. That helped them ramp up to $400 a week and a slow but steady upward trajectory.
11. Although they were spurned by bigger investors, they didn’t give up, and eventually went on to raise $119.2 million from various investors, including actor Ashton Kutcher (who is still a strategic advisor for the company.)
12. In 2011, the company started its overseas expansion, opening its first international office in Hamburg, Germany.
13. Certainly no company has climbed to greater heights in a short time than Airbnb, as only six years after their inception, in 2014, the company earned a 10 billion-dollar valuation.
14. According to The Wall Street Journal, Airbnb expects to climb to $10 billion in revenue by 2020 led by the current CEO, Arne Sorenson - one of the major players in the hospitality industry.
15. The “traditional” hotel industry doesn’t think highly of Airbnb, as Marriott International stated on CBS that Airbnb was an “interesting experiment,” but they “did not see them as any threat.”
16. Airbnb guests stay longer than average travelers (average travelers stay for 2.8 nights while Airbnb’s average is 5 nights).
17. About 20% of people staying with Airbnb are staying more than 30 days or more – perfect if you’re going to be down in Costa Rica for a month or two – or even half the year!
18. While it’s a household name in the U.S., still less than 50% of locals are familiar with Airbnb in Costa Rica, so the movement that’s labelled “the sharing economy,” so the company is anticipated to still see exponential future growth.
19. How much can regular people earn by renting out their homes? In New York City, one commercial host made approximately $6.84 million dollars from renting out their properties in the US between 2010 and 2014.
20. Along with their meteoric rise, Airbnb certainly felt some growing pains, as not all customer experiences were glowing. In fact, the company has endured a number of scandals involving theft, property damages and an array of sordid activities in hosts’ apartments.
21. In one instance, Airbnb promised to pay the damages, expected to be at $75,000 after a house was destroyed during a ‘drug-crazed orgy.’
22. CEO Brian Chesky was recently shocked by an incident involving a woman’s home that was ransacked by an Airbnb renter. In response, he instituted a $50,000 Airbnb guarantee protecting future hosts from damage.
23. An Airbnb guest once stayed at a house where the host died midway through their stay, confusing the matter of checking out and payment.
24. According to reports in the New York Post, “entertainers” of questionable character regularly pose as tourists renting out Airbnb listings in New York City, helping them security avoid cameras and saving money compared to hotels.
25. One Airbnb host was forced to pay tenants $1,700 to vacate her apartment after they refused after 30 days, citing California tenant’s rights laws and demanding a payment of relocation fees before they left.
Despite this small number of issues, the vast majority of Airbnb customers have wonderful experiences and thoroughly enjoy their stays – especially in Costa Rica!
Need help with booking a place in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, or Playa Jaco? Hit me up!
Virtual careers are a reality these days, thanks to amazing technology, a global marketplace, and increases in outsourcing. In fact, there are plenty of online jobs you could do to earn a living while traveling or living in Costa Rica - or anywhere.
However, I’ve seen a ton of websites that go that far and then stop, not giving you the nuts and bolts of WHERE you can find these jobs and HOW to get them.
It’s hard to even do research because most links bring you to other links, paid sites, people selling you stuff - or downright scams. To be honest, it’s incredibly frustrating!
There are virtual job sites, like FlexJobs.com, Upwork, and more that prescreen employers for you, and their small fee might be well worth it in wasted time.
So I did a little research for you (because I care) to offer some good resources to actually find a legit virtual job and get hired.
Please note that I do not have any affiliation or get paid by any of these sites (I wish). I’ve clicked on all of the links to see if they were live and looked like credible job services, but I can’t vouch for their validity.
So feel free to email me with any updates or experiences you have when you go to these sites and start your job search.
Warning: There are a lot of scams out there in the world of virtual work because the bad guys prey on the anonymity of being online and the dream of “quick money from home” that many job seekers buy into.
Here are 5 ways to make sure your virtual job is not a scam:
1. Make sure the employer is a reputable company. Check their feedback and reviews on LinkedIn, Elance, and Google them. Look up their Better Business Bureau rating.
2. Confirm they have a home office with a real address, not just a PO Box.
3. Ask for references from current employees and staff.
4. Get a phone number and surprise them with a call to make sure they are there, working, and professional. If you are suspicious, ask if you can swing by and say hi.
5. NEVER send money to them for ANYTHING.
How will virtual work be different from a regular job?
Instead of face-to-face contact with your coworkers and clients, you will have to do everything online. That means it’s so important to have a quiet place to work with a great Internet connection (which can be more difficult than it sounds in foreign countries.)
Since you won’t have managers looking over your shoulder, you’ll be tempted to take a siesta instead of working. But to be successful at virtual work, you’ll need to be organized, self-motivated, and have a great work ethic.
People often mistakenly assume virtual work is easy just because you can do it from home, but most virtual professionals I know work even harder, for longer hours, and sometimes for less money. But if you factor in that they don’t have to sit in traffic, get dressed up, or pay for parking and lunch, and the flexibility to take care of the kids – or travel abroad and sit by the beach – it’s well worth it.
Tools for virtual work:
Your laptop will be your best friend as you travel and work abroad. But these days, some people can get by just with a smart phone or mobile device. Also, a great Internet connection is a must. Most restaurants, bars, and cafes have free Wi-Fi abroad, but you will also want to get a home connection.
A Wi-Fi extender and a pocket Wi-Fi hotspot will be invaluable as a backup.
Your new job might require a printer, and get an external hard drive to backup all of your important documents and work.
A good quality headset with a microphone will be needed if you are making frequent calls.
Skype, Facetime, and teleconferencing software will replace personal meetings, and there might also be work-specific software or applications.
You can get paid via PayPal, which is convenient, but remember that they’ll take about 2.9% out of every transaction – which really adds up. You should also be aware that some payment platforms your U.S. employer may want to use, like Venmo, won't work internationally (they can pay to Venmo but you can't transfer or withdraw the money if you're abroad!) or may charge much higher fees.
Instead, just give your employer your bank account number and routing number from the start so they can make transfers or direct deposits.
You might want to keep a Post Office Box or use someone’s home address in the U.S. or your home country. This will serve two purposes: to collect any essential mail, and also to display a normal U.S. address on your marketing materials/website, etc. so you don’t advertise to potential clients that you’re living abroad.
And of course, you'll still pay U.S. taxes on any money you earn from a U.S. employer while you're abroad. *But always check with your CPA or tax preparer first.
How do you get the job?
You will need an organized resume, just like any other job, but a digital version. Since you won’t interview with your boss or Human Resource folks in person, the way you present yourself on paper (or computer screen) is extremely important. Take full advantage of testimonials, references from past clients, or employer recommendations. Highlight any education, certifications, professional awards, or projects you worked on.
A web page with a service page also makes for a great online resume center, or some sites like ELance or LinkedIn let you to set up your own profile.
Take advantage of every tool they allow – professional photos, work samples, uploaded videos, testimonials, etc.
A short video of you in professional attire, introducing yourself and talking about your job skills, experience, and goals for work is a wonderful tool, and the link can be emailed to any potential employer.
Expect a Skype interview, possibly more screening, writing samples, or even a skills test with a virtual job.
Note: Because of the lack of personal contact, expect your employers to do a Google search for your name and probably also look you up on Facebook. Take down those half-naked pictures of you doing tequila shots and stop talking about how you hate your past employer and can't wait to quit and move down to Costa Rica!
Best practices for virtual workers:
If you are traveling or living abroad, do you have to tell your employer where you are? Is it okay to work in your pajamas? At midnight with the television on? The fine line between professionalism and sloppiness often gets blurred with virtual work, but here is the unwavering truth: do the job well; exceed expectations, and you’ll make your employer happy.
It’s all about results, and if you need a babysitter to do your work, then you shouldn’t have a virtual job. Communication will key – there’s nothing that freaks your boss out more than if they email you for something important and you don’t get back to them for a long time.
If the job is 100% virtual, you don’t have to disclose your whereabouts (they don’t know if you are sitting home in the next town, the next state, or halfway around the world,) BUT you should ask to review their specific workforce policies before you start.
If something is going to create a conflict or become an issue in the future, then honestly address it with your manager ahead of time. Remember that there will also be a time change if you are out of the country, so you may have to work some strange hours!
Be organized, professional, and expect to put as much time into your virtual job-hunt as any other employment search. I promise you that it will be worth it to live the dream of spending time in a foreign country, while still earning a paycheck!
P.S. I have a ton more resources, links, and actual companies hiring for you in the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook: Special Report on Working and Earning an Income From Costa Rica.
Email me any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.
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