Are you planning on moving down to Costa Rica and you’re wondering what the requirements are for you to drive?
Are you spending a few months a year there and have questions about legally driving on Costa Rica’s roads?
Or, like me, do you just want a Costa Rican driver’s license because you think it would be super cool to have as a souvenir, and fun to pull out of your wallet when you’re back in your home country?
No matter the reason you want one, the good news is that as a foreigner, you can get a Costa Rican driver’s license, but you also don’t need one to legally navigate the roads of that country.
Here's what you need to drive legally (and safely) in Costa Rica:
If you are getting a first-time license in Costa Rica, the requirements are as follows:
• Be over age 18
• Have passed a basic course
• Have passed a driving test
• Have a current digital medical record
• You can find out more information at: https://www.csv.go.cr
However, as a visiting foreigner, you are permitted to drive in Costa Rica using a valid license from your home country for the duration of your entry stamp.
If your passport entry stamp reads 90 days, you may legally drive on your foreign license for that time period. After 90 days, you must either leave the country to renew your entry stamp or obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license.
All license-related transactions take place through Cosevi (Council for Road Safety) in San José. Tourists and residents are eligible for a Costa Rican license if you do not have one already.
If you are applying for a first-time license you need:
• Current passport with entry stamp of no more than 90 days OR residency cedula OR any other document that proves legal residency or temporary residence permit
• Current foreign driver’s license and a copy of the same
• Medical exam If a driver presents an expired foreign driver’s license, s/he must comply with the above 1-3 requirements, and must also take a road test.
To renew a Costa Rican drivers license you need:
• Medical exam
• Current passport OR residency cedula OR temporary residence permit OR Peace Corps identification card OR refugee card OR rentista card OR any other document that proves fixed residency status
• Current Costa Rican license
Pretty simple and straightforward, huh? However, I can't promise that actual driving on Costa Rican roads and in traffic will be so easy!
P.S. Don't forget to get your copy of the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
The vast majority of tourists experience endless blue skies and hot, dry days when they come to Costa Rica for vacation. Other backpackers, surfers and nature enthusiast may come during the months when it may be cloudy, and a good tropical rain falls every day.
And then, there is the real rainy season, when only locals, expats, and the craziest (or most budget-conscious) of travelers explore Costa Rica.
No matter which of these describes you, it’s important to understand the seasons and weather patterns in Costa Rica. By doing so, you’ll know what to pack, what challenges you’ll face, and what to expect.
I’ll go through some great information about the rainy season in Costa Rica here, and bring you more invaluable tips in part 2 of this blog.
The dry season, (which Costa Ricans consider to be their summer) is around November to April. This is also the high season for tourism in Costa Rica. Although the dry season will offer you better beach time and a less rainy rainforest experience, there are more crowds, fewer vacancies, and the prices are higher across the board.
The rainy season (Green Season) runs about from May to November. Here are some notes and tips to get through it:
And don't forget to pick up your copy of the Official Expat's Moving to Costa Handbook for more great tips, hacks, and info!
Ask any hotel manager, tour operator, or travel agent in Costa Rica what the #1 mistake is that tourists make, and the answer will always be “waiting too long to book their trip.”
With a limited number of hotels, condos, and homes for rent, the busiest seasons – especially December through April – are always at maximum capacity. To add more hotel patrons to the critical mass, a huge number of Costa Ricans (Ticos) escape from San José on weekends and especially during holidays like Christmas, New Years and Semana Santa (Easter). During these holiday periods, places like Jacó, Tamarindo, and many more are literally over capacity.
So, by waiting too long to book their hotel rooms and accommodations, as well as rental cars and activities, tourists really put their vacation in jeopardy. Imagine paying the for plane tickets but then not being able to find the hotel you want for your family – or any hotel at all!
It’s happened more than you can guess, and one month before Christmas and Semana Santa every property manager is getting 50+ emails and messages a day from people looking for a house or condo for their upcoming vacation when few – or none – are still available!
And around these peak seasons, the prices often skyrocket, sometimes even doubling for last-minute bookings compared to prices in the other times of the year.
I recommend that during the peak tourist season (December through April) and especially around the holidays, vacationers book 6-12 months ahead of time.
The larger your group, and if there are any special needs or requests, the further in advance you should book. As you can imagine, finding a family of five people three adjacent hotel rooms on the same floor is a lot harder than just booking a room for a couple.
The same goes for rental cars (which sell out quickly) and in-demand activities like deep-sea fishing, jungle treks, volcano and cloud forests tours. Of course, these are all flexible, so if you needed to move around the date or time of when you do these things, the operators and agencies will always work with you – as long as you plan ahead.
I would recommend looking for a rental property that suits your needs first, book those, and THEN book airfare – as there are always plenty of flights and seats available 6 months or more ahead of time.
And if you're an expat who is already living in Costa Rica, you have your own challenges around booking long-term apartments and rentals, since landlords may want to kick you out just over December and January to cash in on the peak tourism time.
By doing so, you’ll save a lot of money, avoid any last-minute headaches, and ensure that you and your family have the best possible vacation Costa Rica has to offer.
Need more help with advice, info, or booking a property? I'm happy to help!
-The official expat,
This has absolutely nothing to do with moving Costa Rica...but I wanted to remind you to claim your $125 (or more) anyways
Every Tuesday, I write up some info or a helpful tip about moving to Costa Rica and share it with you. But today, I just couldn't bring myself to write anything because there's a more pressing matter at hand (if you're from the US): the chance to claim $125...or much more!
This isn't my money I'm giving away, of course, nor is it a contest or "free" money. It's actually part of the class-action settlement that credit giant Equifax just agreed to.
I know, nothing to do wth Costa Rica, right? But just hear me out and you'll be thankful that you did.
Back in 2017, Experian suffered a massive data breach that compromised the personal financial information of up to 147 million Americans! As part of the settlement brought by the FTC, Experian agreed to a $700 million payout to make amends, the majority of it in a Victim Compensation Fund.
So, if you were one of those people whose data was stolen in the breach, Equifax owes you some restitution.
In fact, if you are one of those 147 million, you automatically qualify for $125 OR 10 years free credit monitoring for all credit bureaus. If you suffered more financial damage or detriment (like ID theft, credit hack, etc.), you can claim more.
It's also super simple and takes about three minutes.
To see if you're eligible, just go to this link and type in your last name and last six digits of your social: https://eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/en/eligibility
And if you are, go to this link and answer a few simple questions and you'll receive a confirmation for your $125 cheque in the mail within 90 days (or other compensation you choose/claim): https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com
Don't worry - this is totally legit and you can see these links go right to the Equifax website.
Sorry if you're Canadian or European or from somewhere else and this is boring "Yankee" business, but I didn't want to pass up the chance to help my expat friends here claim their $125.
And now that you have a $125 cheque coming, how about finally purchasing the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook? Yup, I couldn't resist!
Exclusive Interview with Rich Pearson of Upwork.com about digital nomads and virtual work for expats.
Don't fall victim to the misconception that living in Costa Rica is cheap - it's not, although you certainly can enjoy a beautiful, comfortable lifestyle at much less than living in the U.S. or Canada.
So, please forgive me if I'm always bringing our conversation back to the pragmatic by giving you insight and resources into working and making a living from Costa Rica.
Today, we'll take a big step towards that because I have an exclusive interview with Rich Pearson of Upwork.com, the world's biggest virtual work platform. Throughout this 30+ -minute interview, Rich shares his vision on being a digital nomad, working virtually from Costa Rica (or anywhere), and how Upwork can help. He also talks about how the rise of technology and globalization has empowered expats like never before.
Great stuff for any expat who is serious about moving down to Costa Rica and still needs to work!
And don't forget that I put a huge amount of resources at your fingertips with the Special Report on Working & Earning Income from Costa Rica.
Enjoy the time with Rich Pearson of Upwork and contact me if you need anything!
We've covered a lot of big, important topics in regards to your move to Costa Rica like finding housing, working, visa, and health insurance. So, now it's time to start getting into the nuts and bolts of less noticeable items on your checklist. For instance, what to do with your mail back in the U.S. or your home country once you move? Can you easily receive mail in Costa Rica? What about shipping things privately?
Let's get into those nuts and bolts:
Your mail back home:
You’ll want to go online with as many bills, payments, and accounts as possible, but still there will be some correspondence that needs to be physically mailed to a U.S. or home country address.
There are services that will accept mail on your behalf, open it and scan it, but they are really expensive.
The best way to go is to change your official address back home to a family member or close friend’s residence. Assure them that you won’t be getting too much mail and ask them (or pay them!) to open your mail, take a quick digital photo of whatever letters look important, and email those photos to you.
In exchange, you can put them up at your house or apartment when they come visit you in Costa Rica!
Maybe you simply file a change of address to your new registered address back home before you head down to Costa Rica, but remember that this means the kind person helping you will receive a flood of junk mail, offers, catalogs, and other undesirable paper. So I just canceled my mail at my old address and did an official address change only through the few entities that are important to get mail from (right now that’s IRS, health insurance, and cell phone carrier for me).
I still use a home address of a friend in the U.S. for all my official mail, and it works great.
Sending and receiving mail in Costa Rica:
People don’t rely much on the national post system in Costa Rica for a good reason! There is no reliable home delivery mail service. In fact, most Ticos don’t even have real addresses, just directions like “500 meters south of the church and 200 meters west of the school.” If you want to get mail, you need to go to the local Costa Rican post office and get a box for around $8-12 a year, called ‘apartado.’
However, if you do go for this option, you will need to wait, as many locations require a one-year waiting period before you are able to sign up for the box.
Mail from the U.S. or abroad:
Mail from the United States takes about three weeks to a month so make sure you set up all your bills online, and you have a good Internet banking system in place before moving!
U.S. and other military veterans living in Costa Rica are required to have a mailbox so they can receive official and important documents. The most efficient and cost effective way to get things to you and back home is still to pack stuff with friends who are coming or going! Choose folks who are reliable, but if you start asking around, there are always friends and friends of friends coming down to Costa Rica for a vacation soon.
Politely ask if they carry a few things down for you. If your stuff is heavy, pay their luggage fees for any extra weight.
There are a few options for private shipping companies:
• Jetbox, Aerocasillas and Mailboxes Etc. charge for ownership of a US-based PO Box
• When you want to send something just send it to your PO box in the U.S. and they’ll receive it
• One charge for shipping from the PO box to Costa Rica, and very low base rate per month
• Cheaper option charges higher monthly price with unlimited free shipping option
• The whole process takes less than two weeks
• FedEx, UPS, and DHL are efficient but very expensive, $100 per 2lb package
Finding work once you move down to Costa Rica may not be easy. Many of the unskilled or non-specialized jobs pay Tico-level wages, so you'll be competing with the locals and working way too hard (for too little) to enjoy your new home.
Therefore, opening your own business may be the best path to earning money.
In part one of this blog, I covered a few tips on opening a business and business planning.
Here are some more tips and notes on opening a business in Costa Rica:
To do it properly, I encourage you to take your time, study the area, the market for your services and the competition, talk to a lot of business owners, network with the right locals and expats, and build a super conservative business plan.
Owning a business can be a supreme headache in Costa Rica if you’re not prepared and don’t have the right, trustworthy people on board. But once you’ve carved out your niche and done all the hard work to get the doors open and promote your business, it can bear huge fruit, giving you the opportunity not only to live in paradise but also make great money at the same time!
First, you’ll need to secure an employer that will sponsor you in the process. You’ll have to demonstrate that you are filling a position that a Tico does not have the technical expertise to fill. Common work visa fields include: health care, IT, biotech, and international business. Don’t just jump into opening a business and start spending money (because you’ll never stop!). Instead, do plenty of research and get to know the area, the market, your competition, the logistics, and even seasonal changes.
The vacation rental business has several key aspects: marketing, reservations, housekeeping, maintenance, concierge services, transportation, and bookkeeping.
Will your business cater to Ticos or tourists and foreigners? There’s a huge difference in how you market, how you do business, and even how you run your day-to-day operations.
If you decide to open the doors to a business that’s looking to attract Ticos, recognize that most of the country’s purchasing power is located in the Central Valley. A total of 75% of the country’s population resides in the central provinces of San José, Alajuela, Heredia, and Cartago. About 60% of the population is under 30 years old. Intelligent business people target this demographic.
But, you’ll have to seriously adapt your idea due to the vagaries of the local market and different purchasing power. Don’t get any grandiose ideas since the country only has about 4.5 million people and a quarter the people are below the poverty line with little or no purchasing power. You cannot expect to market products on a large scale as in North America.
So, for many foreigners it’s easier and far more lucrative to set up a business that targets tourists as their demographics, which usually means being located in the heart of these tourist zones. With the huge influx of tourism into Costa Rica every year, restaurants, hotels, scuba diving outfits, fishing and boat tours, 4WD and motorbike excursions and rentals, and starting just about any other tour company are all great viable options for new businesses.
Starting an Internet-based business that targets a U.S. and Canadian market will greatly increase your chances of success here. For example, I know a couple of Americans who started Spanish schools that bring groups of students here. I know a Canadian who founded an online newspaper. Another friend started a cell phone rental service for tourists.
Whatever you do, don’t expect to strike it rich. With luck, you can make a good living and enjoy an amazing quality of life in Costa Rica!
The results are in!
Thank you, everyone who took the time to participate in my survey about moving to Costa Rica - the response was huge and I really appreciate it!
Now that I've crunched the numbers and read your responses, it also gives me a greater insight into who you are, why you're looking to move down to Costa Rica, and what needs, challenges and resources I can help with.
And the best part is that one of you is going to win a $25 Visa card, as promised! (So scroll down to the end if you want to see if it was you.)
Here are the results of the survey and my quick notes (with little colorful surfboards attached):
It looks like most of you are either gung ho about moving to Costa Rica ASAP (28% within one year) or just thinking about it in the future with no definite time (44%).
About a third of you are set on moving to Costa Rica, a third of you are considering other countries, and a third aren't sure at all!
Surprisingly, the largest group (54%) of people considering moving down to Costa Rica have never been there!
While there are a lot of retirees (54%) moving down to Costa Rica, a good number of you (25%) are looking to semi-retire or just live a slower pace of life when it comes to work.
To that point, only a third of respondents say that they definitely will have to work and earn income when they move to Costa Rica, while 29% aren't sure and 38% won't.
Lifestyle is the biggest attraction to moving to Costa Rica, followed by the lower cost of living, its proximity to the US or home, and healthcare. Interestingly, Costa Rica's natural beauty is only the fifth most prominent reason for moving there.
Figuring out the visa situation is your biggest concern, followed by the language barrier if you don't speak Spanish, and then, how you'll make a living. If you ask me, earning income and making a living should be the #1 concern!
How can I best help you with your move down to Costa Rica? You want accurate information on living expenses, the visa and residency situation, buying or renting real estate, where to move in Costa Rica, and any possible safety issues.
Oh yeah, the $25 Visa gift card. Thanks for reminding me!
After a random drawing, I'm happy to announce that...
Jeff Crispell is the winner! Jeff - just email me to claim your $25 gift card.
This week, the U.S. will be celebrating their Independence Day - July 4th. For those of you who are moving down to Costa Rica, you may be wondering how the holiday is celebrated in this country, if at all.
The good news is that Ticos and American expats alike rock out for July 4th! In fact, the U.S. Embassy in San Jose throws a HUGE party every year for all U.S. passport holders and their families and friends, and many bars, restaurants, and social clubs around the country do the same. Called "The American Colony Committee," it's grown so big that they hold it in a local park and the festivities start on the 3rd, culminating with star-spangled fireworks.
The event includes plenty of games, bands, historical reenactments, and, of course, beer and hot dogs!
In the spirit of friendship and partnership, I've found Ticos to be really supportive and even excited to celebrate the United States Independence Day.
I first went to my U.S. Embassy party as far back as 1999 and had a blast then, and it's still a fun and fantastic patriotic event.
Here are a few photos (from the Tico Times and other sources) to show you more. Have fun and celebrate the 4th safely, no matter where you are!
The Official Expat,
I received an encouraging email this week from a really nice U.S. surgeon who is looking far ahead to his eventual retirement or semi-retirement and strongly considering Costa Rica as his best option. Already having purchased the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook, he was kind enough to reach out to compliment the info it contained, but also see if I had any extra or parting nuggets of advice for him.
Off the top of my head and considering his circumstances, this is what I emailed him back. Of course, everyone is different, but this is one to grow on, as they say, as you start planning your move down to Costa Rica, too!
1. Think about spending part of the year in Cost Rica and part of the year back in the States. Even though it’s paradise, for me, the rainy season can become a slog of wetness and mosquitos haha. It's also nice to get back to the U.S. and see family, friends, and do some shopping/paperwork/banking, etc. I think that balance allows me to appreciate both even more!
2. Be VERY careful when it comes to finances. I’m making a broad assumption that you’re comfortable financially, and while that will afford you many opportunities in Costa Rica, it can also potentially make you a target. Stay low-key and be careful, as there are scams and hustlers everywhere, and far too many expats move down and start shelling out huge chunks of money in real estate deals or to open businesses, only to go belly-up and lose a portion of their precious nest egg.
3. Do some charity work – either here in Costa Rica or in neighboring Nicaragua, where they REALLY need it. I find that living in Costa Rica or abroad is great, but all of the sunshine and good times won’t mean anything without a PURPOSE or MEANING to our lives, including the inherent human need to be connected and part of something bigger than ourselves.
Too many expats go abroad and just become lost or depressed because they lack those things and just start drinking every day or withdrawing. Getting involved and helping those in need is the most positive, effective way to counter that!
Those are my two cents (three cents?) since you were nice enough to reach out.
Please read through the handbook at your leisure and then contact me any time so we can chat or answer your additional questions!
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