FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica

We get emails all the time from people interested in moving to Costa Rica. They’ve been drawn in by the relaxed pace of life, beautiful scenery, and enviable climate. Some are ready to quit their jobs and pack their bags and haven’t even visited the country yet (don’t do this!). Because people typically have many of the same questions, we thought we’d put our thoughts together in one place. Keep in mind that we aren’t experts and if you asked 100 expats living in Costa Rica these very same questions, you’d get 100 different answers. But this information is enough to get you going in the right direction. Keep in mind that we’ve written separate posts on many of the topics, so be sure to follow the links provided. If you still don’t find what you’re looking for, feel free to ask a question in the comments below or in our Forum.

 

Moving to Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

What Is the Cost of Living in Costa Rica?

It is expensive to live in Costa Rica (we find it similar to the US), but if you live simply, it can be affordable. Rentals start as low as $300/month and go up into the thousands. Near the beach in touristy areas costs the most. In the mountains and in rural areas where locals live is the cheapest. Groceries are comparable to the US but fresh produce is very inexpensive at farmers markets, which you can find in almost every community. Electricity is fairly expensive (again similar to what we used to pay in Boston) so take that into consideration if you’re moving to the beach and plan to use the AC a lot. Restaurants, except for those serving typical Costa Rican food, are about the same as the US. Cars are also very expensive due to high import taxes. As an example, a 15-year-old SUV like ours typically costs $8,000-12,000, depending on make and model. Gas is pricey too. If you’re willing to get around by bus, buses are cheap, fairly reliable, and can get you almost anywhere in the country as long as you have some patience. Keep in mind though, that in more rural areas, buses run less regularly (sometimes only 3 times a day). In and around San José has the most bus routes running regularly.

People often ask if a certain amount of money is “enough” to live in Costa Rica. This really all depends on where you want to live and your standard of living. If you’re going to be buying a lot of imported items at the Auto Mercado (grocery store with many North American products) and expect granite countertops, $2,000 a month isn’t going to cut it. For those of you who want a number, people who live like the locals in simple Tico-style houses and eat rice and beans regularly spend as little as $1,000 a month. More standard is $1,500-2,500, which gets you a normal, two-bedroom rental, eating out a couple of times a week, and splurging on something special once in a while. Again, prices vary by town and are the highest in popular tourist destinations.

Helpful Links on Cost of Living

How Can I Afford to Do What You’re Doing?

If you’re retired and have enough money coming in, you should have no problem living in Costa Rica as long as you stick to a budget. But for younger people like us, it can be a challenge. The problem is that you’re not allowed to work in Costa Rica unless you’re a permanent resident (more on this below). What we did was have a long-term plan. While living in the US, we saved up for a few years before moving to give ourselves a cushion–both for living in Costa Rica and something to fall back on if we decided to move back to the US. We also had a loose plan for how we were going to make money in Costa Rica before coming. Originally we thought that we would start a small bed and breakfast or manage some vacation rentals. But after meeting others who were doing that, we decided that we didn’t want to be trapped in one place and unable to travel, something that we love.

We’ve since focused on travel writing and making money through our website. It has taken us a while but it’s finally starting to work. It isn’t easy though. Lots of people think they’re going to pick up and start a blog and make millions. In reality, there are thousands of travel bloggers out there (literally thousands, we’re serious) so you have to figure out a niche, something that makes you unique, and be really good at what you do. It’s a lot of work to write new content, respond to emails, keep up with social media, and figure out ways to make money, so only do it if you’re committed. For us, it’s a full-time job and then some, but not so bad because we get to live in Costa Rica.

For those of you looking for creative ways to save money, consider house sitting. We’ve been house sitting since we got here in July 2013 and have saved thousands of dollars in rent. In fact, we’ve only had to rent a few times in between house sits, which is phenomenal. Keep in mind though that house sitting isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. To get as many house sits as we’ve had, you have to be flexible with where you’re willing to go and for how long. Some of our gigs have been for one month, others four. It was great for us to be able to experience different areas of the country because our job is to travel and write about it, but it did get very tiring moving so much. Luckily we recently landed the dream gig: a long-term position that will keep us in one spot for at least a year!

 

FAQs About Moving to Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Exploring the cloud forest near Cerro Chirripo

 

If you’re interested in house sitting, there’s lots more info in our House Sitting category. In those posts, you’ll find info on how to get started, the sites that worked the best for us to get house sits, and lots more.

Where Should I Live?

When figuring out where you want to live, think about your ideal climate and how close you want to be to amenities. The beach is much hotter and more humid than the mountains, and for this reason, many people prefer to live in the Central Valley outside San José. The Central Valley and its surrounds (Grecia, Atenas, Heredia, etc.) are also closer to shopping, restaurants, and major hospitals. In rural areas, it can be more difficult to find things, there are fewer restaurants, and buses run less often so be sure to take this into consideration, especially if you don’t plan to buy a car.

We lived in eight different places during our first year in Costa Rica. Check out this post to hear our impressions of each town.

Wherever you decide, it’s best to rent first to try it out. A large percentage of people who move to Costa Rica leave within the first year or two, so before you completely turn your life upside down, visit a few different areas on vacation first. Then once you’ve picked an area you’re comfortable with, rent there for at least a year. That will allow you to figure out exactly where you want to live and feel out the climate in all seasons. We originally thought we wanted to live in Uvita near the beach but found out that it is really hot so love living in the nearby mountains where there’s a nice breeze. In most places the weather can vary even from one side of town to the other. In Grecia, for example (a popular expat town in the Central Valley), there are several ridges and the climate differs on each of them. Communities all have different quirks like this and until you spend some time there, you won’t know what’s right for you.

Tips on Finding a Rental: From our experience and from talking to other expats, it’s best not to commit to anything long term until you get to Costa Rica. Prices are often inflated online and through real estate agents, so if you can come down and talk to people in the community, you can usually find a better deal. Plus, you obviously have the benefit of seeing the house for yourself. A lot of people (us included) rent something very short term at first in the area they want to live, then start their search for a long-term rental when they get here.

 

Lake Arenal | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
View of Lake Arenal from Puerto San Luis

How Do I Get Residency?

There are a few different ways to get residency. One involves proof of a certain amount of money coming in under a pension or retirement plan. Another also involves proof of funds coming in (non-pension/retirement) or you can make a large deposit into a Costa Rican bank account. A third relates to becoming a resident as an investor. Finally, you can become a permanent resident by marrying a Costa Rican or having a baby in-country. For more info on the specifics, check out the ARCR’s website. They help a lot of people moving to Costa Rica with residency, setting up bank accounts, etc. and have the most up-to-date information.

Some people start the residency process before moving while others wait until they get here. It is possible to apply for residency without an attorney, but if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll need someone to translate the documents. We have yet to experience the adventure of applying for residency, but have heard that it can happen fast, in a couple of months, or very slow, up to a couple of years. It just depends.

When you come to Costa Rica, you typically get a 90 day tourist visa (the exact number of days is up to the immigration official but 90 is standard). That means that until you get residency, you have to leave the country every 90 days and upon returning, get a new 90 day stamp/visa. This has worked out fine for us, as it has given us a chance to do some traveling to Panama, Nicaragua, and elsewhere, but for many people it is a burden. Remember too that even after you’ve applied for residency, you still have to leave every 90 days if you plan to drive. Your non-Costa Rica driver’s license is renewed with your visa. Although once you apply for residency you don’t have to leave every 90 days anymore to fulfill immigration requirements, there’s supposedly some old law on the books that says you still have to renew your visa to keep your driver’s license valid.

 

Paso Canoas Border | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
Costa Rica-Panama border at Paso Canoas

What Kind of Jobs Are Available? How Can I Work in Costa Rica as a Foreigner?

You can’t legally work in Costa Rica unless you’re a permanent resident or citizen. There are exceptions to this rule but they are not common. Basically a company in Costa Rica has to show that there is no Costa Rican who can do the job so that’s why they need you. The company then gets a work permit for you through the government. It’s very rare.

So for most people, you have to become a permanent resident or a citizen. Becoming a permanent resident takes time, though, for most people. Unless you’re a first degree relative to a Costa Rican (through marriage or by having a baby in Costa Rica), you can’t get permanent residency without first being a temporary resident for a certain number of years. After that period, you can apply to be a permanent resident and can work legally for Costa Rican companies. Some people who move here do find businesses that will hire them even without the proper work permit. This of course is illegal and not a good way to start your new life here, especially if you get caught since you may be deported.

Working online is another option and what a lot of expats do. It is legal as long as the money is coming from a company or clients outside Costa Rica.

Is the Internet Reliable?

Internet varies across the country from a crawling less than one MB to a zippy 10 MB. Some towns have only a Wi-Fi connection (you connect with a 3G USB stick), which is generally less reliable. We’ve lived in several houses with 3G connections and the speed has been fine in some places and seriously slow in others. Cost is around $25-30/month for 2 MB speed.

If Internet is important to you, find a town that has cable Internet through Cable Tica or another provider. It’s much more reliable and you can pay extra to have a faster speed. The Central Valley is a good place to start, but many other communities have cable as well (e.g., Nosara; Manuel Antonio; Tamarindo; Lake Arenal area (Tronadora and Puerto San Luis); and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, just to name a few).

One other thing to keep in mind: Don’t assume that just because most of a town has a 3G connection that you can’t get cable. If a hotel, development, etc. has paid to get a cable line put in, the houses near there might be able to access it too.

How Did You Get Your Stuff There? Suitcases vs. Shipping

You can either have your stuff shipped in cargo containers or just bring whatever you can fit on the airplane with you in luggage. There are pros and cons to both options. We brought our stuff in eight suitcases and it worked out great when we were house sitting. Now that we’ve moved into an unfurnished place though, we are having to buy a lot. Prices for furniture are a little higher than in the US but not shocking. The only problem for us has been finding what we need. Since we’re living in a more remote area, we’ve had to make some trips to San José and the nearest mid-size city to get certain things like a couch, good quality appliances, etc. Many houses are rented fully furnished in Costa Rica though, so if you are just “trying it out” for a while, you may want to keep your stuff back home and just bring the basics until you are sure.

Things to consider about shipping: If you ship, you’ll have to pay duties on what you bring. We don’t have any experience with shipping, but have heard stories of people having their belongings and car sit in customs for quite a while. There are several shipping companies out there. The Costa Rica expat Facebook groups are a good place to get a referral (see links at end of post).

What Should I Pack?

Check out these two posts for detailed info:

Should I Buy a Car There or Bring My Own?

Cars are expensive whether you bring your own or buy one here, but really nice if you want to see the country. You don’t have to be a resident to buy one; you just need your passport and an address in Costa Rica. For a detailed run-down of our car-buying experience, check out this post.

 

Buying a Car in Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica
We sold our 2007 Civic Hybrid in Boston and got this 2000 Chevy Tracker in Costa Rica. The price for the Tracker, which is 7 years older, was about the same as what we got for our hybrid.

 

Instead of buying one here, a lot of people ship their old car from the US or elsewhere. This has its advantages as you know how the car has been treated. Many cars in Costa Rica have had a hard life, been beat up on rough roads, in floods or other natural disasters, and have even had their odometers turned back. Bringing your own ensures that you don’t get a $10,000 lemon, but it does have its disadvantages. The biggest is that you’ll have to pay import taxes to get it registered in Costa Rica. These duties are extremely high and can be 50-79% of the value of the car (not what you paid for the car but what the Costa Rica government deems it to be worth). So if you buy something for a few thousand dollars and pay for shipping and taxes, you might just end up spending about the same or more than if you bought a car here. 

Useful Links

  • Our Life in Costa Rica category: Posts on our experiences living in Costa Rica, acclimating to the culture, buying a car, trying to learn Spanish, and generally settling in.
  • Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR): Great forum for questions on moving, real estate, internet, phone, etc.
  • InterNations: An online community for expats around the world, including a specific Costa Rica section that has a blog, forum, and featured expat events happening in CR. 
  • Facebook Expat Groups: There are several but a couple of really active ones are Expatriates in Costa Rica and Gringo Expats in Costa Rica. Areas with a big expat population often have town-specific groups too so be sure to do some searching. These groups are a great place to ask questions to those who know it best.
  • Books: There are a lot of books on living in Costa Rica as an expat. Here’s a link to some of our favorites.

Still have a burning question? Ask us below or on our Forum.

The information in this post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. While we have tried to ensure that the content is accurate and current, we make no guarantees. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information.

 

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Applying for Residency in Costa Rica Without a Lawyer
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64 Comments

  1. Hi there, thanks for this article/blog, it is by far one of the most helpful I have found yet. My husband and I are taking a trip out to Costa Rica for a month or more at the end of February 2016 in order to take a look at properties to purchase. That being said, our plan is to run a surf hostel/b&b and wanted to know if it is possible to mortgage a property (we have a lot saved, but not enough to buy outright) based on the rental income of the property. Basically is it possible to use the income that property will bring in as our proof of income? I have yet to find this info online and can’t seem to find anyone to ask. If you are unsure, are you able to point me in the right direction?

    Thanks,

    Tierra

    1. Hi Tierra,
      Glad you found our post helpful. That’s really exciting that you’re thinking of opening a surf hostel/B&B in Costa Rica! From what we’ve heard, most expats don’t take out mortgages through Costa Rican banks because interest rates are really high. We’re not sure about if you could use proof of income on the property for a commercial loan, not having any experience with that ourselves. I know this issue in general has come up in some of the Facebook expats groups. You could search old threads or ask a question if you don’t find the answer. A lot of expats have small businesses here obviously so I’m sure someone would know or know where to send you. Here are the links to the groups:

      Expatriates in Costa Rica- https://www.facebook.com/groups/127573880603797/
      Gringo Expats in Costa Rica- https://www.facebook.com/groups/57769307059/

      Good luck!

  2. Love the site! My husband & I (with our 3yo son) are considering a move to CR for a few years (3-5) to try and get out of debt. Living simply won’t be a problem for us – more like a fresh of breath air 🙂 He works from home so as long as we have internet he has a job. I have 2 questions that I can’t seem to find answers for:

    1. Do you think we’ll be able to find a town that’s close enough to San Jose to offer reliable internet, but that is also just far enough out that we could get really good deals on rent?

    2. I’ve seen on several other websites that “renewing” your tourist visa by leaving every 3 months is increasingly risky. Something that I’d rather not do w/a toddler in tow. But I can’t seem to find another option for a more long-term temporary visa or residency. Non of the categories seem to fit us. We’re not retirees, or investors, or company owners and can’t make a 60K deposit. We could try for baby #2 while over there, but that’s not exactly guaranteed. Is there something I’m missing?

    Any advise you could give or websites you could direct me to would be awesome 🙂

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Shayla, It sounds like you’ve done your research, but we’d be careful about moving to CR as a way to get out of debt. Yes, some things can be less expensive here but most things aren’t unfortunately. The old joke is the way to become a millionaire in Costa Rica is to come with $3 million. Not trying to scare you off, just want to give a realistic perspective based on our experience. To answer your questions:
      1. Staying in the Central Valley (general San Jose area) is your best bet for finding reliable internet and you shouldn’t have a problem finding something inexpensive, as long as you don’t mind a simple Tico-style house without North American conveniences. Grecia and Atenas are good places to look and there are lots of other smaller towns too. Make sure to find something with a cable internet connection, through CableTica or otherwise.
      2. You’re not missing anything on residency- those are the only options unfortunately. Lots of people do live here long term on tourist visas, but it’s not something we’d recommend just because it is very inconvenient–especially if you have young kids.

      Hope that helps! Best of luck with your move.

  3. Thank you for all your information. What I’ve read this morning with my coffee break has been the best I’ve read. I will read more later. I decided I’m going to retire next August at 62. I currently own a bread route, and the fast pace has me in fairly good shape. Just getting tired of jumping in and out of a bread truck. With that said, I checked into my retirement funds. Social Security will bring in $1500 a month, and I’m waiting on the Teamsters Pension quote, but I believe that will be around $800 a month. I will also sell my bread route which should give us around $60,000. Hopefully that will be enough to start our new life in Costa Rica. We plan on taking a two week trip to Costa Rica with in the next 6 months. Any advice on where to start. I like Lake Arenal, but an average hotel is $150 a night. And we’re not going on a vacation, but a fact finding mission. We will rent a car to explore, but where to stay and how long is a question. We currently live in Ventura Ca. And love the cool 70’s. We are about 3 miles from the beach, and our rent is $2300 a month. Not an affordable place to retire. I’m originally from Portland Oregon and love the greenery, my wife is from Huntington Beach Ca and loves the ocean. We both agreed it would be more pleasant to live in the highlands and visit the hot coast. Water is very important to the both of us, and would love a stream in the backyard. Phew… I hope I have not over stated my requests. Thank you for any help you might have for the both of us.
    Sincerely
    Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff,
      The Lake Arenal area might be just what you’re looking for. We spent some time in both Puerto San Luis and Tronadora near Tilaran and the weather was on the cooler side for Costa Rica, with lots of refreshing rain (sometimes a lot of rain). It does get warm there during the dry season but is much more temperate than the beach. Not sure if you’ve seen our Where We’ve Lived post, but we have more detail about these places in there: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/where-weve-lived-in-costa-rica/. We’d recommend looking at those towns and also Nuevo Arenal. Staying with something expat owned might be your best bet so that you can pick their brains about the area. We have some friends who live in Tronadora and rent a small casita on their property, but I don’t think they rent it very short term (monthly would be the least). It looks like VRBO has a few options (search Tilaran) though that are affordable so you could check there.

      Other areas you might want to check out that fit your parameters are Grecia, Atenas, and Heredia. These towns are all in the Central Valley and have large expat communities and a slightly cooler climate.

      Make sure to check out our rental car discount when you’re ready to book the car. Usually the discount works out to 10-25% off. There’s more info on this page: https://www.twoweeksincostarica.com/costa-rica-rental-car-discount/

    2. Jeff if you go to the 5 star hotels they do cost 150 and more but you can stay in the 2 or 3 star motels that are very decent and will let you stretch your money better. Live like a middle class tico and your retirement will be enough live REALLY GOOD!! But if try to live like u were still in the usa and it will cost you 3x and more!

  4. Great information. Really appreciate it. Just got your two books from Amazon. I figure if your blogs this good, the books will be awesome. I’ve applied to teach in several private schools in Costa Rica (I’m an English teacher by trade for 18 years). We’ve already got our plane tickets and we’ll be there in June. Our online income is sufficient to live without a job, but we need a job for a long term visa. Anyhow, keep up the good work and hope our paths cross.

  5. I will be moving to Costa Rica in June and need to know what to do about my cell phone. Should I keep it and pay for international service or get service there?

    1. You should definitely get a phone plan here if you’re moving because it will be cheaper. It’s easy to do by getting a chip for your phone from Kolbi or one of the other cell phone providers (Claro, Movistar, etc.- research which one has best service for where you’ll be living). You need an unlocked quad band phone for it to work in CR. Here’s a link to one of our forum posts, which details exactly how to do it. For calls out of the country, you can do Magic Jack or something similar very affordably. If you’re coming from the US, the Magic Jack app for iPhone works well if you have a good Internet connection and is actually free for calls to the US.

  6. Hi there! Love your blog and plan to invest in your books soon. Do you know anything about the availability/reliability of cable and Internet service in Dominical? Any ideas on how to go about researching the options, price, speed, etc. for the Lagunas neighborhood in Dominical?

    1. Hi Chava y Kim, actually yes we do know quite a bit about the internet there. We have lived in a few different places near Dominical and it has been different in each one. There is cable internet available but you have to live near the main roads or highway since they typically don’t run the lines up into the neighborhoods like Lagunas. There is 3G available through a couple of different companies (ICE and Netsys are two we know of but others are coming into the area) that run about $60-$75/month for speeds up to about 4Mbs. But if you really need higher speeds you need to look near the main roads and get cable. I think the company is called CableTica.

  7. Hi Jenn and Matt! Thanks so much for all of this great and very helpful information. My partner and I are moving to CR in the next few months. He is from Honduras and I am from the US. I am able to work remotely with my US-based jobs and I wanted to see if you guys have any more info on the Rentista Residencia and how that works. We are also going though the whole debate about shipping our car vs buying- thank you for all of your posts on that! And to confirm, you have to be a resident to have access to CR’s free health care right? Last question- do you have any recommendations on where to look for apartment rentals? Some friends recommended OLX. Do you know how the apartment rental search works- do you just find an apartment, check it out, and sign a lease? Thank you both so much!

    1. Hi Jenna, We don’t know a ton about rentista residency as we’re applying through our son, but there is a lot of info online. The ARCR forums are worth joining if you haven’t already and this Int’l Living article also has the basic requirements. The backstory we’ve learned from living here is that rentista seems to be the most difficult to get residency through. We know of a couple who has been waiting almost 3 years since filing their application. Also be sure that you really understand how Caja payments work. Rentista pays the highest percentage (it’s based on your income), and people are often surprised at how much they have to pay. And, yes, you do have to be a resident to use the Caja.

      For rentals, again, not first hand experience because we have been housesitting and caretaking thus far but most people say it’s better to talk to people locally when you get here to find the best deal. The process is a little more flexible here and many landlords don’t have you sign a lease. By default, we think leases are month to month but double check to make sure. If you want to find something in advance, your best bet might be to find a reputable real estate in the area you want to live and have them help. The Facebook groups for the different towns are a good place to ask for a rec. Best of luck with your move!

  8. Great site and thanks for the helpful info. I think I’m burnt right out reading so many books, articles, magazines, blogs, forums, Facebook posts…..about making a move to the CR. I think I’m more confused than ever now and it seems that a lot of the information varies wildly from site to site. One thing that remains constant is people saying come down and rent where you believe you want to live and see how life goes…is it as you thought it would. One small issue with that is that it still requires one to cut some pretty important ties back home (jobs etc) which can be difficult to come back and start from scratch. We are only 52 so we are a ways away from Canada Pension and Old Age pension. We have some money saved up in a company pension but not enough for the next 30+ years and sadly we don’t have transportable/online jobs for regular income.

    We would be prepared to pack up our careers, have a real good sense where we would like to be (Tamarindo – Playa Flamingo area.) We live about as far away as humanly possible from the ocean (almost in the geographical centre of North America!) so being near water IS important. We also live on the prairies where we see snow in early Oct and ice still on the lakes in late May AND with a few weeks of -30 to -42*C in January/February…so sun and heat are fine 🙂

    It’s the sustaining one self and still live a decent (not exorbitant) lifestyle that let’s you still do things, travel around, experience the country and culture and make some trips back home, that’s our main issue. Selling our home here would give us money to either buy down there (once we are sure where) so we don’t have that worry and expense OR you are a constant renter which could carry us till we are in our early 70’s. I think I read that more people say DO NOT buy even if your going to live her longer term, but just rent? True/flase?

    Once again the thoughts on buying vs renting vary wildly. One pro is that apparently investing (such as a home purchase) would allow you to apply for permanent residency quicker/easier – or does that matter?

    I’m not keen to have to leave every 90 days (or less I’ve heard, when people come back they may get stamped for only 30 days) That being said I also hear more often people saying DONT apply for residency as you end up paying into the Caja which can be costly and the application process can cost several thousand dollars. At the end of the day is residency worth it or not?

    I also want to drive so leaving every 90 days would just be a pain, to retain a drivers. Plus leaving our province, your health insurance, license etc are null after 90 days without a permanent residence and being IN the province for more than half the year..so even that’s an issue. We want to roam the country, for sure for the first few years to really explore and I can’t imagine that happening without a vehicle. How difficult would that be without one?

    I also read that MANY people leave after a year or two. What would you say the main reason or two would be for that?

    Sorry to ramble but this went from what we thought was a relatively easy decision, to one that seems so complicated. The one thing we DO know is that too many people around us are passing away, getting seriously ill and couldn’t do this even if they wanted to and that after almost 35 years of both of us constantly working, we are burnt out and tired of the rat race.

    1. Hi Joan, Moving to CR certainly does give you a lot to think about, but it sounds like you’re really doing your research, which is a good thing. Here are some thoughts on your questions:
      – Buying vs. renting: We agree that it’s best to rent at first no matter what so that you’re not financially committed to Costa Rica if it doesn’t work out. A lot of people have a hard time selling if they decide to move back home. A lot of people do just rent long term because often it’s a better deal than buying. On the flip side, we know a lot of people who purchased property and are very happy they did. Just make sure you’re committed to staying in CR for the long term first and that you’re getting a good deal.
      – One of the ways to get residency is through making an investment, so yes, purchasing property could satisfy that. It is only for temporary residency though, not permanent. You have to wait and be a temp resident just like with the others before you can apply for permanent.
      – Residency: If you go through a lawyer, residency can be a couple thousand dollars per person. Caja is the bigger thing to worry about though because it’s an ongoing cost. We’re applying for residency this month so haven’t gone through this process yet. But our understanding is that Caja is based on the type of residency you have and your income. Rentista has the highest percentages from what we’ve heard. Not sure how investor status works. There are tables out there with the different percentages.
      – Car: A lot of expats live without a car but it is a lot more difficult to explore the country, unless you don’t mind getting around by bus. Shuttles and small planes are an option but they can get expensive.
      – People do tend to leave after a year or two. We’d say the top reasons are missing family back home, cost of living is higher than expected and they are having trouble finding ways to make money, and culture differences- they didn’t realize they would miss the ways things were back home.

      Hope that helps to answer some of your questions. Best of luck- hope you guys can make it happen!

  9. Hi Guys! Thanks so much for all the helpful info! I live in Costa Rica and am applying for Vinculo Residency as well. Did you have to get your Passports translated too?

    1. Hi Amanda, It didn’t seem like it from the application instructions so we didn’t. We did think about it because we were trying to be really careful with our application, but it seemed like an odd thing to have translated. Hopefully we were right. Our application is still pending but we haven’t heard about any problems with it. We’re assuming you saw our Applying for Residency post, which has more info about what we submitted, but here’s the link just in case. Good luck with your application!

  10. Hi! I am considering making the move from Annapolis to Costa Rica next summer to be with my boyfriend, who is Costa Rican and lives down there. It sounds like a dream come true, but I am a little anxious about a few things…mainly a job. I currently teach 1st grade here and have contacted a few of the international schools that teach in English (my Spanish is a work in progress). I am also going to get my TEFL certification so that I have the option of teaching English. However, I was wondering what the babysitting scene is like in Costa Rica. I haven’t seen too much about it online. I am thinking that I don’t want to jump right into a job immediately after I move, but would love to babysit to earn some money and get to know people! Do families in Costa Rica hire babysitters as much as they do here? And is there a good method of reaching out to families (probably English speaking at first)?

    Thanks! I am loving the blog and getting the American prospective has been very helpful!

    Katie

    1. Hi Katie, People do hire nannies here and babysitters too. A lot of people hire Costa Ricans but I don’t see why they wouldn’t be interested in you, especially with your teaching experience. A couple of things working against you is that you probably wouldn’t want to work for the standard (very low) wage and aren’t fluent in Spanish (having your kid learn the language is always a plus for expat families). On the other hand, some parents might be more comfortable having you in their home since you’re from the US. A good place to feel it out would be the Families with Children in the Central Valley group on Facebook. It is a really supportive group and has members all over CR (but the biggest concentration of expat families is around the Central Valley). You could post there that you’re moving here and see if anyone would be interested. I bet you’ll get some hits. Best of luck if you end up moving!

    1. Hi JoAnn, Not sure exactly what information you’re interested in, but here’s a general overview. San Vito is a charming little town in the mountains of the Southern Zone. It was originally settled by Italians and there are a few good Italian restaurants to choose from. It’s close to the Panama border. We have been several times, and while we enjoy visiting, we wouldn’t want to live there because it is quite far from San Jose and just about everything really. It isn’t touristy at all but worth visiting. The landscape is beautiful. A popular thing to do in the area is visiting the Wilson Botanical Garden. Farming is a big industry and they also grow coffee.

  11. Hello, I’m about to spend 10 days In Costa Rica on a motorcycle. What are your top recommended non tourist trap places to visit?
    Also any advice on things to bring that once you got there you wish you would have gotten because they were then price prohibited or you just couldn’t find?

    1. Hi AC, You can look at our Destinations Summary Guide for ideas for non-touristy places. Off the top of my head, you might like Atenas and other towns in the Central Valley, the city of Liberia, the Southern Nicoya Peninsula (Montezuma), Playa Esterillos, San Vito, San Gerardo de Dota, San Gerardo de Rivas, and San Isidro de El General.

      For things to bring that are expensive or hard to find, check out our Packing post.

  12. Hello from NH.
    My husband and I are planning to visit CR for three weeks in April. We want to check out an area that we can realistically see ourselves moving to with our two and four year old next year. We want to be where we feel safe and also where there is a strong sense of community. We really like the sounds of the Southern Pacific, based on what you have described. I teach online for UNH so having internet access does matter. We welcome any ideas for where to stay and what to do in your region when we visit! Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Laurie, The Southern Pacific does have a strong sense of community and private school options. Internet really depends on the specific property you’re looking at so you will have to be careful with that. This area is pretty safe too. It does experience break ins at vacant homes, but this is common throughout the country. There are a lot of different options, though, for what you’re looking for so we would recommend visiting more than one location before deciding on anything. We have some more info about the pros and cons of living in different towns in CR, including some places in the S. Pacific, in our Where We’ve Lived post. You might also be interested in our Planning Your Research Trip post.

      1. Great thanks! Any specific website you would recommend for finding a rental? Also is there a particular Facebook group you know of for the Dominical area?

        1. Most of what you will find online in this area is very expensive, unfortunately. A lot of the rental inventory is vacation rentals but there are plenty of reasonably priced places too. The best deals are found through word of mouth. The Costa Ballena Bulletin Board and Costa Ballena Yard Sale page are the two major Facebook groups. People post listings for rentals on there and you could post your dates and say you’re looking for something. Good luck with your search!

  13. Hello!
    I have enjoyed reading your posts and book. My husband and I just moved to Costa Rica 2 months ago as missionary’s . We just bought a car today! Woooo hoooo! This is a huge feat for us! Haha. Anyways, I was wondering if you knew whether or not we need to keep the title to the car in the car? I was concerned about it being in the car if it was stolen, but also didn’t know if we needed to have it if we were pulled over by the police? Thank you for any info. you have.

    1. Hi Chelsea, Getting a car is a big deal, we felt the same way. Congrats! We don’t think you need to carry around the title but for some reason keep a copy of ours in our car anyway. No one has ever asked for it, but you could do the same thing, just in case. Hope you both enjoy your time here. Having wheels is a game changer!

  14. Hi Matt and Jenn,

    First off, thank you for creating this blog! it is truly amazing and its a blessing there are people out there like yourselves who are willing to share your experience in starting a new life. My fiance and I got engaged while vacationing in Costa Rica last month. I have a 10 year old son from previous relationship and my fiance and I have a 6 year old daughter together. Like you two, we are living a life chasing “the daily grind”. Although my fiancee is a firefighter and needs to have 30 years on the job in order to retire with a full pension, we are highly considering the idea of having a baby #3 in Costa Rica so that eventually we can retire there and also give our children the privilege of dual citizenship. As crazy as it sounds, we would basically have to deliver our baby there and then return to the states shortly after we complete all of the formalities and required legal processes. My question to you both (and I apologize if this is already written somewhere in your blog) is how do we (myself and my fiance and our two kids) go about obtaining our legal citizenship with Costa Rica once we deliver our baby there? Is it the same process as formalizing the baby’s citizenships or are there extra hoops to jump through? Also, is there a minimum amount of time that we are required to spend in Costa Rica to obtain this citizenship, or does delivery our baby there suffice?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Shana, Congratulations on your engagement! Here’s some info on your question: Once you got everything taken care of for your new baby re: citizenship, etc. (see our Baby Paperwork post for info on that), you would have to file residency applications for each person in your family. You can do this through a lawyer or on your own. We filed ours ourselves recently and wrote a post that talks about the different steps. Here’s the link. You and your family would not be citizens, but would have permanent residency “por vinculo,” which means through a direct family relationship with a Costa Rican (e.g. your baby). I think having the baby in CR is all you would need to show. Keep in mind, though, that the process for obtaining residency takes a while. We filed our applications in May 2016 and have almost completed the process, but are still waiting for final approvals. You could probably file here though after having the baby and then can check the status online. No rush I guess anyway, if you weren’t planning on moving here for a while. One other thing that will be important to you- not sure about this, but some residency statuses require you to be in Costa Rica for a certain amount of time each year in order to maintain your status. It might not apply with permanent residency, but definitely check.

      1. One other very important thing I forgot to mention- You will be required to pay the Caja (medical/pension system) before you will be able to get your cedulas. This is the mandatory. Your best bet might be to talk to a lawyer to see what makes the most sense in terms of timing for filing your applications because you don’t want to be paying into Caja if you’re not living here. Waiting to apply might make more sense.

  15. My wife and I have been considering CR as a retirement spot. Based on reading to date, we had assumed that you could live very well in CR for $2K / month. Your blog seems to indicate that costs are similar and in cases more expensive than US equivalent, which surprised me, as $2K per month wouldn’t cut it in the US. Any thoughts?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Todd, People are usually surprised at the cost of living in Costa Rica so that is what we meant. Some things are less expensive, but a lot is similar or can be more. It depends on a slue of factors, including mainly, what kind of lifestyle you plan to have while here. Costa Rica can be cheaper (it is for us), but for people expecting US standards for housing, a new car, etc., it cannot be done for $2000 a month. We always recommend that people interested in moving here to come for a least one extended visit to live in a rental and experience a normal, day-to-day life. That is the only way to get a real sense of what you will get for your money.

  16. Hello im planning to come for a visit to retire i have seen rentals from playa de coco for 650 month plus 140 extra. Should i stay more than a month. I find your blog very interesting. Should i just rent from them or get someone in canada how do u get from airport to your rental place.

    1. Hi Dee, A month is a good amount of time to find a rental and get a feel for the place. Two months would be even better and it’s also good to visit over the different seasons so that you experience dry season vs. rainy season, which are very different. Take a look at our Planning Your Research Trip post for more ideas.

      Those seem like good prices. The best way to find a rental is to look at the options yourself so it’s good that you’re planning to do that. Usually it is more expensive if you have someone help you and do it from afar.

      For getting from the airport, we took a taxi when we moved here but in hindsight should have arranged a private shuttle in advance because it would have been cheaper. That’s probably your best option if you will have a lot of bags.

  17. We are coming for 2 1/2 months right after the first of the year. We are a family of 6 (mom, dad and four kids) that is considering an actual move to CR but are toe dipping first. We have secured housing and a rental car and even have the kids enrolled for six weeks of school. We arrive in January and school does not start until February so we are planning on traveling to different areas of the country during January to see how the climate / areas are. Had a few questions. Have you spent much time on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula? We are wondering what types of meat we will encounter (species of fish, chicken, etc) and what we should stay away from.
    Also wondering about areas to visit in January and things not to miss. We will be very close to the Puntarenas ferry so we will be able to go lots of places fairly easily.
    Our kids are 8 – 12 years old. Just wondering what recommendations you have.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Nick, We have visited Montezuma and the Mal Pais area several times but have never lived there. In grocery stores, you will find the same meat and fish you can get all over CR, chicken, beef, and lots of pork. There are probably locals there who sell chickens that they raise without hormones. For fish, if you are asking about sustainability, snapper is often caught by local fishermen so is a good option. Shrimp is often caught by trawling so usually not sustainable. You can usually get tuna, grouper, and things like that from locals too.

      If you’re close to the ferry, you could visit Playa Blanca on a day trip (gorgeous white sand beach that is good for kids) and Jaco. They are farther, but Samara is a good beach town for families and the La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano area has a lot for kids as well. You should also think about doing a boat tour to Isla Tortuga, off the Nicoya Peninsula.

  18. Hi, I’m planning to relocate to Tamarindo next year. I would like to invest in a business that will be run by locals. I have good friends that are from Tamarindo. They tell me that there is little for local kids to do. Thoughts are mini golf, bowling or something similar. Also, we have discussed providing a low cost venue for locals to have family parties. They also tell me that there was a parasailing company a few years ago in the area, but they haven’t seen one for some time. Any thoughts on investing rather than working and needing permanent residency and on a need for a business that will focus on local kids? What is happening with the parasailing businesses? Thank you for any information that you may give me.

    1. Hi Cynthia, That is a nice idea to start some kind of business that will benefit local kids. In most beach towns it’s true that there isn’t a lot for kids to do. Not sure how lucrative it would be, but if you could make it appeal to tourists visiting too, that would help. There isn’t too much parasailing in Costa Rica but there is one company in Manuel Antonio that seems to be doing fairly well so you could look into their business model.

      It’s true that you aren’t legally allowed to work even at a business you own unless you have permanent residency, so yes, you would need to hire locals, which it sounds like you want to do anyway. If you end up starting a tourism-related business, we’ve heard that there is a special residency category for that, if you decide to get residency. Best of luck with your plans!

  19. Hola! I’m wondering what you know about schooling. My husband and I have a 2 year old and a 4 month old and we would like to eventually purchase or build a home and live part of the year in Costa Rica, but I’m not sure if it’s possible to have them attend school in Costa. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Simone, There are public schools, of course, and many private schools to choose from. This is a huge topic, and a lot of it depends on where you want to live. Most of the good private schools are in the Central Valley near San Jose, but there are some options near the beach. We would recommend joining the Facebook group Families with Children in the Central Valley. There have been multiple threads about schools in that group. You can use the search function to find them. Living here part time would be tough with school but other people do this so there must be options.

  20. Thanks for your helpful information.

    Before going to Costa Rica for the first time a few year ago, I read about a city where lot of writers, and or artsy type of people, were moving, but haven’t been able to find the article again. Seems to me it was in the Central Valley.

    Any idea where it is and any comments on the place?

    Thanks a million

    1. Hi Rob, I feel like I read something similar a long time ago before we moved here but can’t recall now and also cannot find any articles. Sorry we can’t be of assistance.

  21. Hi! We are thinking of making a move to CR. We have visited Tamarindo and really liked it. It was a little hot and dry, but we liked the low humidity and no mosquitos. Can you tell me anything about the Quepos or Manuel Antonio area as far as similarity? Is the vibe the same? Are there mosquitos? Is there a lot more humidity? TIA 🙂

    1. Hi Julie, Mosquitoes can be found just about everywhere in the country. The amount varies by time of year with the rainy season having the most. We have seen many in the Tamarindo area too unfortunately. Guanacaste Province is the driest region. It stays fairly dry all the way down to the Nicoya Peninsula then humidity picks up around Jaco where the forest transitions to rainforest. Manuel Antonio does get quite humid, pretty much all year. It’s gorgeous though, and has a ton of wildlife. The feel is a little different. It has a lot of restaurants and shops but it’s more about ocean views as most things are set back from the beach or located up a steep hill. You should read our Manuel Antonio post for more information. Hope that helps!

  22. I’m just diving into your blog. Do you now own a home in Costa Rica? What does someone from the US need to know about buying in Costa Rica? What are the advantages/disadvantages versus renting? What do you need to look for in a realtor? What questions should you be asking the realtor about properties? Is the idea of buying and living part time and renting part time (Airbnb) an overdone idea with too much competition? I love the idea of living around Dominicalito. Thank you for your wisdom! 🙂

    1. Hi Bethany, Renting vs. buying is a huge topic and one that we don’t go in depth about on this website. Most people recommend renting at least until you are 100% sure you want to stay in Costa Rica because selling can be a challenge. Some people rent the entire time they live in Costa Rica. It’s a good value- prices are low for rentals compared to if you were going to buy a house (home prices are similar to the US, at least along the coast). We caretake at a property long-term (see our House Sitting posts). Lots of people rent when they’re not here, but in the Dominical area, the big months are late December to March and Airbnb-type rentals are harder to fill otherwise. Best of luck with your possible plans. The Costa Ballena is a beautiful area!

  23. Hi Jenn and Matt:
    Your website has been so very helpful! I’m moving to San José in July to work at an international school there and I feel so much more prepared than I ever did when I moved to my current posting in Shanghai. Thanks so much!

  24. Hi Jenn and Matt, I have a pension, my wife does not. Will my $1,650 per mo. pension be enough for the income requirement for both of us, or does she need to prove income also? We plan to buy a house there too. If it’s 200k or more does that satisfy income requirement?

    Thanks, Tim Martin

    1. Hi Tim, We think this has a straightforward answer but don’t know much about pensionado residency. It seems from the CR Migracion website that your wife could file as a dependent under you so you would just need at least $1000 as a family. But double check on that on a residency website or with a lawyer. If you buy a house, the $200K would be combined for the two of you.

  25. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    Do you know any expats in San Isidro de El General who you might refer me to? I am going there for 8 weeks to study Spanish at a school there and do a homestay. I would like to meet a few expats to have coffee with. I am thinking of spending winters (my Canadian winters) there and would like to learn more about housesitting (I think you mention 3 websites but I’d be grateful if you’d tell me their names again). You both sound very happy in CR and make it sound doable.
    thank you!

  26. Hi!

    My wife and I, along with a couple of friends plan to visit soon to evaluate for possible retirement.

    While we are there, we plan to investigate some of the areas you have mentioned. To get around, we will likely need a rental vehicle. Is a US driver’s license and proof-of-insurance adequate for a car rental?

    Thanks!

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