Moving to Costa Rica is a big decision. Living in Costa Rica or retiring in Costa Rica has many benefits and in this article, we will weigh out the pros and cons.
The Pros. Vs Cons.
We will consider the Cons first:
Cost of living is higher than other countries. You may be surprised to hear this but it is true. Costa Rica has a higher cost of living compared to its neighboring countries in Central America such as Belize, Nicaragua, and even Panama. Although this does mean better health care, we will touch on that later.
It’s a Spanish speaking country. This can either be a good or a bad thing depending on where you come from and how fast you want to / can learn Spanish.
You have to leave every three months. Costa Rica provides a generous three-month long visa to foreigners, and it is recommended to apply for either a working or study visa.
Moving in general. Uprooting yourself can be one of your biggest life decisions.
Now the Pros of Moving to Costa Rica:
It’s paradise – This is no understatement, Costa Rica is a gorgeous country!
Safety – Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in all of Latin America. Other than petty theft found almost everywhere.
Healthcare – Because it is such a stable country you will find Costa Rica health care is similarly so and state of the art hospitals can be visited at an acceptable cost.
Foreigners can buy land – Foreigners are allowed to own land, houses, and businesses just as if they were a local. The only drawback is that you cannot work in the business, only own it. Otherwise it is viewed as taking work away from residents.
More North Americans than anywhere else – Costa Rica has proportionately more North Americans living here than any other country!
Strong expat community – Yes, they cannot be wrong!
Easy residency requirements – Qualify for it and with the help of our local experts (ARCR – Association of Residents in Costa Rica), you will have no problems whatsoever!
Top notch organization – the ARCR helps expatriates to make the move and support them afterward with anything they need
Life Expectancy is one of the highest in the world. In fact, the Nicoya Peninsula has been named a Blue Zone area. You will find life in Costa Rica is slower and less stressful.
So you have the desire to move to Costa Rica but don’t know where to start. One of the best ways to start is by planning a Costa Rica vacation. Test the country out before you go ahead and make such a big decision of Relocating to Costa Rica! Rent an apartment or a room anywhere you might want to move to and stay for at least a month. Get to know the area and note where the markets, stores and other amenities are.
Here are a few guides that will take the stress out of moving to a foreign country:
Some great ways to find a house in Costa Rica is to look around on websites like Encuentra24, Buscomi, or even Craigslist. Make sure to also check the newspapers and notification boards. If you are looking for a real estate agent to help you, there are a number of English real estate agencies in the central valley that are more than willing to help out. Check out our buying land guide here.
Moving your Belongings
Depending on how long you are thinking of living in Costa Rica, you may want to bring down some belongings rather than storing or selling them. If you are just staying in Costa Rica for a year, it is easy to leave your belongings in storage or with family but if you are moving here for work or retiring then that is a different story. Having to decide what to take and what to sell or leave behind can be stressful but in the end totally worth it. Some decide to only come to Costa Rica for a few months at a time. This way keeping belongings in both countries of residence. If you are looking to totally uproot your life and permanently stay here then that may be a challenge. Although you will find a variety of different services to help such as shiptocostarica. You may find it more feasible to sell off your big items and take your valuables in your suitcase or ship it down in a crate. The other option would be to get a container and actually ship all of your large belongings down. This can be costly, especially since many of those items you have can be found for roughly the same price here. Import taxes can be heavy especially if you are shipping your car to Costa Rica.
Moving with Pets
Moving to Costa Rica with your pets is definitely an option. Make sure to get your dog or cat examined by a veterinarian and all shots are up to date with a certificate of verification. You must then fill out the Federal APHIS Form 7001 declaring you have a healthy pet. Once at the airpot, there are several guidelines to follow as well. Pets can’t be tranquilized or drugged due to safety reasons. Make sure to check for specific regulations set up by your airlines.
Working in Costa Rica
The requirements to work in Costa Rica are very similar to anywhere else. To work here you either need a working visa or resident status. Going the way of getting a working visa can be tricky. Unless you have a set skill that no other Costa Rican has, you probably won’t get the visa. Keep in mind Costa Rica is far from a third world country and the literacy rate is 98%. The easiest way is to work online, work as a freelancer or teach English. Of course, you could always apply for residency in Costa Rica and make the whole process easier for yourself. Obtaining residency by yourself will take several years and is recommend to hire a lawyer. The other option would be to marry a Tico or Tica and get residency through marriage. Don’t use it as a trick, though. There will be inquiries and interviews as well as checks if you are living on the same address.
So when you move this will be one of the biggest concerns – how are you going to access your money and savings? Don’t worry too much as there are many external companies such as Western Union or PayPal that can help or wire a transfer.Many of the banks work with banks from the States and Europe. Sometimes getting money from an ATM is cheaper in the long run as they normally only charge 5 dollars per foreign transaction depending on the bank. Visa, Master Card, American Express and other credit card companies are accepted here with visa being the most widely available service. If you have a large amount of money to transfer, it is highly recommended to have an account set up here and transfer them between banks.
Health Care when Moving to Costa Rica
Costa Rica has high quality healthcare. Doctors, Dentists, and Physicians mainly take their training from the United States. One of the best parts about health care here is how inexpensive it is. Compared to wealthier countries you can spend almost a third less. Of course, you can go through the free health care system as long as you have the proper health insurance. Speaking of Insurance, always make sure you have one whether you are living here or just traveling. You especially want to know where the good doctors are if you are thinking of Retiring in Costa Rica. That’s why we recommend moving to the Central Valley.
Driving in Costa Rica
Driving in Costa Rica can be dangerous. People will generally make up their own rules in the countryside as well as the bigger cities. Although if you live near the central valley, driving can be even more of a challenge. There are roughly 2 million people living in Cartago and San Jose provinces. That means almost everyone has a car and a lot commute in and out of the city.
The language of the Locals
If we said that Costa Ricans simply speak Spanish, we would be lying. Languages tend to have many different variations in different countries and Costa Rica is no different. Costa Rican Spanish has different tones, different words, and different sayings. For example, the term Pura Vida. Normally you would just say oh that means pure life, but it has so much more meaning than just that. Ticos use it as hello, goodbye, Thank you, a form of agreement, a declaration of happiness, and on rare occasion can be directed towards you in a negative way. So you see it is essential not just to learn Spanish but to learn the language of the Ticos.
So if you want to move to Costa Rica, don’t hesitate. Plan a trip down here and find out what it’s all about. We recommend you take one of our Costa Rica Relocation Tours with our local experts first! You might just have found your new home and country and experience the relaxed lifestyle Costa Rica is so famous for. Really, the only thing you will regret of coming to Costa Rica is not staying long enough.