Are you thinking of moving to Costa Rica?
Great news! Because this tropical, peaceful Central American paradise is extremely expat-friendly.
But that's not all.
Did you know that Costa Rica has one of the most easy-going visa regimes in the hemisphere? Even better, they haven't had an army since 1947.
But for now, you're chill, because this is your life.
Do you want to know how to get there?
First off, you need to find some way to fund yourself.
Costa Rica contains and astounding 5 percent of the entire world's biodiversity]
Even in Costa Rica, you need money.
Maybe you don't need as much as you do back home in America, but you still need a roof over your head and food in your belly.
Also, if you're going to live the Pura Vida lifestyle, you'll need money for alcohol, transportation, and fun.
You're going to need a job.
Want to know the good news?
Here it is: getting a job in Costa Rica is relatively painless. Plus, the visas required are easy to get.
Are you ready to go?
So You're Thinking Of Moving To Costa Rica
Are you sick and tired of "the grind?"
You know the one.
That's the modern western life which has us jumping from one foot the next, just trying to keep up.
There's no time for rest. We must work and save and buy and drive and watch!
Yet, there's never enough. For some reason, no matter what you do, you never have enough money or enough time.
You're never truly satisfied!
Does that sound familiar?
Yeah, I thought so.
Check this out:
Moving to Costa Rica will absolutely change all of that.
Just think about it.
It's a laid-back tropical country surrounded by beaches.
So if you're thinking of moving to Costa Rica, then you're on the right track.
Costa Rica generates 99 percent of its energy using renewable sources such as solar and wind power
It's not all rainbows and unicorns down there.
You see, moving to Costa Rica presents some unique challenges that you may not be expecting.
For instance, are you ready for the bugs?
I'm talking BIG bugs.
Like the Brazilian Wandering Spider, which also happens to be the world's most poisonous spider.
A single bite causes unbelievable pain as your muscles seize up, and if not treated within fifteen minutes, you suffocate yourself to death.
So yea, there's plenty of bad to go along with the good.
Make sure you weigh both carefully before moving to Costa Rica!
Don't worry about the spiders too much.
Check this out.
Moving to Costa Rica brings plenty of pros to the table.
For starters, the beaches are some of the best in the world.
I know what you're thinking: that's a tall claim.
But still, there are hundreds of beautiful tropical beaches along both coasts, so there's that.
But that's not all.
You see, when you're trying to weigh the pros and cons of moving to Costa Rica, you need to think of the whole.
It's impossible to compartmentalize each individual aspect of the country because the whole experience is what matters.
For example, there are beautiful beaches, but it also rains a lot.
However, the prices are cheap, so you can hang out indoors.
Except there's a pretty high crime rate, so it's not always safe.
See where I'm going with that?
So take a look at the good things Costa Rica has, and think of how they would affect your life as a whole.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that the temperature in Costa Rica is pretty much the same all year round.
The hottest month of the year is April, with an average of 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest month is January, which averages 79 degrees.
That's a whole three degrees difference.
Compare that to Minnesota!
If you're moving to Costa Rica, you'll learn that there are only two seasons: rainy and dry.
The rainy season runs from June to September.
The dry season from November to April.
So ya, the weather is really nice all year.
That's a good thing.
The average Costa Rican salary is $10 a day, which is the highest in Central America
Who else wants to live the rest of their lives amongst sun, surf, and sand?
Well, if you're moving to Costa Rica, you can!
That's because Costa Rica has two gorgeous coasts.
One is on the Pacific, where the bulk of the nation's amazing beaches are located. This is also where most of the tourists flock to.
The other is on the Caribean Sea.
Do you want to know how to live Costa Rican style?
Then you need to know about "Pura Vida."
Check this out.
Loosely translated, it means "simple life." It's about enjoying the small pleasures life brings.
Remember all that stress from back home? Ya, you can leave it there.
Because moving to Costa Rica means taking life one day at a time.
Relax your soul. Don't stress about stupid things like money.
Instead, feel the wind, listen to the waterfall, and luxuriate in the taste of the food.
Do you have a partner?
Lose yourself in the beauty of their eyes, which is probably something you haven't done in a long time back home.
That's all part of pura vida.
There are 52 species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica
So why is that good?
Well, because when you compare Costa Rican prices to prices in America, it looks really good.
First, Costa Rica uses the Colon for currency.
All jokes aside, one US dollar equals about 550 colons.
You can live on $1,500 a month. Two grand a month will make you one of the wealthier residents.
Do you remember all those bad things I warned you about?
Ya, it's time to discuss those.
Are you ready for this?
But seriously, what could you expect from a developing country stuck between Panama and Nicaragua?
Of course there's going to be more bad things than you're used to, especially if you're from a more developed state.
Take, for instance, crumbling infrastructure that never gets repaired.
I'm talking about bridges, roads, hospital buildings, and other stuff like that.
Part of it is because of the corruption that's endemic in the Costa Rican government.
Another part is thanks to the pura vida lifestyle.
I mean, if everybody is on permanent vacation, including the construction workers, who's going to fix stuff?
You know who isn't?
Thugs, that's who.
You heard that right.
You see, despite having one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and some of the best surfing and world-class tourism, Costa Rica has a violent crime problem.
We're talking top-ten murder rate kinda crime.
Ya, that's bad.
Have you ever stood outside in a real downpour?
You know the ones.
Well, that's what Costa Rica is like for days on end during the rainy season, which lasts from June to September.
Wind, raindrops the size of small batteries, and thunder make for a lousy day outdoors.
When you're thinking of moving to Costa Rica, you need to factor the rainy season into your plans.
Because seriously, there isn't much to do when it's pouring like that.
Of course, most people make the best of it.
Head to the rainforest, where well-manicured pathways lead you on a tropical adventure, and you'll stay relatively dry.
Or be like those insane surfing fanatics, who hit the beach no matter what the weather is!
Do you remember being afraid of monsters under your bed?
Well, in Costa Rica, be afraid!
That's because some of the creatures you'll come across are terrifying!
We already discussed the Brazilian Wandering Spider, but there are others.
There are vipers, coral snakes, poisonous toads, scorpions, humungous tarantulas, and even freakin' crocodiles!
You need to check your footwear every time before putting them on.
And your bed.
And your pants.
You get the idea.
One thing that takes away from the fun of moving to Costa Rica is the infrastructure.
Seriously, you'll marvel at the horrendous state some of the roads are in.
But wait, there's more!
When you see a bridge out in the country, you'll marvel that nobody has died yet.
Or maybe they have. Who knows?
It's not like anybody is going to report it.
Are you ready for the not-so-fun part of moving to Costa Rica?
I’m talking about the crime.
Since 2015, the crime rate in the country has spiked.
Somehow big drug cartels started shipping product through Costa Rica, resulting in a surge of gun violence that the country hasn’t seen in decades.
There were 603 murders in 2017.
That’s 12 for every 100,000 people!
When you think that the US only as 4 homicides for every 100,000 people and you start to see how serious the situation is.
But there’s a silver lining.
You see, most of those murders are located in the capital, San Jose. Also, most of them are drug dealers knocking off other drug dealers.
Nevertheless, the State Department recommends using caution when in Costa Rica.
So there’s that.
How To Get Here
Are you still considering moving to Costa Rica?
If so, great! Because you really can’t go wrong.
Just don’t get involved in the criminal life, and check your clothes before putting them on, and you’ll be fine.
In fact, you’ll be better than fine, because there is something stunning, beautiful, and exotic about Costa Rica.
After all, it’s a tropical paradise unlike any other on earth.
Did you know that there are seven active volcanos in Costa Rica?
But wait, it gets better.
Protected habitat makes up 25 percent of the country.
There are more than 100 protected areas to visit. So much so that the UN recognizes Costa Rica as an ecosphere of special interest for protection.
So along with all the spiders, there are flowers and plants that can’t be found anywhere else.
Trees here are hundreds of years old.
And if you bring a snorkel, you’ll be amazed at the aquatic ecosystem you can discover.
All that being said, how do you get here?
Find a job
Remember when I said that you’ll still need money after moving to Costa Rica?
You’re going to need to find a job.
Thankfully there are a few options for you, the cheery Gringo setting out to live in beautiful Costa Rica.
We'll take a look at them all in a moment. But first, you need to keep some of Costa Rica's rules in mind.
For starters, you can't just waltz in and start working.
You'll need to be a legal permanent resident.
That's the only visa which will allow you to work in-country.
There are still some jobs that will get you that visa.
Even better, there are things you can do legally which don't require any visa!
For instance, can you write? Take and edit jaw-dropping photographs? Mix music?
Congrats! You can freelance online while living it up in Costa Rica!
Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos and Ticas, for boys and girls
Did you know that teaching English can be your passport to pretty much any non-English speaking country in the world?
And Costa Rica is no exception.
If moving to Costa Rica is your goal, consider teaching English.
Here's the GREAT news:
Costa Rica has one of the hottest job markets for English teachers in Latin America!
For you, that means plenty of opportunities.
The actual job is fairly laid-back. You'll teach a few hours in the morning and a few after lunch. Plus, you'll make a steady hourly wage which is more than enough to live on.
You don't even need a B.A. to do it.
Get a TEFL/TESL certificate first and you're all set.
Work in a call center
Did you know that if you're bilingual you can easily get a job in a Costa Rican call center?
You're not the only one moving to Costa Rica. Plenty of corporate contact centers are, as well.
And while plenty of Costa Ricans speak broken English, these call centers LOVE people who are fluent in English.
That makes their American-based clients happier.
Of course, that means working in a call center, which isn't an ideal job for many people.
But just think, in your evenings and weekends you'll be in freakin' Costa Rica!
Everybody has at least one.
Once you know that, you can monetize it, and live wherever you want, which includes moving to Costa Rica.
Can you write well? Take great photographs? Maybe you're a graphic designer?
All of these are highly marketable thanks to the power of the internet.
Freelancing is perfect because thanks to decent WiFi in most places in Costa Rica, you just need a laptop or an iPad and you're all set.
Best of all, you can stay on a tourist visa. Sure, you'll need to leave the country every 90 days and re-enter, but that's easy.
Finally, you can be a consultant.
I know what you're thinking.
Consultants are a bunch of washed-up executives and civil servants who got fired and came back to milk their former employers.
Well, ya, that's kind of true.
But you know what else a consultant is?
Someone who moves to Costa Rica and teaches tourists how to surf.
Or trains local restauranters how to grill steak correctly.
Heck, a consultant can even be a freelancer who teaches local businesses how to do social media properly.
It's basically freelancing as a service, and you can make money doing it in Costa Rica without breaking any laws.
The Tempisque River Bridge was a gift from Taiwan
Costa Rica Visas
You start to worry that you won't be able to get the proper visa. After all, moving to Costa Rica isn't like moving to another state.
Just like any country, they don't look favorably upon visitors who overstay their welcome.
So what are you supposed to do?
Well, the first thing you can do is relax.
That's because Costa Rican visas are relatively simple when compared to more complicated visa regimes like the European Union or the USA.
For starters, any American can enter Costa Rica with merely their passport.
They get a stamp from a border agent, and that's their visa for a 90-day stay.
You heard that right.
You can stay in Costa Rica for 90 days!
Of course, you have to remember that you can't legally work for an employer in Costa Rica.
And remember that whole jobs thing?
You can freelance legally, and you can "consult," but you can't be an employee without the proper visa. That visa is a permanent resident visa.
There is no separate temporary foreign worker visa in Costa Rica.
In fact, getting a permanent resident visa is rather complicated because you need to be sponsored by an employer, and they need to prove that you're coming to do a job no Costa Rican citizen can do.
Teaching English is one of those.
But let's start with the tourist visa.
The 90-day tourist visa
Do you want to know how the tourist visa really works?
You show up, you say you're a tourist, and...
You get a Costa Rican stamp in your passport.
Now you can legally stay for 90 days.
You can't work for a company in Costa Rica, and you can't buy property.
But you can rent, travel around, and best of all, you can legally work for anyone who is located outside of Costa Rica.
Thanks to the internet, that opens a ton of doors for you.
The only thing you'll need to remember is to leave the country in 90 days.
But don't worry.
Simply spend 24 hours outside Costa Rica, and head back.
New 90-day tourist visa!
You can do this over and over again.
The pensioners program
You don't need a residency visa or do tourist visa runs every 90 days if you can get into the "pensionado" program.
Basically, you need to show that you have a pension that pays a minimum of $1,000 a month.
It can be a government, the private sector, or social security pension.
That's literally all the qualifications you require for the pensioners program. Once you have that, you can live in Costa Rica for as long as you like.
Of course, you still can't legally work.
The renters program
But wait, there's more!
Also known as the "rentista" visa, this is for those who aren't retired, but can show a minimum of $2,500 a month in secure income.
Wait. There's a catch.
You see, it can't be employment income.
Instead, it needs to be investment income or any other income that is:
"...permanent, stable, and irrevocable." - Costa Rica Law 8764, Article 2Enter your text here...
You need to supply a notarized letter from a bank confirming this income, and you have to show that you've been receiving it for a minimum of two years.
Ya, that's a bit of a hassle.
But if you have lots of money, why not jump onto the Investors Program?
The investors program
Finally, you can get an investors visa.
This is a special visa for those who can demonstrate that they will be investing into the country.
Do you know how much you need to invest?
But here's the thing: buying property or a registered corporation worth at least $200,000 gets you in.
So if you buy that beach house for $300,000, which will get you quite a bit in Costa Rica, then guess what?
You're moving to Costa Rica!
Where To Live In Costa Rica
Now to figure out where you're going to live.
Okay, I know what you're thinking.
Isn't all of Costa Rica beautiful?
Well, ya. Duh.
But some places are more liveable than others.
For instance, most that crime we were talking about happens in the capital, San Jose. There are some rough barios there which you probably should avoid.
On the other hand, San Jose suburbs such as Escazu enjoy a high quality of life.
- San Jose
- Lake Arenal
Well, ya, if you want that suburban lifestyle.
But you came to Costa Rica to get away from that, didn't you?
Of course, your dollar gets you a heck of a lot more down here in Costa Rica, but those Escazu homes arent' exactly bargain-priced. You still need a hefty sum of money to buy them and keep them in shape.
Now you're running the rat race again.
And guess what?
You won't make that kind of money by teaching English or answering phone calls.
Now, if you're moving to Costa Rica because you have a nice stash of cash and you want an awesome home in a tropical suburb, then we'll talk about Escazu in more detail.
But imagine taking that cash and buying a home in a place like Ojochal?
It's a smaller community, right on the beach. That makes it a lot cheaper, more laid back, and happier.
Now you're moving to Costa Rica for the right reasons!
Here's something you may not have known until now.
Tamarindo has the second longest life expectancy in the world!
This bustling metropolis right on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica represents an urban success story.
It's warm year-round yet thanks to the Ocean, it never gets too humid.
This is a popular tourist destination, so everything you could want is here.
Golf, sailing, surfing, beaches, shops, nightclubs, cafes... everything.
And thanks to tourism it's one of the few places in Costa Rica with good roads.
Of course, it's a little more expensive than other areas and gets kinda busy during the dry season.
Do you love surfing?
If so, then Dominical is the place for you!
You also have to love the hippie lifestyle.
You see, Dominical is a small, isolated community where nomadic travelers and surfers hang out.
Many people simply camp on the beach.
Of course, you can rent a small bungalow, but remember all those nasty bugs and spiders we talked about?
Well, this is one of those places you'll want to keep an eye out for them.
Nevertheless, for true Pura Vida, you can't beat Dominical!
Next we have the tourist mecca of Ojochal.
It's a short jaunt from the main airport at San Jose, so the place tends to fill up with tourists in the dry season.
That also means there are more hotels than houses, with plenty of walled-off all-inclusive resorts.
Almost everyone who lives here is involved in the tourism industry in some way, whether that's cleaning rooms or driving airport shuttles or giving snorkeling lessons.
Even the bars and restaurants depend on tourism.
But what makes Ojochal unique is the spectacular beauty of the surrounding area.
The beaches are amazing, with protected islands dotted around that you can access via boat.
There's even a massive waterfall just outside of town. Check out Cascada El Pavon and swim in a clear pool, just like in a shampoo commercial!
Do you remember we talked about suburban living?
Well, now it's time to explore it in depth.
That's because you're not a tourist to Costa Rica. You're moving to Costa Rica.
Maybe you should look at someplace like Escazu?
You see, Escazu offers all the amenities of city living without all the tourists of the beach towns.
We're talking air conditioning, nice homes, gardens, buses, cafes, and shopping malls. You know, all that stuff you're leaving behind.
Best of all, you're only five miles from downtown San Jose, a city of 330,000 inhabitants.
Thanks to Costa Rica's small size, you can easily access both coasts from Escazu, so when you tire of your swimming pool, hop in your Suburban and head to the beach!
Living In Costa Rica
You're seriously considering the pros and cons of moving to Costa Rica now, aren't you?
Good for you!
And you know what?
All that's left is to visualize your life once you're there.
There are plenty of things to think about.
We've discussed what kind of work you'll do, and how to get a visa.
Surely by now, you have an idea of where in Costa Rica you want to live.
After all, you have your choice between coastal paradise, hippy living, tourist trap, or suburban posh.
The last bit of information you need is more practical.
How will you get around? What will you eat?
Can you afford to live there?
Knowing that stuff is kind of a big deal.
Let's get to it.
What will you eat after moving to Costa Rica?
The good news (or bad, depending on your outlook) is that all the major American chains are in Costa Rica.
Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Chilli's, etc.
But true Costa Rican fare includes a lot of rice, seafood, and fruit.
Try Casado, which involves rice and beans, or arreglados, which are rolls stuffed with cheese and a mixture of stuff depending on the chef.
A favorite among visitors and locals alike are pejibayes, which is peach palm fruit. Freakin' delish!
Can you imagine life without the internet?
Well, if you're freelancing, you had better hope not.
Costa Rica has the most developed broadband network in Latin America, with high-speed internet covering every major city and most of the smaller ones, too.
And get this.
Cell phones abound in Costa Rica. In fact, of a population of 4.5 million, there were 7.5 million mobile phones in use.
Signals are fast and reliable and extremely affordable.
Try one of three providers.
How do you plan to get around?
If you're living in San Jose, there's a decent public transit system.
But what if you end up in a beach town somewhere?
Well, public buses zoom everywhere across the country for dirt cheap. We're talking $0.50 a ride.
But you get what you pay for.
Image by Giphy
You can also rent a vehicle, or hire a taxi.
A lot of people get around on mopeds, and these are cheap and easily accessible.
Just make sure you have great health insurance because broken bones are common among moped drivers.
Cost of living
After all that, can you even afford to live here?
Well, if you can make over $1500 a month, you should be fine.
In San Jose, you can rent a two-bedroom apartment for around $500 a month, or a luxury condo for $1,000.
In a beach town, expect to pay about $1,200 a month for an entire house, or $900 a month for a small bungalow.
Food is where you'll spend a lot of money because prices are nearly the same as in the US.
Best of all, your utilities, including internet, will total less than $50 a month.
Now that's a deal!
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Hopefully, you're armed with the right information you need to make the move a successful one.
No matter what your reasons for moving are, it's important to remember a few key things:
- Make sure you have income
- Get the proper visa
- Find the right town for you
- Live within your means
Oh ya, one more thing.
Watch out for those terrifying Brazilian Wandering Spiders.
So, what are you waiting for?