There is just one Latin American country that can pride itself on the longest continuous democratic government as well as a dedication to peace without needing a standing army. Where are we talking about?
Costa Rica is where a lot of foreigners have been attracted to move; thanks to its tropical weather, calm nature, cultural diversity, great biodiversity, many beautiful beaches, and a relaxed lifestyle. San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and one of the booming cities in the country.
Considering a move to Costa Rica? This tropical paradise is one of the commonly known places for ex-pats to study, retire and live. The surfable beaches, abundant wildlife, and natural beauty of the country also make it one of the great exciting places in the world for adventure seekers.
In this post, we will provide you guidance on all the things you need to know about a move to Costa Rica, from preparing to move to another country to starting your life immediately you get there and what living here looks like.
You will be able to make an informed decision after reading this guide.
1. Cost of Living in Costa Rica
What is the cost to live in Costa Rica? The total cost of living in Costa Rica is lesser than the cost of living in the United States. However, while Costa Rica’s cost of living is affordable, it is still not the most affordable country in Latin America. Based on your lifestyle, you can live on $1,500 per month comfortably. Meat and special products are nicely comparable to costs in the United States.
But, you can usually reduce your grocery bill by purchasing fresh local products and fish from a market. Rent prices in the capital city differ from that of smaller communities but are generally on the lower side compared to in the United States.
For example, you can rent a small apartment for $500 in San Jose or get a beautiful house on the beach for $1,500. One thing is certain, healthcare and dental works are highly cheaper. Having access to cheap healthcare is a major reason most American ex-pats are in Costa Rica.
2. Housing Market in Costa Rica
Even though home prices differ based on the city and town, Costa Rica’s general housing market is very strong and fairly affordable. Numbeo reported that the median rent per month for a 1-bedroom apartment in the heart of the city is only $475.13.
The median monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment outside of a city is $384.74. The median rent per square foot of an apartment purchase in a city in Costa Rica is $174.11, and the median price per square foot of an apartment purchase outside a Costa Rican city is $141.87.
Global Property Guide reported that the most expensive properties in Costa Rica are found in the Central Valley, the greater metro area (including Heredia, San Jose, Alajuela, and Escazu) where a lot of businesses are located, and the Pacific coast.
3. People of Costa Rica
Since there are lots of Europeans and Americans residing in Costa Rica, there is a great mix of people. Just 2.4% of the entire population is indigenous Costa Ricans. There are so many ex-pats, mostly from North America, who reside in Costa Rica together with the local Ticos. The majority of Canadians and Americans relocating to Costa Rica are retires but families may also be drawn by the international schools.
4. Culture of Costa Ricans
If you’ve read something about Costa Rica before, you’ve come across the term, Pura Vida. It is difficult to say exactly what Pura Vida means until you get here and experience it firsthand. We’ve put in our best to determine it, but what you need to understand is that the local culture is so much relaxed. Things move slowly in Costa Rica and to be sincere, that pace is why Costa Rica is so special.
5. Safety in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is relatively safe; however, newcomers need to be careful and put common sense precautions into practice when getting around in the country. The U.S. Department of State advises commuters to practice much caution in Costa Rica because of crime. The advisory mentioned that while most visitors in Costa Rica face petty crime which is the major threat, violent crime does happen in the country. Safety tips include knowing your surroundings, not showing signs of wealth, and avoiding physically resisting a robbery attempt.
6. Quality of Life in Costa Rica
Costa Rica prides itself on a life expectancy of 80 years; one of the highest in the universe. In particular, the Nicoya Peninsula is one of five Blue Zones in the world and is where 44 centenarians are found. A balanced diet, strong relationships, and an active lifestyle are attributed to this amazing quality of life.
7. Climatic Weather of Costa Rica
The warm, tropical weather and amazing beaches draw a lot of tourists and newcomers each year. Go Visit Costa Rica reported that Costa Rica has two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. From May to November are the months that have most rain in the year, with most of the rain falling between September and October. The dry season of the year starts from December through April. Costa Rica’s median annual temperature is between 700 and 810 F, which makes it a highly warm place to reside.
8. Healthcare in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s healthcare system and public health insurance Costa Rica are some of the best in the whole universe. The country is often ranked by the United Nations as one of the 20th percentiles of leading country healthcare systems. Public health insurance in the country is available for each resident and non-residents.
The government compulsory it in 2010 that all ex-pats should register with the public scheme to gain residency. In turn, foreigners can access free healthcare at public facilities. If you are not interested in public healthcare, no problem, many people living in Costa Rica choose private healthcare systems together with public coverage. This enables much access to private facilities as well as the option to see more specialists, if required.
9. Immigration Requirements in Costa Rica
Citizens of the United States and Canada don’t need a visa to visit Costa Rica as a tourist. However, they will need to have to provide proof of a plan to leave the country within 90 days (a return plane ticket). Those that want to live in Costa Rica for the long term have many visa options, which include the Pensionado Program and the Rentista Program. The common Pensionado Program asks newcomers to provide proof that they get at least $1,000 per month from a pension source.
The Rentista Program asks for proof of a monthly income of a minimum of $2,500 for a minimum of 2 years or a $60,000 deposit into a bank in Costa Rica.
10. Schools in Costa Rica
Unlike other tourist places, Costa Rica’s education system makes it a great choice for ex-pat families. Some of the best schools in Latin America are located in Costa Rica and much attention on education and human development. The biggest focus of private and international schools is found in the Central Valley around San Jose.
11. Getting Employed as an Ex-Pat
There are not many jobs for ex-pats in Costa Rica. Don’t expect to get there and start on an ex-pat job immediately. There is a lot of local talent and it is best to let them have the jobs. So, if you are wondering, can I relocate to Costa Rica and still make money?
Yes. Foreigners moving to Costa Rica should look for ways to earn money online, start a business here, or live off retirement.
Being able to start a business on a tourist visa is one of the reasons that this Latin American country is such a trendy destination for ex-pats. This allows for opportunities for non-residents to work in tourism or establish a hotel or restaurant.
12. Work Permit in Costa Rica
There are specific trades that are assigned priority by the Costa Rican government. Understand that ex-pats will be able to get a work permit only if their employers can prove that there is no citizen of Costa Rica available or qualified enough to take the position. Expat.com revealed that the work permit can be given both to the staff and entrepreneurs who can prove to the Immigration Department, the fact that their skills and qualifications are needed in Costa Rica. It will enable you to reside in Costa Rica as long as you have your employment contract active. You can begin to search for jobs on these websites:
- Busco Empleo
13. Taxation in Costa Rica
You can personally make up to $1,460 every month as income got from wages or business activity without worrying about paying taxes; this depends on currency exchange rates in the middle of July 2020, and the majority of working Ticos don’t earn that much. Starting from $1,460 to $2,144, there is a tax of 10% on personal income. The tax rate rises to 15% from $2,145 to $3,761, and then to 20% starting from $3,762 to $7,521.
Anything beyond $7,522 will be taxed at 25%, being the highest rate. As mentioned earlier, income earned in other countries is not taxed. Taxpayers generally receive standard deductions depending on their dependent spouse and kids. Taxes are kind of high on some imports, vehicles, and some electronics in particular, which you can expect to be charged with rates beginning from 13%.
14. Places to Live in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is not a large country; you can fit its entire territory 3.5 times inside the state of Florida. Almost half of Costa Rica is filled with nature preserves, but you can still locate low-density regions to contain 5,000,000 residents, of which almost a million are foreigners, majorly from Nicaragua.
The cities and communities below are some of the common destinations for North American and European ex-pats.
- Guanacaste: This is a northern province beside Nicaragua, and it is where many paradisiacal beaches are located, which gets filled with tourists during the peak season. Tamarindo Beach, the Gulf of Papagayo, and Playas del Coco are filled with expensive beach resorts and closed communities where rich ex-pats tend to gather. These ex-pat towns are not famous for being affordable, but they are beautiful places to reside, especially if you are a die-hard golf player who also loves the beach.
- The Central Valley: This is a large area of Costa Rica and is where the Great Metropolitan Area of San Jose is found, a densely populated region seen to be the most cosmopolitan in Costa Rica. Communities like Escazu and Santa Ana have the latest and luxurious neighborhoods where you can see many stylish shopping malls and commercial activities that similar to suburban California. Based on the district, the cost of living can be much higher than in Guanacaste.
- The Occidental Region: In the outer parts of the Juan International Airport, which is closer to the city of Alajuela and located northwest of San Jose, only a few upper-middle-class areas have been developed since 2010. Right now, most home buyers and renters are Tico families, but some ex-pats are starting to see them. If you are set to relocate a bit further into the west, you will see many ex-pats who have discovered towns like Sarchi, Atenas, and Grecia to be more relaxed and much more affordable.
Moving to these towns in Occidental will put you in proximity to the border of the Central Valley, which implies that you will be around 40 to 60 minutes out from the capital, but the atmosphere and the weather will be worthwhile. As long as you are ready to mix with the locals, you will possibly enjoy relocating to these semi-rural towns.
- Jaco Beach: This coastal town is for avid surfers and for foreigners who prefer to speak English and partying the bars and casinos like the American style. Lots of residents complain that this is no more a family-centered beach town, and they also feel that it is beginning to look more of Long Beach in California. However, there are some amazing beach mansions in the area, such as the one owned by Tom Brady, the legendary NFL quarterback and Giselle Bundchen, his supermodel wife.
- The southern Pacific: Immediately you continue south of Jaco Beach, you will locate great beach towns like Dominical, Quepos, Uvita, and Ojochal. The major pushers of the local economy here are offshore fishing and ecotourism; this is a place where activities like hiking, whale watching, ocean kayaking, and many others are available for you. Life in these towns is good, even though it can feel a little isolated until you go east around 40KM to Perez Zeledon and San Isidro;, two neighborhoods where smart foreigners enjoy a highly suburban lifestyle at affordable prices.
- Puerto Viejo in Limon: The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica offers a different feel. Life is slower, the weather is a bit humid, and the locals are friendlier. The port city of Limon opens arms to cruise ship travelers and maritime trade; the little remote towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo to the south are where ex-pats who love a bohemian lifestyle choice to live. You will find mchoosenadian and European ex-pats in this area unlike the rest of the country.
- Rural Costa Rica: Around half of the communities in the country can be called rural towns; some are small cities located in the mountains while others are closer to the coast or national parks. These towns are where you will find families who work the land, but they will always greet ex-pats looking for a calm lifestyle with open arms. Coffee-growing regions closer to the Poas Volcano, where Starbucks has its farm and hacienda, are highly charming and much affordable.
Naranjo over to Sarchi, and its coffee production is great. Coronado has some dairy farms and a climate that is between hot and cold. Turrialba offers all you want from dairy to potatoes and from tropical fruits to coffee. San Vito, closer to the edge with Panama, has traditionally drawn Italian ex-pats, and this is a destination where you can comfortably live on a modest income.
Are you Ready to move to Costa Rica?
There is an estimate that 10 percent of Costa Rica’s population is ex-pats who have moved here permanently. Another 10 percent ex-pats go back and forth from their countries as seasonal visitors, migrant employees, or renew their tourism visa several times every year. Costa Rica is an amazing place to visit, and it also can be perfect as your next home.
To move to Costa Rica smoothly without hassles, you need professional and reputable mover to handle the move. This is the reason we screened moving companies for important criteria like capabilities, certifications, and insurance.
Our international moving companies are also bonded and licensed with the United States Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). Also, all movers working outside the United States must comply with FIDI, the largest international alliance of professional international moving companies, to stay under the umbrella as an Accredited International Mover to handle Costa Rica moves.