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Moving to Costa Rica - A Brief Overview

Dec 05, 2012

Moving to Costa Rica - A Brief Overview

Are you thinking of moving to Costa Rica? Before taking the huge step of moving to any new country, you should follow an important rule, and Costa Rica is no different: see it through the eyes of a tourist first! Visiting the country and staying as long as possible is the best idea, avoiding the situation in which, after buying a home and settling there, you realize that you do not know anything about the country, or worse, you don't like it. 

If you would like a taste of what living in Costa Rica is really like, check out our Discovery Weekend on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula!




Before embarking for Costa Rica, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Laws

  • Weather

  • Homes, cars and taxes

  • Language

  • Health

  • Safety


As a tourist, the only laws you'll probably be interested in are those about your stay and basic, mainstream rules. Regardless of your country of origin, a Costa Rican tourist visa will grant you a stay of a maximum of 3 months; more than enough time for you to get to know- and surely fall in love with - the country. If you are worried that you will not be allowed to drive without a resident driver's license, fear not, because your passport and your license from back home will do just fine!

A very important aspect to consider, should you decide to move to Costa Rica, is the retirement law: if you retire, you are not allowed to supplement your earnings by working for someone else. Being your own boss is permitted, so you can have your own business even after you have retired.


Costa Rica has a tropical climate, so it has two seasons, clearly defined by the quantity of rain that falls and not by the temperatures:

  • Summer, or the dry season - December to April.

  • Winter, or the rainy season, from May to November.

The country also has about 7 different microclimates, depending on the elevation, topography, rainfall and local geography. Even if they are not too different from one another, you should travel all around the country and experience each one, to see which suits you better.

Homes, Cars and Taxes

If you are planning on moving to Costa Rica, your first concern will be finding a place to live. Do you want to take it easy and just rent a house or a condo first? No problem. Anybody can do that, be it resident or tourist. The rental and buying prices vary from one region to another and, as you may suspect, they get higher and higher the closer you get to the capital city, San Jose. For example, if you want to rent a place in Santa Ana or San Pedro, just outside of San Jose, you will pay more than the minimum $300 per month, but people claim to live comfortably on $1,500-2,500 per month, regardless of the city. Personal services are less expensive in Costa Rica as well, and many people who have not had a maid or gardener in their North American home, chose to hire one in Costa Rica.

On the other hand, cars can be a bit pricey, so it is better to check all the dealer's offers first. Alternatively, you can ship your car from home. The majority of roads are currently being improved, because their existing state is fairly poor and they may have quite a few potholes; if something happens to your car, you should know that new parts are expensive, but the labor price is reasonable.

Some people prefer to bring their own cars from home when moving to Costa Rica, as auto prices can be quite high. Before shipping your car or personal household items, you should ask for help from people who have been in the same situation as you, as well as from a good lawyer who is familiar with all the rules and can guide you through the process. It's not difficult to find intimidating stories regarding customs/moving services, but, if you know who to work with, you will be more than pleased with the service.

If you own a house, you will find property taxes lower than in North America, and, moreover, you don't have to pay taxes for income that you receive outside Costa Rica, only for what you've earned inside the country. The sales tax on any goods or services is also reasonable: 13%.


The official language in Costa Rica is Spanish. That being said, it's important to keep in mind that, although the people in tourist areas speak English very well, the situation is not the same in the rest of the country. The local people are very friendly and helpful, so they will accept you and try to help you as much as possible if you don't speak Spanish, but if you're planning to stay, it's a good idea to learn it. If you have children, they can easily have access to extensive Spanish classes at their school, allowing them to catch up with their classmates in no time. Let's not forget that it's always possible to hire a tutor for private classes. In the end, you just have to practice, practice and practice some more!


People in Costa Rica have access to both public and private health care, not to mention the reasonable health insurance you can pay for. If you become a member of the ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica), you will get a special discount too. Forget about the high prices that you pay in the U.S. if you want the services of a private clinic or a good doctor, dentist, periodontist, etc.! Costa Rica's health system is rated as high as North America, but the price that you pay for quality and reliable services is much less.


The problems regarding safety are the same as in any other country, so just respect some common sense rules: always lock your car and remember to not leave expensive items in plain sight. Additionally, keep in mind that your most valuable jewels are meant to be worn on special occasions, do not showcase them to everybody in the street.

All in all, Costa Rica is certainly worth living in. It is a beautiful country with a great climate and very nice people. If you are thinking of moving here, everybody will be more than happy to help you - ARCR and locals alike!

Want a taste of what living in Costa Rica is really like? Check out our Discovery Weekend in the Southern Nicoya Peninsula!

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Where International is not accountable for the orchestration or deliverance of Discovery Weekends. We provide them to you on behalf of our developer partners. We recommend that you purchase travel insurance, as you would with any trip out of your home country. In addition, we advise you complete your own due diligence, purchase title insurance and always use a local attorney to assist with all transactions. In the event that a reader purchases a property from a recommended developer, Where International receives a sum from the developer.