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Moving to Costa Rica > 10 Expats Share Tips for Moving to Costa Rica

10 Expats Share Tips for Moving to Costa Rica

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on: Apr 24, 2020

Summary: Expats in Costa Rica answer the question: If a friend of yours was thinking of moving here, what other advice would you give them. One expat summed it up perfectly when he said not to let your desire to live in paradise get in the way of thinking about the logistics. Here's what other expats had to say.

10 Expats Share Tips for Moving to Costa Rica - Expat Costa Rica

We asked expats in Costa Rica, "If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them." Here's what they had to say:

"Do your due diligence! Don't let your desire to live in paradise get in the way of thinking about the logistics. It doesn't have to be difficult, especially if you form a network of friends and advisors online prior to your move. My final advice -- don't ever send anyone money for 'services' in advance, unless you have completely assured yourself that they are a legitimate business (get references)," remarked another expat in Lake Arenal, Costa Rica.

"Leave most everything where you came from, sell it off, come start a new life in Paradise. Be prepared for some culture shock and getting used to the slower pace of life but be prepared for more exercise and a better quality of life where you will live life, not watch it on television. (not that we don't have tv's and cable)," commented one expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"Be ready to live, love and relax. This is a beautiful country and we live in paradise," said one expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

"Come and see for yourself before you make a commitment to moving here. There is a lot of hype about Costa Rica being a paradise, a cheap place to live or retire, and a safe place because it eliminated its army in 1948. The reality is that San Jose has a high crime rate, the iron grates on all of the houses and businesses can be off-putting - as can the security guards with loaded riffles - and it isn't a cheap place to live. Food, utilities and rent in certain areas of the city are quite high especially for a developing nation. Other issues in San Jose: air pollution from cars is pretty bad; noise pollution gets on your nerves after a while; it isn't safe to walk outside in the late evening or night; the streets, sidewalks and highways are in terrible shape; and government monopolies make it near impossible to get a cell phone and makes renting cars super-expensive because of the mandatory insurance. People must visit and spend a few weeks talking to people before deciding to move here," cautioned another expat when asked about living in Costa Rica.

"Hmmmmmm...take a vacation here first, spend a few months and get a feel for the scene here. Also, online research is an option too," said another expat in Costa Rica.

"Relax, enjoy and slow down. Life at the beach is carefree, easy going and free of many stresses. Take in a sunset, have a fresh cup of local coffee and chat with a Costa Rican local and/or expat. Visit the feria (public farmers market) on Friday morning. Watch a local futbol match or take in many of the Artify Jaco murals and local art galleries. Enjoy the great restaurants which the area offers, visit the beaches and national parks within an hour of the area for day trips," said another expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"I would advise them to spend time not as a tourist but as one might live here. Visit the grocery stores. I did not realize that some items I depended on were not available. The sales tax is almost double what it is in our town in the US. I did not realize that mail is not delivered to one's house here. Check out the banks and see if you can open an account from which to pay your local bills," wrote one expat living in Escazu, Costa Rica.

"If you are moving to Matapalo, Costa Rica, prepare yourself to blend in & be prepared to slow down. Try to make everything you experience a learning experience. Do not stress out if things do not go the way you are use to. Nothing you have ever done will prepare you for living in a foreign county. Be happy," said another expat in Costa Rica.

"Rent first. It may not be the lifestyle for you. Make sure you are comfortably with the idea of a tiny community, in particular, a tiny community of North Americans," added another expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"Be prepared for a lack of resources in almost every department. You are not going to find Walmart right around the corner and Starbucks will not be on every street. Yes, you can get used to it. You'll often find what you need; although it might be an alternative. Learn to live simply. Learn to live with space not things. Be prepared to pay a lot of money if you want to ship things here or to home. Be prepared for the rainy season. Be prepared for a lot of insects. Be prepared for humidity. Be prepared for crappy roads, many dirt and rocks. Be prepared to see people driving all over the road. Be prepared for your electronics to fail. Be prepared to meet a lot of wonderful people. Be prepared for illegality of cannabis; especially for those who have medical cannabis certificates in the States. Be prepared for the electricity to go out. Be prepared to travel 7km, one way to obtain gasoline for your vehicle. Be prepared to breathe fresh air. Be prepared for a lot of sun. Be prepared to see things that might appear alien to you - often. Be prepared to kiss women on the cheek when you meet them. Be prepared to learn what is truly important in life. Be prepared to let go and breathe," explained one expat living in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Updated On: Apr 24, 2020

First Published: Apr 24, 2020

Cigna Expat Health InsuranceExpatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Costa Rica from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
Get a Quote

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