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10 Expats Talk About What It's Like Living in Costa Rica

Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats living in Costa Rica talk about Pura Vida, deciding where to live in Costa Rica, meeting people and more.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

If you're not really sure what Pura Vida means, ask an expat who has spent time living in Costa Rica. It's often the reason they love living in this beautiful country. Continue reading to learn what 10 expats have to say about what it's like living in Costa Rica.

What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture

We asked expats in Costa Rica what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"What I really enjoyed, was the personal relationships that we established. I had many Tico friends that felt comfortable stopping by our home to visit. One friend threw a surprise birthday party for me. I also found it amazing that when we arrived, we found ourselves without money due to a bank screw up and our attorney right away offered us a couple thousand dollars till our money showed up. Many more times, if we didn't have money on hand for something, business owners told us to pay them when we returned next. You don't see that happening in the states," said one expat living in Samara, Costa Rica.

"A certain sense of freedom born out of being surrounded by disorder and a complete lack of caring about most things," mentioned another expat in Costa Rica.

"For Costa Rica, the "laidbackness" and friendly people, the great climate and green nature," commented one expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"Kindness, warmth, concern for fellow man, fact that they wage no wars, their appreciation of fresh foods, their curiosity about my country, their eagerness to learn English and their Pura Vida Attitude," remarked another expat living in Quebradas, Costa Rica.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Costa Rica

Then, we asked expats in Costa Rica what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"I think that banking can be a challenge and setting up insurance along with other services such as your electric, phone and internet services," said one expat living in Samara, Costa Rica.

"Duplicity, lack of frankness, uncaring attitude, failure to confront any issue and passing off all problems as "God's will"," mentioned another expat in Costa Rica.

"The centralamerican kitchen is not a hit... Unless you love beans and rice and corn tortillas of course," commented one expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"Their cavalier attitude toward animals/pets. Their tendency to lie rather than hurt feeling," remarked another expat living in Quebradas, Costa Rica.

Deciding Where to Live in Costa Rica

For an overview of some of the most popular areas for expats, read our article, 7 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica. Here's what expats had to say when we asked them how they decided where to live in Costa Rica:

"1. I have lived in the following areas near San Jose; Zapote, Desamparados, Moravia, and Alajuela. I have also lived in the town of Grecia which is 45 km outside of the capital of San Jose. 2. I now live on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica in the city of Guapiles, County of Pococi, Province of Limon, Costa Rica 3. Major dirrerence, and asset is the people in this area. Although there are only limited foreigners living here, is that the people of this area are truly helpful and friendly. Not because they have to be but because they genuinely like to help others. 4. Even more noticable is that in spite of there being limited employment in the area, they are always willing to greet guests with courtesy and good manners, and a warm greeting and common courtesy. 5. Since there is an abundance of reasonable residential rentals and properties for sale, and a minimal population of foreigners, prices for both as well as the cost of living here are very reasonable. 6. Property taxation is almost non-existant or to say the least extremely reasonable. I have met a friend who has twenty acres or a little over 9 hectares of land with a bar, and cabins that pays about 1,700 colinies or about $5.00 USD per month in property taxes, that is reasonable," said one expat living in City of Guapiles, County of Pococi, Province of Limon, Costa Rica.

"I just wanted to clear up some of the bad reviews of the other guy who posted before me about San Jose, Costa Rica. First of all, if you are planning on moving to Costa Rica for whatever ex-pat experience, if possible, avoid San Jose. It is a very crowded, dense little city that is not all that interesting. Also, foreigners are more susceptible to theft here. That being said, get out of San Jose and live in any of the other great towns all throughout this beautiful country. True, transportation can be mediocre (if insisting on travelling budget), but it definately suffices. It's a small country and travelling from the Pacific to the Carribean can be done in one long day even on the slowest, cheapest bussed routes available," mentioned another expat in Costa Rica.

"It's cheaper to live a little ways outside the city so location was influenced by that. There is also less crime outside the city. I found my apartment by asking around and doing some walking. There won't always be a sign up so, if it looks available, ask," commented one expat who made the move to Costa Rica.

"Our first home in Costa Rica (CR) was strictly by word of mouth. We had lived in the area for a few months and told just as many people we trusted that we were looking. In just a few months time, we looked at many properties. We got to know the area very well by renting so we knew the neighborhoods we liked and knew what a good price was to pay. We were in no hurry as we were renting at the time so we didn't appea anxious or desperate to the seller. The purchasing process was a breeze. After 8 years in that same location and home, we decided we wanted a quieter area and we finally were able to realize our original dream of having a water view property. 17 years total in CR ... it's working for us," remarked another expat living in Playa Hermosa de Jaco, Costa Rica.

Meeting People in Costa Rica

Expats living in Costa Rica talked about meeting people in Costa Rica and local clubs and organizations:

"We have enjoyed the weekly farmers' market in Escazu and have met many of the farmers. We live in a condo and have met many of our neighbors and picked up helpful tips from them. Our realtor was a very helpful resource and has put us in touch with others he has helped. A driver that we frequently use has been an invaluable source of information," said one expat living in Escazu, Costa Rica.

"Matapalo is one of Costa Rica's sailing centers. Lots of fun activities for all age groups," mentioned another expat in Costa Rica.

Expat Life in Costa Rica

What is it like living in Costa Rica? Here is what people had to say:

"People seem to enjoy their families and church. We have met many interesting and friendly restaurant owners and enjoy going out to eat. The sodas are a great place to meet people both from Escazu and the rest of the world. Soccer is a favorite sport with the men for sure," said one expat living in Escazu, Costa Rica.

"Activities in this part of Costa Rica revolve around the beach," mentioned another expat in 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. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

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First Published: Mar 09, 2018

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