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10 Tips for Living in Costa Rica from Expats

Here are some summarized Tips for Living in Costa Rica from Expats that have been living in the country for a while, and they’ve “been there and done that…

Expat Life in Costa Rica

“Be open to learning Spanish because eventually you will need it and, you don’t want to be that Gringo who only speaks English.”

“You can let go of the stressful life you may have had wherever you came from, simply learn to go with the flow… Pura Vida!”

“When in Rome do as the Romans do… enjoy eating Gallo Pinto.”

Driving in Costa Rica

“The majority of the time you don’t need to drive here… let someone else get stressed out!”

“Stay aware of your surroundings because most folks suck at driving, it’s the truth.

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

“It’s possible to live comfortably in Costa Rica on $1200 – $2,000 per month, just learn where to shop and  how to budget.”

“The cost of living in Costa Rica is increasing but, it’s still cheaper than living in the U.S.”

“I can afford a lifestyle I could not in the US. I can afford “wellness care” that I could not have afforded in the states, I have had a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, a bone density scan, an ultrasound of my organs, a stress test, an EKG, blood and urinalysis that I would never have been able to afford in the US. I did not take any of these tests because I was sick in any way. I took them to verify that I am well. The colonoscopy in the US was going to cost me nearly $3000. I had all these tests done without the aid of any insurance and paid $1100 total. I have also been able to afford the dental care I had been putting off for years in the US. I have had multiple crowns, root canals, a bone graft, and dental surgery and to date have spent less than $2000 for all of it. The last crown and root canal I’d had in the US cost me over $2000 just for one.”

Culture Shock in Costa Rica

“You’re not living in Kansas anymore!”

“Don’t stress out on the different cultural nuances. You’re going to notice so many differences and some similarities “

Jobs in Costa Rica

“For English-speaking travelers, jobs are usually in private school teaching English or in call centers. Neither pays well and most employers don’t want to bother with the legalities of getting work visas for employees. That means working under the table is common for foreigners.”

“This is a retirement place. The Costa Ricans and expats who want to work do Tourism and fishing primarily. Real Estate is a big business here too.”

“Have a job before coming here or a home-based business.”

Medical Care in Costa Rica

“National health care may not provide a sufficient safety net – it may require a long wait for medical procedures. Private health care is recommended, but coverage for “pre-existing conditions” is generally not available except through national health care.”

“Costa Rica has excellent medical care with a two-prong system, both public and private. All legal residents and citizens of Costa Rica are eligible to participate in the public health care system which is basically free although you have to be a member of the CAJA and pay a % based on the income level you declared when you applied for residency.”

Crime in Costa Rica

Like anywhere else in the world, safety and security risks of living in Costa Rica vary from place to place.

“Policing is very lax and security can be a do it yourself endeavor. Although we never feel threatened, there is crime in the large cities and we prefer the quiet of a small town.”

“There is a lot of hype about living in Costa Rica and it 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 rifles – 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.”

Residency & Work Permits

“I have been renewing my tourist visa every 3 months for a long, long time.”

“Many people, like myself, are generally retired or have formed their own businesses, which is legal in Costa Rica as long as you have your legal residency. You cannot, however, work as an employee unless you are a permanent, legal resident, a different category than simple, legal residency.”

Diversity in Costa Rica

“Costa Rica is very diverse in the people that live here, you have different shades of color, different nationalities, and religions.”

“In the Lake Arenal area, it is a very diverse community consisting of the locals (Ticos), US, Canadian, Austrian, Dutch, German, Spanish, Australians, etc.”

Getting to Know the Locals

“Ticos, in general, have are genuinely friendly if you are respectful and considerate of their space, culture, and customs.”

“Once you make friends with one local, they’ll invite you out and you’ll just meet more people from then on..”

“We were surprised and delighted in the hospitality. We have never seen the type of efforts to help one’s neighbor displayed in the U.S.A. that we saw regularly there. 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”

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