Move to Costa Rica: Travel Guide for Expats

Welcome to my very first Expat guide to Costa Rica. This is going to be written a bit differently than most travel & expat guides. If you want general travel information on Costa like things to do, restaurants, or other basic stuff, then I recommend checking out the Costa Rica Wikitravel page.

The is advanced stuff for men who are serious about moving to Costa Rica or at least spending a large amount of time there. I’ve been lucky enough to have made 3 separate trips to Costa Rica and know how to get around with ease.

Although it is very safe, you must remember that it is still a small country in Latin America. If you come from a western country like USA or UK, then things will be different from day 1.

Don’t worry though. I will be your expat guide and help you get around the cities with ease.

Language

The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. Most locals speak little to no English so you should start taking Spanish lessons before you move. Check out my Learn Spanish page or better yet take private lessons from a natural Spanish speaker. It’s the fastest way to learn the language.

Medical

Housing

Finding a long term apartment is easier in bigger cities like San Jose than small coastal towns. Also realize that most of the good deals will be posted in Spanish. If you only look for apartments listed in English, then expect to pay a “gringo” premium.

Here’s a list of recommend sites to search for an apartment/house for rent:

Use Google translate if you cannot read a page written in Spanish. Here’s a few useful Spanish terms to learn:

  • casa = house
  • apartmento = apartment
  • apartmento para alquier = apartment for rent
  • Yo queiro un cuarto = I want a room
  • Cuanto? = How much?
  • Precio = Price

Many of these terms are used in rental listings. Once you practice a little bit, it gets really easy.

Money

The official money of Costa Rica is the colon. The exchange rate is around 550 colon to 1 USD. Yes, it’s quite a bargain 🙂

Typical denominations for:

  • Coins: ¢100 & 500
  • Paper money: 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 20000 colones.

Visas

For US citizens, you get a 90 day visa on arrival. Many expats end up doing border runs to Panama or Colombia every 3 months to renew their visa. Of course, you can bypass all this and apply for a long term visa at a Costa Rican Embassy.

The Costa Rican Embassy in DC lists all the visa requirements for US citizens.

Jobs

Forums

Here is a list of forums where you can connect with other Costa Rican expats:

Tours

Looking for adventure? Costa Rica has so much natural beauty to enjoy. You will definitely be interested in taking some tour excursions. On my first long term trip, I did ziplining and white water rafting. It was very fun and exciting. Here’s a few tour companies I recommend:

  • CostaRicaExcursions.com

Dating