Myths, Truths, and a Little Advice to Help You Decide
You’ve heard great things about Costa Rica, and you’re thinking of moving there. Is it the right decision for you? Are you prepared for life in another country? A key to making a wise decision is to get accurate information, so let’s get rid of the misinformation first.
Myths about living in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is as close to paradise as you can find on this earth, but that doesn’t mean life will always be easy, free from complications, and without challenges. No place is perfect, not even Costa Rica.
It costs almost nothing to live in Costa Rica.
It may surprise you that the cost of living in Costa Rica is higher than in other Central American countries. However, that additional cost buys you a better lifestyle: superior healthcare, a more modern infrastructure, and products you may need or desire, if those are priorities for you. Your cost of living in Costa Rica depends almost entirely on two factors: what part of the country you choose to live in and the lifestyle you maintain there. Popular locations near the beach are more expensive than properties an hour inland, and cities cost more than rural areas. If you eat all the same foods in Costa Rica as you did back home, your grocery bill will be higher because now all those foods are imported. But, if you enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables that are locally grown, you can enjoy substantial savings. The cost of most labor-intensive services are also much less than your home country. And cost of living is relative. If you leave Manhattan or San Francisco to move here, Costa Rica will be a bargain by comparison.
Costa Rica is completely safe
Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in all of Latin America, but petty theft is commonplace. You cannot leave all your belongings laying around the yard and the keys in your car in the driveway or leave your house alone for extended periods like you can in many areas of North America and Europe.
I can get a job in Costa Rica
You can own a business that employs Costa Ricans. In fact, it’s one of the ways to obtain residency. But the law protects Ticos, so you won’t be able to take away a job that a local can do. That said, you can work remotely as an employee of any company worldwide. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that any place with Internet service can be an office.
Everyone speaks English
In some areas of the country, especially on the coasts, many Ticos speak enough English for you to get by. Nevertheless, remember that Costa Rica is unequivocally a Spanish-speaking country. You will be happier if you make an effort to learn the language of your neighbors. They will be very appreciative and supportive of your efforts.
I just want to live like a local
Living like a local in Costa Rica can often means you will live in a very small house without air-conditioning, a clothes dryer, a walk-in closet, or hot water in all your taps. You will eat rice and beans at least twice a day, your neighbors might be close and noisy, and their chickens and dogs will serenade you day and night. You will rely almost entirely on public transportation. If you chose the lifestyle of the locals, you may be happier with less like Ticos are, but it is important to understand the sacrifices.
Truths about living in Costa Rica
How can this be a myth and a truth at the same time? Costa Rica has stunning natural beauty and the peaceful lifestyle that many envision when they imagine paradise. You can find your personal paradise by the coast or in the mountains.
Costa Rica has excellent healthcare
The nationwide health care system is modern and open to all. Both public and private hospitals are state-of-the-art. Out-of-pocket costs are acceptable, but one can also purchase excellent international insurance or enroll in the affordable national health program.
I can work remotely from Costa Rica
Yes, it’s also a myth and truth! Costa Rica recently passed new laws that allow digital nomads to stay longer than the standard 90 days that tourists are given. So you can work from your laptop poolside!
Foreigners can own property
And you don’t have to be a resident to buy a piece of paradise.
There is a strong ex-pat community in many areas of the country, so new friends and activities await you!
A little bit of advice
You cannot expect to move to another country without experiencing culture shock on some level. Life moves at a slower pace in Costa Rica, which can often be relaxing but also frustrating at times. There will be foods you are used to eating that are not readily available in Costa Rica. Services may be rendered at a different speed and level of expertise than you are expecting. For travelers used to well-maintained and marked highways, signage, maps, and addresses, Costa Rica will disappoint. But for others who enjoy a more off-road adventure, it will excite!
So, visit first! Visit different times of the year. Talk to others who have made the move. Ask them about getting residency, opening a bank account, shopping for groceries, getting dental work done. How often do they eat out? What does a vehicle cost? What do utilities run? What do they like the most and the least about living in Costa Rica? Read what bloggers write about living here. Sometimes we shy away from reading anything negative because, well, we just don’t want anyone to burst our bubble. But consider it forewarning yourself so that you can forearm yourself. All that information will help you pull off the perfect move you are dreaming of. It’s the move where you bring exactly the right things with you—no more, no less. The move where you have just the right amount of money to cover your cost of living. The move where you quickly and smoothly set yourself up and start living the life you have always imagined with no big surprises. That’s when Costa Rica IS paradise.