24 Useful Tips For Living in Costa Rica in 2024
Embark on a journey of joy and prosperity in the heart of paradise! As we cruise through 2024, our team at Osa Tropical Properties is thrilled to share a curated collection of 24 essential tips for living a life of happiness and success in Costa Rica. Whether you're a seasoned expat, a new adventurer, or dreaming of a tropical haven, these insights will help to unlock the secrets to thriving in this vibrant nation, known for its "Pura Vida" lifestyle, breathtaking landscapes, and welcoming community.
Join us as we navigate through the art of seamless integration, embracing the rich culture, and making the most of the endless opportunities that Costa Rica has to offer, all while finding your perfect sanctuary with Osa Tropical Properties Costa Rica Real Estate Let's embark on this exhilarating journey together, crafting unforgettable moments and laying the foundations for a blissful life in Costa Rica. Here are our 24 most useful tips for living a happy life in Costa Rica in 2024!
Adapting to Culture
1. Costa Rica will not adapt to you; you have to adapt to it, including the local attitude of not taking life too seriously and going with the flow. Have a lot of patience, cultural tolerance and a good sense of humor and you will experience some of the pura vida tranquility that this country is known for.
2. Respect the local customs. Develop a cultural awareness by learning the language, attending local events, mixing with the people and reading about the country. Costa Ricans are friendly, but don’t assume you’ll make close friendships like in your home country. Family is very important in Costa Rican culture, and many Ticos’ lives revolve around it. This is a great country in which to focus on family and enjoying life, as this is a significant part of what makes Costa Ricans happy.
Investing in Costa Rica
3. Test before you invest. When investing in Costa Rica, don’t do things you wouldn’t normally do in your home country. Give your decisions time, ask around, and do not make hasty decisions. Additionally, Costa Rica boasts 12 distinct microclimates and diverse terrains, including sunny beaches, moist jungles, and temperate mountains. Spend time in different areas to find the location that best suits your lifestyle preferences.
4. Be cautious when purchasing property. Foreigners have the same rights as locals when buying property, with no restrictions on land or home purchases. However, due diligence is advised to ensure legal clarity and avoid potential issues. Brokers do not need a license in Costa Rica, and there have been many cases of foreigners being defrauded by making purchases without title or purchasing property without knowing the true conditions of ownership. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Have a trustworthy and, above all, reliable attorney. Ask your network for recommendations.
5. Prioritize learning basic Spanish to enhance cognitive abilities and ease daily interactions. Utilize online resources, apps for immediate translations, and practice speaking and understanding Spanish in daily activities. Engage in Spanish lessons as a family to enhance the integration process, focusing on basic vocabulary and practical phrases to navigate daily life more effectively in Costa Rica. Learning Spanish can mean the difference between success and failure here. The minimum you should learn is survival-level Spanish to handle most daily situations you will encounter.
Banking in Costa Rica
6. Check with your home bank about international money transfer processes and fees. Opening a bank account as an expat can involve substantial paperwork, with specific requirements for non-resident and resident accounts. Engaging with a state-owned bank like Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) can facilitate the process for non-residents.
7. Be cautious with ATMs in Costa Rica, as they may retain cards if not promptly removed after transactions. Only use legitimate ATMs attached to bank branches to avoid hassles with incorrect amounts being disbursed or confiscated cards.
Preparing For Residency
8. Explore the residency process before moving to Costa Rica to avoid the need for frequent visa renewals. Consult with a reputable immigration attorney and bring necessary documents and apostilles from your home country. Costa Rica offers several residency options, with the three most common visas for expats being: Pensionado (retiree program requiring a minimum monthly pension of $1,000), Rentista (requiring proof of a stable income of $2,500 per month for two years), and Inversionista (requiring a real estate investment of over $200,000).
Shipping To Costa Rica
9. Find a reliable service for receiving packages from abroad to navigate customs and delivery processes efficiently. Establish a network among friends for sharing or exchanging essentials and non-essentials. Be aware that Costa Rica does not have an efficient door-to-door mail system. Expats typically use private mail courier companies like TransExpress or AeroPost for reliable mail and package delivery.
Cooking and Food
10. Adapt to local grocery options and consider transporting non-restricted food items in luggage.
11. Adjust cooking times for higher altitudes and learn to store food items, like eggs, appropriately according to local practices (eggs, for instance, are commonly stored out of the fridge in Costa Rica because they are not washed and retain the shell’s protective layer)
12. Make efforts to befriend both locals (Ticos) and fellow expatriates to enrich the expatriate experience. Engage in activities and join groups that match your interests to foster lasting friendships.
13. Establish a Network Beforehand. Utilize online platforms to connect with expat and family groups in Costa Rica, which can provide support, advice, and potentially lead to forming friendships before the move.
14. Consider Living in an Expat Community. An expat community in Costa Rica typically includes a diverse mix of nationalities, including Costa Ricans, which can provide a comforting and supportive environment for families, especially children adapting to a new country.
Adapting to Climate and Environment
15. Adjust for the tropical climate by adopting local practices, such as hanging laundry to dry and carrying an umbrella during the rainy season. Electricity can be expensive in Costa Rica and dryers are not necessary when the sun can dry clothes in an afternoon.
16. Consider electronic devices for reading to prevent damage to books in the humid climate but be mindful that electronic devices are susceptible to the humidity. Store items away from evening dampness to avoid moisture getting into your devices.
17. Research and choose reputable private hospitals for medical needs. If you need to, find a good English-speaking doctor for your medical needs. Costa Rica is known for its high-quality and accessible public healthcare system (CCSS or CAJA), however private healthcare options are widely available and affordable and they present a good supplementation when requiring specialists. Expats need to join CAJA as part of their residency requirement
18. Familiarize yourself with the local pharmacy system, including how medications are dispensed. Pharmacists in Costa Rica are highly trained and play a more prominent role in healthcare than in some other countries. They can provide medical advice for minor ailments, recommend over-the-counter medications, and even prescribe certain medications that would require a prescription in other countries. Medications in Costa Rica may be sold under different brand names than those in your home country, or generic versions may be more widely available. It's helpful to know the generic name of any medication you need, as well as any local brand names.
19. Learn new gardening techniques suitable for the tropical environment. Not everything requires harsh solutions. For instance, to prevent leaf cutter ants from eating all your plants, wrap branches with duct tape with the adhesive side out. Leaf cutters will not cross this sticky barrier and don’t need to be exterminated to steer them away.
Cost of Living
20. While Costa Rica is among the more expensive countries in Latin America, it is still affordable compared to North America and Northern Europe, with a budget-conscious couple able to live comfortably for about $2200 a month, including rent. Understand that the cost of living can vary widely depending on lifestyle choices and location within Costa Rica. To save money, use local farmers' markets instead of relying on imported food items. A comfortable expat life can be achieved with around $3,000 per month.
21. Costa Rica is generally safe compared to its Central American neighbors, but expats should exercise common sense to avoid opportunistic theft and drug-related crimes. The country is ranked as number 1 for safety in Central America and the Caribbean according to the Global Peace Index.
Moving As A Family
22. Successful transitions to Costa Rica involve putting the needs of children first, taking into account their personality, preferences, and the various factors that will make the move as seamless and nurturing as possible. Consider the ideal timing for the move, taking into account the school calendar, extracurricular activities, and other life events, to ensure a smooth transition for the children.
23. Be cautious when driving in Costa Rica. It can be challenging due to different traffic conditions and rules. Approach it with patience and awareness to navigate safely. Adhere to speed limits, especially since roads may not always be in good condition. Exceeding 74.5 mph is a felony, and there are consequences for exceeding the speed limit by more than 25 mph. Be mindful of if the law requires booster seats or your pet to be safely contained. Familiarize yourself with the traffic rules because being a foreigner does not always get you excused and don’t assume that you can outsmart the system.
24. Call 911 for emergencies. Other emergency services are dispatched through this central number. All calls to 911 are recorded and there is always the option available to speak to an English-speaking operator.
What are some of your hot tips for living a happy life in Costa Rica? Send us a message via the form below and we will look to add it to a future list. If you have any further questions about any of these tips or anything else you may want to know about life in Costa Rica, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org