Sunday 10 December 2023

What You Need to Know Before Moving to Costa Rica

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Costa Rica promises gorgeous beaches, a friendly culture, and a relatively low cost of living to prospective relocators. As long as you do your research and come armed with the region’s knowledge, you can easily live the Pura Vida lifestyle Costa Rica promises.

Understanding the moving to-dos involved

Moving is typically complicated enough, but moving to a different country is in a league of its own. Before you hop on a flight, you’ll have a long checklist of moving must-haves to check. The first entry on your list should be your travel documents, such as your passport and other identification. Aside from safely storing all the originals, make sure to upload copies of them onto your mobile devices. The last thing you need is to start your new life in Costa Rica with a lost or stolen identity.

Another important consideration is that many people don’t own vehicles in Costa Rica. That’s because the maintenance and import costs are steep, and gas will run you about $5 per gallon.

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However, if a set of wheels is a must-have for you, it’s still possible to use car transport services to ship your car and avoid the expense of buying a new one. You’ll also be happy to know there are no import taxes for electric vehicles, which can be an incentive to go green in your new home.

Lastly, you can also use your country’s driver’s license for your first six months in Costa Rica, but after that, you’ll need to apply for a new one.

Cost of living

The cost of living can be meager in Costa Rica compared to the U.S. and Europe, especially if you shop locally and forgo luxuries or imports.

Here are some average monthly costs for a single adult in Costa Rica:

  • One-bedroom apartment: $475
  • Cell phone: $34
  • Utilities: $40-$50 without AC or $100-$200 with AC
  • Food for one person: $502 to eat at home or $603 in restaurants

Most single expats can expect to live comfortably on $1000-$1700 a month, meaning this country is especially appealing to traveling workers like digital nomads.


Costa Rica has a universal healthcare system called Caja that offers 100% coverage of medical procedures and drugs. Citizens, residents, and visitors pay into the system based on their income.

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For those not enrolled in Caja or using non-Caja hospitals and doctors, it’s necessary to pay upfront. Medical tourism is on the rise in Costa Rica because out-of-country patients can receive medical services for 30%-70% of what they would pay in the United States.


There are four types of visas that people typically use when they move to Costa Rica:

  • Tourist (indefinite for Group One Country members)
  • Retiree
  • Rentier (living on property or investment income)
  • Investor

Costa Rica recently enacted new tax incentives and simpler immigration processes to attract more retirees, rentiers, and investors to become permanent residents.


It’s critical to know that residency (ie temporary residency) doesn’t automatically allow you to work for a Costa Rican company. Fortunately, there are no restrictions on making money with your foreign company, and it’s easy to apply for a work permit through a local company.

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Residents only pay 1%-25% of their income in taxes, and non-residents pay a flat tax of 10%, 15%, or 25%, depending on income type.

Costa Rica also entices many remote workers and freelancers to live and work in paradise since they don’t have to pay Costa Rican income taxes if they work for a foreign company.

Cultural mindset

“Pura vida” or “pure life” is the motto you will hear over and over in Costa Rica. You’ll learn to enjoy life and be more carefree after adopting Costa Rica as your new home.

Costa Ricans are notoriously friendly and relaxed. You will find that their relaxed lifestyle permeates every aspect of daily life. That means that you should expect start times to be flexible and service to be slow.

If you’re used to living in a New York minute, your time in Costa Rica will be the perfect opportunity to slow down and smell the roses.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re a long-term tourist, remote worker, a new business owner, or retiree, immigrating to Costa Rica could be the lifestyle change you’re looking for. Good luck, and don’t forget to brush up on your Spanish.


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Carter Maddox
Carter Maddox
Carter is self-described as thirty-three-and-a-half years old and his thirty-three-and-a-half years birthday is always on March 3. Carter characteristically avoids pronouns, referring to himself in the third person (e.g. "Carter has a question" rather than, "I have a question"). One day [in 1984], Carter, raised himself up and from that day forward we could all read what Carter writes.

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