If you’re considering moving to Costa Rica, then I’m guessing you’re already a little overwhelmed. Where and how are you supposed to even get started? The task ahead feels gargantuan.
What you’re feeling is normal. Any life change can be overwhelming, especially when it’s potentially as big as moving to a new country, speaking a new language, learning new customs, and generally making a life somewhere that, at least right now, is unfamiliar.
You’re in the right place. This post will help you plot your path, little by little and step by step. Before you know it, you may find yourself boarding the plane and really, truly moving to Costa Rica! So, let’s get started!
Step #1: Visit! (If You Can)
I know this is a tall order, but if you can, I’d highly recommend you visit Costa Rica before seriously considering a move.
The truth is that Costa Rica is as wonderful as everything you see in the photos and read online. But that doesn’t mean it’s your kind of wonderful.
For example, a tropical climate, year-round warm weather, and seasons that differ only in how wet/dry they are may sound like paradise. In person, you may realize that you’d miss the changing seasons or that you can’t bring yourself to coexist with all the tropical creatures that flourish in year-round warmth.
An in-person visit can also help you narrow down where, specifically, you’d like to live. By way of example, I could tell you that the major difference between living in Tamarindo and Playa Langosta is a bit like the difference between living in the city vs. the suburb (albeit a suburb just 1 kilometer outside the city). But, you can’t get a true feel for which is right for you without putting eyes on both, motoring around, and getting your feet on the ground.
So, if at all possible, visit Costa Rica! And reschedule a second visit for mid-way through your research (say, around Step 3/Step 4, below)!
Step #2: Initial Research
This is the information stage. And, thanks to the internet, there is a veritable ton of information out there.
First things first: Know that not all information is credible.
There are many outdated websites and blogs. For example, there are international life websites that want to sell you a pricey conference or a tour. There are even well-intentioned people on online forums and Facebook groups, who parrot what they have heard/researched, even though they have never lived in Costa Rica.
So, before you do your research, do your research on your research. Here are a few tips:
- Look to On-the-Ground Info: You’ll get the best, most reliable, and most first-hand information from someone who lives here. If possible, prioritize information from individuals who live where you want to live.
- Stay Current: Notice how my last two sentences were stated in the present tense? That’s because current info is incredibly important, not only on a national level (ex. Costa Rica’s residency and related laws are ever-changing) but on a hyper-local level. For example, that road that everyone complains about may now be paved and that neighborhood that has notoriously bad internet (at least, on blogs and forums) just had fiber-optic cables installed this year!
- Don’t Be Afraid of the Professionals: Residency attorneys, relocation experts, real estate agents, and other professionals – anyone who has a so-called vested interest in people moving to Costa Rica – are often seen as being in this only for their own gain. And, while they certainly have a job to do, they’re often the best at offering this type of advice because it is their job. Bottom line: There are a lot of good people behind the high-quality free information you find! But remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
- Seek the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Speaking of too good to be true, if I’m going to make one sweeping statement, it’s this: Don’t trust any source that is all (or even vastly) positive. Every place in the world, Costa Rica included, has its downsides. So, don’t believe anyone who shines a light on the good while refusing to tell you about the bad and the ugly.
Step 3: Hone Your Research
Once you have the initial bits under your belt – ex. the types of Costa Rican residency and the cost of living in Costa Rica – now it’s time to dive into the topics important to you, when you’re moving to Costa Rica.
I recommend starting with location. Here’s why: Costa Rica is a small country but its infrastructure isn’t made for quick commutes. So, for example, if you need to be within 30 minutes of a major hospital or private school, then your location options are limited. Because here, 30 minutes is not the same as 30 miles. (It’s more like 2 miles, in some locations!)
So, begin by mapping your must-have list to any locations you’re considering. And by this, I do mean must-haves. (Would-like-to-haves filter into the next step.) Because, even keeping it to the must-have list, you’ll likely narrow down significantly your potential destinations.
From there, start doing in-depth research on specific locations. And by specific, I don’t mean “Guanacaste.” I don’t even mean “the Tamarindo area.” I mean 1) Tamarindo; 2) Playa Langosta; 3) Potrero; and 4) Hacienda Pinilla, all as distinct locations to research. Sure, according to the map, they’re only 20 miles apart, but your experience – access to specific services, amenities, etc. – in Potrero vs. Hacienda Pinilla will be quite different.
Do this honing with every, single aspect on your must-have list, and for every, single location you’re considering. Several possibilities will likely be immediately ruled out, while others will self-exclude as you learn more. Whatever contenders make it through to your final round of possibilities, should then be submitted to the same scrutiny, based on your would-like-to-have list.
When you finally have a list of locations that meet both your must-have and would-like-to-have lists, then you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step 4: Start Asking Personalized Questions
At this point in your moving to Costa Rica journey and research process, you’ve likely connected with a few websites, experts, and people who you trust and get along with.
Now’s the time to start picking their brains.
Ask the ultra-personal questions. Are there any pediatricians that embrace and support your specific parenting style? Don’t shy away from the nitty-gritty. Just how walkable is a beach town, if its sidewalks are nil and it reaches 90º during the day? And be realistic about your expectations. Can I find my must-have ocean-view home with X, Y, and Z amenities, within my rental or purchase budget?
I assure you – there are people to answer these questions in detail. (I’m one of them!)
Note that you may have to direct each new question to a new answerer. And that’s ok! The key here is to direct each question or concern to the person or people who are best qualified to answer it. When looking for that pediatrician, ask a parenting/school group in the area. When wondering about walking in the heat, talk to a resident of the town in question. And when concerned about your housing budget, ask a local real estate agent.
Always direct your personal questions to the right expert, and you’ll be much better prepared to make a decision about moving to Costa Rica.
Step 5: Visit Again!
If you haven’t already visited again during this research and planning process, now is the time! (Especially if it’s the rainy season. Always visit during the rainy season, if you can!)
Immediately, you’ll notice that your second visit is much different from the first. To start, you’re not so wide-eyed and filled with awe. Instead, you’re considering Costa Rica through more refined and critical eyes. You know why you’re here and you’re not going to settle for less. Good on you!
This second visit is incredibly useful in dialing in on even more specific locations. For example, if you arrive with five towns on your shortlist for consideration, you’ll probably leave Costa Rica with just two or three. Because being here, in person, is a completely different ballgame from looking at photos and researching online!
I highly recommend renting a car (unless you never intend to buy a car here and then, even still… a rental car will be helpful!). This will give you the freedom to explore and freewheel as you please, while also getting a feel for what it’s like to live in and through the day-to-day of all your various locations.
Step 6: Consider Working with a Relocation Professional
Moving to Costa Rica is the dream of many but the reality of only a lucky few. A relocation professional can make your success more likely.
So, talk to us. Learn who you can trust. Discover who makes you feel comfortable. See whose skill sets best align with your needs and priorities.
And with that, I’ll introduce myself. Hi, I’m Rebecca Clower. (My friends call me Becky.) In 2006, I did what you’re preparing to do: I followed my heart and moved to Costa Rica.
Over the years, I’ve set down roots here. I’ve given birth to my two boys and raised them here in Costa Rica. I’ve founded a wildly successful business. I’ve been on TV. I’ve given back to my community. I’ve taken on major positions of responsibility and authority.
In other words, I’ve made Costa Rica my home. Not my sometimes-home or my home-away-from-home or even my second home, but my only home. I am a dual citizen and have completely integrated into Costa Rica and my community. This is it for me. I’ve made my transition.
Along the way, I’ve become an expert on Costa Rica relocation. And so, for years, I’ve made it my job to help other people make their own successful transitions to Costa Rica life and living. I offer real, honest advice and expertise to my clients. I promise not to sugar-coat the hard truths or gloss over the tough parts. I will tell you the whole truth, the full truth, and even the hard truths.
I hope that you’ll find the beautiful truths to outweigh them all. So, sign up for updates, download my free eBook, check out my relocation services, and feel free to get in touch. Let’s get started!