Moving to Costa Rica
What You Need to Know | 2021

Has the idea of living in one of the happiest countries in the world left you daydreaming about moving to Costa Rica? If yes, you’ve stumbled upon the right page. To help you make your dream a reality, we’ve compiled all the information you might need to prepare yourself for a move to Costa Rica below. Read on if you’re ready to take the first step on this moving adventure!

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Are you a music lover?: Costa Rica has a rich music history, everything from salsa to contemporary rock –they have it. So, to get yourself in the mood, why not give the playlist below a play? ¡Pura vida! 😉

Listen to our Spotify playlist
and get ready to move!

Listen to our Spotify playlist
and get ready to move!

Moving to Costa Rica: How Much Does It Cost?

Let’s talk money. Whether we like it or not, moving to Costa Rica from the US is definitely something that will cost you a pretty penny. But, don’t let this discourage you!

Keep in mind that there’s a few things which you have control over, such as the size of your move (the smaller the cheaper!), that will allow you to lower your costs a bit. Remember that enjoying the wonders of Costa Rica will be your ultimate reward, so the investment will definitely be worth it!

Because we know this might sound a bit vague, we briefly summarized in the tables below the average costs of a move to Costa Rica via sea-freight from both the East and West Coast of the United States.

Moving to Costa Rica from the East Coast

Property SizeEstimated TimeAverage Cost
1-bedroom5 – 9 weeks$2,400 – $3,900
2-bedroom3 – 5 weeks$3,100 – $5,200
3-bedroom3 – 5 weeks$5,200 – $8,600
4-bedroom3 – 5 weeks$5,800 – $9,400

Moving to Costa Rica from the West Coast

Property SizeEstimated TimeAverage Cost
1-bedroom6 – 10 weeks$2,600 – $4,400
2-bedroom3 – 6 weeks$3,500 – $5,800
3-bedroom3 – 6 weeks$6,000 – $9,900
4-bedroom3 – 6 weeks$6,500 – $10,700

Disclaimer: the rates shown above are just mere estimates. Your moving costs will vary depending on your actual point of departure, the size of your move and the service rates of the company.

Overall, one of the most complicated things to estimate during a move are the total costs. Ultimately, the only way you will be able to know for certain how much your move to Costa Rica will cost is by requesting moving quotes.

Moving to Costa Rica?
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Sirelo Tip! If you’re looking to cut down your costs of moving to Costa Rica, the easiest way is to reduce the total volume of your move. Don’t be afraid of a little downsizing, it’d be worth it!

How to Move to Costa Rica: Checklist

If there’s one thing we’re certain about is that moving is probably one of the biggest challenges your memory will take on. Remembering everything that needs to be done prior, during and after a move to the T requires some serious skill. And although we believe you’re probably one of the gifted ones, we would love to give you an extra hand with the infographic below.

Infographic with the main steps you should not miss when moving to Costa Rica

If you’re interested in a more detailed checklist, we got your back! Check out our moving abroad checklist, it covers every little detail you might need to remember.

Requirements to Move to Costa Rica: Visas & Residencies

As much as moving brings along heaps of exciting adventures, it unfortunately also brings along tedious processes –visa and residency requests being two of such. As any country does, Costa Rica offers a variety of visas and permits you can apply for depending on your situation.

Unlike other countries, however, Costa Rica has quite a complex process for visas and residencies. It’s a lot of information, but since our goal is to make your life easier, we summarized the most relevant details of these processes in the subsections below.

Work Permit

The Costa Rican government places huge value on its own national workforce, because of this the process of obtaining a work permit is complicated for foreigners. The easiest (but not so easy) way to get around this is by first applying for a permanent residency, which will allow you to legally work in the country during your stay.

If you decide to take the plunge and apply for just a work permit, you must first find an employer who is willing to hire you. After such, you will need to submit the following documents (which are a lot, so brace yourself) to the immigration office in Costa Rica:

  • Application form (obtained at “Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería“);
  • Letter of application;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Two passport sized-photos;
  • Criminal record of your home country;
  • Notarized copies of every page in your passport;
  • Statement from your employer, describing the details of your job and your salary;
  • Proof that the company employing you is registered and that worker insurance has been paid for;
  • Proof of sufficient financial means;
  • Payment of $1.25 and $2.50 for each page that is presented with the work permit request.

It’s important that you keep in mind as well that all the documents you provide to the immigrations office must be officially translated into Spanish.

Depiction of a church surrounded by yellow flowers and trees in Costa Rica

Temporary & Permanent Residencies

If applying for a work permit seems like too much of a hassle, you can always just hold out until you become a true Tico (and start implementing that pura vida way of living 😉 ). To do such, you will need to obtain a permanent residency in the country.

The tricky part about this is, however, that you can only become a permanent resident in Costa Rica if you have Costa Rican blood relatives or if you have been living in the country under a temporary residency for at least three years.

The requirements to obtain either a temporary or a permanent residency are very similar to those to obtain a work permit. For further details, we recommend that you check out:

Family Visa

Good news! If you’re able to secure a work permit in Costa Rica you won’t have to be all by your lonesome –your family can come along. Family members who will be legally allowed to reside in the country alongside you include:

  • Spouse;
  • Children (must be under the age of 18);
  • Children of any age with a disability.

Banking & Taxes in Costa Rica: Everything You Need to Know

To keep up with the not-so-fun theme, taxes are unfortunately something you can’t escape from no matter where you move to in the world (not legally, anyway). To start off, it’s important that you’re aware that your income will still subject to U.S. income tax regardless of where you reside. So it’s important that you carefully check what the tax implications are when moving abroad.

It’s very likely that once you move to Costa Rica you will be required to open a bank account. As you might expect, the requirements will vary depending on the bank you end up choosing, but generally the requirements include:

  • DIMEX identification –it’s also possible for you to open an account before moving to Costa Rica from the US, but the requirements will vary per bank;
  • Minimum deposit –varies per account type;
  • Proof of residency;
  • Additional documents (e.g.: IRS declarations) –varies per bank.

Tip!: Exchanging your currency a few weeks before your move to Costa Rica (or immediately after you arrive) will save you a lot of headaches.

Healthcare in Costa Rica

It’s only normal if healthcare is one of your main concerns when considering to move abroad. We know that having to deal with medical circumstances in your own country is usually not so fun, so having to deal with them in a completely different country cannot be any better.

However, something that might help alleviate this concern is the fact that Costa Rica is actually one of the countries with the best public health systems in the world (ranked among the top 20 by the United Nations, yay!).

Currently, Costa Rica works under a universal healthcare system. Every Costa Rican resident pays a monthly fee to the Caja, which allows them to enjoy of healthcare for a very low price. The premium you would have to pay monthly will depend on your income –to find out what this amount would be you can use the following tool. It’s of course also possible for you to take out a private health insurance in Costa Rica.

If you feel more comfortable, you can also take out an international health insurance in the United States. With such, you’ll enjoy a coverage for medical emergencies and routine healthcare work.

Moving to Costa Rica with Pets

As you probably would rather not move at all if it meant you would have to leave your furry friend behind (we totally get it, they’re family too!), it’s important that you’re aware of what are the pet entry requirements in Costa Rica. Luckily, the requirements are not as extensive as the visa and residency requirements —phew. All you need to make sure is that your pet has the following:

  • A pet passport;
  • Health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian and endorsed by a:
    •  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA);
    • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS);
    • Veterinary Services (VS) veterinarian.
  • Vaccinations against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and rabies (must be applied at least one month before entering Costa Rica).

Sirelo Tip! For further details on exactly what your pet will need to enter Costa Rica without any problems, check out the following information provided by USDA.

Costs of Living in Costa Rica

We hope that you’re already feeling ready to pack everything, get on a plane and start a new adventure in Costa Rica! But, before you do such, it’s extremely important that you’re first well informed about the living costs in the country.

Generally speaking, living in Costa Rica is less expensive than living in the US. Of course, this is proportionate to the average salary in the country which is roughly around ₡443,073 (≈ $750). We can imagine that this can sound a bit vague, so to give you a better an idea of what you can expect, we’ve broken down the most common living costs in Costa Rica in the subsections below.

Housing

As you might expect, the largest part of your living expenses will be related to housing. The silver lining to this is that at least whether it’s in a house by the Pacific Coast or in an apartment in the city of San José, you’ll definitely be in for a treat in terms when it comes to views in Costa Rica.

We can imagine that you might still be unsure whether to rent or buy a property, and we know that having a rough idea of what to expect in terms of pricing might help you with your choice. Because of this, we’ve summarized both the average rent and median home values for different cities across the country in the table below.

CityAverage RentMedian Home Value (per square feet)
San José₡532,409 (≈ $901.59)₡97,815 (≈ $165.64)
Alajuela₡450,000 (≈ $762.04)₡42,735 (≈ $72.37)
Puntarenas₡485,000 (≈ $821.30)₡46,451 (≈ $78.66)
Heredia₡390,000 (≈ $660.43)₡80,695 (≈ $136.65)

Disclaimer: the prices shown above are just estimates. These prices will vary depending on the property size and the neighborhood of your choice.

Landscape depicting a beach next to a forest in Costa Rica

Food & Groceries

If you’re anything like us (aka, major foodies), you’re probably very excited to explore the Costa Rican gastronomy. Of course, you can dwell into the wonders of the Costa Rican cuisine by trying out the many restaurants that clutter the country’s cities. But, you can also simply take advantage of the country’s main produce (gotta love their tropical fruits!) and incorporate some of that Costa Rican flavor into your home-cooked meals.

Regardless of how you choose to experience the country’s wonderful flavors, it’s important that you’re of the average cost of food and groceries –this will help you budget accordingly!

Food & GroceriesAverage Cost
Loaf of fresh bread₡872 (≈ $1.48)
1 lb. of chicken filet₡1,733 (≈ $3)
1 lb. of beef round₡2,278 (≈ $3.86)
A carton of 12 large eggs₡1,579 (≈ $2.70)
1 lb. of oranges₡608 (≈ $1.03)
1 lb. of rice₡509 (≈ $0.86)
1 lb. of potatoes₡535 (≈ $0.91)
Three-course dinner for two₡25,000 (≈ $42.34)
Cappuccino₡1,575 (≈ $2.67)

If cooking is one of your passions, we recommend that you try recreating the following popular Costa Rican dishes:

  • Gallo pinto;
  • Casado;
  • Arroz con leche;
  • Chifrijo;
  • Olla de carne.

Things to Do

As if we haven’t stressed this enough, moving to Costa Rica will definitely be an adventure. If exploring the country’s diverse terrains isn’t enough, its nightlife and food scene will definitely keep you on your toes. To help you picture your life after making the big move, we put together a list of cool things you can do in the state and their respective costs.

ActivityAverage Cost
Three-museum pass (Museo de Jade, Nacional & Precolombino)₡19,487 (≈ $33)
Two tickets to the movies₡6,498 (≈ $11)
Two tickets to the theater₡23,179 (≈ $39.25)
Ticket to Lankester Botanical Garden₡8,202 (≈ $13.89)
Monthly gym membership₡40,692 (≈ $68.91)
Cocktail at downtown bar₡4,188 (≈ $7.09)

If you love the outdoors, you will be pleased to know that more than 25% of Costa Rica’s land is dedicated to national parks, reserves and wildlife refuges. We recommend exploring the following popular destinations:

  • Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio;
  • Parque Nacional Tortuguero;
  • Irazú Volcano;
  • Playa Del Coco;
  • Catarata del Toro;
  • Isla Tortuga.

Moving to Costa Rica: Depiction of a volcano surrounded by trees and clouds

Did You Know…?

  • Costa Rica is the second largest exporter of bananas in the world —great chance to improve your banana bread baking skills!;
  • Costa Rica is home to more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity;
  • Ice cream flavors in Costa Rica can sometimes be a bit unusual to say the least, you can expect to find flavors such as goat cheese and chipotle blueberry —definitely cannot say that Ticos don’t think outside of the box;
  • Isla de Coco, the most remote area in Costa Rica, can be seen in the opening moments of one of Steven Spielberg’s most famous films, Jurassic Park.

We hope that after reading this article you feel more than ready to pack everything and embrace that pura vida way of living in Costa Rica! If you still feel like you might need some extra help, we got your back. We recommend checking out the pages we have linked below for you. Good luck! ☘