Moving to Costa Rica
What You Need to Know | 2022

So you’re finally going to take the plunge and move to Costa Rica? We’re jealous! To help make your dream a reality, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide on how to move to Costa Rica. Read on for all you’ll need to know about visa requirements, living costs, expats in Costa Rica, requesting free quotes, and pushing your sense of adventure!

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Moving to Costa Rica: How Much Does It Cost?

Let’s talk money. Like it or not, moving to Costa Rica from the US is going to cost a pretty penny. But don’t let this discourage you!

Many factors play into the cost of moving to Costa Rica, and many of them you can control. Reviewing an international moving costs guide will help you get a strong handle on what to expect. By understanding the transportation process, available packing services, and moving labor, you can decide what you’ll need and what you can skip.

Perhaps the largest factor is the size of your move (the smaller, the cheaper!), so learning to downsize is key. To get the conversation started right with your mover of choice about your moving volume, try out our moving space calculator –it’s pretty handy!

Where your move starts is just as important as where it ends, as the distance to the port of departure factors into the price. To give you a brief idea, we’ve listed price ranges for moving to Costa Rica from key US regions.

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.

Finding the Best Price When Moving to Costa Rica

The biggest variable in arranging your move to Costa Rica will be the final moving cost. Because this is impossible to predict, the best way to accurately plan your upcoming move is to compare moving quotes from trustworthy experts.

Not sure how to find these experts? No need to fret! At Sirelo, we’re happy to do the hard work for you. Just fill out the quote form below with your moving requirements, and we’ll make sure to find the perfect match for your move free of charge! 😉

Moving to Costa Rica?
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How to Move to Costa Rica: Moving to Costa Rica from the USA

How does an American move to Costa Rica? International moving often involves requirements specific to your current citizenship, and for Americans, this is no different. As you look ahead to your big move down south, don’t sweat! There’s plenty of support available for Americans moving to Costa Rica, and we’ll guide you through all the things to know before moving to Costa Rica. 🙂

Sirelo Tip! Need a general guide on what to arrange before moving to Costa Rica? We’ve got your back! Check out our moving abroad checklist for all those little devil details.

Securing a Visa

Most Americans don’t realize how awesome their passports are. As an American, you can visit most countries in the world for up to 90 days without a visa. Luckily for you, Costa Rica is on the ‘come on in!’ list. 😎

But moving to Costa Rica for only three months isn’t worth the hassle (duh!), so you’ll need to push some papers to enjoy the tropics for the long haul.

✅ Temporary Residency

Unless you’re, say, marrying into the presidential family of Costa Rica, you’ll be starting on a fixed-term residency. Depending on your situation, check out the options available:

  • Pensionado: For retirees collecting the equivalent of $1,000 in pension per month.
  • Rentista: For basically everyone else that can prove $2,500 in income per month from existing savings, foreign income, and investments (sadly, your local Costa Rican salary won’t count).
  • Inversionista: For high-rollers dropping at least $200,000 into the Costa Rican economy.
  • Digital Nomad: This one-year permit allows freelancers to work in Costa Rica. Much like the Rentista, but the income requirement is relaxed and can’t be renewed after the first year.

For the fine print, we’ll let the consulates do the talking:

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

✅ Work Permit

Securing a work permit can be considered a full-time job alone. Costa Rican work permits are notoriously difficult to come by (if not, everyone would be moving to Costa Rica then, right?) since it must be proven there wasn’t a qualified local already available in the Costa Rican job market.

For all the freelancers out there, don’t worry! This doesn’t apply to the Costa Rican digital nomad visa, so you’re free to work your many side-hustles to your heart’s content.

Sirelo Tip! Be aware that not all companies understand the permit rules. Even if a company offers you a position upon your move to Costa Rica, the government can still decline your permit request. Bummer…

✅ Permanent residency

The holy grail for any expat, permanent residency is automatically earned after three years of living in Costa Rica. Once you’re locked in you can kick back knowing all that worrying was worth it.

If you’re moving to Costa Rica through a family connection, it may be possible to apply for permanent residency from the start. Most importantly, this would automatically grant you a work permit. Cha-ching!

✅ Family Visa

For the parents out there, moving family to Costa Rica carries with it an entire extra set of considerations (as if there weren’t enough already!). First things first, if you’ve got a valid residency then your spouse and children can come along on family visas.

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll want to ensure your family has as safe and as prosperous a life as they had back home. Due diligence in researching quality education, upscale neighborhoods, and home safety measures is key.

Moving to Costa Rica with Pets

If you love your furry companion like your child (or more, we’ll understand 😉), moving to Costa Rica is out of the question if they can’t come along. How to move to Costa Rica with a pet? Luckily the process is easier than securing your own visa – phew!

All you need to make sure is that your pet has the following:

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

Sirelo Tip! For further details on moving to Costa Rica with pets, check out the following information provided by USDA.

Opening a Bank Account

To take your money when you need it, you’ll want to open a local bank account. While this is the less glamorous part of moving to Costa Rica, many banks make this easy to do (even from abroad!). Here’s what you’ll generally need:

  • DIMEX identification – to open an account before moving to Costa Rica from the US
  • Minimum deposit
  • Proof of residency
  • Additional documents (e.g.: IRS declarations)

Sirelo Tip! Exchanging your currency before you move to Costa Rica will save you a lot of headaches.

Healthcare

Looking after your health while abroad is critical, how else would you enjoy life? If ensuring that both routine and emergency medical needs are accessible is a primary concern, moving to Costa Rica from the USA will be a welcome change.

Why? Costa Rica has one of the best healthcare systems in the world (ranked in the United Nation’s top 20, yay!). And not just that, it is universal.

Every Costa Rican resident pays a small monthly fee into the system, a Caja, which makes medical care extremely affordable. How much will you pay? Well, it’s income-based, and you can use this tool to find your rate.

If you’d like to supplement this, feel free to take out an international insurance policy. You’ll be double-covered!

Finding a Job

We just have to come out and say it, don’t get your hopes up! Living in Costa Rica is one thing, getting a work permit is another.

Still, nothing is impossible! Most Americans moving to Costa Rica have the most success in the tourism and hospitality industries. Technology and education are similar hotbeds for those with highly coveted talents in the Costa Rica job market.

The average salary in Costa Rica is $500 each month, but results vary by profession (by a lot). If you’re self-employed or working remotely, local salary standards could even be irrelevant!

✅ How to Start Your Job Search as an Expat

Seeking out a recruitment agency in your area can help you get a head start. Or, put your network to work by reaching out to fellow expats in Costa Rica for leads and references.

Did You Know? 💡 Once you’ve landed your sweet gig, expect to enjoy a relaxed working atmosphere with warm, friendly colleagues. Nonetheless, Costa Ricans are more punctual and more formal than other Latin American countries (handshakes, not hugs!).

Finding a House

How can I move to Costa Rica? Many other expats have asked themselves the same question, making housing competition with other expats in Costa Rica the most difficult thing about the housing market.

Luckily, you’re legally allowed to rent even before moving to Costa Rica! This allows you to shop around once you’re there to scope out the scene. Nobody wants to buy a house sight unseen, right?

To make the process smoother (and prevent scams!), we recommend you work with a realtor specialized in servicing Americans moving to Costa Rica.

Sirelo Tip! The summer months are the tourist low season, making it easier to find short-term rental properties.

Landscape depicting a beach next to a forest in Costa Rica

Costs of Living in Costa Rica

For those with substantial savings, the cost of living in Costa Rica might be a refreshing change from American price indexes. Why? Because living in Costa Rica is generally much cheaper. Of course, this is proportional to the average salary in Costa Rica.

Below we break down the most common living costs, but keep in mind these vary per region and neighborhood!

Housing

You know by now that housing decisions play a big role in any moving situation. Is it the Pacific coast you’re dreaming of or that central San José apartment? To give you some quick insights, we’ve listed average rents and median home prices for a few of Costa Rica’s biggest destination cities:

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.

Groceries

From a richly original cuisine to succulently fresh produce, Costa Rica is land for foodies. Below we list some typical prices to help you plan your budget:

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)

What’s It Like Living in Costa Rica as an Expat?

Fun fact! Costa Rica ranks as one of the most expat-friendly countries in the world! This is because the locals are known for their friendliness to foreigners, but also because of the abundance of Americans living in Costa Rica, giving you a ‘home away from home in a thriving expat community.

Expats in Costa Rica

To get connected with other expats in Costa Rica, just get online! Besides spotting other Americans at the local market, search for social media groups and expat forums. Learn the tips & tricks from other Americans moving to Costa Rica and build a support system as you get settled (you won’t regret it!).

Do I Still Have to Pay US Taxes?

Yes, the United States is one of the only countries to apply global taxation. Even if you’re living in Costa Rica, Uncle Sam gets his cut.

If you’re (one of the lucky ones 😉) working at Costa Rican company, you might be subject to Costa Rican taxes too. But foreign-earned income (we’re looking at you, digital nomads) is tax-free!

Things to Do in Costa Rica

As if we haven’t stressed this enough, living in Costa Rica will definitely be an adventure. To keep exploring the country’s diverse terrains, nightlife, and food scene, we put together a price list of cool things to do when moving to Costa Rica so you can stay within your budget.

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)

Sirelo Tip! 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: Did You Know…?

  • Costa Rica is the second largest exporter of bananas in the world a 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.

Now You Should Be All Set to Move to Costa Rica!

We hope that by now you feel more than ready to take off and embrace that pura vida while living in Costa Rica! Should you still need help with the moving to Costa Rica process, we’ve still got your back. We recommend checking out the pages linked below. Good luck! ☘