Embracing a new life in a foreign land can be both exhilarating and challenging. Your Guide on How to Live in Costa Rica as an Expat is here to ease that transition. From understanding local customs to navigating daily life, this guide offers invaluable insights to help you seamlessly integrate and enjoy the ‘pura vida’ lifestyle that Costa Rica famously offers.

Moving to a foreign country can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. This section will guide you through the process of living in Costa Rica as an expat, covering everything from residency requirements to the cost of living.

Key Takeaways

  • Living in Costa Rica as an expat offers a unique opportunity to experience a new culture and explore a breathtaking landscape.
  • Moving to a foreign country can be daunting, but understanding the benefits and challenges is essential to making an informed decision.
  • Factors to consider when living in Costa Rica include residency requirements, cost of living, healthcare, and job prospects.

Costa Rica Residency Requirements

For those who wish to stay in Costa Rica long-term, obtaining residency is a crucial step. There are several types of residency available, with varying requirements and benefits.

The first step in the process is to enter the country on either a tourist visa or a visa waiver. These allow for stays of up to 90 days, with the option to renew for an additional 90 days. However, after six months in the country, foreign nationals will need to leave and re-enter to renew their visa.

For those who wish to stay longer without having to leave the country, there are several residency options. The most popular is the pensionado visa, which is available to those over 55 with a guaranteed monthly income of at least $1,000. This visa allows for permanent residency and offers a range of benefits, including discounts on healthcare and transportation.

Another option is the rentista visa, which is granted to those who can prove a monthly income of at least $2,500 for two years or who can invest $60,000 in a Costa Rican business. This visa also offers permanent residency and allows for the individual to work for their own company or invest in local businesses.

Other residency options include the inversionista visa, which requires a minimum investment of $150,000 in a Costa Rican business, and the trabajo visa, which is granted to those who have a job offer from a company in Costa Rica.

Regardless of the type of residency, the application process can be lengthy and complex. Applicants will need to provide a range of documents, including police clearances and proof of income or investment, and may need to attend several interviews with immigration officials.

Overall, obtaining residency in Costa Rica is an achievable goal for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to meet the requirements. Once granted, it offers a range of benefits and the opportunity to truly make Costa Rica your home.

Costa Rica Residency Requirements

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its affordability, making it an attractive destination for expats seeking a lower cost of living without sacrificing their quality of life. In general, the cost of living in Costa Rica is lower than in the US and Europe, but this can vary depending on the location and lifestyle.

The biggest expense for expats in Costa Rica is housing. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose can range from $400 to $800 per month, while a similar apartment in a smaller town may only cost around $200 to $400 per month. It is important to note that some areas, such as popular expat destinations like Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio, may have higher rental prices due to their popularity.

Expense Cost
One-bedroom apartment rent (city center) $400-$800
One-bedroom apartment rent (outside city center) $200-$400
Utilities (electricity, water, gas, internet) $100-$150
Groceries (per month for two people) $300-$500
Dining out (per meal) $5-$15
Transportation (monthly bus pass) $20-$50

Other expenses to consider when budgeting for life in Costa Rica include healthcare, transportation, groceries, and leisure activities. Healthcare costs are significantly lower than in the US, with many expats choosing to pay out of pocket for medical services. Public transportation is affordable and reliable, with bus fares ranging from $0.50 to $2.00 depending on the distance. Grocery prices are also generally lower than in the US, with fresh produce and locally sourced products readily available.

It is important to note that the cost of living in Costa Rica may be higher for expats who have certain lifestyle preferences, such as eating at high-end restaurants or living in luxury accommodations. Nevertheless, expats can live comfortably on a budget by embracing the Costa Rican lifestyle and taking advantage of the country’s natural attractions and cultural offerings.

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes and vibrant communities in the world. Whether you are seeking a laid-back beach lifestyle, a bustling city vibe, or a quiet mountain retreat, Costa Rica has something to offer for every taste and preference. Here are some of the best places to live in Costa Rica for expats:


Tamarindo is a popular destination for expats seeking a relaxed beach lifestyle. With its stunning coastline, world-class surfing, and diverse range of restaurants and shops, Tamarindo is the perfect place to soak up the sun and enjoy the Pura Vida way of life. The town is also home to a growing expat community, making it easy to connect and build friendships with like-minded individuals.

San Jose

San Jose is the bustling capital city of Costa Rica and a hub for business, culture, and entertainment. With its lively nightlife, top-notch restaurants, and endless shopping opportunities, San Jose is the perfect place for expats who want to immerse themselves in the urban lifestyle. The city is also home to some of the best healthcare facilities in the country, making it an ideal location for retirees or those seeking medical treatment.


Arenal is a picturesque town nestled at the base of the Arenal Volcano and surrounded by lush rainforests and natural hot springs. For expats who love outdoor adventures and eco-tourism, Arenal is a dream come true. The town offers a range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, and zip-lining, as well as some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world.

Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is a small beach town located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is home to one of the most beautiful national parks in the country, boasting stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and an abundance of wildlife. The town offers a range of activities, such as snorkeling, surfing, and kayaking. It is also known for its excellent restaurants and vibrant nightlife.

No matter which part of Costa Rica you choose to call home, one thing is for certain: you will be surrounded by natural beauty, a warm and welcoming community, and the relaxed, carefree lifestyle that makes Costa Rica so special.

Working in Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers a variety of job opportunities for expats, particularly in the fields of technology, tourism, and education. However, it is important to note that the job market can be competitive, and fluency in Spanish is often a requirement for many positions.

Expats interested in working in Costa Rica must obtain a work permit, which can be a complex and time-consuming process. It is recommended to begin the application process as early as possible and to work with a local lawyer or immigration specialist to ensure all requirements are met.

Entrepreneurship is a popular option for expats in Costa Rica, as the country has a growing startup culture and a supportive business environment. Starting a business does require additional paperwork and permits, but the process is relatively straightforward.

The work culture in Costa Rica is generally laid-back and friendly, with a focus on work-life balance. It is common to take breaks throughout the day for coffee or socializing, and work hours are typically from 8 am to 5 pm with a one-hour lunch break.

For expats in Costa Rica, working remotely is also a viable option. Many companies offer remote work opportunities, and the country’s reliable internet and beautiful natural surroundings make it an ideal location for digital nomads.

Looking for work in Costa Rica? Don’t forget to brush up on your Spanish and start the work permit process early for the best chance at success.

working in Costa Rica

Healthcare and Retirement in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its excellent healthcare system, with a focus on preventive care and holistic medicine. Expats can take advantage of public and private healthcare facilities, which offer high-quality medical services at a fraction of the cost in the United States.

Private health insurance is available in Costa Rica, with policies designed specifically for expats. These policies typically cover a wide range of medical services, including emergency care, hospitalization, and specialty treatments. The cost of health insurance in Costa Rica is significantly lower than in the United States, making it an attractive option for retirees and those seeking affordable healthcare.

Medical Services Cost in Costa Rica Cost in the United States
Doctor’s Appointment $60 (private) $150 (private)
MRI Scan $200-$400 $2,000-$4,000
Hip Replacement Surgery $12,000 (private) $30,000 (private)

Retiring in Costa Rica is becoming increasingly popular among Americans, with its tropical climate and low cost of living. The government of Costa Rica offers a pensionado program, which allows retirees to qualify for discounts on a range of services, including healthcare, transportation, and entertainment.

Moreover, Costa Rica has numerous retirement communities and assisted living facilities designed for seniors. These communities offer a variety of amenities, including fitness centers, swimming pools, and social activities, providing retirees with a fulfilling and active lifestyle.

With its exceptional healthcare system and retirement options, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for those seeking a comfortable and affordable retirement.

healthcare in Costa Rica, retirement in Costa Rica


Living in Costa Rica as an expat can be a truly enriching experience, with its beautiful landscapes, welcoming people, and laid-back lifestyle. However, it is not without its challenges, such as navigating the residency process and adjusting to a new culture.

As discussed in this article, expats can find a variety of options for residency in Costa Rica, ranging from the Pensionado program to investment residency. The cost of living can also vary widely depending on the region, but with some budgeting and financial planning, it is possible to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without breaking the bank.

When considering where to live in the country, expats can choose from a diverse range of locations and communities, each with its unique flavor and attractions. From bustling urban areas to sleepy beach towns, Costa Rica has something to offer everyone.

Working in Costa Rica can present some challenges, but with a bit of research and determination, expats can find fulfilling career opportunities in various industries. Additionally, the country’s healthcare system offers quality care at affordable prices, making it an excellent option for retirees.

Embrace the Pura Vida Lifestyle

As you embark on your journey as an expat in Costa Rica, remember to embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle, which embodies a joyful, relaxed approach to life. Whether you spend your days surfing, hiking, or simply sipping coffee with friends, the beauty of this country and its people are sure to delight and inspire you.

If you’re considering making the move to Costa Rica, we hope this guide has provided you with useful information and insights to help you navigate the transition. To learn more about life in this beautiful country, be sure to explore additional resources and connect with other expats in the community.

-Article by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


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Q: What are the residency requirements for expats in Costa Rica?

A: The residency requirements in Costa Rica vary depending on the type of residency you are seeking. Generally, you will need to provide certain documents, such as a valid passport, proof of income, and a clean criminal record. It is recommended to consult with an immigration lawyer to ensure you meet all the necessary requirements.

Q: How much does it cost to live in Costa Rica?

A: The cost of living in Costa Rica can vary depending on your lifestyle and location. Generally, it is considered more affordable compared to many other countries. Housing, transportation, and healthcare are often the major expenses to consider. It is recommended to create a budget and research the cost of living in the specific area you plan to reside in.

Q: What are some of the best places to live in Costa Rica for expats?

A: There are several popular destinations for expats in Costa Rica. Some of the best places to live include San Jose, Tamarindo, Arenal, and Manuel Antonio. These areas offer a variety of amenities, safety, and a high quality of life. It is important to research each location to find one that suits your preferences and needs.

Q: Are there job opportunities for expats in Costa Rica?

A: There are job opportunities available for expats in Costa Rica, although it can be competitive. It is recommended to have a strong command of the Spanish language, as it is often a requirement for many jobs. Additionally, industries such as tourism, technology, and English teaching tend to offer more employment prospects for expats.

Q: What is the quality of healthcare like in Costa Rica?

A: Costa Rica has a well-developed healthcare system and is known for providing quality medical services. Both private and public healthcare options are available, with private healthcare often being preferred by expats. It is advisable to obtain health insurance to cover any medical expenses and research healthcare facilities in your desired area.

Q: Is retirement in Costa Rica a popular option for expats?

A: Yes, retirement in Costa Rica is a popular choice for many expats. The country offers a peaceful and relaxed lifestyle, beautiful natural surroundings, and a lower cost of living compared to many Western countries. Costa Rica’s pensionado program also provides benefits and incentives for retirees, making it an attractive option for those looking to enjoy their golden years in paradise.



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