Travelling to Costa Rica on a vacation is quite different from moving to the country as an expat, so don’t form your expectations based on your Costa Rican beach holiday! Moving to a new country always presents its fair share of challenges and Costa Rica is no exception. There are various aspects of life and services that will affect your move, so it’s important that you give all of them due consideration before you actually relocate. Whether you are pondering a move to Costa Rica or already have your bags packed, take some time to learn about the differences not just in culture, but also in the standard of living, quality of essential services, cost of living, public transport and so on.Here are some things that you should consider before making the move to Costa Rica:
Patience is a virtue that you had best cultivate fast. Costa Ricans or Ticos, as they are called, are extremely amiable, fun loving and relaxed, so it’s not hard to get along with locals. Unfortunately, they are so easy going to the point of being laid back, or at least it would appear that way to anyone moving from a fast paced city where efficiency is emphasized. The relaxed and easy going nature of Ticos pervades every area of life and this can be infuriating to those used to strict timelines and fast service. Try to be more flexible with your schedule when you are in Costa Rica and learn to be accepting of the slower pace of life.
Cost of Living
Anyone trying to sell you on the move to Costa Rica will simply say that life in the country is pretty cheap. This however is an oversimplification, as Costa Rica could be cheaper or a lot more expensive than where you presently live, depending on the kind of lifestyle you envision. Expats who wish to preserve their way of life without any changes will be in for quite a shock when they find that Costa Rica is not as affordable as they hoped it would be. Don’t expect to have all of the same commodities you had back home, or a big gas-guzzling car and air conditioning. There are always affordable alternatives if you make an effort to adjust. Public transport in Costa Rica, for example, is extremely cheap, so don’t use a private vehicle and waste fuel unless necessary. Likewise, don’t expect to buy the latest gadgets no matter how unessential they are, as the duty on imported good is quite steep, especially with regard to electronics.
Costa Rica’s taxation system has a lot of perks to offer, but there is a downside to it as well. How it affects you will again depend on your lifestyle choices. Taxes in Costa Rica are fairly low, and anyone living in Costa Rica does not have to pay taxes on revenue earned overseas. This makes it extremely attractive to anyone running their own business remotely or to professionals engaged in freelance work. Taxes on imports and the value added tax can be quite high however, so you need to be prepared to make adjustments to your consumption patterns. Automobiles are also extremely expensive because of taxes that can go almost as high as 80 percent! Electric vehicles are exempt from such taxes however, so it’s not that there are no alternatives.
High import taxes, the cost of vehicle maintenance, and gas prices can make vehicle ownership and private transport in Costa Rica daunting. Despite this, private vehicle ownership is on the rise and is contributing to a problem of traffic snarls that were once unheard of. Public transport in the country is still excellent, with modern and fairly efficient bus services. The Greater Metropolitan Area is also well connected, with an inter-province train system that is being expanded.
Working in Costa Rica
The immigration process is fairly simple if you can navigate through the bureaucratic red tape. There are plenty of opportunities and avenues by which you can get residency, but keep in mind that being a resident doesn’t automatically entitle you to be on a company’s payroll. However, any residents in Costa Rica can set up their own business and enjoy the revenue it generates. Non-residents need to be sponsored by a domestic enterprise if they wish to obtain work permits, which will be subject to restrictions.