Living in Costa Rica—Your FAQ’s Answered

Shay Tippie, Travel Consultant that’s been with Costa Rican Vacations close to a decade, shares her expertise on living in Costa Rica. Read on to find out more about: average cost of living for a one month stay, where to live, how long to stay, are there gyms, do you need a car, how reliable is the internet, what are schooling and child care options, visa, do you need one, will your cell phone work, health insurance, how can you bring pets… Interested? Let’s dig in!

What is the average cost of living for a one-month stay?

A realistic budget for one or two people who want to live comfortably, eat out (occasionally), and travel on weekends would be about $2500+ per month. Of course, you can live simply and not spend nearly as much, but it all depends on your lifestyle and how much you’d like to see and do while you are here exploring Costa Rica!

Rent: depending on size and level of luxury this can be anywhere from $2,200-$10,000 per month
Groceries: average grocery costs will depend on where you shop and what you buy, but in general prices are comparable to the USA and imported goods are more expensive
Activities: average tour cost is $100/person

Where should I live?

There are so many choices!

Let one of our experts help you choose the very best location for your lifestyle and working needs. Costa Rica is a tiny country but boasts many different microclimates and destinations and your choice will depend on what type of surroundings you’d like to enjoy.

Would you prefer a remote jungle mountain experience, city living, or a laid back beach town environment for your staycation? While internet accessibility has improved vastly over the past few years, the fastest and most reliable service is usually located in the Central Valley, or the larger beach towns like Jaco and some places in Guanacaste. Don’t hesitate to contact us so we can assess your preferences and match you with the perfect long term rental!

What type of accommodations can I book for one, three, or six months?

We have carefully selected high quality, well located, safe, and beautiful properties for your long term remote working staycation! We do offer one to three bedroom fully equipped condo-style accommodations. Most of these are located within luxury developments which means you have an added layer of security, plus access to amenities such as onsite concierges, restaurants, swimming pools, shops etc. We do have access to a wide range of properties so be sure to share with us your preferences so we can make sure you are comfortable throughout your time in Costa Rica!

Are there gyms nearby?

There are definitely workout facilities in most popular destinations but this does depend on the exact location that you wish to stay. Most gyms in Costa Rica are small. There are also options for yoga studios or classes as well as tons of outdoor activities like kayaking, SUP, hiking, biking etc. Again, let us know your priorities and we’ll do the best to find the perfect fit!

Will my rental have all the essentials?

Every rental is different but we have selected units that do come fully equipped with all of the kitchen essentials, laundry facilities, AC, cable TV, WiFi, linens etc. Please let us know if you require a laptop friendly workspace and we will make sure that this is included.

Do I need a car?

There are many places in Costa Rica where you can easily rely on public transportation (buses) and/or taxis which are usually available 24/7, and some rentals where you are actually walking distance to restaurants, shops, etc. Driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure in itself but having a car does provide more flexibility and freedom to explore nearby destinations. We are happy to offer reduced long term car rental rates for your stay. Drivers must be 23 years old and a valid driver license is required as well as a passport.

Who will I contact, if I have any questions, or issues during my long term stay?

US! You will have access to our 24/7 local Travel Experience Team who is on call should any issues arise during your stay. We are here to make sure you have a VIP experience and don’t have to stress about anything. Living in Costa Rica is a very laid back pura vida experience, but there can certainly be things that come up along the way so allow us to fully support you during your stay. We will provide you with all of our contact info. And of course you can share our contact info with family members back home so you can always be reached!

How fast and reliable is the internet?

The internet in Costa Rica has improved immensely in the past few years and there are several service providers (Kolbi, CableTica, Tigo), some even offering fiber optic connections. Speed ranges from 15mbps to 200mbps. Most likely, your long term rental will be fully equipped with high speed internet, but be sure to let us know what you require for your remote working stay and we will make sure to provide you with all the details. The cost of internet is usually included in your long term rental stay.

What options are there for childcare?

While Costa Rica is the perfect family-friendly destination, we know that it will be important for parents to have some alone time too! Whether you are working during the day, or looking for a night out on the town, safe childcare will definitely be an option during your long-term stay in Costa Rica. Some properties do offer a Kid’s Club type environment, or there is also the option to hire a private nanny. Feel free to let us know about your childcare needs so that we can provide you with all the options.

Are there schooling options for my kids?

There are many options for private schools here in Costa Rica, however at the moment most kids are still doing distance learning. Feel free to check with us at the moment of your inquiry to see what options are available at present time.

Will my cell phone work in Costa Rica?

You can make international calls from most hotels and long term rentals. Most calls will have a fee, so do check with the property for costs prior to making your call. You may access Skype on your laptop, smartphone, or iPad anywhere that there is WiFi. If you are carrying your personal cell phone, it’s best that you check with your service provider in your home country to find out about connectivity and costs. Some phone companies have very expensive fees for utilizing their service inside Costa Rica.

Until recently, all Costa Rican telecommunications was handled by one government-owned company—ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad)—and this made it nigh on impossible to obtain a telephone line or for visitors’ cell phones to work in Costa Rica.

Now, with the market opening up to Latin American telecommunication giants Claro and Movistar, things are easier. We can’t guarantee that your existing cell phone line will still work when you bring it to Costa Rica, but you CAN now buy a Costa Rican “pay as you go” SIM card that will give you a Costa Rican number for the duration of your stay. Progress!

Prepaid cell phones are now available at Juan Santamaria International Airport through Kolbi (ICE). If you are arriving though Liberia Airport, Daniel Oduber and would like this service please coordinate with our Travel Experience Team and they can make the arrangements with your driver to make a stop at the nearest store that may offer this service.

In order for this service to work, you must have a phone that is “unlocked” and has a replaceable SIM/GSM card. Check with your cell provider first, but in general, T-mobile and AT&T use the SIM/GSM technology; Verizon phones do not have SIM cards and thus will not work. An ICE prepaid SIM chip is $20. The approximate value for a call to the US is US$0.30 per minute.

How long can I stay? Do I need a Visa?

At the moment, tourists can enter Costa Rica and will be automatically granted a 90-day tourist visa, with the option to renew for an extension. On September 23, 2020, Costa Rica started officially discussing a law that will permit one-year tourist visa for digital nomads and remote workers. The word is out this will be expedited, so if your plans include scouting for a new work-from-home location you might be packing your suitcases sooner than you thought!

Are there reliable medical facilities nearby?

Costa Rica provides one of the best health care systems in Central America, both in private and public sector, and both constantly strive to be up-to-date with contemporary medicine. It’s social security system called CCSS but is also known as “la CAJA”. Over the last 60 years, La Caja has established more than 250 clinics and 29 public hospitals in Costa Rica that cover all major populated areas throughout the country.

The hospital services are available at a low cost to the residents and tourists alike, 365 days a year on a 24-hour basis. With that said, some CAJA hospitals won’t live up to expectations of U.S. and Canadian visitors. The public emergency rooms are usually crowded and noisy and it’s very likely that available doctors or nurses won’t speak English. CAJA system does function if you have a lot of patience and time to wait.

On the other hand, private clinics and hospitals provide top-class services and are frequented as main hubs for medical tourism in the country. Private clinics are often recognized for their excellent services and have positive testimonials. Currently, new developers are fostering investments of private clinics and hospitals throughout the country.

Some of the most frequented private hospitals in Costa Rica are:
Hospital CIMA: This hospital is controlled by the International Hospital Corporation of Dallas, Texas. CIMA is notably the best equipped, full-service hospital that features the most modern health care technology. The second establishment opened recently in Liberia, Guanacaste.

Hospital Clínica Bíblica: located in the heart of San José, and has recently opened a new clinic in Liberia, Guanacaste. The hospital in San José has a 24-hour rooftop heliport for emergencies.

Clínica La Católica: This hospital is known for its amenities for travelers that include a lodge for companion persons just a few steps from the hospital. Clínica Católica is also located in San José downtown, in the east area.

Hospital Metropolitano: This hospital is the newest privately operated hospital in San José. It has three locations, San José Downtown, Heredia and Tibás.

What about health insurance?

One of the current requirements for entry into Costa Rica is proof of a travel insurance that will cover you throughout your stay which is great because then you will be covered throughout your long term staycation and can enjoy paradise with peace of mind!

The Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) is responsible for verifying that the insurance policies comply with the requirements. Our partner insurance company, Travel Insured, currently offers plans that cover everything you will need to enter Costa Rica.

Are there co-working spaces in Costa Rica?

Although co-working spaces are a relatively new concept here in Costa Rica, there are some options for great co-working sites throughout the country. These spaces are mostly located in the capital city of San Jose, but can also be found in the smaller beach towns like Puerto Viejo, Samara, Tamarindo, Santa Teresa. If having access to a co-working space is important for you please just let us know and we will match you with the right long term rental!

Can I bring my pet to Costa Rica?

Yes! It is definitely possible to bring your pet to Costa Rica, but there are several steps you will need to take in order to successfully get them here. They will need a health certificate from a licensed vet and have it endorsed by the USDA, as well as have certain vaccinations in order. You would also need to check with the airlines about their protocols for traveling with pets. Not all long term rentals will welcome animals, so be sure to let us know if this is a priority for you! Here is some additional info: Requirements for pets.

What other activities can I do when I’m not working?

There are so many places to explore in Costa Rica! We can help set you up with visits to the Arenal Volcano area, the Monteverde Cloudforest, different beach towns, or off the beaten path hidden gem hotels! You can do fun things like white water rafting, waterfall rappelling, canopy ziplining, horseback riding, ATV tours, hikes, etc! We are the experts in Costa Rica travel and would be happy to assist you in a weekend getaway or a tour of the country. You will definitely want to take some time to explore Costa Rica’s incredible landscape while you are on your long term working vacation!

Is Costa Rica safe?

Costa Rica is an extremely safe country. It is very easy to let down your normal guard while you are here in Costa Rica enjoying the “Pura Vida” lifestyle, but it is important to take normal safety precautions.

The largest crime in Costa Rica is petty theft so be diligent in watching over your personal items. Use your hotel/rental safe at all times. Do not leave cameras, purses, iPads, iPods, and cell phones unattended on restaurant tables, pool lounges, or beach towels. Leave expensive watches and jewelry at home. If you have a rental car, stow your personal belongings under the seat, make sure the car is locked and if possible park it in an area in which you can keep an eye on it. We always recommend you bring a photocopy of the picture page of your passport as well.

Can I use my Credit Cards?

Credit cards are widely accepted in Costa Rica, but there are some exceptions. If you plan on using your credit card frequently it is very important that prior to leaving on your trip you tell your bank that you will be in Costa Rica. For your protection most banks automatically block transactions in foreign countries, so be sure that you advise your bank that you will be making charges while in Costa Rica.

Mastercard and Visa are the most widely accepted. American Express is accepted at most hotels and some restaurants but not by local or small vendors. Discover Card is not accepted in Costa Rica.

Shay Tippie Shay Tippie is our Escazu-based Travel Consultant.

Have more questions about general travel to Costa Rica? Check out more FAQ’s here!