At the start of 2020, working from home looked something like an improvised home office, a slog up the Zoom learning curve, and the work-from-home mullet equivalent: pajamas on the bottom, business casual on the top.
By the end of 2020, your remote work could look like paradise. Like Costa Rica, to be precise – like cool mountain highlands and white-sand beaches, dense rainforests and luxury ocean-side communities. Like the exclusive use of flip-flops and monkeys for your neighbors.
Like remote work life that’s BETTER than office life. Because, now you know: If you can work from home, then you can work from anywhere. From any home with a fast internet connection and a remote-work program, that is.
We’ve been working on a few snappy names for this new type of work-travel:
– Gap year for grownups
– Remote-work in paradise
– Redefinition of your work-life balance
– Test drive for life abroad—dip your toe before you dive in headfirst!
Regardless of what we call it, Costa Rica wants you to test out life and work abroad in paradise.
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!
Did you know that freelancers are on track to become the U.S. workforce majority by 2027, based on trends and growth rates over the last few years? And that doesn’t even touch on the increase in remote work and work-from-home employees…
In fact, according to the 2020 Deloitte Global survey [PDF], 59% of Millennials and 55% of Gen Z reports that their employers trust them to be productive in a remote working environment; 56% of both demographics state that they’d like to live outside a major city, if given the chance to continue working remotely. The cited benefits include reduced stress, a greater work-life balance, and the ability to bring their “true selves” to work, by having their offices at home.
Sounds like good reason, to us.
We’ll bet that you know a little bit about telecommuting and all its myriad benefits. At the start of 2020, working from home looked something like an improvised home office, a slog up the Zoom learning curve, and the work-from-home mullet equivalent: pajamas on the bottom, business casual on the top. We see you. We like you.
So, what if we dangled a juicy carrot—what if we said that your remote work could look like paradise? Like Costa Rica, to be precise—like cool mountain highlands and white-sand beaches, like dense rainforests and luxury oceanside communities. Like the exclusive use of work flip-flops and monkeys as your neighbors.
Like remote work life that’s BETTER than office life. Because, now you know: If you can work from home, then you can work from anywhere. From any home, city or country with a fast internet connection and a remote-work program, that is. Yes, you can embrace remote work in Costa Rica.
No matter what you call it—we’re thinking gap year for grownups, a redefinition of your work-life balance, or even the self-descriptive remote-work in paradise – Costa Rica invites you to test-drive your life abroad.
Mostly, it comes down to semantics.
Anyone who works outside the office can be called a remote worker. The term is fairly interchangeable with virtual job/worker, as most remote workers work virtually.
This term usually refers to employees who work outside the office… most of the time. They do go into the office on occasion, sometimes even a few days a week.
Digital nomads are remote workers who can work 100% online (= digitally) and thus take that freedom on the road. They don’t put down roots, instead choosing to move somewhere new every few months. Global nomads are digital nomads who stick to locations abroad—also referred to work-from-home abroad, in some circles.
This emerging concept, also called a remote year, can refer to a career break – or not! Most of the time, an adult gap year is at least work-lite: You may work (or not), but it’s probably not a 9 to 5 kind of thing. You’re taking time to explore your interests, transition to freelancing or consulting, or even testing out life in another country.
Speaking of, freelancers and consultants can be remote workers and digital nomads simultaneously, while they’re also in the middle of their gap year, but they’re still in their own category. Freelancers are self-employed and typically work with a diversified client roster.
The good news: However you define your work status, if you’re any of the above, then you can embrace the remote work life in Costa Rica.
Choosing where to live and work abroad is a broad question with many considerations. To wit:
Does the country legally allow remote workers to live and work there? Most remote workers in Costa Rica enter on what’s colloquially known as a “tourist visa”: Not a visa, technically, but an extended permission to stay in the country for up to 90 days (renewable upon re-entry).
There are a ton of infrastructure considerations to any potential home abroad, but remote workers will specifically want to keep an eye on internet speeds and reliability, coworking possibilities and startup support, banking, healthcare, and schools, for those who have kids.
For remote work in Costa Rica, you’ll want to look for 50+ Mbps high-speed internet—fiber optic is growing more and more common, thankfully!—and, if coworking or startup support is important to you, you’ll need to center around the Central Valley or Liberia, where there are coworking offices and startup incubators. Non-residents cannot open a bank account (but there are easy ways to remedy this) or join public CCSS healthcare (note that private insurance is plentiful), while English-only, bilingual and trilingual private schools offer Costa Rican degrees, U.S. or European degrees, and even I.B. degrees.
This is a big one, obviously: You do not want to overextend yourself while living abroad. Make sure to pad your monthly/yearly budget to account for flights back home, unexpected expenses and, of course!, plenty of play. And always, ALWAYS be wary of unrealistic budget claims, which pop up a lot online. If it’s too good to be true, it definitely is.
Case in point: For digital nomads in Costa Rica, the oft-quoted $1,000 is barely (seriously – barely) scraping by; it’s no way to live it up during your time here. $2,500+ is a more realistic budget for 1-2 people who want to live comfortably, eat out (occasionally), and travel on weekends. If you have kids in private school, you’ll want to budget anywhere from $400-$1,000 additional, per child, per month – and that’s just for school.
This is a huge consideration: Why live abroad if you don’t enjoy it? And by enjoy, we mean love.
Many elements of lifestyle are bundled into cost of living; money pays for lifestyle, right? But, there are other fundamentals that money can’t buy. In Costa Rica, you should know that lifestyle is rooted in peace (“no army since 1948!”) and love of country. Costa Rica is widely considered one of the safest nations in Latin America—there are a few exceptions to this rule, however: Don’t get involved with drugs and don’t flash your wealth, specifically. Women traveling alone are also fairly safe, regionally speaking, although in recent years, there has been an uptick in the reporting of violence against women. As always – be smart, stay vigilant.
So, let’s say that the legalities, the infrastructure, the cost of living, and the lifestyle all look great: What else should you factor into your decision?
That’s a highly personal consideration, of course, but we’d suggest deliberating over weather (in Costa Rica, tropical—either warm/hot at the beach or warm/cool in the mountains), language (Spanish, although with a large English-speaking population), and cuisine (traditionally, fish-, meat- and rice-based, but growing ever more international). And, of course, you can ask us about anything else that matters to you.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should – right?
You really should, though. That’s because Costa Rica is more than an eco-travel hotspot; it’s a perfect choice to take your home office abroad.
Here are some of the specific reasons that remote-workers cite in their decision to move to Costa Rica:
For when you want (or need) to fly home, Costa Rica offers quick, easy and plentiful connections to dozens of major cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. We also have several direct connections to Europe, including London, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt and Zurich.
Perfect for U.S. / Canada business, conference calls, and other remote-work musts, Costa Rica is on Central American time: GMT-6 (CST) from April-November and GMT-5 (MST) from November-May.
Work from the city, jungle or beach! Costa Rica offers high-speed internet via fiber optic, DSL, cable, and 4G.
You’ll have access to a large supply of short- and long-term housing, hotels, and weekend rental options, almost anywhere in the country.
Our public and private healthcare is excellent and relatively affordable.
We’re a convenient jumping-off point to other regional destinations, including Colombia, Panama and Guatemala.
Costa Rica is known for its kind, welcoming and hospitable culture. You’ll feel at home here.
Have questions about remote work in Costa Rica? Get in touch!
This is a truly massive topic – seriously, there are dozens of books written about it – and not one we can accurately or comprehensively cover in a few paragraphs (or a few pages).
Instead, we’ll cover a few things that really need to be covered. Off we go:
After securing a gig that allows for the digital nomadic life abroad, cost of living is the second-most important factor. It’s also one of the most variable. That said, these budgets below should give you an idea of how much you’ll need.
(We’ve obviously simplified this to an extreme, but now you have an idea. And for all your other questions, you have us.)
This is a big salary in Costa Rica but it’s really the bare minimum for remote workers, considering lifestyle, border runs (every 90 days), flights home, private insurance, and other factors. This budget will rent you a simple home + utilities and pay for more than the basic comforts and the occasional meal out, but likely won’t stretch to frequent travel and everyday luxuries.
This budget will buy you all of the above, plus gorgeous digs, little luxuries, lots of restaurant meals, and plenty of local travel.
Wondering what it’ll cost you to live in Costa Rica? Your mileage may vary.
There are a few costs that are set – mandatory health insurance, for example. But, when it comes to transportation, rent and utilities, there’s a wide range available. Live in a central beach town and you can walk (or take a golf cart) nearly everywhere; live in the middle of the rainforest, and you’re going to need a 4×4.
Housing is where you’ll have the most flexibility in your budget. You can stay on a near-shoestring or indulge in total live-abroad luxury. Case in point:
Los Sueños Resort and Marina in Jaco is home to some of the most exclusive private rentals and villas in Costa Rica. Close to San Jose, excellent spot for avid fishermen.
Located in Playa Langosta, a few minutes south of the bustling beach town of Tamarindo, the Peninsula Condos are hard to miss. You’ll find them in a seven-story tower that offers some of the best ocean and sunset views in the neighborhood.
We could talk your ear off, but we won’t. Instead, we’ll stick to a few of the more pressing concerns:
Timeline: Only the most footloose and fancy free can up and move to Costa Rica. Most freelancers and remote workers need time to plan. We’d recommend getting started 3-9 months prior to your move.
Your Remote Office: Be sure to bring all the electronics you need, because any equipment will be 2-3x more expensive in Costa Rica than it is in the U.S. Also, never, ever rent a property that doesn’t have 100% confirmed high-speed internet – preferably, with 4G or other type of redundancy. Also, be sure to install battery backup for your modem, as power outages are not uncommon.
Banking & Taxes: Non-residents usually can’t open a bank account in Costa Rica, but there are several online banks abroad that don’t charge commissions on international transactions. As a non-resident, you won’t be subject to Costa Rican income or VAT taxes, but do speak to an accountant about your tax obligations back home.
We’re on the ground, already here. And we’ve been here for decades. Now, we’re happy to share all we’ve learned.
Relocation and General Life-in-Costa-Rica Advice: Combined, the Costa Rican Vacations office has centuries of experience living in Costa Rica. We can help you figure out where and how to get started on your remote-work life abroad.
Budgeting: We’ll help you estimate your monthly/yearly budget, depending on your lifestyle and remote-work requirements.
Basic Tips & Tricks: From cell phones and grocery shopping, to driver’s licenses and currency conversions, we’ll fill you in on all the big and little details that make Costa Rica feel like home.
Find Your Home Base: What location will suit you best? Where and what type of home is the best fit for your budget? Should you rent shot- or long-term? Where can you search for long-term rentals over 30 days? And, once you know all that – how can you find a rental?
Booking Weekend Trips: One of the reasons you’re here is to see, explore and get to know Costa Rica. We’ll help you do that, the local way.
Suggesting Things to Do: We can point you in the direction of the activities, groups, and community everything you’ll need.
Put You in Touch with Other Expats: Where and how to make amigos.
Find Schooling for Your Kids: If you have little ones, we know where they can go to school: international schools, American schools, I.B. schools, bilingual schools, English-language schools, Spanish-language schools – we’ll point you in all the right directions.
Costa Rica is poised to become the next remote-work paradise. Beat the rush, answer your questions, secure the perfect rental. Take the leap.
The best part of living in paradise is vacationing in paradise!
From weekend getaways to one- to two-week escapes, Costa Rica is the home you’ll want to explore. Over and over again—every corner and through all destinations. Because when you already live abroad, you don’t need to travel abroad.
Travel local! We’re happy to help. Our team of local experts can arrange almost anything you can hope or imagine, so whether you’re in the mood for total relaxation or have always wanted to get PADI-certified, you can tick off all your this-is-why-I-moved-to-Costa-Rica bucket list items.
And if the travel bug has really bit, we can also help you move in and throughout Costa Rica. Four months at the beach, two in the mountains, three at the base of a volcano… it’s the beauty of living and working in Costa Rica. Test drive that life abroad!
I’ve always loved traveling, speaking Spanish, and had a strong desire to live abroad and work internationally. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in Costa Rica for 13 years and have fallen in love with the nature, spectacular scenery, the peaceful lifestyle and Pura Vida way of life.
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