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So, You Want to Move to Costa Rica? Read This!

Costa Rica

 

Want to wake up and watch the sunrise over the ocean? To spend your days surfing, doing yoga, drinking out of coconuts, and taking long naps in a hammock? Want to have the jungle for your backyard?

 

Want to watch the sunset every night with live music? To have potlucks on the beach with your neighbors? To buy your food from farmers on the side of the road? Want to snuggle inside and watch a rainstorm?

 

Costa Rica

 

Want to wait days for your clothes to dry? Or clean gecko poop off of your counters? Sweep cockroaches off of your floor? Watch mice eat holes in everything?

 

Want to wake up before dawn from the sound of crowing roosters? Want to wake up at midnight from the sound of screeching bats? Want to come home to a tarantula, a snake, or a scorpion in your bed?

 

Costa Rica

 

Want to lock everything that you own in a safe? To watch your possessions rust, mold, and fade? Want to work for $2 an hour and spend ten of it on a bag of quinoa? Want to work online when all of the electrical lines break?

 

Do you want to live in Costa Rica?

 

Costa Rica

 

Of anywhere I’ve traveled to in the world, Costa Rica is the only place that really feels like home. It’s the place where it’s easiest for me to relax, the place where I feel the strongest sense of community, the place where I feel the happiest and healthiest, and the place where I feel completely fed by nature.

 

But even after coming here fifteen times, I’ve never decided to settle down and live here. And time will tell if I ever do. Because living here, actually LIVING here, isn’t all sloths and sunsets.

 

Whether you plan to come for a month, a year, or perhaps forever, I’ve written this post to help you understand what living in Costa Rica is really like.

 

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Getting a Visa

 

Oh, right, that whole inconvenient thing. Yes, you do need a visa to be in Costa Rica. And technically, you cannot LEGALLY live here without applying for legal resident status (more on that later.)

 

North Americans and many other passport holders will receive a free, automatic three month tourist visa at customs. That means you don’t need to apply for it, you just need to show up. However, they will want to see “proof” that you are leaving the country within ninety days.

 

Except maybe you don’t want to buy a return ticket. And maybe you want to stay longer than three months. In this case, you will need to either purchase a fully refundable ticket home (these are usually expensive, but you can cancel within 24 hours) or purchase a bus or shuttle ticket to a neighboring country. Regardless of whether you’ve decided to “live” in Costa Rica, you MUST leave the country within 90 days.

 

Tourists without residency are legally allowed to own vehicles, property, businesses, and generate income from self-employment.

 

Costa Rica

 

“Living” in Costa Rica on a Tourist Visa

 

Admittedly, there are plenty of people living in Costa Rica on tourist visas. It’s become a common practice for foreigners to leave once their 90 day visa is up, cross the border into Panama or Nicaragua, spend a few days there, and then return and receive another 90 day stamp. I know people who have somehow been doing this for years. That said, if they decide to investigate and crack down, the penalties can be severe. You may not even be allowed back into the country for TWELVE years.

 

If you don’t want to take that risk, I recommend going on longer trips between visa runs. I.e not “living” in Costa Rica. I have a million Costa Rica stamps in my passport, but it has never been an issue in Immigration, because I always leave before my visa ends, and I travel all over the world for long periods of time. (Note: this is totally legal.) I imagine a passport with only Costa Rica and Panama stamps might look suspicious, and constantly going in and out may not be legal.

 

Costa Rica

 

Becoming a Legal Resident

 

If you legitimately want to live and work in Costa Rica, you will need to apply for residence status, which I hear is a long and difficult process. Most qualified candidates include business owners investing a significant amount of money, retirees with a consistent pension of at least $1,000 per month, parents or siblings of a child born in Costa Rica (some people choose to have their baby in Costa Rica for this reason), and those legitimately married to Costa Rican nationals (it’s strict). I’m not an expert on residency since I’ve never applied, so I recommend you consult this article: Costa Rica Residency.

 

Costa Rica

 

Renting a House

 

Finding a place to live in Costa Rica is often the bane of my existence. Most expats own their own houses, and it’s far more profitable for people to rent their places as vacation rentals than as long term residences. As a tourist, you typically have to book something months in advance, there’s little selection, and rates skyrocket during holidays.

 

If you have the money and you know you love Costa Rica, buy a place. It’s a great investment, you can have a property management company make sure it’s rented when you’re not around, and you’ll never have to worry about renting a place. For everyone else, I recommend joining a community Facebook group for the specific location in Costa Rica where you want to live.

 

In Puerto Viejo we have a page where people post the houses they have for rent, usually much lower prices than you’ll find with property management companies. I have (and currently am) renting with a property management company, but it is definitely more expensive this way. For a two bedroom house close to the beach, expect to pay anywhere from $350 per month to $1,000 per month.

 

Costa Rica

 

Getting Around

 

Most people get around by bicycle in the flat beach towns of Costa Rica. I find it to be a healthy, fun, environmentally friendly, and efficient way to get around. You can usually find used bicycles for sale from $30 to $100 in local Facebook groups, or you can buy new bicycles for $150 to $250. If you’re planning to stay just for a few months, you can usually sell your used bicycle for the same price or a little less than you bought it for.

 

Local buses are limited, running infrequently and rarely on time, but they’re a good option for going further distances.

 

Some expats and locals do own cars, quads, or scooters. You don’t have to be a resident to purchase a car, but even the crappiest cars are expensive because of import tax. The weather is very unkind to vehicles, so expect to make constant repairs.

 

Costa Rica

 

Speaking the Language

 

What’s that, you don’t speak Spanish? The good news is, most of the Americans I know who live in Costa Rica don’t either. It sounds absurd, but it’s actually challenging to learn Spanish in many of the beach towns in Costa Rica, because English is spoken so readily. This is particularly true in Puerto Viejo where most locals have Afro-Caribbean English speaking roots.

 

I do recommend that you take some basic lessons so that you can interact with taxi drivers, bus drivers, house cleaners, gardeners, and the other people who don’t speak English. Besides, it’s a beautiful and enjoyable language to speak, and speaking the local language will greatly deepen your experiences and connections with locals.

 

You can get private lessons in Costa Rica for around $10/hr or enroll in a Spanish Language school. I also like the podcast Coffee Break Spanish.

 

Costa Rica

 

Bringing Your Kids

 

If you have young kids, Costa Rica has some excellent Montessori and Waldorf schools. I recommend researching the international schools in the specific towns that you’re interested in relocating to. For more information on moving to Costa Rica with kids, I recommend this article: Moving to Costa Rica With Children.

 

Costa Rica

 

Bringing Your Pets

 

Friends of mine have brought dogs down with them to Costa Rica, and as you can imagine, the dogs love it. However, you do have to consider the many wild animals, tropical diseases, and aggressive dogs that live here. For more info, check out Moving Pets to Costa Rica.

 

Costa Rica

 

Getting Mail

 

The first time I came to Costa Rica, I asked someone how the mail system works here. “From the USA?” she asked, “DON’T DO IT!! IT NEVER COMES!”

 

Since then I have had things sent from the USA, but they take a very, very, very long time. It may stop in customs, and you’ll have to go to the capitol to pick it up. Theft is also common, so sending anything valuable is pretty much out of the question. What people typically do, is have friends coming down from the USA carry things for them in their luggage. You can also use FedEx, UPS, and DHL but it will also be slow.

 

In the past I have had things sent to San Jose and then shipped them down to Puerto Viejo through a service called “encomienda” where the goods are dropped at the bus station in San Jose, taken via bus, and you can then pick them up at the bus station where you are.

 

There’s also no address system in Costa Rica, so everything is described in proximity to landmarks, like 200 meters from that restaurant that has the best ceviche. Zip codes are not used widely either. Most people use post office boxes, but these can have long wait lists.

 

Costa Rica

 

Staying Connected

 

You can get cell phones anywhere (but the phones themselves are crappy and expensive) with inexpensive pay as you go SIM cards. Grocery stores, pharmacies, tourist shops, and electronic stores carry them. I recommend bringing down your own unlocked smart phone and putting in a local SIM. You can get unlimited data coverage for as low as $20 a month!

 

Many vacation rentals, most hostels/hotels, and many restaurants have wifi. However, it’s not reliable so if you need consistent wifi, I recommend purchasing an internet hotspot that you can use with a local SIM card.

 

Be prepared for lots of dead zones and loss of service during storms.

 

Costa Rica

 

Paying the Bills

 

One of the most surprising things about Costa Rica, is that it’s extremely expensive compared to other Central American countries. Especially if you want Western luxuries. Thanks to the hefty import tax, cars cost double what they would in the USA, alcohol can be very expensive, and a small block of goat cheese costs $10. Keep in mind, this is still a country where the general wage is $2 an hour. While it’s not an excuse, this has made me understand why theft is so common here.

 

If you want to live “comfortably” by Western standards, expect to spend $1,000 to $2000 per month living in Costa Rica, and be willing to sacrifice many luxuries. This is still very low compared to living in the USA, but not as cheap as many people imagine.

 

Save money by using a bicycle instead of a car, eating less imported food and more local food, and spending your time in nature, which offers totally free entertainment.

 

Costa Rica

 

Making a Living

 

Working in Costa Rica is hard. There aren’t many well paying jobs and most places require legal residency (enforced by law to protect Costa Rican citizens). Even if you are a legal resident, the wages will be significantly lower than they are in Western countries. This is why I even know Costa Ricans who leave and work seasonally in the USA or Europe. Personally, I’ve never tried to find work here, because (aside from the fact that it’s not legal) I make more money in two hours of writing online than I would make working an entire week in Costa Rica.

 

In my opinion you have more or less two options: create a business for yourself or work online. If you want to earn money online (which also gives you the freedom to travel anywhere in the world) check out my article How to Travel and Work From Anywhere. I’ll discuss how to open a profitable business later on.

 

I do have some friends who work in Costa Rica without legal residency. Some simply do work trade, which doesn’t pay but usually offers free lodging and food, a good option for long term travelers with money saved. The ones who earn the best wages do some sort of Marketing or business service, working for a tour agency or big hotel.

 

I also recommend reading my articles How I Afford a Life of Constant Travel, and You Can Too and How to Travel the World When You’ve Got Absolutely No Money.

 

Costa Rica

 

Paying Your Taxes

 

If you’re not a legal resident and you’re working in Costa Rica, you’re either working online and earning wages outside of the country or you’re earning money under the table. In either case, don’t worry about paying taxes in Costa Rica. Woo hoo.

 

Sales tax is 13% and import duties are 50-90%! Now you understand why cars are so expensive here. License plate fees are paid annually but are low, and property tax is also much lower than it is in the USA.

 

Tourists need to pay a tax whenever they leave the country of around $25.

 

Costa Rica

 

Opening a Business

Many friends of mine who live full time in Costa Rica own and operate businesses, and while it’s certainly not easy, it can be very rewarding. I see people making their dreams come true every day whether they’re building yoga studios, opening cafes, or renting out vacation homes. Many of whom started with tiny investments but were willing to put in the elbow grease. You can start as small as setting up a stand at the farmer’s market.

 

For practical details on how to make it happen, read these articles:
Opening a Business in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Business FAQ

 

Costa Rica

 

Getting Shit Done

 

Here comes the hard part, actually getting anything done. The sunshine, the ocean, the dance parties, the community gatherings, the waves, are all HUGE distractions. Wonderful, beautiful distractions, but distractions nonetheless.

 

Most people living in Costa Rica operate on “Pura Vida Time” which means you can’t expect a quick response, people are rarely on time, and you’ll probably get stood up a lot. Quickly you may begin operating on Costa Rica time yourself. You’ll become more relaxed and less motivated to “hustle.” It’s difficult to balance but the key is to remember your dreams and your goals while also allowing yourself to live the pura vida lifestyle.

 

Puerto-Viejo

 

Buying “Stuff”

 

One of my favorite things about Costa Rica, is that you can’t really buy anything. Nothing that you would want anyway. It’s nice, materialism doesn’t matter so much. But when you do actually need something, it’s not so great. Even in the capitol city of San Jose, it’s nearly impossible to find nice clothes, housewares, or electronics. What you will find will be expensive as well. I recommend bringing what you need down with you.

 

Costa Rica

 

Surviving the Environment

 

I’m pretty sure that I was born to live in Costa Rica. I’ve always loved humidity, I don’t mind being dirty, and never in my life have I been afraid of snakes or bugs. I know that this is not the case for most people.

 

The heat can be intense, and you may find yourself sweating… constantly. If heat really gets to you, consider living away from the ocean at a higher elevation. In towns like La Fortuna and Monteverde, you will actually need a sweater in the evening because it’s so cool.

 

For the insects, try to keep your home environment meticulously clean. Don’t leave fruit on the counter even for 10 minutes. Wash your dishes immediately, keep your bed made, and make sure to always have everything picked up off the floor.

 

Insect bites can be particularly frustrating. Slather your skin in coconut oil when going to the beach to keep away sand fleas and wear long, loose pants in the evening to avoid getting mosquito bites. I also recommend you read my article, How I Cured Myself of Mosquito Bites Forever.

 

Costa Rica

 

Staying Healthy

 

The tropics are not always kind to the Western body. Strange fungal infections, stomach bugs, and parasites are not uncommon. I recommend traveling with or making your own high quality probiotics (read my post How to Travel the World and Never Get Food Poisoning). Drinking fresh young coconut water daily will help with all viruses and infections and eating fresh papaya seeds will help kill parasites. I also recommend using coconut oil on your skin to keep infection away.

 

I travel with an essential oils kit as well, which has made a huge difference in my health routine. Learn more about that here.

 

Costa Rica

 

Feeding Yourself

 

The same way it’s hard to buy quality “stuff” in Costa Rica, it takes quite a bit of effort to buy quality food. Forget about nice supermarkets, it’s more like corner stores and road stands. Fortunately most towns have a weekly farmer’s market with organic produce and other goodies. Some even have organic delivery services, and Nosara, Costa Rica has a lovely little organic grocery store open daily.

 

I usually stock up on veggies, greens, tortillas, coconut oil, and eggs at the Farmer’s Market, then supplement throughout the week with organic fruit stands and the local fish counter. In most touristic towns you’ll also find delicious and some healthy restaurants too.

 

Costa Rica

 

Making Friends

 

…is easier than you might think, and harder than you might think. In Costa Rica people tend to be less busy, more relaxed, more community oriented, and more spontaneous. Whether organizing a full moon ceremony, attending a beach BBQ, or simply having conversation, its easy to find people to connect with. However, it can be very difficult to really… get in. In Costa Rica, people come and go constantly, which has made many locals and expats hesitant about giving new visitors a chance.

 

I recommend regularly attending community events and getting involved in different community Facebook groups if you really want to become part of the community.

 

Costa Rica

 

Making Enemies

 

…happens much more easily than you might think. Most towns in Costa Rica are very small, which means gossip and drama occur regularly. My advice is to be patient and respectful of local culture, be very mindful of the words you speak, and learn to respond to all manners of drama with humility, peace and love.

 

Costa Rica

 

Falling in Love

 

…also happens more easily than you might think. People are half naked most of the time, unbelievably fit and beautiful, and sex is always in the air. However I’ve found it very challenging to cultivate a healthy relationship here. As a woman, I’ve struggled with the local culture where fidelity is practically nonexistent. Many friends of mine have suffered in these relationships, some with children, with an unfaithful partner who they also support financially. (Read more in my post There Are Many Shades of Black.) Most men I meet in Costa Rica who do have the qualities I’m looking for, leave and move on to the next destination before there’s time for a romance to even develop.

 

All that said, I do know some happy couples living here, some who even met in Costa Rica. One in particular told me, “Keep following the path that makes you happy, and the right people will come into your life.” And so, so, very many beautiful friends, whom I love with all of my heart, have come into my life because of this place.

 

So that’s what I keep doing. Trusting that my heart will lead me where I need to go.

 

Will you do the same?

 

Want more information on Costa Rica like safety tips, what to pack, the best beach towns, and an entire healthy eating guide? Get my 150 page eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.

 

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Comments

  1. This seems like a silly question, but…what’s the low down on spiders? I’ve largely avoided tropical countries so far because of an annoying, irrational but still present phobia – even though southern India and Australia all went by without incident!

    • Camille Willemain Says: September 4, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      There are lots of spiders here, but I have never encountered poisonous ones. Usually you’ll just see them in big webs in the trees. I did once have a tarantula in my house, but that was the only time I’ve ever seen a spider inside…

  2. Camille, I love that you love my country so! As with any country you would’ve traveled, you’ve had your highs and your lows…and it’s part of the experience. It is, however, thrilling to hear your raw stories and how you’ve learned to cope through organic and spiritual tools instead of just running away. That being said, I do have a recommendation. I think most of your articles really refer on living in Puerto Viejo- not Costa Rica, which to us Costa Ricans we think of almost as a different country: it has a different weather, the environment is completely opposite to the Pacific, the people as you said even have their own language (Patoi, or “Patuá” as we call it). It would be best to clarify that in Costa Rica we do have amazing stores were to buy designer clothes and accessories (which we have a large list of incredible Costa Rican designers and we have the biggest Central American fashion show once a year). Growing up here, we’ve learned where to buy quality electronics for the best price without having to import them (we actually have the same lines as in the USA at exactly the same price), etc. I could go on but I think the point is made :) Maybe as to not confuse fellow readers, you could consider changing “Costa Rica” for “Puerto Viejo” or “The Caribbean”- which by the way I think your advice is to the point! Keep up the good vibes xx

    • I agree with Pia. I love your writing Camille, but it think this one might confuse some readers. I am Costa Rican and know my country well. Even though you make some references to other towns in Costa Rica, I feel this article mostly refers to your experience in Puerto Viejo, which doesn’t mean most of it is accurate. About shopping, yes everything is more expensive than in the US, but you can find anything you want. There are all kinds of shopping malls and stores downtown. I think many travelers don’t see this for a simple reason, CR is not a shopping destination. People come here for other reasons. The food, well, having been in the US I have to say that I find the food in Costa Rica much fresher and healthier and it’s everywhere, it might not be from a fancy store with air conditioning but it’s quality food. Thank you so much. ..love reading your blog 😉

      • Camille Willemain Says: September 4, 2015 at 1:15 pm

        Thanks Lily! Of course I’ve spent the most time in Puerto Viejo, but I wrote this based on what I’ve experienced in Nosara, Santa Teresa, Montezuma, La Fortuna, San Jose, Dominical, Uvita, Pavones, the Osa, Tortuguero, etc etc. Friends of mine building houses have expressed frustration about not being able to find good tile or other equipment even in San Jose, I’ve had trouble finding decent kitchen equipment, shoes, etc. in San Jose. Of course there are tons of stores downtown, and in Escazu I have been to the shopping mall, but I don’t think that people who want Western products will find what they’re looking for with the exception of maybe H&M or Forever 21, which really just came recently. Many Costa Rican friends of mine ask me to bring them things from the states whenever I come to visit. And of course that’s part of what I LOVE about Costa Rica. It’s not the USA and it’s not all about consumerism. But I do think it’s something worth noting. As far as the food, I do find it very very challenging to find organic produce except on farmer’s market days, and Costa Rica is a huge offender when it comes to using pesticides. I also find it hard to get quality organic eggs and meat, unless you specifically know someone. In this regard, I’d argue that it’s easier to find these things in Puerto Viejo than in many other parts of the country. I went to a huge farmer’s market in San Isidro, and almost nothing was organic at all. But all that said, I eat much healthier than your typical American, and I would say your typical Costa Rica is eating more fresh food than your typical American. Personally I try to eat 100% organic and it’s definitely a challenge here in Costa Rica when you don’t have your own farm or livestock. But yes, all of that aside, I love Costa Rica and I feel my best here. It’s an amazing place, without many of the conveniences of the Western world, but I wouldn’t have it any other way :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: September 4, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing the Tica perspective Pia :) I had no idea you could get good electronics locally in San Jose, can you tell me where?? I’ve gone crazy with this in the past. Also, what are the stores where you can get good clothes and accessories? Anytime I’ve gone in San Jose I’ve not been able to find things. Of course I know that many of the beach towns have cute little designer shops with really cool stuff, but not necessarily practical things if you need them. I feel that most of this article is pretty general on the logistics of Costa Rica as a whole. Of course I have more experience in Puerto Viejo, but I’ve traveled all over Costa Rica and spent a month living in Pavones too, so I try to be as general about the country as a whole as possible. Let me know other areas that I can clarify in my post, and I will def update the electronics and shopping info if you can give me some suggestions of places to include :) xo

    • Hi Pia, we are thinking of moving from California and would love some of your advice on where to buy electronics and clothes at usa prices and quality..thanks so much!

  3. Always look forward to your ezines, as they are refreshing, honest, balanced and from the heart. Thank you for living the life of your dreams, as it inspires me to do the same.

  4. Your link to the essential oils page is not working :-)

  5. Nice summary of living in Costa Rica. I’m glad you pointed out downsides of living in paradise :-) I might actually consider visiting CR during our Central+South America trip next year.It’s not in the plan as for now because of the cost (as you and many others pointed out). Your posts sound like it’s worth it!

  6. This bit really resonated with me: “remember your dreams and your goals while also allowing yourself to live the pura vida lifestyle”. I think this is a really good motto to live by wherever you are. I definitely need to address the work/leisure balance in my life – at the moment I’m too much in the mindset of stressing myself out so that I can be freer and happier in the future. Need to keep reading blogs like yours and absorbing the relaxed travel vibes so I can get back into that much healthier mentality!

    I also really enjoyed the raw honesty of this post. It’s making me think carefully about where I want to be next, and how comfortable/uncomfortable I can deal with, in exchange for the endless gifts of beautiful nature! Pura vida to you!

    • Camille Willemain Says: September 4, 2015 at 8:27 pm

      Thank you sweetie and I totally understand, I find striking the balance challenging as well. In sanskrit they have a word for it, “satvic” meaning, not overly firey and not sluggish either, working, purposeful, moving forward, but in a constant state of peace.

      • Ah yes I remember reading about those sanskrit terms. I think I fluctuate between them all a lot! More posts about the pura vida lifestyle now you’re back in the home of it would be very inspiring :)

        • Camille Willemain Says: September 5, 2015 at 4:17 pm

          Yes, fluctuations are totally normal and I experience them as well, calming the mind helps 😉 Pura vida noted xx Anything specific you’d like to know?

  7. Great piece, very thorough! I’m SO glad you mentioned that you have to have proof of leaving the country in 90 days. I was contemplating just going down and buying my ticket back once I felt like leaving.
    Snakes don’t bother me, but I have a really dumb fear of spiders. I would probably pee my pants if I found a tarantula inside. How did you get him out?

    • Camille Willemain Says: September 5, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Ohhh yes glad I helped you on that one!! Technically most countries require an onward ticket, but most places aren’t strict like Costa Rica. Hmmm I don’t remember with the tarantula…. maybe my Mom did it? It just so happened when she was visiting, haha, full immersion vacation!

  8. Craig Cerney Says: September 8, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Thanks. Very informative. I always got an intuitive “no” to Costa Rica, and now I see why. I lived in Mexico for 3 years and it is cheaper, closer, cooler and easier, and with more amenities

  9. Hi American Girl
    Your blog was a real eye opener. The thought that one can really make their dreams come true sounds so real after reading your escape to Costa Rica. The tips you have given right from getting a tourist visa to permanent visa here rocks!

  10. I absolutely loved the information. My husband and I along with our four small children have been trying to live the American dream. We have desperately been trying to find a affordable location in paradise and have found ourselves leaning towards CR on several occasions. Your article was full of tons of information thank you for your input and honesty! !!

  11. Felipe(Phil) Says: February 9, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Camille

    Your website is a blessing. 12 1/2 years ago I married a Tica (Anabelle). She came to the US with her 3 children to live with me. They are all grown up. My wife wants to move back and we have decided that in or near Punta Uva looks like a fit. She and her sister Gioconda (Yocko) were in Punta Uva last week. My wife found property she is interested in. I have worked in the real estate industry here for more than half my life (I will be 66 shortly).

    The site she chose is undeveloped. I am concerned about water, sewer, electricity, phone and internet. Anything you can tell me will be a help.

    Gracias mi amiga.

    Felipe

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 9, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks Felipe! Unfortunately I don’t know anything about developing or buying property here since I haven’t done it myself… But google your questions and I’m sure there are some great resources! xoxo

  12. Hi Camille,

    Thank you so much for sharing your blog and your experiences! I recently traveled to Costa Rica and fell in love with the people, a boy, the nature (even the rain and bugs), and the Pura Vida lifestyle. I have spent everyday that I have been back in the US heartbroken and planning my escape to return there but haven’t quite figured out my next move. Finding true happiness has become my main priority since my trip there, and so far the only thing I have figured out is that I need to travel more and get away from the city. I appreciate the honesty and candid nature of this post; I have learned so much from you and it was amazing to read your words keeping my own experience in mind.

    I applaud you for your bravery and for staying true to yourself. Your story is truly an inspiration to me and I hope one day soon I can follow similar footsteps!

    Best of luck with your travels and thank you again for sharing! Pura Vida!

  13. Love your article.
    I was born in Nicaragua and been living in Canada for over 32 yrs. My wife and I who are in our early 40’s just got back from a trip to CR. We rented a car and drove to La Fortuna, Monteverde and Jaco beach. We did rafting, horseback riding, hiking and more… LOVED IT. Although I feel like i left my heart in CR, we always have to remember that people see the grass greener on the other side. I have family in Heredia who’d do anything to live in Canada. They complain about cost of living, theft and immigration problems in CR. Yes I know all about north american living which is work work work…so I can see why I fell in love with the “pura vida” lifestyle but like you said, its not all sunsets and waves. Its a hard life living in any 3rd world country unless you got mucho dinero and don’t mind leaving some luxuries behind. Its takes real determination to make such a move. I was thinking about what it’d be like to live in CR so I googled it and found your blog which was very informative. I noticed you didn’t mention anything about the quality of healthcare in CR but then again you must be young and in great shape! Hasta luego and wish you all the best! :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: September 3, 2016 at 11:20 am

      Thank you so much!! I appreciate your insights. And yes, my healthcare plan includes yoga, essential oils, ginger tea, and a beautiful life that feeds me. xo

      • Hello, it’s a great post. I am planning to move to CR in Jan. I have been offered a job in CR. I am a foreign citizen. Does that mean that if I have been given a job in CR, the company has filed for my residency ? And secondly, how faithful are the girls in CR? Do they tend to have multiple relationships as well ?

        • Camille Willemain Says: September 6, 2016 at 7:46 am

          I assume that the company has worked it out so that you have a visa that makes it legal for you to be in the country. You could always confirm with the company about specifically what kind of visa you will have. I really can’t say how the women are in relationships, and I’m sure it depends what part of the country you’re in. Blessings to you for your move!

  14. Hi Camille
    I really like your blog. I was the last 2 weeks the second time in Puerto Viejo and I really really love it! I’m thinking about safe enough Money and just go and life there for some months. I never come away from Puerto Viejo <3

  15. Thinking of coming down to Puerto Viejo in either February or March for a month. You mention a page where people list their homes for rent. Could you please provide me with info on how to access that page. Thanks!

  16. Dan miceli Says: November 3, 2016 at 8:03 am

    I’m thinking moving Costa Rica with my girl friend in a retire baseball player in looking for safest place to live there the area .can u please guide me the

    • Hello Dan,
      I can recommend Atenas, it is one of the most popolar retirees places in Costa Rica, about 20 minutes from the airport and sorrounded by mountains. Also only about 1 hour from the pacific coast. I got a two houses available there in case you are interested send me an email info@grupodixon.com

  17. Victor Garcia Says: December 18, 2016 at 2:17 am

    I realy like to visit costa rica but i want visit a place with knowledge of travel like you i live in santa fe new mexico & im single & never traveled much but i really like costa rica & panama city can you please help me out with anythings i need to know good & bad i want to be well informed thank you victor garcia

  18. Hi, I like your blog a lot and overall I agree with most of your philosophy, especially about health and “going for it” as opposed to letting people or your own worries stop you from going for it.
    However there are a couple things you state on this page that I think will give people the wrong idea about Costa Rica.

    Let me say that I too have a blog and I have lived here on year full time but in the past I also lived here over a year, and have visited here months at a time over 20 years, so I know quite a bit about living in Costa Rica. I also have had friends for 20 years who live here so I know their challenges.

    You wrote: “Want to wake up before dawn from the sound of crowing roosters? Want to wake up at midnight from the sound of screeching bats? Want to come home to a tarantula, a snake, or a scorpion in your bed? Want to wait days for your clothes to dry? Or clean gecko poop off of your counters? Sweep cockroaches off of your floor? Watch mice eat holes in everything? Want to lock everything that you own in a safe? To watch your possessions rust, mold, and fade? Want to work for $2 an hour and spend ten of it on a bag of quinoa? Want to work online when all of the electrical lines break?”

    While these things are true in some parts of Costa Rica, they are not true everywhere. I have experienced a terrible bug problem in some areas, and one time I had one mouse eat a few holes in some clothes we left on the clothesline to dry. Yes, there are mold problems at times…
    But let me answer these issues one by one:

    Crowing roosters. This is common yes but they’re not everywhere. I have none here where I live and many “developments” do not allow them and so this depends on where you live.

    Screeching bats. I’ve lived in about 12 different places and homes in Costa Rica over the years and never once heard a screeching bat.

    A tarantula, a snake, or a scorpion in your bed: I have had ONE scorpion in my bed – luckily I saw it and killed it, and now I check before getting into bed but have yet to see another one during the past year! I have seen a few in the house but little by little we are sealing the cracks and crevices to keep them and other insects from getting in and nowadays we have very very few insects of any kind inside the house.

    Never had a snake or tarantula in my bed and since we moved in here over one year ago we have yet to see a tarantula or snake in the house. We did see a snake behind the house and a couple down in the forested area below us.

    Waiting for days for your clothes to dry: There are dryers or “secadoras” in Costa Rica. Enough said. Yes if you rely on the sun to dry your clothes there are times when there may not be enough sun to dry them for some days.

    Gecko poop. None. We try to keep the geckos out of the house. I know they say they are good, they eat insects etc. But my Tico friend says to keep them out is best so we do. I guess if you let them in they can overpopulate so that’s why we keep them out.

    Cockroaches. Knock on wood 3 times – knock knock knock! – but in over a year we have had only 10-15 cockroaches in our house. We do use some dimetaceous earth in cracks and crevices and put out bay leaves – they don’t like those – and occasionally put poison if we see a few within a week. By taking these precautions, plus keeping food in tight lidded plastic boxes and keeping the counters clean and dishes clean, we have had almost NO cockroaches in our year here. I know other people who live around here who also don’t have cockroaches. Nor tarantulas. Again, sealing the crevices and cracks where they get in is essential.

    Lock all your possessions up? When we leave for the day we hide a few of our most valuable items, but we’ve yet to have anything stolen or any attempt at it. Again, “knock knock knock” on wood!

    Yes some things will rust but you can protect them with oil and rustoff, stuff like that, or keep them in a dryer area. Mold – we have had a problem with mold yes but we are learning to use the dry days to put stuff out in the sun and wash things that are stored every so often. Also never put stuff in cardboard boxes, put them in plastic boxes with tight lids. Move them into the sun once in a while. You live at the beach I take it, where it is much worse than in the mountains where we live. Keep stuff dry and let light get to them – those are 2 keys to minimize mold!

    Work for $2/hour? Even the farm workers make closer to $3. It’s illegal to work here unless you’re a permanent resident which takes about 3-4 years. As I think you say somewhere, working online is a good option, that’s what I do.

    The electricity goes out here very rarely and usually comes back on within an hour. Not a big problem.

    So again, I think some of these things you talk about are not GENERALLY true; they are YOUR experience based on where you live. Many of my friends live in the mountainous regions like we do here at Rancho Silencio near San Ramon. It’s cooler, less humidity, and apparently we have less bugs and bats and such as well – at least here on our properties.

    So as some of your other commenters have said, a lot of your observations about life in Costa Rica seem to be based on your life in Puerto Viejo or other places you’ve lived, and that’s totally cool! My opinions are based on where I live too! But let’s just remember that Costa Rica has many micro-climates and micro-ecological systems! It can be windy here and not windy a half mile away. I’ve seen it rain on one side of our house and not on the other! It can be cold and foggy on the north side of San Ramon in the mountains but sunny and warm here on the west side! For real!

    So here’s what I want people to know, who are interested in moving to Costa Rica:

    1) Don’t let people tell you that you can’t. If it’s your dream, figure out a way. People told me we couldn’t afford it on $1300 a month but here we are a year later, and we’re doing great!
    2) Live exactly in the area where you want to move to before you move there and especially before you buy there!
    3) Ask your neighbors about how things are where you want to live! Find out before going there how the internet service is, how the mold is, how the insects are, and etc. But as I say, as to insects a lot of it can be whether your house is built “tight” or not and if you can seal it up well, or not. As to mold, you can use light and dehumidifiers to control it. So even your neighbors may not have all the answers, they may not be able to afford a dehumidifier. You can also use 60 watt light bulbs to keep down the mold!

    One other note: you say you can’t meet the right guys! You must be looking in the wrong places, you are beautiful on the outside and inside from what I can see so keep the faith, you’re going to meet a great guy sooner or later!

    My blog is at movingtocostarica.info, to get more of a “mountain” area take on moving to Costa Rica! [Camille, feel free to delete the url, if you wish, I’m happy just to share the info if you’ll let the rest of my post live! Thanks!]

    • Camille Willemain Says: December 26, 2016 at 11:39 pm

      Thanks so much for clarifying this! Your points are EXCELLENT and I appreciate another viewpoint :) You’re right, my impressions are DEFINITELY based on living in Puerto Viejo and Costa Rica is such a diverse country. Also, for entertainment sake, reading this again I certainly sound dramatic 😉 Thanks for offering such rich and valuable info here!

      • Great, Camille! I like the advice you give re people taking responsibility for their lives. Above all one should decide for oneself how and where to live and not pay too much attention to people who tell you not to follow your dreams!

        Just go in with eyes wide open. Don’t dive before checking the hole you’re diving into first. But once you feel sure enough, dive in and enjoy!

  19. Hi Camie, Im so fed up with living in Chicago with the violence the cold winters and ludicrous taxes I want out. I looked into an eary retirementand I just want to be somewhere in the Caribbean. Any other choices that might be better than Costa Rica?

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 1, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Hey Tom, I recommend traveling around and discovering where you feel best. There’s no easy place on Earth to escape to, but there are places that remind you what it means to really live. <3 Wishing you what you seek xox

      • Anthony Demman Says: June 3, 2017 at 11:26 pm

        I Have been to costa rica a few times. In my view if you are from the United States unless you do not have much money I would not choose coasta Rica. No matter what people say it is 3rd world in many ways. People are friendly however there is petty crime everywhere. you can’t leave your home unattended or somebody will break-in you cannot leave anything on your dashboard or somebody will break-in The food is just OK. The traditional breakfast is good but you get sick of the same food over and over. in contrast I would look at New Zealand it is nothing short of amazing in so many ways The food the culture much less crime incredible nature people are very nice And it is much nearer to a first world country Without the bugs and cockroaches.

        • Camille Willemain Says: June 4, 2017 at 10:48 am

          I’d love to check out New Zealand sometime! I hear it is incredible, so clean, so pure, stunning nature. I love the rawness of a developing country and the vibrance of Latin culture, so it’s also a preference 😉

  20. Penny Mauk Says: January 10, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    This is some of the best writing and blogging I have ever read I’ve been wanting to start my own blog for some time now I have been to Costa Rica and loved it considered living there and have an addiction to traveling so would def love to read more and get your advise working online and traveling. Thanks so much
    All my best ,Penny Mauk

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 12, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Beautiful! So glad you enjoy it! Check my blog archives I’ve written a lot on sustaining a life of travel :)

  21. This is not the first time I have commented on your blog. As usual it is full of incorrect information and, as before, it has been written by someone who is, at best, a part-time “tourist” resident. I am a legitimate legal immigrant to Costa Rica – 20 years and a citizen- and it really is troublesome when people who really know so little about the country sell themselves as experts. Spend more time, get to know the country as someone other than a tourist. What you are doing is actually, in my opinion, bad for the country and reeks of a”know it all” “gringa”.

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 16, 2017 at 3:07 am

      Thanks for your perspective. Do you have any resources you can share with us that have more accurate and supportive information for my readers? You’re right, my perspective is limited to my experience, and there’s tonnnss of other opinions that would be helpful. Feel free to share any advice or articles you know of.

  22. Jeff & Marlene Graves Says: January 24, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful insight and links to other articles. We love your honest and spot-
    on perspective!

  23. Thank you for such a useful blog with amazing energy. Really cool. My family is looking for a move out to Costa Rica, we are teachers, with no belief in the education system. Very much into and qualified in holistic health, fitness and performance. Do you think Costa Rica is a place to take a little risk trying to make something happen in that industry?

    Thanks again

    Stoby

    • Camille Willemain Says: February 14, 2017 at 7:10 am

      Hey Stoby there is a lot of interest but doing business in Costa Rica is not easy and I’m not an expert. I recommend doing more research among those who do own similar businesses down there.

    • Stoby, Ticos will not pay good money for holistic stuff. If you lived in a very gringo area like Grecia or Atenas maybe you could make some money in the holistic field but personally I am skeptical, and there are many problems starting a business here not the least of which is finding honest people to work for you.
      I’ve lived here for a year and a half, am a legal resident – see my blog. I love it here but there are challenges and everyone I know has said starting a business is a major challenge, and making money at it even more so.

      But then again, ANYthing is possible if your will is strong enough and you have a good idea for a business etc. Just do your due diligence in investigating about starting a business here.

  24. How much monez do I need to move to costa rica

  25. Neil strarns Says: February 24, 2017 at 11:34 am

    A very helpful introduction for someone thinking of moving to Costa Rica.

  26. Ty Clemons Says: March 30, 2017 at 11:09 am

    Anyway to find a roommate/guest house for 2/3 months to see how you like Costa Rica?

  27. I’m a massage therapist and want to move how hard is it can you email me thanks

  28. Sara Mackay Says: April 15, 2017 at 12:32 am

    I’m in my early 40s and been married 27 years i live in montana and I would like to find myself maybe volunteer with kids or old folks maybe get bike learn culture never done anything like this but have a little money and have a few months ur site was very helpful in appreciate it

  29. I have read many blogs and articles on the subject of life in Costa Rica both before and after I moved here a year ago, and I have to say this writer really captured the gist of what it is all about. In both her descriptions and her open minded approach to handling this vastly different way of life.

    In my observations, there are 2 basic types of CR Gringo expats; those that come here to live and those that come here to die. Those that come here to live run their businesses and/or their lives by the rules, treat people with respect, learn a passable version of the language, are involved in social groups and community oriented. Those that come here to die, well….they are another breed entirely.

    You see them falling off their stools in the bars, drunk out of their minds, or eyes wide as saucers all wired up on the cheap and potent cocaine easily obtainable here. You see the pathetic older men living on fixed incomes buying sex from young Tica girls who are too poor to feed their families any other way. You hear bitter complaints about the hardships and quirks of living here, usually from those who refuse to assimilate in any other capacity than what they consider to be their rightful place in the ‘Master-Slave’ paradigm. You catch vibes of a slow grinding frustration morphing into a not so subtle outright contempt for the country and people that abides them at least esthetic refuge from a happiness they seem unable to create under any circumstances.

    I love this place. Has it been easy? HELL no. Are there hardships? HELL YES. Is it worth it? That is a question that can only be answered by the individual, but if you go by statistics, 40% of those who move here say it isn’t within the first two years of living here and move back to where they came or elsewhere.

    I came here from what I perceive to be is a dying civilization. A hopelessly corrupt and evil bully of the entire world whose Karma is so far down the pan it would take generations of penance to right it. Meeting the hardships CR has to offer contrasts against that backdrop in my personal perspective, so they are easier for me to swallow. I am here for the sake of principal, and….I am here to live.

  30. Loved reading this piece on Costa Rica. Hope your heart leads you to the love of your life!

  31. Abby Christ Says: June 21, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    Hello,
    I love your article. I am 27 and I have been going to Costa Rica for 14 years, and I have always been in love. I found your article by searching for information of how to move there. One statement you made was “Tourists without residency are legally allowed to own vehicles, property, businesses, and generate income from self-employment… I just wanted to double check that is what you meant, and that you didnt mean to say that tourists are NOT legally allowed. Thank you!
    Abby

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 4, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Hi beauty, thanks for your comment!! Yes, you are allowed to do all of those things. Self employment meaning working online somehow earning income from back in the states, not self employment like being a massage therapist locally. Hope that helps and makes sense :) xoxo

  32. You cured me of wanting to retire in Costa Rica. But, I have not lost my sense of adventure!

  33. john geydos Says: July 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    I had to go to San Jose on business. I was kind of annoyed that we were greeted by about 30 prostitutes just from the taxi to the hotel front door. Every time we left the hotel, we had to fend off the prostitutes….some appeared to be 13 or 14 years old….when we talked to the desk clerk…he said just ignore them…it’s common practice……never been any where else in Costa Rica, but is this a national standard? If it is, I don’t think I want to go back ever.

    • Camille Willemain Says: July 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      That’s strange I have never heard of that before… I’m a woman so I am blessed in this way 😉 If you go to the small villages in the jungle, mountains, beaches, there isn’t overt prostitution. Only in the cities. Same like most places in the world.

      • Stanley Says: July 16, 2017 at 6:28 pm

        Great posts….great pics……..great god……ya have it all…except ya must find yourself a honest male……your in gods jungle…….ditching the illusionists dream for nature……right on……

        The goal…..there are no. Ore goals …..

      • John Geydos, about prostitution: I have been coming here for 25 years and now live here in Costa Rica and I can tell you there are only prostitutes in any quantity in San Jose and Jaco’ Beach.

        And even in San Jose’ it’s only in the area known as Gringo Gulch near the Holiday Inn. If you avoid that general area you will likely not see prostitutes in San Jose. The other areas would be the “Coca-Cola” where the main bus station is or the Zona Roja south of Avenida Central but those are very bad areas that one should not stay in.

        In other parts of San Jose and the rest of Costa Rica, you will likely not find prostitutes, and the government of Costa Rica is working with the USofA to eliminate under age prostitution.

  34. Stanley Says: July 16, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Costa Rica isn’t the usa….nor Europe….

    If there’s no tile there…..it’s because god is saying to you are in Costa Rica and let the nature take its time finding tile, instead of the American way…I can’t find any……or I’m looking for tile now.

    • Stanley Says: July 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      I agree with that….let’s toss out the USA lifestyle and get to he bikini, the flower, the yoga, the juice…..and peace….

      There is no tile…….I Costa Rica it’s the earth…….