13 Answers to your Questions about Moving to Costa Rica
Our House Hunters International episode recently aired again, and I only know this because every time it airs, a friend or two (or three) sends us a message telling us they are watching us on TV! Then a few days go by and we get a few emails from people politely asking us more details about moving to Costa Rica.
Even though we now live in Barcelona, this is fun for us because we enjoy sharing our experience and we like encouraging people to make the move! So… we have answered a lot of questions about moving to Costa Rica via email and recently Harris responded to one email and as I was reading it – I was like- I’m just going to POST THIS! (Consider this Harris’s first blog post 😉 yay!)
1. How old were your kiddos while there?
Kids were 6 & 8 (2nd & 4th grade) – we were there for 3 years.
2. What school did you choose? Any reason in particular? Homeschool?
We first chose Country Day School (now CRIA). After the first year we switched to La Paz Community School and stayed for two years there. We love La Paz – it has a great community feel. CRIA was good too, very small classes at the time. We made some good friends there as well. La Paz has more of a ‘local’ focus… pro-environment… more scholarships … etc.
3. Where exactly do you live?
We lived in Guanacaste, the north western part of Costa Rica. We lived in Playa Potrero, near Playa Flamingo and not far from the popular surf town of Tamarindo. We first lived in Pacific Heights – fabulous house up a dicey dirt road. We lived in 2 different houses that we loved in Potrero, walk to beach, easy drive to the schools. We also lived in a house on Flamingo beach for a month and a couple months in Reserva Conchal, when we were in between houses. The reserva is like living in a well-groomed USA vacation property… some people like it, we didn’t. Felt very insulated.
4. Are you guys still working? If so, how is the work visa stuff?
We own our own internet businesses which are incorporated in the USA. Most people don’t bother getting work visas (or residency visas) for that matter. They just do what we did and ‘leave the country’ every 3 months for at least 72 hours. (although there are ways around that as well.) If you’re not into travel, it’s a short drive up to Nicaragua and you can get a passport stamp there.
If you plan on working locally, you’ll have to get residency. And you should be warned, that’s probably the toughest way to try to live there long term. The pay will not be very good unless you sell real estate or own a business there.
5. Are you using the insurance there? Private? CAJA?
We kept our USA insurance which covered us for emergencies and otherwise, medical care is very affordable there. Beachside Clinic and Dr. Andrea is probably the best medical treatment I’ve received in my life. Very knowledgeable, caring, well educated, english speaking, etc… and it’s $50 for a diagnostic visit. There was a time that I was rushed to the hospital – and, like i said, this was covered by our USA insurance. (We’re just tourists in Costa Rica… remember.)
6. Did you bring pets?
We did not bring pets. Other people did. Most of them left the pets back home and then brought them down a few months later. We adopted two dogs while in Costa Rica actually, many people that move to Costa Rica end up adopting a dog;) Andrea and our dog Canela are literally on the plane right now as I type this coming from Costa Rica to Spain.
7. Are you close to medical?
Beachside Clinic is in Huacus – and very close. Think of that like your local health clinic. Then, if you need further treatment, there’s a very good private hospital in Liberia called CIMA. That’s about an hour away. And then, if you need specialists, etc., you have to go to San Jose – which is 4-1/2 hours away.
8. How is the wifi? We will still run our freelance businesses from there.
Well, WiFi depends on which house you get of course — but the internet is decent. If you’re in a house that can get CRWIFI that’s the best — it’s wimax instead of cable lines and offers the highest speeds and best customer service. It’s probably twice the other services. Otherwise, CableTica is better than ICE. ICE is adsl, cabletica is cable.
With cabletica, you will have 1-2 outages a month lasting 30-120 minutes. High tourist times it seems to be worse. But we also ran our businesses from there and had no trouble whatsoever.
9. Did you guys buy right away? Or do you lease?
We leased the homes we lived in. All of them were vacation properties, so fully furnished. We also bought a smaller vacation property while we were there in Matapalo – but we rent it out long term.
10. How’s the cell situation (international plan or local pre-pay)?
Cell service is fine. At first we did the prepaid card — you’ll need a phone that’s unlocked (which usually means you’re done with your 2 year service plan or buy a new phone). This only provides 3g data as well.
Eventually, I used a friends business to get a phone contract – this added international and 4g (which is spotty in the area). Basically, they won’t give you a long term contract unless you’re a resident – or you can do it through a business like I did
11. Do you happen to know how Rx works there. My hubs is a type 1 diabetic. I should have made this question number 1, ha!
You should call Beachside Clinic and ask about your specific diabetic need. I recommend getting your USA doctor to give you a 90-day prescription. Tell them you’re traveling for 90 days and don’t want to worry about it. Then put the insulin in a cooler and they should let you bring it on the plane – no problem. (needles, maybe pack those).
Personally, I have a medicine that I cannot get from Costa Rica – so, I had to arrange someone to mule it to me every month. This is very common in Costa Rica — people brining stuff back and forth from the states as favors to each other.
I’m certain Insulin is available there – so, just talk to Beachside Clinic and find out the price.
12. Banks? We are B of A and I just thought about that could be weird – who knows?
LOL – BofA is not ‘weird’ – we have accounts with BofA and Wells Fargo — it’s possible that if you lease that you’ll be paying to an American or Canadian bank anyway. Utilities are all paid at the banks there in Costa Rica — I opted out of that program by having the owner’s property manager handle all that. You won’t need a CR bank account – not for your first year or two anyway. (we went 3 without one)
Personally, I always got Colones out of the ATM and just used cash for nearly everything. Although, many many places accept VISA/MC — some do not.
Colones are better b/c the mindset is that the conversion rate is 500:1 … but BofA will give you a better rate than that. The market rate is like 540:1 right now .. and I’m not sure what BofA gives – but they’re one of the largest banks in the world and are able to give the best conversions.
Otherwise, US Dollars are accepted by everyone as well. Even stores. If you move to the area we lived in, you’re basically moving to an underground american colony. (so, if you’re looking for the full-cultural-immersion experience – you may want to live a little further from the beach.)
13. Car – did you buy when you got there?
Yes, we bought our cars when we got there. Everyone buys used cars there and resell them when/if they leave. Be prepared for the fact that cars are expensive there. We bought a 1995 Toyota 4Runner for $6500, a 1978 Landcruiser for $3500, and a 2007 Lexus for $14000. We sold them all when we left for roughly the same that we bought them for. If you can afford it – I recommend splurging for the best quality car you can get … and then let your husband have a toy like I did (the Landcruiser) — there’s no better place in the world to own a 40 year old Landcruiser.
You can visit mine at one of our favorite local restaurants, El Castillo. The owner, Harlan, bought it from us and renamed it “The Grinch” because of the new paint job I got for it — and a bit for his personality too I think. Tell him Andrea & Harris sent ya.
Hope you have a great experience there!
If you are considering moving to Costa Rica, I hope these answers helped. (Thanks to Kristin for asking such great questions!) Still have a question? Leave it in the comments below or feel free to email us 🙂
I also wrote a little bit about Leaving Costa Rica, you may want to read that as well.