Moving From the US to Costa Rica: Pros and Cons

Considerations When Relocating to One of the Happiest Places in the World
Are you looking to relocate from cold and busy cities in North America? Costa Rica is receiving serious attention among those looking for a change in their lifestyle. There are many reasons why one would want to move here, especially if you had an amazing or life-changing first trip.

Costa Rica has a special magic to balance the pros and cons of living full-time wherever you are. In this article, we want to highlight some important things to consider if you’re already thinking about it.

Pros:

1. Lifestyle: 

Costa Ricans’ approach to the enjoyment of life is known around the world. It doesn’t come only from the tourism industry behind the “Pura Vida” slogan: the richness of this country comes from a deep appreciation of nature, hospitality, and peace. 

Even though a lot of tourists might think the country is a “jungle”, there’s a lot more to it. The country offers a city, beaches, forests, mystic mountains, a diversity of cultures and a lot more.

Whether you have a little or a lot of money, Costa Ricans love to appreciate the smaller things in life, especially enjoying the present moment while surrounded with lush nature.  

2. Natural Beauty & Small City Charm:

There’s a lot more than the most famous tourist areas. Costa Rica offers many wonderful locations that are worth a visit, featuring stunning natural beauty all around.

One thing that is very well appreciated is the closeness each area has to others. For instance, you can be at the beach in the morning, but you can also catch a full mountain sunset on the same day.

Many people limit their idea of Costa Rica to that of just a pretty developing country, but it is also one of the most prosperous nations in Latin America, with high levels of education, international investment, and first-level services.

3. Healthcare and Quality of Life:

Costa Rica’s healthcare system is renowned for its accessibility and quality, often attracting retirees seeking affordable yet comprehensive medical care. The country’s commitment to environmental sustainability and social welfare contributes to a high overall quality of life.

4. Cost of Living:

While certain areas of Costa Rica, particularly tourist hotspots, can be relatively expensive, many regions offer a more affordable cost of living compared to major cities in the United States or Canada. Housing, transportation, and everyday expenses can be more manageable, allowing for a potentially more relaxed lifestyle.

Cons:

1. Costa Ricans love their language (and slang):

Adapting to a new culture and language can be challenging. While many Costa Ricans count with solid knowledge of English—especially in tourist areas—a basic understanding of Spanish is highly beneficial for day-to-day interactions and building deeper connections within local communities.

Don’t hesitate to use your stay in Costa Rica to improve your knowledge of Spanish, as most people will be delighted to teach you how to say things. And for an even more interesting experience, ask to learn some of the local sayings and expressions!

2. Bureaucratic Processes:

Navigating legal and administrative procedures, such as obtaining residency or work permits, can be time-consuming and complex, requiring patience and a thorough understanding of the requirements.

These bureaucratic problems also reflect on government leadership at the municipal level. While there’re some very good ones, they’re still places with a poor administrative structure. This is something the country is trying to correct for obvious reasons.

3. Employment Opportunities:

Finding stable employment in Costa Rica, particularly for non-residents, may pose a challenge. The job market is competitive, and many expatriates choose to start their businesses or work remotely. Language barriers could be an issue when getting a job in certain areas.

4. Costa Rica is not North America:

While Costa Rica offers a comfortable standard of living, certain areas may have limited access to modern infrastructure and services that some expatriates may be accustomed to in the United States and Canada. More specifically, in isolated towns, things might move very slowly regarding roads and infrastructure.

5. Distance from Family and Friends:

Moving to a different country means being physically distant from loved ones. Maintaining relationships across borders can be emotionally challenging and requires intentional effort.

Since CR Nomads is not your typical tourist website, we highly recommend you get in touch with the real Costa Rican culture before considering living here full-time. Something that we’ve seen is that many US or Canadian residents come to Costa Rica thinking they’re going to have the same amenities that they have back home.

It’s important to get to know various areas and their local day-to-day living. Even though the country is quite small, there are differences that can be observed between relatively short distances. Lifestyles can be very different in Puerto Viejo or Tamarindo than those in Alajuela, San José, or Cartago.

Our first recommendation is not to take the culture for granted. Before you move to the country, explore the regions around you and see what suits best with your lifestyle and personality.

That said, don’t feel discouraged at all: Costa Rican people are welcoming, friendly and used to cultural exchanges. They love meeting new people and having good times. It’s no wonder thousands of foreigners have been coming to this country and making it their new home for decades.

Welcome to Costa Rica.

Andres Vedova

CR Nomads Commercial Director

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