Tips for Starting a New Life in Costa Rica
We know starting a new life can be challenging, especially if it involves moving from your native country to a completely different one, with a new language and hundreds of things to learn. This is
We know starting a new life can be challenging, especially if it involves moving from your native country to a completely different one, with a new language and hundreds of things to learn. This is why we set out to explore the most common tips from expats for those just starting their adventure.
We recap and summarize the most common and useful recommendations so that you can have a starting point and a clearer idea of the details that might not always be mentioned in travel brochures.
Define Your Connections
Are there supermarkets nearby? Do you need a lawyer? Do you need to make repairs at home? Do you have pets and do they need medical attention? Regardless of whether you are going to live on the beach or in the city, there will always be basic services that will be necessary in case of emergency or just to live well.
Create a list of your priorities and do an exhaustive search to understand the quality and availability of services, as well as recommendations that you can collect from people who already live in the country and who have been through the same process.
In most towns in Costa Rica you can easily find most services and types of professionals. However, if you plan to live in a remote or very rural area, it is possible that to hire some more specialized services you may need to travel to the nearest population center or to the capital. Likewise, services such as gardening, plumbers, construction and electricians are often found via personal recommendations.
Services Aren’t Always Stable
Let’s face it, in Costa Rica we have some minor issues with electricity, water and internet availability. It is important to keep in mind that these services may be interrupted without prior notice due to weather conditions, maintenance, or even the state of the service infrastructure in the area.
For example, some coastal towns suffer water cuts because their drinking water systems do not have the capacity to meet the demand in the area, especially during the dry season.
To avoid headaches, it is possible to have a reserve water tank, a gas stove instead of an electric stove, and a backup mobile connection for those moments when the Wi-Fi simply disappears.
The Automobile Dilemma
Life in many countries seems to force its inhabitants to have a car, however in Costa Rica it can be a little simpler. If you decide to live in the Central Valley, public transportation and taxis can be your allies. You may need to spend some time on public transportation since schedules and connections are defined by specific routes, but it is not much different time-wise from driving a car in traffic. On the coasts, people often use bicycles or other cheaper forms of transportation, due to the geography and the relaxed lifestyle.
Having a car can be important if you decide to live in areas that are a bit mountainous, away from population centers, or simply for convenience. In this case, the question is, do I take my car or buy one in Costa Rica? Well, the answer will depend on your patience and budget. Traveling with your own car can be a good decision if it is a model from brands such as Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Kia and Suzuki, which are some of the most popular brands and for which you can easily find parts and repair shops. In addition, their import cost may be less than the cost of buying the same new model in the country.
Meanwhile, those looking to save some money may find buying a second-hand car or a cheaper model once in the country more attractive. Always seek advice to avoid a bad decision.
A New Language
Learning Spanish may seem like a challenge, but it will be valuable as you settle into life in Costa Rica. It is not necessary for you to speak like a native, but learning the basics will be sufficient for you to be able to handle yourself with more ease and certainty, especially when it comes to hiring services and creating connections with your neighbors and community.
There are many local institutions and teachers that can help you take your first steps in the language. That person-to-person contact can give you a better perspective on the language as well as local expressions that may not be provided in an online course.
Live the Experience
It is easy to fall in love with an area of our country and quickly decide that you want to buy property there. Many expats and experts recommend avoiding diving headlong into buying, though and, instead, recommend trying to live the day to day of the place and even experiment with new locations before making a final decision so as to be sure that this place will be YOUR place.
This experience will help you better understand who your neighbors will be, what the services are like in the area (internet and water especially), how long it will take to travel to the main parts of the country, the prices of the products, how secure the area is, and more.
One of the advantages of our country is the great variety of microclimates that exist only a few kilometers apart from each other. The coastal areas and the lower parts of the Alajuela province are hot and humid in general, the ideal option if you do not have a problem with heat or have air conditioning. On the other hand, the mountainous areas close to the Central Valley tend to be much cooler and windier, especially during the dry season.
The dry season runs from December through April (except in the Caribbean area where it runs from August to October). In this period the climate is characterized by being arid, hot, and windy.
The rainy season runs from May through November, and is characterized by heavy downpours that can complicate transportation or even flood some areas of the country.
As you can see, our country is full of advantages but also some challenges. Challenges that are not impossible to overcome, yet being familiar with them will definitely facilitate the process of adapting to the Pura Vida lifestyle.