If you are planning to move to this paradisiac happy country or planning to buy a second home in Costa Rica, be sure to read the following guide, I am sure it will be helpful.
First, the basics:
-Costa Rica is a small country of 19,700 sq. mi. with a population of almost 5 million.
– Located in Central America, boarding to the north with Nicaragua and to the south with Panama.
-The climate is tropical year-round, and unlike the four seasons so many countries -like the US- enjoy, we only have two: a dry or gold season (November to April) and a rainy or green season (May to October). Note: the latter applies to almost the entire country except at the Caribbean which would be the opposite.
– Interesting fact: you could see the sunrise at the Caribbean Coast and the sunset at the Pacific Coast. It will take less than an 8-hour drive to cross the country.
– We have provinces instead of states, with a total of 7: San Jos the capital and largest city-, Heredia, Alajuela and Cartago located in the middle; Puntarenas at the Central Pacific; Guanacaste at the North Pacific and Limn at the Caribbean.
More information to understand our idiosyncrasy:
– Costa Ricans like to call themselves Ticos. It is said that it derives from the tendency of Costa Ricans to use -tico as the diminutive suffix in Spanish instead of the more common and widely used -ito.
– It is true that Pura Vida is widely used and considered more a lifestyle than just a phrase.
– Our native language is Spanish but English is widely spoken. Because of this, we have a tendency of speaking Spanglish.
– Addresses in Costa Rica are very difficult to understand by foreigners. We dont use names or numbers of streets and houses arent numbered either. A regular address can be: From the Walmart in Escaz, 200 meter north and 100 meters west. So, be ready to ask for references to locals wherever you go.
– Costa Rican gastronomy is totally based on rice and beans. These grains and leguminous are part of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gallo Pinto is the version of rice and beans for the first meal of the day, and for lunch and dinner, the Casado is commonly eaten.
Services and utilities:
– The Banking in Costa Rica offers Private and Public options. The Public Banks are Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Nacional de Costa Rica and Banco Popular. The private offer includes more than 19 options, such as Scotiabank, BAC San Jos, Davivienda, Lafise and Cathay, among others. It is really easy to open a bank account as a foreigner, most of the banks only ask for your passport, the visa, two personal references and an address. You can open an account in Colones (Costa Rican currency) and one in Dollars at the same time.
– The electrical services are provided by the government. Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) is the producer of energy nationwide. ICE sells directly to clients in some areas of Costa Rica, or through other local companies such as Coopeguanacaste or Fuerza y Luz. Usually, power receipts can be paid online or in supermarkets. The cost is approx. $0,16 per kWh plus a fixed charge of $4 per month.
– The water is provided by the estate too. Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA) is the Company and in some rural areas the Asadas support AyA to manage the hydric resource. The water receipt can also be paid through the e-platforms of the banks or at supermarkets. The cost depends on the area and the consumption, it can be from $10 to $50 per month.
– The most important Cable companies are Cabletica and TigoStar, the rates can change depending on the type of service. The basic plans go from $50 per month for a package that includes TV + 8MB internet, up to $225 for a Digital HD Pack + 100MB internet. Satellite TV is also available through Sky, Tigo and Claro.
– Public transportation is not a strength of the country as we dont have a metro or subway service. However, you can use public buses for a cheap fare of less of $1 per ride for short distances or up to $12 for the long distances. Taxis are red and easy to identify; the minimum fare is $1,5. Uber is available in the metropolitan area (San Jos, Heredia, Alajuela and Cartago).
– The cost of gasoline changes often, but we can say that $1 per liter is a fair average.
– 10 types of taxes are paid in Costa Rica: Sales tax, Selective consumption tax, Income tax, Property tax, Vehicles tax, Tax on transfer of properties, Active corporate tax, Game Room Tax, Investment fund tax.
– If planning to buy a car, an annual circulation tax needs to be paid and the condition of the car is regulated, an annual revision must be passed to have the right to circulate. Brand new cars do the first inspection after two years.
– There is a wide offer on supermarkets, Automercado is the high-end option with lots of imported products. Walmart it is also available, a popular medium cost option is Mas x Menos and for a low budget buy Super Compro and Pal are good options. For wholesale buyers, Pricesmart is available in San Jos.
We hope this short guide helps smooth the adaptation process of living in a new country. The most important thing to highlight when planning to live in Costa Rica is that people are friendly and warm, Ticos enjoy a laid-back lifestyle and nature is the countrys treasure. We love to welcome neighbors from all over the world! Pura Vida!