Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica?

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Moving to Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica and living among the “Ticos”, as Costa Ricans call themselves, is a vacation dream come true for many foreign assignees. Read the InterNations Guide on Costa Rica for information on expat destinations, permits, and more.
Most expats move to Costa Rica's Central Valley.
  • The Central Valley is Costa Rica’s economic hub, with many expats moving there.
  • Learning Spanish before moving to Costa Rica is recommended.
  • There are different types of residency permits, most of which are income-based, while perpetual tourism is another alternative.

The Central Valley

Costa Rica’s Central Valley has been the most feasible relocation option for both Ticos and foreigners for centuries now. The valley, which is divided between four of seven provinces is a densely populated area, home to four of Costa Rica’s five largest cities. It is no surprise, then, that the large number of people moving to Costa Rica’s Central Valley have shaped the region into the nation’s economic and cultural focal point.

Whether your move finds you in Alajuela, San José, Cartago, or Heredia: The cities of the GAM (Greater Metropolitan Area) are almost like the boroughs of a town, with their own distinct flavors, but still part of a larger unit.

Popular Expat Destinations

While any part of the Central Valley will be a good new home to expats, the capital of the country, San José, still retains a special status among the valley cities. Due to its central location and excellent connections to the adjacent cities of the GAM, San José is often the first city people think of when they contemplate living abroad in Costa Rica. Reasons for moving to Costa Rica are manifold, and they are often not connected with jobs or careers, but rather the end of them. Many pensioners and retirees, especially from North America, come here to retire in comfort.

Of course, having led a busy professional life, most pensionados are more interested in Costa Rica’s more laid back areas rather than large economic centers. Cities on the Pacific coast, such as Tamarindo or Jaco, are highly popular with expats moving to Costa Rica in order to spend their golden years in the country’s beautiful scenery and warm climate. These areas are also very popular with tourists. The small town of Atena, which is located around 25 km from the capital San José, has also proven to be a popular destination for retirees for its easy access to major cities and its friendly, expat-welcoming community.

Health Tips — Mosquitos Are Your Worst Enemies

Although nearly a quarter of the country is covered with nature reserves, there is a low risk of malaria in Costa Rica. However, you should still do your best to avoid mosquito bites — bring a supply of anti-malarial drugs, insect repellent, and long-sleeved, bright garments. Even though Costa Rica has not been significantly affected by the outbreak of the Zika virus, extra caution should still be taken for protection from mosquitos. Other than checkups and some routine vaccines, including hepatitis A and B and typhoid, no further healthcare measures have to be taken when moving to Costa Rica.

We have taken a look at the nation’s healthcare system in our article on living in Costa Rica. Expats moving to Costa Rica do not need to worry about their health as it is in very capable hands during their stay there. If you are dependent on a specific prescription medication, however, you should make sure to bring sufficient amounts with you. Costa Rican healthcare is of high quality, but the expenditure on prescription medication can be considerable.

Spanish Helps

We have previously mentioned in our article on living in Costa Rica that the Costa Rican education system prioritizes the widespread use of English as a second language. Expats moving to the Central Valley or coastal areas should have no problem communicating in English. But you should still realize that you can only get so far with this lingua franca. Signs, internet pages, and many other things are in Spanish only.

You should try to pick up at least some basic Spanish before you move to Costa Rica. Not only will it simplify things considerably, but it will also be greatly welcomed by the local population.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

Emanuele Casabona

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