Life in Costa Rica
100,000 Expats Can't Be Wrong
I quit my job and moved to Costa Rica and I am not alone.
There are currently 100,000 expats living in Costa Rica. Many of these people are leaving behind their entire lives in more "developed" nations such as the United States and Canada, quitting their jobs and moving to Costa Rica.
Some of the questions I am always asked by family and friends are:
- Why Costa Rica?
- Is it safe to live there?
- What do you do there for work?
- Don't you miss the US?
Although I'm sure each expat has their own personal reasons for ultimately making the move, there are some common reasons that I hear time and time again with speaking with my other expat friends. Most of these things were the same deciding factors that helped me make what has turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
Why Costa Rica?
Believe it or not, I quit my job, sold everything I owned and moved to Costa Rica with my two children without ever visiting the country. This may sound a bit radical or crazy to most people and I suppose it was a bit gutsy. However, before buying our one way tickets to Paradise I did do a lot of research on the country.
In addition to the idea of a tropical year round climate, beautiful deserted beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls and exotic wildlife, I realized that the country had a lot to offer my family.
- Costa Rica is a peaceful nation that has no army. As someone coming from the US, I am fed up my country being at perpetual war with most of the world. I'm a lover not a fighter and I want to raise my children in a society that is more aligned with my ideals.
- Good education. Costa Rica has a literacy rate of 95% and a large percentage of Costa Ricans are bi-lingual, speaking both Spanish and English. I knew that moving to Costa Rica would mean that my daughters and I would also become bi-lingual. I also researched schools and found that there were many private US accredited schools that my children could attend.
- Costa Rica is a very family oriented culture.
- Costa Rica has affordable and very good health care. Costa Rica provides universal health care to it's citizens and permanent residents. Even as a visitor to the country you can take advantage of great medical and dental care at a fraction of the cost in the US.
- Lower cost of living. As a single mom of two children it seemed that I was always dealing with some sort of financial struggle back in the States. For a frugal minded mama, the idea that we could live better for less was very appealing to me.
- Living a simpler life. I knew that in Costa Rica people were not caught up in the rat race like they are in the States. I was tired of working all the time. I wanted less stuff and more time freedom.
- Healthier lifestyle. I read that Costa Rica was not full of fast food restaurants and pre-packaged convenience foods. In fact, most Costa Ricans live on a very healthy diet which consists of mostly legumes, fruits and vegetables. They also have a lower obesity rate then in the States and live very long lives due to their low stress lifestyles. Most expats experience an effortless 10 lb weight loss after just a couple months of living in Costa Rica.
- Costa Rica is a small country and it's bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. Traveling with my children is important to me and I knew that not only would we be able to easily travel around Costa Rica but we would also be able to broaden our horizons by traveling to both Nicargua and Panama.
These were some of the major draws for me when making the decision to move. Leaving behind your entire life, all comforts of home, family and friends can be a little scary but the chance to experience a whole new way of life was waiting for us!
Volcanoes, Waterfalls and Wildlife
Is It Safe To Live There?
This is probably the most common question that I am asked. People gasp and say, "Oh, I could never live in Central America with my children. I'd be terrified!" I had none of these fears before moving here and living in the country now for almost three years, I can say that Costa Rica is a very safe place.
With the exception of robbery, the crime rate in Costa Rica is lower then more developed countries. Petty theft is the most common crime here and unlike in the States, most times these crimes are crimes of opportunity which means that people are breaking in to unattended cars or homes. Rarely do you hear about someone breaking in to a home that is occupied or murdering someone who they are stealing from.
Costa Rica is not, however, crime free. Most of the crimes that do occur happen in the major metropolitan areas of San Jose, Cartago, Heredia and Alejuela. There is also some drug related crime in certain areas on the Carribbean side of the country. The rest of the country is very rural and very, very safe.
I have never had anything stolen from me. I did witness a "bandito" who came out of the mangroves on the beach one day to steal a bag that had been left on the beach unattended. The theif was caught by a local man who worked at the hotel and restaurant near the beach and the police were called. Almost every single resident living in that small beach town showed up to meet and talk to the police, making a very loud statement that stealing is unacceptable behavior in their community.
As a single woman with two children, I have never felt unsafe, scared or threatened while living here. I actually feel a sense of safety here that I did not feel while living in the US.
Home Movie of Our Life in Costa Rica
What do you do there for work?
Before moving to Costa Rica, I knew that as a US citizen I would not be allowed to legally work in the country. Before I moved, I was working as a home based travel agent and in my mind, there could be no valid reason why I couldn't just work "remotely" from Costa Rica. My company had different ideas of course (insurance issues). I knew that I couldn't let something like a "job security" stand in my way. In the end, I made the decision to quit my job so that I could make the move to Costa Rica.
For the first year I did not worry too much about how to make money. I had some money in savings that I knew we could live on for at least the first year. That first year we mostly relaxed and spent a lot of time traveling and exploring the country. We took a three week camping trip, traveling around and camping on beautiful deserted beaches all around the Nicoya Peninsula and eventually ended up in a small town called Playa Avellanas. After spending some time there and getting to meet some of the people of the community we decided to call it home.
Once I enrolled my children in to one of the US accredited private schools my bank account started to drain rather quickly. It was time to figure out how on earth I was going to pay the bills in Costa Rica.
Making money as an expat in Costa Rica is nothing short of a creative endeavor. They say if there is a will, there is a way! These are a few of the ways that I make money as an expat in Costa Rica.