You can spend just about as much or as little as you want in order to live in Costa Rica.  It really depends on two things:  What do you want and what you need - and they ARE different.  There are persons who live wonderful lives in Costa Rica on as little as $700 per month and they are happy. They may live far from San José and in small accommodations eschewing cable TV, cultural activities, shopping, and other amenities.

One source says that "average spending for a middle class family  of North Americans moving here, ranges between $1,800 and $2,500 per month. 



The answer is it is not a good idea to bring your car here. Here are the reasons why:

When you bring a car to Costa Rica by any means, you are charged import duties.  HUGE import duties.  The import duty on a used car here runs from 45% to 70% of THE RETAIL VALUE of that car!  That is NOT the Blue book, Black book or any other color book. It is the "Costa Rica book", and it is not cheap.  To be clear, that is BOOK price, NOT the price you paid for it in the USA.

On a $20,000 used car, that's from $10,000 to $17,000 in duties depending on the age of the car!. Newer cars actually have MORE duty and older cars have less.. older meaning maybe ten years old.  Also, just to be clear... if you own it (it is titled), it is a used car.


Next, add about $500.00 for freight charges to have it shipped from the US to Puerto Limon where you will have to drive to get it! Finally, once it is here, you will still need to have it inspected, pay your Marchamo, and insurance.   


Next, models of cars in the USA and other countries are not the same as here. Some are not offered... some have different names model names here.  I owned a Toyota Avalon in the US and it is not even sold here. That means parts can be a real problem. Some may have been interchangeable with a Camry, but many others weren't.


To buy a car here, I recommend a dealer, used or new, and make SURE you have the car inspected by a competent mechanic before you sign the papers.  It must be able to pass the inspection.  If not, there could be a lot of hidden expenses.  A private sale is not out of the questions, but then, the mechanic's inspection is even more important.  The best prices are always in the Spanish language newspapers. Also, there is a ton of paperwork buying a car here and the dealer will do all the footwork.


Do I need a passport to go to Costa Rica?


A valid passport is mandatory to enter Costa Rica.  All passengers need a passport and there must be at least six months remaining before the passport expires.


Do I need a visa to go to Costa Rica?


Depending on your country of origin you may enter Costa Rica without a visa. USA, Canada and most European countries have this privilege.  .


Can I enter Costa Rica with a one way ticket?


In general, the answer is no.  Most airlines will not sell them, but this is changing and I understand that some airlines will do this.  Some require proof that you will be applying for residency.  As this seem to vary by airline, you should contact them directly. 


Do I need an international drivers license to drive a car in Costa Rica?


No. An International license is not required. You are allowed to drive with your normal drivers license for whatever is the term of your visa. 


How can I get married in Costa Rica? What documents do I need?


Foreigners can get married in Costa Rica. The documents needed are: - original birth certificate - affidavit of single status - police record - valid passport - divorce decree (if applicable) - These documents need to follow the authentication procedure before being taken to Costa Rica.  This means you must take or send these documents to a Costa Rica Embassy in your country BEFORE you come.  They will attach tax stamps (timbres) and return the documents to you.  The current price is about $40.00 per document. 


What is the difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest?


Mainly the altitude and the temperature.  The rain forests are very hot and humid while the cloud forest are humid and moist.  The species of flora and fauna are significantly different.


Is the water safe to drink in Costa Rica?


The water is fine in nearly all locations.  When in very remote or rural areas, you may wish to drink bottled water.  Also, if you have a very sensitive stomach, bottled water may be better   


What is the currency in Costa Rica?


The Costa Rican currency is called Colon. US dollars may or may not be accepted.  Do NOT count on it.  Major tourist areas accept dollars, as do most hotels and travel related businesses, but a lot of small (and excellent) restaurants as well as almost all the non-commercial artisan shops (not in a tourist trap area) will accept neither dollars nor credit cards. Are credit cards accepted in Costa Rica?


In the major tourist areas, yes. However, many locations do not accept credit cards, especially those great places where you actually see the artist creating something.  Also, if ANYTHING is priced in dollars, you are VERY likely over paying!


What kind of inoculations do I have to take to Costa Rica?


No vaccines are required to enter Costa Rica but for detailed information, . No matter where you travel though, a tetanus shot (or booster) is always a good idea.


Do I need an electric adapter for a hair drier?


Probably not but that depends on the voltage in your home country.  Outlets here are 110 V, with standard US two prong plugs (or three prong if grounded). 


What documents are required to bring my pet to Costa Rica?


Dogs and cats entering Costa Rica must have a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian, endorsed by a veterinarian service (VS) veterinarian. The examination for the certificate must be conducted within the two weeks prior to traveling to Costa Rica. The required vaccinations are: distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies (for animals 4 months or older).


Is there and exit or departure tax in Costa Rica?  If so, how much is it?


Departure tax is $26, can be paid in US Dollars, colones or with a credit cards.  This must be paid at the point of exit. 


How can I get a visa so I can work in Costa Rica?


For the most part, but with a couple of exceptions, you cannot work at all in Costa Rica.  Laws here, as in many countries (including the USA) are designed to protect workers here from foreigners who would take jobs that would otherwise be filled by a Costa Rican.


The only exception to this rule is an annual work permit.  If you are highly skilled in an area where the job cannot be filled by a Costa Rican, the employer can apply for a work permit for one year. Under the current administration, this is almost impossible to get, and even under prior administrations, it was very difficult.  Costa Rica is not a third world country.  There is a large pool of highly literate and well trained people to fill nearly every job category.


In order to work here, you must the obvious question is,


How can I own a company and not WORK in it?


The answer is that you can manage the affairs of the business but you may not do the actual labor that can be done by an employee (Costa Rican).


Example:  Recently there was a gentleman who owned a Bed and Breakfast near one of the beaches in Costa Rica.  The B&B had a restaurant as part of the business.  One day, as he was helping out by bussing a table, in walked the immigration people who demanded to see his residency papers.  All was in order EXCEPT he was a pensionado and as such was NOT permitted to do the actual labor in his own business.  While not immediately deported, he had to go through a tremendous amount of trouble including appearances before immigration officials and he was nearly asked to leave the country.  He dodged a bullet, but was in no hurry to help clear tables again.


So to be clear, while you can own a business here and live off the income from that business, you cannot actually work in that company in any capacity other than owner and manager.


Representante is a form of residency most used by those who set up and manage businesses in Costa Rica and serve as a Director in that corporation.  Here, you can receive a salary and do the work of the corporation, but there are heavy investment minimums, a requirement for annual certified financial statements, and you must employ Tico labor in your business.  Currently, it is a grand hassle to do this, and immigration tends to make your life miserable by randomly and arbitrarily enforcing the (sometimes non-existent) rules.


A Permanent Resident has all the rights of a Costa Rican citizen except the right to vote.  As such, you can hold a job in any sector, own a company and work within that company.


How can I apply for legal residency in Costa Rica?


Costa Rica offers different ways to legalize your status. 


Costa Rica offers several alternatives for legal residency:

  • a pensionado (pensioner),

  • a rentista (a foreigner with a guaranteed income), an investor, a relative of a resident, or

  • if associated while doing a foreign government assignment or an international mission.

  • representante a person who is an executive of a company doing business in Costa Rica. Many restrictions apply.

The pensionados and rentistas program are the easiest method of establishing temporary residency in Costa Rica.


In 1992, the legislature revoked the tax exemption laws that allowed pensionados and rentistas to bring all of their possessions into the country duty free. Under the current law, these groups are no longer exempt and must pay import taxes on their belongings.


To quality for the pensionado status, one must fulfill three basic requirements: (1) prove that one earns at least $600.00 per month from a qualified pension or retirement account or from Social Security, (2) change at least $500.00 per month into colones, and (3) live in Costa Rica for at least four months out of the year.


In order to quality for rentista status, one must fulfill three similar requirements: (1) prove that one has outside investments that will guarantee $1,000.00 income per month for five years, (2) change at least $1,000.00 a month into colones, and (3) live in Costa Rica for at lease six months out of the year. Neither pensionados nor rentistas pay taxes on money earned outside of Costa Rica.

Pensionados and rentistas have restrictions as well as rights in Costa Rica. While either may set up their own business, they may NOT work for anyone else. Individuals of either residency status must first become permanent residents in order to obtain a work permit.


If I decide to stay longer, can I get a visa while I am there?


When you enter Costa Rica, your passport will be stamped and that is your visa to be here.  The length of time depends on your country of origin.  Your visa CAN be renewed if you leave the country for 72 hours. This cannot be done forever, but 2-3 times is probably not a problem.  Short trips to Panama, Nicaragua, or San Andres are cheap and available.  When you return, your visa will be renewed automatically for 90 more days if you are from the USA.  If you are not from the USA or Canada,


What should I bring when going to the rain forest?


All you need is insect repellent, a rain coat with a hood and hiking boots. 


What is the sales tax in Costa Rica?


Sales tax is 13% but some other travel related taxes are 17%.


What number should I dial in case of emergency?


Dial 911.  Do not expect the operator to speak English.


Are there English written newspapers?


The Tico Times.  




The purpose of the Serving Where the Need is Great Web Page is simply to share many of the joys and experiences of needgreaters throughout the world.  It has been prepared with the hope of encouraging all of Jehovah’s servants as well as motivating those who have the circumstances to reach out for this wonderful privilege of service. In no way is the information provided here a substitute for following the instructions of the Society which include contacting the Branch Office in the country in which you would like to serve.