Moving to Costa Rica from the US
Thinking of moving to Costa Rica? Felicidades (congratulations)! You’ve picked an excellent location.
Expect white sandy beaches, tropical weather, an excellent quality of life, and a top-notch education system – it’s no wonder it’s dubbed one of the happiest places on the planet (World Economic Forum, 2019).
Whether you’re moving to Costa Rica alone, with your family, or with a furry friend, you’re sure to have a great adventure. But before you pack your bags, there are a few key things you need to know – check them out below.
Once you’ve got Costa Rica sussed, it’s time to figure out how to get your stuff out there. Luckily, shipping your belongings abroad doesn’t need to be stressful, thanks to our helpful quote tool.
Simply pop a few details about your move into this short form, and we’ll put you in touch with our professional suppliers, who will contact you with free shipping quotes to compare.
Cost of shipping to Costa Rica from the US
The cost of shipping abroad fluctuates, depending on a number of factors. It pretty much comes down to how far you’re shipping your belongings, how much they weigh, and what type of shipping container you go for.
To give you a better idea of how much it’ll cost you, we’ve calculated the average international shipping rates for some of our most sought-after journeys from major US cities to popular destinations in Costa Rica.
The rates are sourced from iContainer.com, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth £40,000 – the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom house (according to Admiral Insurance). The durations are sourced from Searates.com.
This information was last updated in April 2022.
Bear in mind these are estimates only. If you’d like a more accurate idea of how much shipping to Costa Rica will cost you, just pop your details into this short form, and our suppliers will get back to you.
|Los Angeles to Port of San José||$2,107||8 days and 9 hours|
|New York to Port of San José||$3,520||7 days and 21 hours|
|Houston to Port of San José||$2,945||6 days and 10 hours|
|Los Angeles to Port of Puerto Limon||$2,722||10 days and 3 hours|
|New York to Port of Puerto Limon||$1,662||6 days and 14 hours|
|Houston to Port of Puerto Limon||$1,873||4 days and 15 hours|
Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.
Select the size of your move to get free quotes
Healthcare in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s healthcare system is universal, which means everyone’s entitled to it – even expats.
The system is run by the government’s Costa Rican Social Security Fund (Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social), also known as the CCSS, or simply ‘Caja’. The CCSS provides preventive and curative services to every resident, free of charge.
Although this means the healthcare is technically free, bear in mind that it’s funded through a tax taken from the salaries of workers and expats. You’ll be taxed between 2.89% and 10.69% of your income, depending on how much you earn.
As for the quality of care? Costa Rica’s healthcare system ranks 62nd in the world, according to a 2018 study published in The Lancet – far higher than all of its closest neighbors, including Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia.
Before your big move to Costa Rica, it’s wise to consider whether you’ll need medical cover for when you’re out there.
Think private health insurance will be right for you during this time? Just check out our list of recommended healthcare providers.
From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.
Cost of living in Costa Rica
The cost of living in Costa Rica is generally pretty low compared to the US – although, this will fluctuate depending on where in the country you’re based.
Check out the table below to get a rough idea of how much different products and services will cost you.
|A loaf of white bread||1,067.07 ₡ ($1.62 USD)|
|12 eggs||1,543.66 ₡ ($2.35 USD)|
|A liter of milk||808.10 ₡ ($1.32 USD)|
|A pint of beer||1,316.78 ₡ ($2 USD)|
|A bottle of wine||7,000 ₡ ($10.65 USD)|
|A monthly gym subscription||30,904.87 ₡ ($47.04 USD)|
|1 liter of gasoline||704.30 ₡ ($1.07 USD)|
|A meal at an inexpensive restaurant||4,608.74 ₡ ($7.01 USD)|
|A cinema ticket||3,600 ₡ ($5.48 USD)|
|Rent for a one-bedroom apartment||329,369.49 ₡ ($501.33 USD)|
|Utilities for an 85m² apartment||44,287.79 ₡ ($67.41 USD) per month|
Data from Wise and Numbeo, April 2022
Transferring money to Costa Rica from the US
Speaking of living costs, if you’re thinking of moving to Costa Rica, you’ll probably need to convert some of your savings into Costa Rican colón.
However, it’s best to avoid using high street banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wise, an online international money transfer service that uses the real exchange rate and charges low fees. How much could you save? Well, its service can be up to eight times cheaper than high street banks.
Join more than seven million people and start using Wise today.
Working in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a popular retirement destination for expats. But there are also plenty of opportunities to accelerate your career here – especially if you head to San José, the capital of the country.
But you’ll need to get a visa before you get stuck in with work, which can be easier said than done.
Getting a work visa for Costa Rica
Despite Costa Rica’s large expat community, getting a visa here is actually pretty challenging.
Before you can get a work visa, you’ll need to apply for either a temporary or permanent residency. It’s worth noting that permanent residents can work in Costa Rica without any restrictions, whereas temporary residents typically face more barriers throughout the process.
A work permit in Costa Rica falls under a ‘special category’, which includes visas for:
- Temporary workers
- Workers in a specific occupation
- Transferred staff
- Self-employed workers in a well-established company
- Individuals who are self-employed in the agriculture, service, or construction industry
- Athletes, artists, and entertainers
- Transfrontier workers
- Professional and technical guests
If you’d like more information on how to get a work visa in Costa Rica, head to the US Embassy’s page on immigration in Costa Rica.
Average salary in Costa Rica
The typical salary in Costa Rica is pretty low compared to the US, averaging at about 283,000-565,900 ₡ ($500–$1,000 USD) per month.
Although this might not seem like much money, remember that the cost of living is also low in Costa Rica, which means it should balance out.
Your salary will, of course, depend on the role that you have and the industry you work in.
Want to get a better idea of how much you could be earning? We’ve listed the average salary in San José for a number of popular roles below.
Income tax in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s progressive income tax system applies to everyone working in the country, regardless of nationality or resident status.
To get a better idea of how much you’ll be taxed, take a look at the table below.
Job hunting in Costa Rica
Job hunting can be challenging in most situations, let alone when you’re looking for one abroad. Thankfully, there are a lot of helpful websites and job boards out there that can help you with your job hunt, including:
Climate in Costa Rica
Good news – the temperature along the coastline of Costa Rica is hot all year round, with an average annual temperature of 80°F–90°F.
If you’re looking for something on the cooler side, you can head to the tierras templadas – the hilly region of the country – which has an average temperature of 75°F–80°F.
Although you can enjoy balmy temperatures in Costa Rica, don’t forget you’ll have to put up with heavy downpours a lot of the time – after all, the country is covered in rainforests. The dry season tends to last from December to April, with an intense rainy season running from May to November.
Does it snow in Costa Rica?
No, it doesn’t snow in Costa Rica. This won’t come as a surprise to most people, since the country lies near the equator, which means the climate is hot all year round.
The coolest month of the year is July, with an average low of 53°F and a high of 75°F.
The best places to live in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Here, you’ll have peaceful beaches, stunning views, and rainforests full of life right on your doorstep.
But where are the best places to live in Costa Rica? We’ve listed them below.
San José: Best for work
One of the easiest jobs for an expat to get in San José is teaching English – but there’s much more on offer, too.
Plenty of companies choose to have their headquarters in the country’s capital, including several NGOs focusing on agriculture, environment, micro-finance, health, and education.
This area’s beauty, milder temperatures, and easy access to shops also make it more popular with expats.
Cartago: Best for nature
Cartago is one of the oldest towns in Costa Rica. Before the country’s tallest active volcano destroyed the town in 1823, it actually used to be the capital of Costa Rica.
Nowadays, Cartago is a historic town filled with charming character. It’s also a great choice for anyone wanting to move to Costa Rica for the breathtaking scenery.
There are lots of national parks in the area, including Tapantí Macizo de la Muerte National Park, which has 58,495 hectares of land to explore. You can also make your way through a handful of luscious botanical gardens, including the Jardín Botánico Lankester.
Jacó: Best for nightlife
This Costa Rican beach town has the best of both worlds – energetic nightlife and tranquil rural surroundings.
Despite its dainty size, Jacó has garnered itself a reputation as a party town, with popping bars and clubs dotted around the place. It’s also home to the largest LGBTQ+ community in the country.
And if you find you’re tired of going out, you can soak in the sun whilst surfing, fishing, or snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Pacific coast.
7 Quick Facts About Costa Rica
- Nicoya, a city in Costa Rica, is one of the top five Blue Zones in the world
- There are over 500,000 species of wildlife in Costa Rica
- The country generates more than 99% of its electricity using renewable energy
- It’s been dubbed one of the happiest countries in the world
- The general population refers to themselves as Ticos, whilst women are referred to as Ticas
- Costa Rica is one of the world’s biggest exporters of coffee
- There are currently six active volcanoes in Costa Rica
Now that you’re up to date with everything you need to know about moving to Costa Rica, what are you waiting for?
Once you’ve got your visa, accommodation, and job sorted, you’ll need to figure out how to get all of your stuff over there – luckily, we can help with that.
To get started, all you have to do is pop a few details in this form about where you’re shipping your stuff to and from, and we’ll do the rest. We’ll put you in touch with our professional suppliers, who’ll then provide you with their best shipping prices.