The “Living in Costa Rica” Trial Run

Head First, Baby!!!

When anyone asks about relocating to Costa Rica, I always advise them to do a trial run first. There are those in this world who love to jump in headfirst to everything they do. Still, no matter how inviting that crystal clear pond looks, it can hide hidden boulders.

Piranhas before feeding time.

Or a school of piranha. To avoid splitting open your skull or getting eaten alive, you need to take it slow.

Real estate salesmen hate me for saying this, but one of the absolute worst mistakes anyone can make is buying property while still living in the States (or Canada, eh?). I have covered some of the hazards you can encounter buying (or think you are buying) property. Even if you happen to end with a problem-free purchase, there are still reasons not to rush into buying.

Wiser heads than mine have said never buy anywhere until you have lived there for at least a year. I admit to not following this advice once, and I learned my lesson in an expensive way. The thing is, no matter how appealing any location seems to be, there is nothing than can take the place of actually living there day after day. As obvious as this sounds, it is ignored so often that it boggles my tiny mind.

My Expensive Mistake... still lovely but...

In my own case, it wasn’t Costa Rica, but the mountains of northwestern California. I found a couple of pretty little acres in a tiny community in the Trinity Alps. I thought it was exactly what I wanted: peace, quiet, clean air, beautiful scenery… and yes, it had all that. But the inconvenience and isolation got to me after a while. If I had rented first, I would have realized I wasn’t cut out to just sit and listen to the wind whistle through the pines. I eventually realized this, took my lumps and moved on.

But let’s get back to Costa Rica. I brought two suitcases full of what I thought I would need most for my trial period of 3 months, which I could extend at the cost of losing the return part of my airplane ticket. Until I was sure, I kept most of my ‘stuff’ in the back in the States. I was fortunate to have a cheap (free) place to keep my ‘stuff.’ But even if you have to rent storage space, it’s a lot cheaper than shipping all your stuff to Costa Rica then shipping it back if you find out you and Costa Rica aren’t really compatible.

View from my first apartment

When I got to Costa Rica, the first thing I wanted to do was rent an apartment, to get away from paying hotel prices and feel more ‘at home,’ living here rather than just visiting/touring.

I had done a fair amount of homework and thought I would like to live just on the edge of San Jose, in a reasonably nice neighborhood, with a ‘countryish’ feel and still close to the city. With the help of the receptionist at the hotel, we spent a Saturday looking at several places, and one seemed much nicer than the others.

It was clean and modern, lots of greenery around, well maintained and felt safe. It turned out to be exactly what it seemed to be. Still, living there had drawbacks I hadn’t foreseen and I lasted only about 5 months.

We’ll cover that and more in the Next Installment.

Lingerie Model !acx DWP 2c Clyde Cover ACX 2  !t Clyde 1 !t Clyde Heads South !t Clyde 3 Cover !t Clyde Complete Cover !t DWP 1 Sexy African Woman in front of Hotel Door


  1. Great post! I think people think CR is like the U.S. and have no idea about the way things are done here. I was lucky and got my dream home. It took work to find it and a lot of monmey restore it and now, I continue to maintain it but it was all worth it. Your outspoken-ness will hopefully help someone not to fall into the pitfalls here when they don't know what they are doing. It's NOT Kansas!
    No disclosure was the biggest shock for me!! I had HUGE problems and still do with the construction of my house. My advice, try to buy a house with huge overhangs (eaves). The rain blows sideways here.

  2. NCR, excellent advice on the trial run. We ended up buying property on our first trip here, but we couldn't be happier. That was about 1 part foresight and in-depth research, 1 part luck. I'd spent a lot of time traveling in Mexico and Guatemala years ago so I was not entirely unfamiliar with latin american culture (not that the different countries are all the same), I did a year of on-line research, and I have a previous background in residential construction. Still, there was a lot we didn't foresee, but it's worked itself out. I absolutely advise anyone to come as temporary "residents" for 6 months or more to get a feel for the place. I think the best thing to do if you are going to buy here is plan on spending at least a year looking. There are some amazing bargains if you have the patience and aren't fazed by trying to run down a couple hundred deals.

  3. Great post and I could not agree more. I've visited CR over 30 times in the past few years and I'm still not sure I would be happy living in CR. I love the country but…I'm not sure I would be happy living in CR for an extended period of time. Renting first seems very prudent. Thanks Ron

  4. John Randall says:

    Rent–rent–rent. Everything in Costa Rica is "se vende" for sale. Don't buy and have a se vende sign in your front yard–or on your car. The world-wide economic meltdown is actually just beginning; first with Wall Street and subprime loans in America, soon a tsunami from Europe as additional countries follow Greece down the slippery slope, finally Japan and the Asian markets. Rental prices here have a way to go (downward) to reflect true market conditions. Drive to Jaco and look at the number of expensive condos and malls that were stopped, seemingly in mid-shovel, because people ran out of money. Look at the housing projects along the coast that only have a partially-completed security gate completed in front of a paved road leading into nothing. Protect your equity by renting, then enjoy the view and the raindrops on your tin roof.

  5. If your needs are modest, then renting isn't such a bad option, even for the mid-term. You can move around the country for a couple of years this way, and make sure you are happy with life in Costa Rica.

    A good example this was done by Penny in her Fabulista Blog.

    She also takes alot of photos of the area around Grecia.