You Asked, I Answered! Frequently Asked Questions About Costa Rica

costa rica travel Apr 16, 2019

Pura Vida with a side of bliss!! Hello there. Thanks for stopping by.

If you are reading this blog, you are interested in traveling to Costa Rica. I recently posted on Facebook asking you to send me your questions for an upcoming Facebook Live Q & A on Costa Rica.

Below you will find your questions and the answers I found for you. 

Click here to watch the Facebook LIVE Costa Rica Q & A

Is Costa Rica Safe?

So far I have found Costa Rica to be very safe and I feel completely comfortable being here alone as a female. AND, every family member I had tried to talk me out of coming. I am glad I trusted my gut and did not give in to fear.

I have taken public transportation during both the day and evening hours and had no problems. The buses are clean and the taxi drivers are nice and friendly.

Using public transportation is common in Costa Rica so it is very affordable and people use it with respect of others in mind.

In addition, I have walked alone at night and felt very safe doing so.

Since I have felt so safe here, I was surprised to find out that Costa Rica’s homicide rate in 2017 was 12.1 per 100,000.

That means for every 100,000 people, 12.1 of them met their demise at the hands of somebody else.

Just to get a frame of reference, the average global homicide rate is 6.2 per 100,000.

US homicide rate: 5.3 per 100,000.

These statistics were taken from

When I did my research, I found out that many of the deaths were as a result of violence between competing drug traffickers.

According to the OSAC website, the main factor driving this level of violence is competition among groups engaged in the domestic sale and transport of drugs.

Below Are Some Things I Have Experienced in Costa Rica:
  • People are so kind and helpful.

  • Only one homeless person and he appeared to be an American. (Most of the US homeless are veteran or mentally ill. Costa Rica does not have military and healthcare is free here so I assume that those struggling with mental illness get the support they need.

  • I have not seen anyone strung out on drugs or on the corners with signs acting crazy. According to a friend who recently had a baby via cesarean, they hospital did not have opioids. (Again, this makes sense. If you have a free healthcare system, you would not give your patients something they would become addicted to or have side-effects from.)

  • Men are very respectful and courteous. In fact, the men here have been very helpful in directing me and guiding me when I ask questions. 

  • Taxis are safe, clean and everywhere. (Red taxes are the authorized taxis in Costa Rica)

  • Buses very safe and affordable.

  • Most Ticos speak enough English to help you if you need support.
  • A friend who is traveling here had his cell phone stolen out of the middle console of his rental car. He and another friend pulled over to the side of the road to fish for awhile and parked their car.

  • Home theft is common in Costa Rica so be sure to lock up your home and valuable when you leave.

  • I have heard it can be challenging to receive help and prosecute if you are a victim of a crime in Costa Rica. This again is information told to me from others. 

You may be charged higher prices than the locals as a visitor. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What is the Type of Currency Used?

Costa Rica’s currency is the colon (₡), named after Christopher Columbus. It comes in both paper and coin form.

The paper money goes from bills of ₡1,000 (called a “mil” (Spanish for 1,000) or “un rojo” because of the bill’s red color) to ₡50,000, but I have not seen anything higher than ₡20,000 come out of the ATM.

Coins go from an almost valueless ₡5 to ₡500 (“quinientos” (Spanish for 500)) and are quite heavy for the higher denominations.

Be sure to get a good look at the paper money while you’re here because it is gorgeous. Each depicts a different colorful scene from Costa Rica, from the ₡1,000 bill with the tropical dry forest, iconic Guanacaste tree, and a white-tailed deer, to the ₡10,000 bill depicting the rain forest, a sloth, orchids, and birds. 

Check out the site I got this info from below.

How Do I Get Local Currency?

You can go to an ATM and you will receive Costa Rican currency. Those were located at the airport and every town has a local bank and ATM’s available.

If you see US prices at a restaurant or tour service, you can pay in US and will receive Costa Rican currency as change. This is common in many of the tourist towns.

In stores and most restaurants, you can use your credit card or debit/bank card. Be sure to let your bank and credit cards know you are out of the country.

Below is the currency converter that I downloaded to my phone that is extremely helpful when trying to figure out prices and keep track of what I am spending.

XE Currency Converter


Tell Me About the Food There?

Fruit grows in abundance here and of course is packed for a flavor. You will see fruit growing in the wild and it is easy to buy daily from local fruit vendors. It is common to get a knock on your door in Costa Rica and when you answer (if you door is closed) it will be someone with fruit selling it. It actually rocks!

When dining out, you have the option of eating at a local soda, which are the simple, traditional Costa Rican restaurants. Costa Ricans are creatures of habit. The menus in the local sodas do not vary too much but the costs are always low. You can eat at a local soda for under $5 almost everywhere.

If you choose a restaurant with American style food, you will notice that the prices are higher, normally listed in US currency and many of the staff will speak English.

When visiting local grocery stores, you will find fewer options then in the US. If you struggle with dairy, gluten or sugar allergies or sensitivities you will REALLY struggle to find snack foods, breads, nuts, and some of the other food items we normally use to add to our diet.

If I ever come to Costa Rica again, I will bring two full suitcases full of the snack foods I love and need to stay healthy and instead will bring a clothing allowance and buy most of my clothes here. That is how challenging it has been for me to find healthy food beyond fruits and veggies.

Note: If you have food allergies you will also struggle to find options that are free of dairy, gluten and sugar in restaurants.

In addition, no matter how often you try to explain being vegan to a Costa Rican, or needing something dairy free, they do not seem to “get it”. It seems to be a foreign concept and they will continue hand you meals with cheese, cream and gluten. Not because they are assholes, but because of the way they eat and incorporate dairy into so many things.

How Do the Locals Feel About Americans Relocating & Visiting Costa Rica?

I get a mixed vibe here for sure. Just like in any country, you will have some that embrace you and some that don’t. The locals refer to themselves as Ticos.

They are courteous but do not go out of their way to connect with you. I have found the men are much more friendly, and not in a creepy way. Each time I have been helped in Costa Rica it was by a man. He was always kind, respectful and the information given was beyond helpful.

I had several opportunities to meet and eat with locals within their homes. They are the most kind, giving and friendly people I have ever met. Each person greets you with a side-kiss on the cheek and acts as if you are a famous guest of honor in their home. It rocks.


Tell Me About the Local Citizens.

Costa Rican citizens are VERY proud of their country, traditions and values. They live the Pura Vida lifestyle. Simply translated, it means “simple life” or “pure life”, but here in Costa Rica, it is more than just a saying—it is a way of life.

Costa Ricans (Ticos) use this term to say hello, to say goodbye, to say everything's great, to say everything's cool.

When I observe this practice, it shows up as being relaxed instead of rushed.

Saying no to excess and quick fixes that will destroy the environment.

Choosing family and friends over financial gain or glory.

Enjoying the simple things in life like food, family friends and the front porch.

It can be offensive to the locals when someone from another country comes in and tries to change that way of life.

Many expats (Americans that have relocated to Costa Rica) stay to themselves and only socialize with each other. The same seems to happen with the local Ticos.

Things are very separate and there is not a lot of diversity. If you want to move to Costa Rica, my invitation is to try to live like a local and see how it feels!

What is the Animal & Insect Life Like? Are You Bothered by Bugs? Snakes?

I am not, but you may be! Get ready for lots of lizards, ants, tiny bugs and termites. You will find those in your home on a daily basis.

Ants are very common in the home. It is almost impossible to get rid of them here. The same goes for flies and fruit flies.

Costa Rica has a great diversity of reptiles including: 14 species of turtles, about 70 species of lizard, more than 200 species of snakes, and 2 species of crocodile.

For more on the diversity of wildlife in Costa Rica, check out the site I got the above stats from.

What is the Humidity Like?

The humidity is horrible in some parts of the country. I am in Costa Rica during what is considered their summer. I arrived at the beginning of March. The official rainy season does not start until May.

I spent a large amount of time in La Fortuna. Most of that time was soaking wet and not from rain! It is very very humid here. There were days I took 4 or 5 showers because of how sticky and gross I felt. My skin looks years younger though so that is a plus!

It’s common for it to take a few days for your clothes to dry in some parts of Costa Rica after doing laundry. Most Costa Ricans hang their clothes to dry. Many wash them by hand. I heard from a local that many women iron their clothes so they will dry.

Is English Widely Spoken In Costa Rica?

Yes and no. Most people speak more English than they let on. If you walk into a restaurant or store and they have prices listed in US currency, you will find employees fluent in English.

I have Google Translator on my phone and have used it many times. The locals who work and do not speak English also have it downloaded to their phones and will pull it out and use it to have a conversation with you. Technology is truly amazing!

Click here to download Google Translator


Do I Need a Passport to Visit?

Yes, as an American you need a passport and can stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a Visa. Many people go to Nicaragua for the day to meet the exit requirement. I do believe they charge you an exit and re-entrance fee.

I have also heard that you technically are supposed to be out of the country for 3 days. If this is the case, there must be something Nicaragua does to bypass that. Since I have not done either of these things, it is all hearsay in my mind. A local man said that when you go the Nicaragua route, they will stamp your passport for a 3 day exit for $100.00. Again, this was not my personal experience but was information I gathered while chatting with a local.

Trust your gut when deciding how to meet the 90 exit requirements.


Cost of Living?

The cost of living depends on where you live and the type of lifestyle you have.

In many ways Costa Rica is much more affordable than living in the US. A single person can live on between $1,400 and $1,700 a month.

I have found that I spend much less on food and day to day expenses. Since the modern luxuries are not around, I can’t buy them and that has saved me tons of money. In Costa Rica, you can’t just run to the store to get what you need. Every purchase has an intention and you feel grateful to have what you just bought!

Do You Know of Any Programs Available that Offer Work/Trade Options?

I was hired by clients to come out and support them on some new business ventures. If you are a lifestyle coach, hold retreats or do social media blogging, there are a lot of options for you here.

I also found some house sitting opportunities in Costa Rica and many of them presented themselves after I arrived. The place I stayed in La Fortuna came to me after arrival. I was able to stay at a very nice home in town because the house-sitter wanted to return to the US for a few weeks. It was a win- win for everyone involved.

In Costa Rica, people will hire someone to watch over their home or invite someone to stay for free to make sure the property is safe. It is also a good idea to make sure the house is aired out and protected from weather, bugs and wildlife.

Check out and see if any of the options listed speak to you.

How is the Health Care?

Costa Rica has a Universal Healthcare system.

There are two systems, both of which expats can access: the government-run universal healthcare system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known as Caja, and the private system.

Both health systems are constantly being upgraded—new hospitals, new equipment, and improvements in staff training.

Despite the advancements, costs are low in comparison to those in the U.S. and even some European countries. Healthcare costs are about a third to a fifth of what you’d pay in the U.S.,

Below is a website you can access to learn more about the healthcare system in Costa Rica.

What is the Process for Residency?  

I have not looked into becoming a resident since I have goals of full time travel right now.

Below you will find a site that should give you some direction and help you get started. I also listed out the citizenship requirements for Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Immigration Experts


How Do You apply for Citizenship?

Those meeting the following requirements may apply for naturalization:

  1. age 18 or older;
  2. at least 7 years of residence (reduced to 2 years for those married to a Costa Rican citizen) (5 years if you are from Spain or certain Latin American countries);
  3. proof of residence;
  4. clean criminal record history;
  5. proof of a professional career or proof of income;
  6. ability to speak, read and write in Spanish;
  7. understanding of the history and values of Costa Rica through an Education Ministry exam or validated proof of education in Costa Rica;
  8. 2 witnesses that can testify as to your conduct and livelihood.

Do I Get to Keep My US Citizenship?


Tell Me About the Real Estate Opportunities in Costa Rica

Unlike some of the other countries, foreigners have the same rights when purchasing land in Costa Rica as locals do. You can own property outright in your own name or in the name of your corporation. You do not need a local partner, except in cases of beachfront concession property, where special rules apply.

There is absolutely nothing to prevent you from purchasing Costa Rica property in your own name, but the majority of buyers form a corporation with the help of a reputable lawyer and then purchase property through that corporation.

The reason for this is threefold.

One - it may be more beneficial to have your income (from rentals) or capital gain (from the sale of the property) taxed within a Costa Rican company rather than having it taxed as personal income. Of course, this depends on the tax laws of the country from which you originate.

Two - it allows for simplified estate planning, whereby you can give or will shares of the corporation that owns the property to members of your family.

Three - if you ever decide to sell your property, you can avoid paying property transfer taxes a second time by simply transferring the shares of the corporation to the new owner.

Click the link below to see the above information in more detail.

What are the Airfare Costs?

High season is considered to be June, July and August. The cheapest month to fly to Costa Rica is September.

Skyscanner allows you to find the cheapest flights to Costa Rica (from hundreds of airlines including Delta, United, American Airlines) without having to enter specific dates or even destinations, making it the best place to find cheap flights for your trip.

Costa Rica offers to airport options. Liberia or San Jose. I flew into Liberia. It is a tiny little airport which was nice for my first trip overseas. Not too overwhelming and customs was very easy to get through.

Airport shuttle services and taxi drivers were easy to access. The red taxis are the authorized taxis for Costa Rica.

Pura Vida with a Side of Bliss

So there you have it. Those are all the questions you sent in about Costa Rica. If you have a question that was not covered, feel free to ask it in the comment section below and I will see what I can do to get you the information!

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