It’s that season again. You know the one that comes around every four years when Americans start planning their escape to Costa Rica. But there are any number of things about 2020 that have kicked this fever into overdrive this year!
Internet traffic is heavy with searches from Americans thinking about moving out of the U.S. International travel may be restricted but some are using this time at home to plan their move to Costa Rica as soon as restrictions are lifted. People have been spending this travel downtime getting acquainted with the land, culture, and people living in Costa Rica and reaffirming their desire to make the break. There are blogs, videos, message boards, and more dedicated to almost anywhere in Costa Rica you could think about moving with many great resources for what to do once you’re here.
Going over the preemptive steps before even leaving your home will lay the groundwork for a smooth transition when you are finally ready to move to Costa Rica. It is our goal to help you when you arrive on this side, but we also want to help you feel more prepared when you are at the starting end of this journey, too. So, to help you begin, we’ve rounded up eleven steps every future Costa Rica expat should take before they leave.
Begin your new language instruction
Spanish is known as the language of love. It is the unofficial second language of the United States and one of the world’s most spoken languages. Twenty-two countries over four continents have Spanish as one of their official languages. Language experts say that Spanish is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, taking around 6 months of practice to reach general proficiency. If you are committed to the idea of spending a length of time in Costa Rica, engage a native online language tutor who will give you lessons over video chat. Having a Costa Rican native, especially one local to the area, tutoring you will be inexpensive and will provide you with invaluable information about the region you plan to move to. Having a local, friendly contact who is interested in your success will be very helpful during your move to a new country.
Join social networking groups based in Costa Ballena
Groups like Costa Ballena Bulletin Board and Ojochal Community Group are the perfect place to ask if anyone can recommend an online language tutor or any other such questions related to life in the Costa Ballena. Most people who move abroad need to make new friends and develop a social network. All this can be done online well before you make the official move. There are local groups for more niche activities, so type in the name of the town you want to move to and see what is available for meetups that match your passions. By following community groups, you can follow the everyday conversation threads and get a general sense of what the communities of Costa Ballena are like.
Plan your reconnaissance trip
Although you may have already been to Costa Rica, a reconnaissance trip is one in which you are going with the idea of seeing what everyday life feels like. Maybe you spend some time doing errands like grocery shopping or going into hardware stores. Interacting with people and the environment on a more mundane basis is important to get a feel for life somewhere else. Vacation-mode may cloud your mind and make you view a place with rose-tinted glasses.
A reconnaissance trip should be a little longer than a typical holiday. You should plan to stay in two or three different areas to get a feel for what different neighborhoods and styles of homes have to offer. Taking road trips and visiting restaurants is a part of this work, too, because those tend to be a part of regular life for most folks. With so many online resources available, there is a tremendous amount of legwork that can be done before you even book your flight.
Save money (as much as you can)
This is the time to plan your expenses and what budget you will be comfortable spending on a monthly basis. Plane tickets, international shipments, utilities, taxes, lawyers, and emergencies are just some of the many costs that go beyond the everyday food and fuel. Six months worth of savings is a good amount to have when traveling for a longer period of time. You have to be prepared for the unexpected but inevitable extra costs.
Renew your passport
To leave your home country you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your final travel date. You will be granted a visa in Costa Rica on arrival so you can take this item off your preparation list.
Plan ahead for your health care
Before you leave for Costa Rica, find out if your current health care provider will cover you while abroad. Costa Rica does have socialized medicine for citizens and residents but tourists must be prepared to cover their own costs. Bring your medical records so that your Costa Rica health care providers can get up to speed with your medical history. Many prescription medications are available over the counter in Costa Rica, although things like pain medications do require a prescription. Find out if your prescription medications are allowed in the country and if they are readily available. Otherwise, bring an extra supply with you from home. Many of these questions can be answered by the U.S. Embassy website.
Register with STEP
The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica offers the most up-to-date information about Costa Rica’s safety conditions with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You will be quickly notified in case of emergency, whether it is a natural disaster or a family emergency. During our present pandemic, STEP has been an authority on current conditions and restrictions in Costa Rica.
Notify your bank
Keep your current bank account at home to maintain your credit score and make direct payments for any ongoing bills or outstanding loans. Inform your bank and credit card company of your travel dates, and consider getting an international credit card to avoid foreign transaction fees. You should also research banks in your new city and find out what paperwork you’ll need to set up a savings or checking account. It can take a long time to set up an account in Costa Rica but doing something as simple as gathering your paperwork will help simplify the process.
Organize your communication tools
Communication will continue to be important for most people no matter where they are in the world. You can set up international telephone numbers via Skype or a free mobile phone application like WhatsApp. By getting these pieces in place now, you will be prepared when it comes time to travel to Costa Rica. Since international cell phone plans can get costly, we also suggest asking your carrier to unlock your smartphone ahead of your trip. Once you are abroad, you can purchase a SIM card from a local carrier and replace it with the one in your phone.
Make copies of your important documents
These include your passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, and immunization records. You might need them when you least expect it, and it will make your life much less stressful if you can easily access them.
Prepare your home for departure prior to your escape to Costa Rica
You haven’t moved to Costa Rica yet. Therefore, you still have a life elsewhere that needs to be tended to while you are doing reconnaissance. If you have pets or plants that need to be cared for, you will need to consider a house sitter.
If you are ready in your heart to escape to Costa Rica, we hope that this guide will help you get ready in practice. If you have any further questions related to any of these topics, please contact us via the form below.