“I will live in Costa Rica, write, work online, and travel the country.” ~ Me
I wrote this dream down in my journal 1.5 years ago, and I am doing it. Let me explain something to you, I have been working for myself online since 2013, so I could truly embrace this dream because I knew it would be effortless working as a digital nomad in the US, but I had to figure out how to do it from Costa Rica.
As I was starting to learn about Costa Rica and started traveling down here, I thought to myself, how can I work down here, write for a Costa Rica travel company, work on my own business in a country that I fell in love with and teach others how to do the same.
After 2020, companies have realized that you don’t need to go into an office anymore; you can work from home, a volcano, or a beach. Please keep in mind that laws are changing fast, so make sure you do your research, but here is what I know and have learned from living and working down here to help you and your family decide to do the same thing.
Can I Just Move To Costa Rica?
Yes, you could pick up the family and move to Costa Rica. Before the pandemic, there were over 120,000 Americans resided in the country.
While I love the idea of picking up the family and moving, I would highly recommend you check out the country first. Being here on vacation is entirely different than living down here. If you stay at a high-end hotel during your holiday, you may not recognize how different living may be if you are in a house, a condo, or an apartment with the family.
Can Foreigners Work In Costa Rica?
Quick answer: Technically, no, you can not work in Costa Rica for a Costa Rica company, but many ex-pats live and work down here; but let me explain something when it comes to finding a job in Costa Rica for a Costa Rican company.
There are some challenges to working in Costa Rica, such as getting your residency, good jobs can be hard to find, and the pay is lower than what ex-pats earn.
If you are looking to work in Costa Rica as a doctor, a scientist, a business professional, or work in marketing or the hospitality industry, please see the requirements for these positions. For example, if you want to be a doctor in Costa Rica, you have to obtain your diploma and certifications and follow an authenticating process. Then, once they are incorporated into the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Costa Rica and pass your exam in Spanish, you can practice in Costa Rica.
Getting Your Residency
It can be challenging to get permanent residency in Costa Rica. First, you need to be married to a Costa Rican or be here for temporary residence for three years. The laws are changing with getting your residency, so we suggest you contact a reputable lawyer and go to the Migracion website.
Good Jobs Are Hard To Find
If you want to work at a coffee shop to gain some cash flow, Costa Rica wants to keep the money for the locals and pay them. If you have a talent that a Costa Rican may not have, you could get hired, but Costa Rica companies will try to provide a job for the people in their country.
Pay is Lower Than What Ex-Pats Earn
While living may be a tad lower in Costa Rica, so is the salary for a job. For example, a highly educated person, fresh out of engineering school, could make about $7.00/hour in Costa Rica, but if you look at the money earned by someone working at a, let’s say, a famous coffee shop in the United States, they are making around $17/hour.
Where Can I Work Remotely In Costa Rica?
After reading the first couple of paragraphs, you may feel discouraged, but I don’t want you to be because you and the family decided it’s official!
You and the family chose to stay in Costa Rica to work remotely. Now, let’s ask some questions that may help you figure out where to stay:
- Where do you want to live in Costa Rica?
- Do you need WiFi to be consistent for your job? See below about internet and cell phone services.
- Do the kids need to be at a school or do you home school?
- Do you have a job that allows you to work from another country?
- Are you a business owner who can allow yourself to work from another country?
I think addressing these questions will be vital to you and the family, as we know how vital schooling can be for your kids and where the best places will be for internet and digital work.
How To Work In Costa Rica? (If Not A Citizen)
As we mentioned before, to work legally in Costa Rica for a Costa Rica company, you must be a citizen of the country or have a permanent residence. Please head to the Migracion website for more details as the laws are changing.
And to obtain your permanent home, you have to hold a temporary home for at least three years before applying.
How to Work in Costa Rica as a US Citizen?
It is possible to work remotely in Costa Rica; in September 2021, Costa Rica came up with a “Digital Nomad Visa” for remote workers. You can live and work from Costa Rica for up to 12 months, possibly extending it to another year, and avoid paying taxes in the country.
If you do not apply for the Digital Nomad Visa, you and the family can stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a permit. Still, if you do want to stay longer, you can leave Costa Rica for any neighboring country and come back and wait another 90 days.
Also, it depends on what you do as a job. For example, you may be a writer, run your own business, or you work for a company that allows you to work from another country (make sure you check with your company!), so you have the flexibility to work in Costa Rica.
What a perfect way to see the country with your family and work from anywhere in Costa Rica, making sure the cell phones and internet will work.
What Cell Phones Work in Costa Rica?
In Costa Rica, you have two options for using your cell phone. First, I have been using my US number in Costa Rica to pay for the international charges, as I have ATT and have to pay the $10/day. I try not to use it every day and only use WIFI, but that doesn’t always work. When you are out and about, I highly recommend “Airplane Mode,” then head to a WIFI service and turn on the data.
When I was on a flight back to the States, I saw a gentleman change out his SIM card in his phone. I researched and found out you can buy pre-paid or post-paid SIM cards. There are places in Costa Rica where you can buy SIM cards, such as the airport, a place called ICE, a government-run electric agency or you may see signs driving, called Claro.
Please check your mobile provider to see what is best for you when working down in Costa Rica. Trust me, getting that bill from ATT every month, hasn’t been fun. I need to look more into the SIM card.
How is the Internet in Costa Rica?
It all depends on where you decide to land and live. For example, in Samara, Costa Rica, the internet is good in most areas, but it is slow if too many people are on the internet, and the internet may drop.
If you are at a hotel or a resort, most places have WiFi, but you have to figure out where you live. Also, you will find coffee shops or co-working spaces in popular towns.
There may also be times when internet service is down for a whole day, so you may not be able to do anything except read a good old-fashioned book in a hammock, for example.
Can I Work Remotely In Costa Rica With A Tourist Visa?
US citizens do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica as tourists, and you can stay up to 90 days and work remotely. Before entering the country, you need a passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica.
I have bought one-way tickets down, then used mileage to buy something pretty reasonable coming back. My suggestion, do the flexible date, then you will at least have something to show customs. And with mileage, you can get it back or use it when you have to head back to the States or where you live. However, you must have a valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica within 90 days when entering the country.
Can I Legally Work Remotely In Costa Rica?
2020 taught us that you could work from home and work from anywhere. If you have a remote job or your own business and have a fast internet connection, it may be time for you and the family to move to Costa Rica and embrace the digital nomad life.
Dreams Can Come True
“Dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~Walt Disney
I am living proof of that dream that I had 1.5 years ago to live in Costa Rica while working on my own business, writing for a Costa Rica travel company, and exploring and learning about the country.
Almost 13 years ago, I left a full-time job with benefits to pursue my Masters’s Degree in Kinesiology and run my own business. A friend of mine sent me this quote from Walt Disney; never did I think it would apply to me while I was pursuing a dream to be in Costa Rica full time.
And here’s the thing, I don’t know how long I am staying, where I am going to go after this, if I will leave at all or apply for permanent residency, but I never wanted to say to myself, “What if” or “I will live down there when I am retired.”
If you are looking to test the waters, Costa Rica Escapes is here to help you with your travel itinerary to see if Costa Rica is a place you may want to settle down (at least for a while). Contact us today.
Jen Rulon is an avid traveler and writer for Costa Rica Escapes. She is also a triathlon coach and author. You can find her knowledge as an author and speaker ranging from Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Men’s Journal Online New York Times.
As she has retired from the triathlon space, Jen’s love of Costa Rica began. She realized that she loves the beaches, and the coffee of Costa Rica and now wants to share through the eyes of what she sees with Costa Rica Escapes. Read Jen’s stories and advice for travelers who wish to see the authentic side of Costa Rica on their vacation.