Moving to Costa Rica: 6 Tips for making an international relocation run smoothly

Moving to Costa Rica

Moving anywhere is an undertaking that requires preparation, planning, reconnaissance and endless patience and optimism. An international move is fraught with multiple layers of complexity, but can be easily sorted with time and energy. Moving to Costa Rica is relatively easy.

If you are moving and buying a new home you will want to make sure all your legal purchase requirements are met and that any necessary documents are correctly completed and filed. This will help eliminate anything that could potentially hinder your processing through immigration and customs, and could initiate a filing for residency.

If you are moving in the short-term, you only need to consider what your family will require to enter the country as tourists. Currently, Costa Rica allows most tourists to enter on a 90-day visa. Check your Embassy’s information page for up to the minute details.

Moving considerations with children and pets

If you have children, consider the additional issues surrounding their mental health and educational needs. You will need to investigate schools or schooling options, areas and neighborhoods that are kid-friendly, and think about their healthcare schedule and new doctors and dentists.

Fastidious research and several different plans should be considered when moving beloved family pets. They require intricate paperwork that will necessitate veterinary appointments, processing fees, and extra time for official government signatures. We talk more about this below.

Six tips

Moving to Costa Rica is made easier by committing to these six guiding points: 1. Communicate, 2. Do Reconnaissance, 3. Make Phone Calls, 4. Research schools, 5. Sell the Things, and 6. Plan Logistics for a Safe Landing.

Let’s get into it.


You need to communicate clearly your concerns, desires, fears, and absolute necessities. Your family needs to know what is happening and ideally be a part of the planning. This is especially important for the children.

You and your partner should have regular conversations about the move and check in with each other about your fears, concerns and desires. Problems arise when people aren’t on the same page.

The same can be said about any organizations, businesses, and companies you are using along the way. Communicate clearly to the moving company what your needs are and your budget. Talk through ALL of your concerns in any real estate deal with your realtor and your lawyer.

Give your extended family a good idea of your timeline and encourage them to talk to you when they have concerns about your move. You may encounter push-back or negative talk about leaving what is known for the unknown. Communicating with your family about your move is paramount, especially if they are part of your support network.

Ask all of your questions and push for the answers. If you are unsure about successful ways in which to communicate, the University of Delaware offers some tips here.

Do reconnaissance

Making time for a reconnaissance trip is important, but short of that luxury, you can find a tremendous amount of information on the internet.

If a physical trip to the new location is possible it will give you an idea of what area and neighborhood will work best for you and your family.

Tour with a realtor and ask about grocery stores, doctors and dentists, schools, vets, and other specialty services you might require. How difficult it is to receive mail or packages?

Rent a car and make a point to drive the area. Note the distances from where you think you want to live and schools, shopping, dining, medical, and airports.

You don’t want to choose a location and make a move only to find out that what you need to stay healthy isn’t available.

Make phone calls

This one is still essential no matter how much our society has moved online, you will need to talk with people and businesses about your move. You may spend hours chatting with various moving companies about estimates, logistics, and fine details.

Basically this method of communication ensures that nothing is lost in translation or sarcasm or misunderstandings. Be clear, ask questions and take notes for reference. Ask for important items to be clarified and then ask for that clarification to be included in email.

Call your realtor. Call your lawyer. Call the prospective school. Whatsapp is a brilliant tool that makes international calls simple and free. Download the app and call.

Research schools

Prior to Coronavirus, school visits allowed you to see a typical school day. If you have children it’s likely that education choices are a priority. You can still research choices online at school websites and in Facebook expat groups.

Typically, the more established and well recognized schools will be in the more developed or metropolitan areas. In Costa Rica if you want to be near the beaches you have some options, but rural areas will be more limited.

Do your homework. Ask your realtor or people you meet during your visit. Don’t be afraid to ask a family while you’re out to dinner where they send their children to school. Each school will have a different approach to handling attendance.

With the popularity of online schooling currently you may not need to consider schools in your relocation setting at all.

Sell the things

If you plan to sell your home before you move, you will naturally begin the process of sifting through your material possessions to stage your home. If you are not selling your home, you will need to work on minimizing your personal effects for any prospective rental arrangement.

Make your children a part of this and encourage their participation by asking them to find their own items to sell, donate, or trash. For example, kids can help you sort through the piles and then ride to the library donation location to see that your items are benefitting someone or something else.

You can hire an organizer to help you make the initial plan. Your real estate agency may offer a staging service or have a list of recommended businesses to help you sort and sell.

This part of the process is so important in order to streamline your list of items that will go with you. The less you take, the less expensive the moving contract will be.

Plan logistics for a safe landing


Hire the movers. Schedule the move to coincide with your arrival in Costa Rica. Purchase and pre-pack all the necessities you will want in your new home that you will not be able to find locally. Plan to close on your property with the correct amount of time to allow you to move from one location to the next without a gap in housing. If this is not possible, look into short term rental options.


Make school deposits. Plan clothing out for at least six months. Buy ahead in the sizes you need and pack to ship. Will they need uniforms? Bring the books and toys you will not be able to get locally. Prepare them to be helpers for the actual moving day.


Make the vet appointments and schedule to coincide with the recommended timing for the paperwork and import requirements. Have your plan for moving them ready to go and another plan on standby. Simplify by hiring a company to handle these logistics for you. You will find details about moving pets to Costa Rica here.


Buy plane tickets. Call the airline about pet arrangements if necessary. Reserve a ride from the airport or a rental car for your scheduled arrival. Rental cars can take a while to process from the airport. You may find it easier to hire a driver to receive you if you have a night arrival. Find more information about cars in Costa Rica here.

Ready to move

Be prepared, do the research, communicate and make a plan. The move to Costa Rica will be smooth and easy if you follow these simple guidelines, take the time to educate yourself and stay informed.