On August 11th the Costa Rican government passed a law stating that foreigners can now legally reside in the country for up to twelve months under a Costa Rica digital nomad scheme.
The tourism board predicts that every digital nomad will spend an average of $24,000 during a twelve-month stay in the country. This will help build back the tourism-dependent economy after a rough year due to COVID.
In other words, if you have always wanted to move to Costa Rica for a year, but didn’t know how you could make it happen legally, this is your chance!
We absolutely love living in Costa Rica and are pretty sure you will enjoy it as well!
Requirements for the Digital Nomad Visa
The final details have not been announced yet, but as of now the government has stated that in order to meet the minimum requirements to apply for a digital nomad visa you will need:
– Proof that you have a steady income of at least $3,000 per month.
– If you’re planning to travel with your spouse/family, that income threshold can be combined to $5,000 per month total.
– A medical insurance policy will be required which can cover you during your stay in Costa Rica. The exact details regarding what needs to be covered have not been announced.
– You will need to pay the one-time application and processing fee. That fee has yet to be determined.
We will update this as new details emerge. Stay tuned!
What is Included
To attract remote workers to the country the government has stated that some pretty great benefits will be included for all visa holders.
– All visa holders will be able to stay in the country for up to one year. I believe you can come and go freely during the year. However, I’m not sure if they will make a requirement for a minimum number of days you stay in the country.
– You will be exempt from paying local income taxes. I am not positive how this works though. I am assuming you will still be responsible for paying taxes in whichever country you are a legal resident of.
– You will be able to open a local Costa Rican bank account if you choose.
– You may use your driver’s license to drive freely in Costa Rica during your stay.
– All imports of goods that are needed for your job within the government parameters will be exempt from import taxes.
– Apparently, it will be possible to extend your visa for an additional year, but the final details of that have yet to be announced.
How to Apply for the Visa
Details have yet to come out regarding the application process. We will update this as soon as new info emerges.
Long Term Accommodation Ideas in Costa Rica
Your accommodation will really depend on if you plan in staying at one place for your entire stay or would like to travel around.
Personally, I would suggest hopping around to get a good taste for the whole country.
For a year-long stay in one location I suggest checking these three sites:
In our experience, sometimes you will have the best luck driving around the neighborhood you would like to live in and just looking for rent signs “ Alquiler” is the Spanish word for rent. I know this sounds weird, but it is very normal for people in Costa Rica to just put a sign out that a place is up for rent with a phone number rather than advertising online.
If you would like to hop around, I have three suggestions for you:
– Check Airbnb for places that offer a discount for month-long stays.
– Contact hostels and hotels to ask if they offer free accommodations in exchange for a few hours of work per day. This could be a great option if you have a flexible online work schedule and want a cheap or free stay. Plus, it is a good way of meeting people.
– Contact hotels directly to ask if they offer discounts for long-term digital nomads.
Some places in Costa Rica already offer discounts for long-term stays, but my guess is that more and more places will start to do this as the country starts approving digital nomad visas.
Getting Around as a Digital Nomad
Getting around will be somewhat tricky. It is not worth it to rent a car for a whole year. That would be crazy expensive.
You could always buy a car, but that is pricey as well in Costa Rica.
We shall see! Maybe as more digital nomads start moving to Costa Rica it will be like Australia or New Zealand with people buying used vans for a year and then reselling them to the next batch of nomads that arrive.
I think that your best bet to get between locations is by private shuttle or public bus. You can then always rent a car for a few days in certain locations for some day trips.
In some towns, you may be able to find a place to rent a bike for a month for day-to-day travel. Just be warned, people drive like maniacs here.
Another option would be to rent an ATV for long-term usage depending on which town you are in.
Great Towns to Visit for Digital Nomads
I tried to put together a decent schedule for you of twelve destinations for digital nomads. This was created with the mindset that you would like to move to a different town every month for your full year.
My qualifications were: places that should have decent internet connectivity/coworking spaces, good weather, ease of traveling between locations, and places with enough fun activities for non-working days.
So, here’s what I came up with:
January – Osa Peninsula (Puerto Jimenez)
Puerto Jimenez is a small town located near the Panama border on the Pacific coast. It is a great relaxed beach destination near Corcovado National Park. I suggest visiting here in January because some of the local roads involve river crossing which can be difficult to navigate once the rainy season begins.
It is a small town, but the wi fi is decent in the downtown area. Unfortunately, I can not find any coworking spaces for you.
February – Uvita / Dominical / Manuel Antonio
This area is great for expansive beaches and tons of things to do.
Personally, I suggest staying in Uvita or Dominical and visiting Manuel Antonio as day trip options. Manuel Antonio is hectic (especially in February). Uvita and Dominical tend to be way more chilled out.
For coworking space check out Selina Manuel Antonio
March – Nicoya Peninsula ( Santa Teresa / Montezuma)
The Nicoya Peninsula is our favorite little slice of Costa Rica paradise. We suggest Montezuma if you want absolute chill. Santa Teresa has more going on and is popular with surfers. Just be warned, the roads in Santa Teresa are not paved and are often filled with people on ATVs. If you stay right next to the main road it can be loud, which could be a problem if you have a lot of meetings.
The wifi in both these areas tends to be decent, but you never know because it is a bit remote.
For coworking space, check out: Selina Santa Teresa
April – Samara / Nosara
Samara and Nosara are relaxed beach towns that are popular with surfers. I suggest Samara if you want more action and Nosara for a more remote/ yoga/ surfer vibe.
For coworking space check out:
Loco Working in Samara
Selina in Nosara
May – Tamarindo / Flamingo
Tamarindo is a busy surfing town that is easy to get around by walking. Flamingo is home to many resorts with condo-style hotels and a beautiful white sand beach.
In late April or early May rainy season starts up again. In this area the weather should stay decent with some occasional afternoon rainstorms.
For coworking spaces check out: In the Shade
June – Guanacaste Beaches (Playas del Coco / Papagayo)
Playas del Coco is a northern beach town that is popular with expats. This is a good place to stay if you want to easily walk to restaurants, bars etc.
Papagayo is home to some of the country’s nicest resorts. If you feel like having a total splurge section of your trip and would like to stay in a fancy resort, this is the place to do it.
For coworking spaces check out: Guana Work
Check out our guide to Playas del Coco for more info on the area.
July – Monteverde
You might have a decent amount of rain in Monteverde in July, but it tends to actually always be somewhat rainy here.
Monteverde is a cloud forest destination that is perfect for hiking, adventure, and relaxing with great views while listening to the rain.
For a coworking space check out: Selina Hostel
Check out our full Monteverde guide for more info
August – La Fortuna
La Fortuna is the perfect place to soak in hot springs and enjoy tons of jungle adventures. As with Monteverde, it could be rainy in August, but it’s impossible to completely avoid the rainy season in Costa Rica. You will just need to take advantage of any clear days to get some great pictures of the Arenal volcano.
For a coworking space check out: Selina Hostel
Check out our full La Fortuna guide for more info.
September – Tortuguero
To be honest, a whole month in Tortuguero is probably too much. I would suggest maybe doing two weeks instead.
The reason I suggest Tortuguero in September is because that is turtle season. That means you will get the chance to see huge turtles shuffling their way up the beach to lay their eggs. You will have the best luck experiencing this early on in the month.
Also, the Pacific and Caribbean coast have opposite rainy season, so while the rest of the country is enjoying many gray rainy days you will be soaking up the sun.
There aren’t any co-working spaces here and it is a remote location so definitely check with your hotel to ask about wifi before booking.
Check out our guide to Tortuguero for more info on this unique location.
October – Cahuita/ Puerto Viejo
Cahuita is a very relaxed beach town with an Afro-Caribbean vibe. Puerto Viejo has a similar vibe but is more popular with backpackers and surfers. In other words, if you want peace head to Cahuita, if you want more action and things to do, head to Puerto Viejo.
For coworking in Puerto Viejo check out: Puerto & Co
Check out our complete Puerto Viejo guide for activities, restaurants, transportation tips and more!
November – Bocas del Toro, Panama
Obviously, Panama is not Costa Rica, so it is not covered under your tourism visa. If you plan to visit Bocas del Toro for a month it is important to state at the border that you are there for vacation. Do not mention working or they will most likely deny you entry (I’ve heard stories of them being really strict about that)!
That being said, Bocas del Toro is one of the most paradises of paradise destinations I have ever visited. Spending a month here will be amazing!!
For coworking in Bocas del Toro check out: Selina Hostel
Check out our Bocas del Toro guide for more info.
December – Central Valley (Alajuela/ San Jose/ Cartago)
In December the Central Valley experiences what the locals call “Christmas weather”. In other words; it stops raining, the sun comes out, and the wind picks up.
Personally, I would suggest staying in Alajuela. This will give you the opportunity to do day trips in to the city of San Jose, but it is a much more relaxed area. Plus, in Alajuela you can visit Poas volcano, coffee plantations, waterfalls, and more!
The wifi in the Central Valley area should be decent near all major towns. There are also tons of coworking spaces around here if needed.
Cell Phone Usage as a Digital Nomad in Costa Rica
Your best bet for using a cell phone in Costa Rica is to purchase an unlocked cell phone and buy a local sim card.
We have a complete guide to Costa Rica sim cards to help you out.
One of the downfalls to living in Costa Rica is the sometimes spotty internet. In general, you are much more likely to have good wifi when staying closer to a town. Sometimes Airbnb’s that are listed as in a town may be on a small side road up a hill that may not have fiber optic wires strung to it.
Also, during the rainy season, there are sometimes storms that will knock down the power lines. Usually, the power company is good about getting them back up quickly, but it is worth considering.
If you often have meetings where total silence is necessary that can also sometimes be difficult here. Between loud wildlife and many motorcycles, total silence is hard.
One time, Thomas had an important Zoom meeting and he had to keep muting himself because the howler monkeys outside of the Airbnb we were staying at were going absolutely nuts.
It cracked me up, but I don’t think he was very amused haha! #CostsaRicaProblems
Most larger towns have cafes or coworking spaces if you need a decent wifi connection.
An alternative option is to purchase a plan from one of the major cell phone providers in Costa Rica that include a lot of data usage and use your phone as a hotspot. I found one from Movistar that has unlimited data for ¢ 41,500 / month. That equates to about $67 usd.
Grocery Stores and Eating as a Digital Nomad
If you plan on staying in Costa Rica for a year you will likely mostly cook your own food. In general, food is moderately priced. However, you will need to figure out which things are affordable and what is expensive and then adjust your cooking accordingly. For example, quality cheese is very expensive here.
We created a full guide to grocery shopping to help you out with finding good prices as well as some easy meals to make here on the cheap.
Banking and Money for Digital Nomads
As I mentioned above, you will be able to open a Costa Rican bank account if you so choose. In our experience, Costa Rican banks are totally fine, but they are a pain to deal with.
It is not unusual to wait over an hour if you go to the bank and need to talk to a teller. I’m not exaggerating, an hour is normal.
You may need to open a bank account to easily pay rent (if staying in one spot long term), cell phone plan, etc.
If you are based in the US I 100% recommend Charles Schwab as your secondary banking option while in Costa Rica. I have a brokerage and checking account with them and they are just the absolute best!
The reason I love them for international banking is:
- There are no transaction fees when using ATM’s abroad. Often an ATM will say “$3.00 transaction fee” but Schwab reimburses me at the end of each month for all fees.
- They give you the absolute best exchange rate. For example, I have been in Europe where ATM’s say “You have a dollar account. The current exchange rate is x amount of dollars to euros. Do you accept.” I always just click “no”. I still can then take cash out but Schwab will give me their exchange rate instead of the crappy rate the ATM states.
- Everything is done online. I have the Charles Schwab app which easily lets me digitally deposit checks, buy and sell stocks, and keep track of my checking account.
Basically, I am a huge fan-girl of Charles Schwab. I am not getting paid to say this. I just genuinely find them to be an absolutely amazing banking option.
Things to Think About if Considering Costa Rica as a Digital Nomad Destination
Costa Rica is a great country, but keep in mind that if you have never lived abroad before it is not always easy. You will be faced with culture shock, a different language, a different way of doing things, not knowing anyone etc.
I’m not trying to talk you out of it, but just make you aware of the sometimes hard aspects of life in another country.
The positive side is if you decide you don’t love it you can always just move on to a new destination!
….but, I think you will love it here. 🙂
So, what do you think? If you have always wanted to live and work in Costa Rica this might just be the perfect chance for you.
If you are seriously considering this I’m sure you might have some questions. Feel free to pop in the comment section below and ask us all about living in paradise. We are happy to help you out!
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