Things to remember when coming to Costa Rica

There are some things to remember when coming to Costa Rica, don’t leave your brain on the plane; you must approach everything with a positive but cautious attitude, just as you would back home! They have laws, restrictions, permits, etc., just like any other modern society. Do not be fooled by the famous saying: “It’s Costa Rica; you can do what you want down here.”

When coming to Costa Rica for the first time, you will be in absolute awe of its natural beauty, beautiful people, relaxing atmosphere, and incredible opportunities!

However, we hear horror stories all the time. One client told me, “I came down and bought 4 properties on our first trip! Now, we can’t even find the lots we purchased.” On their second trip, they sold 2 of their lots at half price but had difficulty finding the other lots. True story!

Once you have made your mind up that Costa Rica is to be your new home, seek out information on the following:

  • Immigration rules and procedures;
  • Banking and credit facilities;
  • Car purchases and the “marchamo” (Annual car tax/circulation fee);
  • Real estate purchases;
  • Starting a business.

Immigration Procedures

Immigration may seem complicated, but they do most of the work if you find the right people. Remember, most lawyers are not immigration experts! They are general lawyers and don’t specialize in immigration. Find a firm that specializes in immigration. The prices vary depending on your category (pensionado, rentista, permanent, investor, company representative, or citizenship). Additional complexities may incur additional fees. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need your Residency status in Costa Rica!

Banking and Credit

You are probably somewhat capitalized from liquidating your assets back home as an expat. Expect little help from your local bank as you are probably not a citizen or resident yet. You can still open a bank account but find it challenging to move money around without your DIMEX (residency). There are other options available for you, such as private equity loans. The interest rates may seem high but are relative to the local bank rates. Good loans should be around 12% and commercial loans around 14%. Many lenders are just retired folk looking for a monthly income from their investment. Contact GAP Equity Loans if you need to borrow money fast to reach your financial goals!

Car Purchase

Cars have come down in price over the last few years, but you will find them more expensive than back home, especially if you are from the US. Although there is a good selection of vehicles to choose from, I advise finding one that has readily available parts. These include Nissan, Hyundai, Suzuki, and Toyota. Many dealers have to order parts from the factory, which can take a long time. I waited 2 months for a water pump for my Chevy Trailblazer!

Real Estate Purchase

Real estate purchases can be challenging if you do not understand the process well. It is not complicated, just different. The Government mandates no “Full Disclosure,” so it is a buyer beware scenario! Look at the “Plano” and ask your lawyer to check it out for any liens, lawsuits, etc., at the registry. It is quick and inexpensive.

Never buy a property from your lawyer! His job is to protect you and could have a conflict of interest, mainly if he sells you his family’s property!  You can find a dependable and faithful lawyer primarily by references from other expats. Preferably more than one referral. Contact GAP Real Estate if you need to purchase a property in Costa Rica!

Starting a Business

If you have chosen to open a business, speak with other people that have done it. They are a wealth of information. Always do your due diligence on any company. Remember that we are guests in this beautiful country and respect the laws. Pura Vida! Don’t leave your brain on the plane!


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