Whether it is for work, or for studies, for a certain time or permanently, relocating to Costa Rica is a great decision and a somewhat complicated step to take. It is hard to know where to start, and that is why we created this list of tips to help you prepare with everything you need to know before moving abroad.
This process can mean a great opportunity for your career and to take advantage of it, you must first take into account the move, the new culture and, perhaps, master a different language.
For this, we share the steps to follow to be ready in terms of documentation, packaging and more practical tips:
Prepare yourself mentally: Every beginning is difficult!
Of course a move to another country can be complicated and stressful, but that does not mean that it is not worth it. Moving abroad can cause big changes in your lifestyle and it is important to make this decision with the climate, language, cultural differences and even work ethic in mind. That is why it is recommended to take a temporary trip prior to your move, to better know the place and recognize the possible changes that could affect your family or your personal interests.
As this is a significant step, it is better to start organizing and planning in advance, doing small tasks or pending tasks in free time for when moving day approaches, do not be so pressured.
New language and customs
When deciding to move to another country, one of the most difficult transitions can be adjusting to the new language and customs. At the beginning it can be very useful to learn certain phrases to communicate the basics, for that you can carry a translation book or install an application. However, it will be essential to learn the language fluently, whether for work issues from reading documents to writing important paperwork, as well as for social issues.
Even if in the destination country the official language is your native language, remember that there may be words with different meanings and the colloquial language or vocabulary has been adapted to the uses and customs of each place.
Likewise, you can investigate the habits and traditions of Costa Rica, such as holidays, food or how its population handles itself in terms of business and commercial relations, this with the aim of preparing and getting closer to the community that surrounds you.
Procedures and documentation
Before moving abroad, especially if the country speaks a language other than yours, it is important to find online guides in your language that can explain the legal procedures that you will have to carry out upon arrival. Many countries require specific documents and procedures, depending on the purpose of your transfer, whether it is to work, to study, or for any other reason.
These are some of the aspects that you should take into account:
✔ Passport and Visa. Make sure the validity is valid for the time you plan to stay plus another 6 extra months. If the country you plan to move to requires a visa, make it a priority, as this process can take time. You can check the website of the Costa Rican embassy to find out how to get it and how long this process takes.
If you move for work and your company hires a good moving or relocation company, they will be able to provide you with all the information you need. Normally you need a special permit or visa to work legally.
✔ Cards. There will be a number of cards that identify you that will not be necessary in the new country, you can collect them and save them for when you need to return. The valid student ID may be used to obtain discounts.
✔ Titles. If it is for work reasons, consider that they could ask you for your professional title translated into a language, if so, prepare it in advance and investigate how to manage it at the university.
✔ Important documents. You can have important documents but not essential such as a contract or Social Security information and, if you need them, it would not hurt to have them on hand. You can take them with you or even file them and leave them with a close family member, to require someone to ask for the information.
Procedures to pay:
✔ Direct debits. If you have charges or credits to an existing account, such as membership charges or magazine subscriptions, we recommend canceling them in advance.
✔ Telephone, water, and electricity bills. Investigate how long you have to cancel these services without penalties, especially the telephone companies.
✔ Accommodation rental. If you rent the space where you currently live, check your contract to determine how long in advance you should inform the landlord.
✔ Rent or sell your property. You will have to make a decision about your current property depending on whether your accommodation abroad is temporary or permanent. Renting your old home has the advantage of having additional income, and managing it with the tenants can be through someone close or through a real estate agency.
You can investigate which vaccines are recommended for Costa Rica, or if you cannot find reliable information online, consult it directly at your health center. A useful tool for this can be the homepage of the World Health Organization (WHO) that shares the list of vaccination requirements and recommendations for international travelers.
Consider important to take out medical insurance that covers your entire stay and any need you may require, and find out about the country’s health system. Many times if you move as an expatriate, the same job offers you quality travel insurance.
Before moving abroad, exchange the cash you consider sufficient for the currency of Costa Rica (colones). Some types of currency can take time, be sure to request it in advance. For the first days, you can investigate if your credit or debit cards are used to withdraw money abroad and what the daily limit would be. Also, check which cards you would need to take with you or, if they have a constant cost, decide to cancel them before leaving.
Later you could open a bank account and thus be able to transfer money from another country. For this there are some tools such as Transferwise or any other that you find useful.
Anticipate and get ready: Some basic questions to ask about
✔ Plugs. If the power outlet is different, you can buy a universal adapter to use the first days and thus charge your cell phone or computer without problems.
✔ Smartphone. Currently for everything we do we need the smartphone and the internet, either to communicate or to go to a place that you do not know. Anticipate and investigate the telephone companies and the plan that you could hire when you arrive at your destination.
✔ Accommodation. If accommodation abroad depends on you, it will be one of the first tasks you will have to do when you arrive in the new country. To reduce stress, most people anticipate opting for a hotel or a temporary rental to later move to a permanent home.
It is not recommended to decide remotely where you will live -due to potential frauds- and in this way you will be able to be present to observe the spaces, being calmer to visit and find the right home that suits your needs and tastes.
When it is time to packing
Recycle and donate. The weeks leading up to the move you will have to start packing and you will realize everything you don’t use. You will have to decide whether to leave these objects behind in a box or perhaps donate them to give them a second life, especially belongings that you will not be able to take with you.
Prohibited items that you should not take with you when moving: Do not carry…
✔ Box packing
Start by collecting cardboard boxes of different sizes to store all the objects that you will take and also those that you will leave behind. You can buy them from companies that offer moving services. To know the different types of boxes that exist for the variety of belongings, visit our article.
You can start filling the boxes with what you use the least so that you use it regularly, it is at your disposal until the last moment, such as kitchen utensils, towels or sheets.
Remember to distribute the weight well between the boxes, label them properly to easily recognize their contents, and separate the essential things that you will carry in your suitcase. You can visit our previous articles for a more detailed process of how to pack your things when you move.
✔ Baggage and suitcases
In the suitcases that will travel with you, you can pack the essentials, such as the necessary clothes, shoes and some personal hygiene products. Take into account that when you arrive you can buy anything, so many of you belong to you can leave them because of the weight and space they occupy, for example, a bottle of shampoo.
The amount of suitcases you need to take with you will depend on the airline, if you need to travel by plane, so you can investigate how many suitcases or backpacks you are allowed to check in, the measurements and the maximum weight to plan how to pack.
As a tip, try to distribute the contents of your luggage among the suitcases; that is, put some of the basics, clothing, electronic devices or valuables, in all and even your carry-on, this in case any luggage were to be lost.
✔ Shipping boxes
This option to transport your belongings can be very cheap, or expensive, depending on the country. What they can do is check the prices of some companies that ship boxes and leave them ordered with someone so that I can send them once they are installed in your new home.
The social aspect: Meeting new people
Deciding to reside in another country implies some sacrifices, such as contact with loved ones or the familiar social circle. Creating social relationships and new friends can make your experience not only more pleasant, but easier, since they can advise you and tell you about their experience to navigate this unknown place. One option is to use social networks, such as Facebook groups for people of your nationality, where you can go to answer questions or ask for help.
Likewise, it is a good idea to create a network of contacts within your future activity. You can investigate if there are regular events, if there are known people already settled in the country, or the expat community in the area.
It may take time to build a new social circle, but meeting new and different people will always help you grow; so the best thing you can do is to enjoy this adventure. Welcome to Costa Rica!