I'm not sure that I expected everything to go off without a hitch regarding our upcoming trip to Costa Rica but I don't think I was prepared for the surprising news I received on Saturday morning.
Do your homework
This trip is our "due diligence" trip. Meaning it's an exploratory, fact finding trip where we plan to gather pertinent information about several areas of interest which will enable us to make a somewhat intelligent decision about where we want to live when we relocate next year. We've been researching Costa Rica for about 2 years and planning this trip for about a year.
There are several "due diligence" tours offered in Costa Rica. I know of at least 3 - Christopher Howard's Relocation & Retirement Tour, Michael & D'Angelo's Doin Costa Rica tour and George Lundquist's Retire in Costa Rica on Social Security tour.
I'm a firm believer in doing due diligence (dd) before you make a big change like relocating to a foreign country!
The tours take you around to various areas and show you housing as well as information on real estate. Most tours include a trip to the bank along with how to open an account, a trip to the farmacia, a grocery store, info on the caja (the Costa Rica healthcare insurance system), how to obtain a driver's license and how to apply for residency. The tours answer a lot of questions that people just relocating to Costa Rica really need to know to make informed decisions about moving. Plus you get a chance to meet other expats. The tours are anywhere from 1 - 3 days on average but be prepared to "pay" for the tour, they are not cheap!
There are 5 of us making this trip. Originally we had thought of booking a tour but once we had done a pretty fair amount of research we decided that for our first trip we would focus on visiting different areas and concentrate on banking accounts, the caja and residency once we made the move. (Also saving us a ton of money if you factor in the cost of the tours for 5 people.)
We have been corresponding with an expat who has lived in the country for quite a few years and had made arrangements to do our due diligence with him as he would provide us with 2 days of tours. Day 1 tour the Pacific Coast and Day 2 tour to the Central Valley. He was to serve as our guide and introduction to Costa Rica and hopefully provide us with enough "on the ground information" to be able to, at least choose a location, to begin our search once we move.
So with plane tickets purchased and hotels booked and paid for I checked in with him this past weekend to firm up our itinerary and get pick up times, etc, and to my surprise he told me that something had "come up" and so he had to cancel. He would not even be in Costa Rica during the time of our tour. Wow! But...he did offer to provide us with referrals to a couple of substitute tour guides but we don't think either guide would have adequate knowledge about retirement and relocation since they are only in their 30's. We weren't seeking a regular tour anyway. We were looking for an informational tour, a due diligence tour.
So..........at first we were pretty disappointed (especially me since I am doing most of the organizing and I was counting on these tours) What were we going to do when this was the main goal of our trip? But once I had time to sit and think, I decided to "shake it off" and I remembered that everything happens for a reason. Just because he isn't doing our tour doesn't mean that we can't get this information in another way.
So, first we figured out the 5 most popular places where expats settle in the Central Valley. Interestingly enough, we noticed we were already booked at hotels owned by U.S expats in 3 of those 5 cities! Plus we had also made arrangements to connect with several other expats in those same areas. The other 2 cities we decided we would either hire a driver or take a bus -- on our own!
It's gonna be fun