I have seen some other plans for moving to Costa Rica and many of them start at about 4-6 months out. While that may work well for some, my plan is to start 12 months out. Since I will continue to work for the next 10 months, I think a longer timeline will make it easier and much less stressful for me.
1) Pick a date - We have decided to arrive in July which is pretty much right in the thick of the rainy season. Since we are going to have to experience it anyway, we might as well start there and jump in with both feet.
Regarding our date, at first I was seriously considering a July 4th arrival. I know it is not a day of celebration in Costa Rica but it would represent "independence day" for us. However, after reading a few expat blogs, I got the feeling that it is still a day of celebration for expats living in Costa Rica. It might be nice to join in on the fun. So, in that case, we need to arrive a few days prior.
So the departure date has now been moved to July 1st. My retirement date is set for 4/29. So the July 1st date really makes more sense anyway as the 1st would be a rent day and I plan to be out of my apartment before making a rent payment in July.
We will need to get in touch with some of our expats friends who are already there and make plans to join in on some of the festivities.
2) Start thinking about what area we want to live in - Do we start at the beach or in the central valley? There are pros and cons to each so this is a very difficult decision to make and trust me when I say, we are all over the board on this one!
We know we will more than likely move around Costa Rica to experience various locations and climates -- but you gotta start some place. So it is a good thing we are starting to plan 12 months out. Hopefully in the next few months we will have come to some conclusion and can begin to focus on on a landing spot.
North Americans can stay in Costa Rica legally for up to 3 months. They must then leave for a period of 72 hours, then can then return to the country for another three months. If the three month period is overstayed, a travel agency or ARCR can arrange payment of a small fine and prepare the travel documents required to leave the country for the required 72 hours.
**more on border crossing guidelines to follow3) Open a bank account for transacting business in Costa Rica
Here are some options for using U.S banks
There are 4 national (government owned) and about 12 private banks operating in Costa Rica, including Citibank from the USA and the ScotiaBank from Canada (however do not expect access to your US or Canadian accounts from here). All deposits in national banks are guaranteed without limit by the government of Costa Rica. Banking is both safe and reliable, although the national banks can be bureaucratic. Checking, savings and investment services are available from all of them. It is also possible to operate accounts in the USA or elsewhere through Costa Rican private banks. Banking in Costa Rica is protected by secrecy legislation. Foreigners may have bank accounts. There are no exchange controls or restrictions on removing funds from the country
You can link your card to your bank and just transfer money to pal pal or use the money in the account that you have been paid thru PayPal.
Use a Charles Schwab checking account and withdraw cash anywhere in the world with no fees.
Capital One is another option. They have a 360 Checking Account and Credit Card. Both with - No fees
You can also wire money from your bank to BCR or Banco National in Costa Rica.
I took care of this situation prior to our trip in March
4) Begin to sort out belongings - Clothing, Cabinets, Jewelry, Household Goods - Everything!
This is probably without a doubt, the BIGGEST task anyone relocating will have. First you will need to decide if you are going to sell your belongings or possibly ship them. Many people do a combination of both. Our plan is to take enough to last us for one year. After which time, we will decide if we are remaining in Costa Rica or possibly moving to another country. After 1 year we will have a good idea of what we need and we will consider having some of our personal belongings shipped via container.
Another option is to sell everything and buy what you need in country. I've been told that you can have just about any furniture you might want custom made in Costa Rica. There are some very talented artisans there. There are also always expats leaving to return to the U.S on any given day so there is usually an abundance of household items that can be purchased at the fraction of what it would cost to buy it new or have it shipped.
To that end, I plan to sort into 4 categories
1 - items I will take with me when I leave (enough to last for 1 year) These need to fit into suitcases so this is giving me fits right now
2 - items I need to use for the year BEFORE I leave. These will be discarded, donated or sold prior to the move. A garage sale has already been set for 8/29.
3 - items for possible shipment in our 2nd year
4 - things I will store in the U.S for possible return (minimal)
If I don't LOVE it I will get rid of it
It is time to downsize and minimize!
I'll continue to update you as I move through the list
Next timeline 9 months out