Last updated: Feb 24, 2023
6+ Months Before the Move
- Buy a book on moving to and/or living in Costa Rica, and read up on the basics. Look for expat blogs written by people who have already taken the plunge. First-hand accounts of life in Costa Rica will cover the ups and downs of life here, and will help you create reasonable expectations.
- If you'll be shipping your household down to Costa Rica, begin contacting shipping companies for price quotes and basic logistics.
- Contact companies for quotes on shipping and import duties if you want to ship your vehicle.
- If you're paring down and only taking the basics, begin a list of what you'll take. Create a game plan for storing, selling or giving away whatever is left.
- Begin researching airline pet policies. Some will not fly during certain seasons or have extensive blackout dates, so your expected departure may change. Also speak to airlines about additional costs to take pets on board, where your pet will fly, and what paperwork is required.
- Make sure you and your family member's passports are current. If not, order replacements soon.
2-4 Months Before the Move
- If you're sending items down on a shipping container, you should have chosen your shipping company by now. Get started filling out the moving planner, which is an itemized sheet of every item you will be shipping.
- Begin collecting all documentation necessary for your residency application. Most will require multiple authentications, so budget at least 6-8 weeks to get everything in order.
- Make sure your bank account is accessible from Costa Rica. Familiarize yourself with Internet banking and online billpay so you can handle any bills (storage buildings, utilities, etc.) from Costa Rica.
- Some banks charge high fees for ATM withdrawals abroad – about $5 + 1% of the total amount. Consider setting up an account with a bank that offers low-fee or free withdrawals.
- Purchase a few practical books on Costa Rica. You'll want at least one travel guide, a waterproof map, and a Spanish-English dictionary. Special-interest books include field guides, national park overviews, and culture and history books on the country.
- Begin compiling a list of people and organizations that will be informed of your move – friends, family, credit card companies, and the post office are just a few.
- Research where you'll want to start your relocation journey. We always recommend "trying before you buy." Check out several neighborhoods, and rent for at least six months before you purchase a home.
- Talk to your doctor about obtaining medical records for your family and updating vaccines.
- Look into private insurance in Costa Rica. You won't be eligible to sign up for the Caja, the public health care system, until you have obtained residency (usually 6-18 months after application), so you'll need private medical coverage during the interim.
- Friendly faces will go a long way toward making you feel at home. Begin networking now – comment on expat blogs, join online forums, and research social groups in the areas you've identified as possible relocation choices.
1-2 Months Before the Move
- Call credit card companies and ask them to mark your accounts for use in Costa Rica. If available, get their toll-free customer service number for Costa Rica.
- Touch base with your moving and/or shipping company. Verify exactly what is included in their fees. Be sure that you are completing packing and other moving tasks on a timely basis.
- If you're taking a pet to Costa Rica, be sure that his or her rabies vaccine is up-to-date. Unlike other pet requirements, rabies vaccines must be administered 30+ days before departure.
- If your driver's license expires soon, renew it. It's easier to renew when you're in-country. A current driver's license will also allow you to bypass Costa Rica's practical driving exam, allowing you to obtain a local driver's license easily.
- If you're selling or giving away household items, it's time to really get moving. Don't hesitate to pre-sell goods that will be available at a later date. You may have to accept a slightly reduced price, but knowing that all items are spoken for will reduce stress.
- Talk with your lawyer about all legal ends that need to be tied up. Make sure your will is in order, and if you're giving household items away to charity, be sure to ask how that will affect your taxes.
- Start researching available rentals. If you don't want to commit to a rental site unseen, or you don't feel comfortable making a deposit from abroad, an aparthotel is a good option for the first week or two.
- Contact your cell phone, cable TV, Internet and other companies regarding contract cancellation. If you're locked into a cell phone or satellite TV contract, cancellation can incur large fees; calculate whether it's less expensive to keep your monthly service until the contract expires.
- Arrange for cancellation of medical, dental, car and other insurances once you have moved.
- Look into VOIP telephone services so you can easily stay in contact with friends and family.
2-4 Weeks Before the Move
- Set up a mail forwarding service. You'll get a U.S. post office box, and will pay by weight to have your mail shipped to Costa Rica. Some companies offer home delivery for an additional fee.
- Request address forwarding with the local post office.
- Cancel magazines that you no longer want, and notify those you wish to keep of your new address. Keep in mind that you will pay by weight to forward each magazine, so only choose those that are worth the fee.
- Contact utility companies about turning off service. Confirm that all utilities will not be shut off until after moving day. Inform companies of your forwarding address.
- Make sure that all residency documentation is in order. If you haven't gotten your criminal record check (police report) yet, do so. Double-check with your residency lawyer regarding current documentation requirements.
1-2 Weeks Before the Move
- Finalize reservations for where you'll stay upon arrival in Costa Rica.
- Get all items ready for the movers. Make sure your valuables and fragile items are appropriately packed and protected.
- Sell off any last-minute items, and give your home a thorough cleaning.
- If you're not ending a rental contract or selling, make sure to ask a friend or neighbor to watch over your home while you're away.
- If you have pets or young children, arrange for someone to take care of them when the moving truck arrives.
- Pack your suitcases. Write up a list of last-minute items to add the day or two before departure.
- Visit the bank to empty out and cancel your safety deposit box.
- Make copies of all important documents. Put them in a separate location from the originals.