Costa Rica digital nomad visa guide (2023)
Ever since the late 90s, Costa Rica has been a popular spot for expats and retirees. Over the past couple of decades, it also became a hub for digital nomads, which is why Ticos (Costa Rican natives) see more and more of them flock to the wonderful Costa Rican shores each year.
Today, temporary residents such as retirees, expats, and digital nomads make up around 7% of the total 557 thousand immigrants in Costa Rica.
That’s why the Costa Rican government started an initiative back in the summer of 2021 to establish a law that will regulate the legal stay of digital nomads in Costa Rica.
Now that the visa is available, it seems pretty straightforward. However, you still need to meet specific requirements, which means the path to getting a Costa Rica digital nomad visa isn’t quite that simple. That’s why we prepared this guide that provides:
- All the necessary information about the digital nomad visa in Costa Rica,
- A detailed guide on how to get the visa,
- Benefits and drawbacks of settling in Costa Rica as a digital nomad, and
- Top 5 destinations that digital nomads enjoy in Costa Rica.
Let’s unpack this together, shall we?
Quick digital nomad visa facts for Costa Rica
|Costa Rica visa questions||Costa Rica visa answers|
|Does Costa Rica have a digital nomad visa?||Yes, the “Stay for Remote Workers and Service Providers Visa”|
|When was the digital nomad visa introduced in Costa Rica?||July 22nd, 2022|
|Who can apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa?||– Anyone who provides services remotely to people or entities outside of Costa Rica,|
– Anyone who is either self-employed or employed by a company outside of Costa Rica, and
– Anyone who can prove a sufficient monthly income.
|How much does a Costa Rica digital nomad visa cost?||– $100 application fee (per applicant)|
– $90 registration fee (per applicant)
|Costa Rica digital nomad visa length?||1 year (with the option of extending the visa for another year)|
|Minimum stay requirement?||180 consecutive days|
|Possible to extend the visa?||Yes, up to 2 years|
|Minimum income requirements?||– $3,000 in monthly revenues for an individual|
– $4,000 for a couple
|Processing time for visa application?||15 days to 2 months|
|Can I apply with family members for a digital nomad visa?||Yes, with your spouse, and children under 25 (with stipulations)|
What to expect as a digital nomad in Costa Rica?
There’s no doubt that Costa Rica has a lot to offer to both tourists and those looking for a more work-focused getaway. But, let’s take a look at what digital nomads in particular can expect in Costa Rica.
|Costa Rica digital nomad FAQ||Costa Rica digital nomad answers|
|Average Internet speed:||– 66.59 Mbps — median download speed|
– 17.77 Mbps — median upload speed
|Best coworking space (highest Google rating and highest number of voters):||Impact Hub San José, San José (4,6 stars from 98 voters)|
|Friendly to foreigners:||Yes — Costa Rica has been a popular spot for tourists and retirees for decades now, which is why they are not only used to but also quite friendly to foreigners.|
|Most popular place for digital nomads in Costa Rica:||San José — with excellent weather and easy access to entertainment, San José is a great pick for digital nomads.|
|Weather in Costa Rica’s most popular place for digital nomads:||– Average annual temperature 23°C (74°F);|
– Coldest month average temperatures (January) — 17°C–26°C (63°F–79°F);
– Hottest month average temperatures (April) — 19°C–30°C (66°F–86°F);
– 2081 sunny hours per year;
– 237.64 rainy days per year;
– Rainy season with downpours.
|Type of climate:||Tropical|
|Annual air quality average:||– US AQI — 33 (good quality, no health hazards)|
– PM2.5 — 1.6x the WHO annual air quality guideline value (moderate quality)
|Average cost of living:||– Family of four: $2,777 per month|
– Single person: $766 per month
|Average coworking space cost:||€146 per month (~$155)|
|Crime per 100k population:||11.19|
|Interesting fact for digital nomads:||Digital nomads are exempt from tax (including income and import tax for their work equipment).|
What types of digital nomad visas does Costa Rica offer?
Although a popular destination for expats and retirees since the 1990s, establishing a Costa Rican digital nomad visa that will regulate and legalize the stay of digital nomads was only prompted by the pandemic-related changes.
Up until the pandemic, digital nomads could only stay in Costa Rica by either obtaining a:
- Tourist visa, or
- Rentista visa.
The rentista visa, which was created to allow foreign nationals to immigrate to Costa Rica, is valid for up to 2 years, but difficult to obtain for digital nomads.
The tourist visa, on the other hand, is only valid for 90 days.
That led to a lot of digital nomads being “perpetual tourists” in Costa Rica. They would enter the country, spend 90 days there, and then visit another country for a short period, only to come back to Costa Rica for another 90-day round.
Post-pandemic changes in Costa Rica’s visa system
When the pandemic hit, a lot of tourists (and some digital nomads) found themselves stranded in Costa Rica with no way out and no way of honoring the 90-day cutoff of the tourist visa.
So, during the pandemic, the Costa Rica Immigration Administration issued a decree that allowed an extension for all tourists who entered Costa Rica in late 2019 and early 2020.
The extension, which was valid until June 2021, allowed stranded tourists and digital nomads to safely wait out the brunt of the pandemic within Costa Rica. As that deadline approached, the legislators in Costa Rica started urging the government to establish a new temporary stay visa that would not only allow visitors to stay for longer periods but also attract them to do so (thus replenishing the Costa Rican economy, which was struggling to bounce back after the pandemic).
In July of 2022, that visa was brought to life in the form of the Stay for Remote Workers and Service Providers Visa. Aside from that, digital nomads can also use the:
- Tourist visa (or the allowed 90-day stay for foreigners from countries that don’t require a visa),
- Rentista visa, which is valid for 2 years (and can be extended) but requires them to pay tax, or
- Inversionista visa, which requires foreigners to make an investment of at least $100,000–150,000 in Costa Rica to be granted a temporary 2-year stay.
Now, clearly, digital nomads have plenty of options in Costa Rica. So, why opt for the digital nomad visa? What makes it so special?
Costa Rica digital nomad visa
The rentista visa was an amazing opportunity for digital nomads to live and work in Costa Rica. Actually, it still is. It allows for a 2-year stay and has minimal required earnings of $2,500. However, it doesn’t offer enough benefits to attract a substantial number of digital nomads into the country.
What Costa Rica needed after the pandemic was to take advantage of the work-from-home momentum. According to some reports, more than 40.7 million people in the American workforce are expected to become fully remote by 2025. That’s a lot of potential digital nomads who might find Costa Rica an attractive destination.
However, they might also go elsewhere. So, in order to attract them, Costa Rica needed something more enticing than the rentista visa.
And so, a new visa was born.
Well, the actual birthing took a bit of work, given that Costa Rica took just under a year to get the visa up and running. But, as of July 22nd of 2022, digital nomads everywhere were able to start applying for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa.
Costa Rica digital nomad visa benefits
The Costa Rica digital nomad visa is quite like those that some other countries established during the pandemic. Similarly to Estonia’s digital nomad visa, which was the first of its kind, the Costa Rica digital nomad visa was made to attract as many digital nomads as possible.
That’s one of the reasons it has low requirements and quick processing times.
Well, it seems to have worked. According to the Nomad List, Costa Rica is among the top destinations for digital nomads. What’s more, women seem to favor it more than men, probably due to the excellent safety levels in Costa Rica (we’ll discuss that topic in detail later on). Even solo traveler women place Costa Rica high on their list of favorite countries to travel to.
But what exactly makes Costa Rica so appealing (to women and men alike)?
Well, let’s take a look at some of the top benefits of the new Costa Rica digital nomad visa:
- The visa lasts for 1 year, with the possibility of extending it for another year.
- Digital nomads can apply for the new visa online or in person (from Costa Rica).
- The processing time is quite short (between 15 and 45 days).
- Digital nomads are exempt from paying taxes (they don’t pay income tax or remittance tax, and are exempt from paying import tax for their work equipment).
- All digital nomads can use their original driving licenses for the duration of the visa.
Costa Rica digital nomad visa requirements
If you want to apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa, the requirements, as stated on the Costa Rica Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) website are:
- You must provide paid services remotely to an entity or person(s) outside of Costa Rica.
- You must earn at least $3,000 per month (and your income must be stable).
- You must earn at least $4,000 per month if you’re applying with dependants.
- Your earnings must not originate from Costa Rica.
Of course, these are just the basic rules. Obtaining a Costa Rica digital nomad visa isn’t just about meeting a few requirements. You also need:
- Proof of employment outside of Costa Rica,
- Proof of payment for both the application and the registration fee, and
- Health insurance (private or travel insurance that covers Costa Rica).
How long is the Costa Rica digital nomad visa valid for?
Once you get your digital nomad visa approved, you can spend 1 year living and working in Costa Rica.
When that year is up, you can submit a request to extend your visa for up to 1 extra year. Any digital nomad visa holder can apply for the visa renewal, with one stipulation — they have to prove they’ve spent at least 180 days in the territory of Costa Rica during the previous year.
Therefore, digital nomads can spend up to 2 years in total in Costa Rica. This is an excellent step up from the tourist visa, which only allowed a short, 90-day stay. However, it’s a long way away from the rentista visa, which allows foreigners to live and work in Costa Rica for up to 10 years.
However, keep in mind that the digital nomad visa has some benefits that the rentista visa doesn’t. Namely, digital nomads are completely exempt from tax (which isn’t the case with the rentista visa). Therefore, considering that digital nomads pay no tax to Costa Rica, it’s somewhat logical that this particular visa doesn’t last as long as some others.
Can the Costa Rica digital nomad visa be used to gain citizenship or permanent residence?
If you’re nearing the end of your working days, you might be looking into Costa Rica as a potential retirement spot. You might even be looking into working in Costa Rica as a digital nomad for a few years and then retiring there.
Of course, you wouldn’t be the first one.
Costa Rica is a particularly popular retirement spot for North Americans (specifically US citizens). In 2020, there were 28,700 US immigrants with residency status living in Costa Rica.
Most of them have regulated their stay via the special “pensionado” visa, which allows those with a passive income (such as a pension or dividends) to stay in Costa Rica. The pensionado visa has the potential to become a permanent residency visa after 7 consecutive years.
However, if you’re looking to spend a few years in Costa Rica on a digital nomad visa, know that those years won’t count toward your permanent residency status.
Digital nomads can’t apply for (or work towards) a permanent residency, naturalization, or citizenship in Costa Rica based on their 1- or 2-year stay under the digital nomad visa.
If you want your stay in Costa Rica to be more permanent (or longer than 2 years), you’ll have to apply for a different visa (pensionado, rentista, or inversionista, all of which we’ll talk about in more detail later in the text).
So, the new visa isn’t your path to becoming a permanent resident or a citizen of Costa Rica.
It is, however, your ticket for a couple of wonderful (tax-free) years in this beautiful country.
How can I apply for a digital nomad visa in Costa Rica?
There are 2 different ways you can apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa:
- Online, from abroad or from Costa Rica, and
- In person, at your nearest immigration office in Costa Rica.
The option to apply from within Costa Rica is a major advantage of this digital nomad visa. According to some research, ⅔ of digital nomads opt to spend between 3 and 6 months in one place (or country), while the majority (around 80%) is happy to spend between 9 and 12 months in one place.
The willingness to make their stays as short as 3 months means that some digital nomads will likely take a country for a test drive, so to speak, by spending 90 days in it (which is the standard length of the tourist visa in most countries), and only then apply for a visa that might allow them to prolong their stay.
So, the option to go to Costa Rica, spend some time there, and apply for the visa later is a major benefit.
What documents do you need to apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa?
To apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa, you’ll need the following documents:
- A valid passport (that you’ll include with other documents for inspection, if you’re applying in person) and a photocopy of the first page (which contains the biometric information and your photograph) and the page that has the stamp you received upon entry into the country,
- A filled-out application (that you can submit online or in person),
- Travel and health insurance (or private insurance) that covers the territory of Costa Rica (and is valid for the entirety of your stay in Costa Rica),
- Proof of employment in a company or proof of ownership of a company that isn’t registered in Costa Rica,
- Proof from your employer in the form of a declaration letter, stating that you’re allowed to work remotely from Costa Rica,
- Bank account statements for the previous 12 months that prove that you have the necessary financial means to support yourself in Costa Rica,
- Proof of accommodation for the duration of your stay in Costa Rica (a rental agreement or a hotel or Airbnb booking),
- Proof that you’ve paid the necessary fees, and
- Consular or restricted visa (in case you’re from a country that requires an entry visa).
All documents must be verified by an Apostille and translated into Spanish (and you can’t do it yourself, either, you need an official, court-approved translator) before you can register them with the authorities in Costa Rica.
You also need an affidavit that states that you’ve requested the bank account statements specifically to prove you have substantial income. You can’t just print out your bank records to prove you have been earning $3,000 every month.
This process takes a while, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on applying for the visa from Costa Rica.
Do I need to book or rent a place in Costa Rica as part of the visa application?
Yes, you do need proof of accommodation for the entirety of your stay in order to get a digital nomad visa in Costa Rica. This proof needs to be a signed and notarized contract.
However, you don’t need to have a rental agreement for the full year that you’re staying. Instead, you can just submit a short-term rental or Airbnb contract or even sign a contract with a friend who’s a local (if that’s an option for you).
As long as the contract is signed by the owner of the property you’re staying at and you get it notarized, the authorities will accept it as proof of accommodation.
Do I need a Costa Rica bank account for the digital nomad visa?
A Costa Rican bank account isn’t necessary for the visa to get approved.
Still, one of the benefits of the digital nomad visa is that all digital nomads have the option of opening local bank accounts in several Costa Rican banks with nothing else but their visas.
So, you might end up getting one after you obtain your visa.
Can I apply for the digital nomad visa if I’m already in Costa Rica?
Yes, you can come to Costa Rica and apply for a digital nomad visa there. You can opt for either an online or in-person application.
Can freelancing digital nomads with short-term contracts apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa?
One of the unfortunate stipulations of the Costa Rica digital nomad visa is that you have to have a steady income of at least $3,000 per month. That’s quite inconvenient for freelancers and contractors whose work is contract based.
If your earnings fluctuate (i.e. one month you might earn $4,500 while another month you earn $2,000), there’s a strong possibility your visa might not get approved.
The requirement is that you can prove a stable income that will allow you to be self-sufficient in Costa Rica (without having to rely on government resources). So, if you’re a freelancer with a lot of short-term contracts and earnings that fluctuate, consider forming a limited liability company and paying yourself a paycheck every month. That will make your monthly income stable.
Can my family apply for the digital nomad visa with me if I’m the breadwinner?
Yes, you can apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa with the following dependents:
- Your spouse or common-law partner,
- Your children under 25 years of age,
- Your children with disabilities of any age, and
- Seniors who live with you.
Your dependents don’t have to apply for digital nomad visas separately. If you’re the breadwinner in the family, you can simply sponsor your spouse and other dependents. In that case, you’ll have to provide proof that you earn enough to sustain both yourself and your dependents ($4,000 per month).
Depending on who you’re sponsoring, you might also have to provide some additional documentation:
- A marriage certificate that isn’t older than 6 months,
- A certificate of your common-law union that isn’t older than 6 months,
- A copy of a birth certificate (for any children that you might be sponsoring),
- Medical documentation as proof of disabilities (for children with disabilities over 25 years of age),
- Proof that the senior citizen that you’re sponsoring is related to you (with an accompanying affidavit that confirms that).
Who is eligible to apply for Costa Rica’s digital nomad visa?
Nationals of all countries are welcome in Costa Rica. Thus, everyone can apply for a digital nomad visa. As long as they meet all the requirements, they’ll get it.
Are you eligible if you are a United States citizen?
US citizens can apply for the Costa Rica digital nomad visa.
One other advantage that US citizens have is that they don’t need a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica. Costa Rican law allows them to reside in the country for 90 days without a visa. All they need is a return ticket for either the US or another country, as proof that they won’t stay longer than the allotted 90 days.
Are you eligible if you are an EU citizen?
Just like US citizens, EU citizens don’t require a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica. Therefore, wandering digital nomads who hold EU passports can come to Costa Rica, spend up to 90 days there without any sort of visa, and then apply for a digital nomad visa, if they so wish.
Are you eligible if you are a US Green Card holder?
US green card holders don’t enjoy the same privileges as US citizens. Although they are welcome to apply for the digital nomad visa, they can do so in person only if they first get a tourist visa.
There are over 90 countries that require a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica. US green card holders should check whether their country of origin is on that list, and, if that’s the case, get a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica and apply for the digital nomad visa.
How do I get a digital nomad visa for Costa Rica?
Obtaining a digital nomad visa in Costa Rica isn’t that difficult. However, there will be a few layers of bureaucracy that you’ll need to fight your way through.
To explain the process in the simplest terms, we prepared this 5-step guide to the Costa Rica digital nomad application process for you.
Step #1: Pick a method of application
As mentioned, there are two different ways you can apply for the digital nomad visa in Costa Rica:
- Online, or
If you’re applying in person, you’ll need to make an appointment first. To do that, you can visit the DGME’s Web Appointments Portal.
If you’re from a country that requires a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica, applying online might be your best option. Aside from that, the online application also has the benefit of you being able to quickly get the necessary documents (especially if your visa application gets denied because of missing or incomplete paperwork).
Step #2: Get all the necessary documents
The second and most important step is to gather all the necessary documents. No matter which application method you’ve chosen, it’s wise to prepare the necessary paperwork for both.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- An application form,
- Proof of payment,
- Bank statements,
- Copies of your passport (and your physical passport),
- Copy of your tourist or consular visa, and
- The necessary paperwork for your dependents.
If you opt to have a professional do this whole process for you, you’ll need to get power of attorney for your representative.
Aside from all these papers, you’ll also need to fill out specific forms you’ll attach to your application. These forms are:
- Stay application form for remote workers,
- A declaration that your company allows you to work remotely,
- Proof of informed consent,
- The dependent stay request form for minors or elderly children with disabilities, and
- Dependent stay request form for spouses, common-law partners, adult children, or elderly adults.
All of these forms are in Spanish (and, naturally, also need to be filled out in Spanish). So if your Spanish is wonky, it’s best to ask someone to help you (or get a professional representative to fill it in for you).
Also, keep in mind there are two different types of forms available. One is the digital type, and you’ll use those if you’re applying for the visa online. The other ones are physical forms that you can download, fill out, and submit in person.
Step #3: Fill out and submit your application
Once you’ve filled out all the forms we mentioned (or just one, if you’re nomading solo), you’ll need to submit your application. You can do that online, via the Tramite Ya platform, or in person, in one of the Service Platforms of the Foreign Nationals Administration.
Step #4: Wait for the visa to get processed
Typically, you won’t wait longer than 15 days to hear back about the visa. If your visa has been approved for processing, you’ll have 8 days to send in all the necessary paperwork that you’ve gathered.
After those 8 days are up, you’ll either receive confirmation that your application has been granted or you’ll be rejected. Either way, you won’t wait for longer than 15 calendar days.
So, in total, you shouldn’t wait longer than a month and a half or two months for your visa to be granted. This is a surprisingly quick turnaround time, especially given the world-famous laidback approach to life that Costa Ricans typically have.
Step #5: Get your residency permit
When you get your shiny new digital nomad visa, you’ll be able to enter the country and (legally) work there. You’ll have 3 months from the moment your visa is issued to get a residency permit.
This is a vital step, given that failure to get a residency permit will void your visa.
To get a residency permit, you need to go to your local immigration office. However, before that, you’ll need to go to San Jose to the Ministerio Seguridad Pública to register your biometric data.
After you do that, you’ll be able to go to the local immigration office and submit your documents there. Make an appointment at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería and bring the following:
- A letter of request that details why you need a residency permit,
- Two passport photos,
- Photocopies of the first and last pages of your passport,
- Your birth certificate that’s been Apostilled,
- Proof of a clean criminal record that’s been Apostilled, and
- A consular registration that’s been issued by your home country’s Costa Rican consulate.
Aside from these documents, you’ll also need to provide a proof of payment for another fee of $50. Also, make sure to bring extra cash with you because you’ll also have to pay $3.50 per every page of documentation you submit when applying for the residency permit.
Can I live in Costa Rica without a digital nomad visa while working remotely?
Technically, yes, you can. There are several options for those who can’t (or don’t want to) apply for the digital nomad visa.
However, all of them are limiting in some way.
The tourist visa, for example, only allows you to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days.
The rentista visa, on the other hand, allows you to work in Costa Rica but also requires you to pay income tax.
And, speaking of the rentista visa, let’s see what this and other visa options Costa Rica has to offer to digital nomads, expats, and retirees.
What other types of visas suitable for digital nomads does Costa Rica offer?
If you don’t meet the requirements for the digital nomad visa in Costa Rica, there are a few other options you can explore. We already mentioned most of them, but here’s a quick overview:
- Tourist visa,
- Rentista visa,
- Pensionado visa, and
- Inversionista visa.
Let’s see what each of them has to offer.
Type #1: Tourist visa
As mentioned before, EU and US citizens don’t need a tourist visa to get into Costa Rica. What’s more, many non-EU countries in Europe also don’t need a visa. Still, there are plenty of countries that do.
The tourist visa lasts for 90 days. To get one, you need to declare when you plan on leaving Costa Rica. You can do that by providing:
- A photocopy of a return flight ticket, bus ticket, or cruise ticket, and
- Proof that you have sufficient funds to finance your trip to Costa Rica.
Of course, although it gives you plenty of time to explore, the tourist visa doesn’t really allow digital nomads to make Costa Rica their home base. What’s more, it also doesn’t allow you to legally work there.
So, let’s explore some other options, shall we?
Type #2: Rentista visa
The rentista visa is a temporary residency visa that allows foreigners to live in Costa Rica. The visa is initially issued for up to 2 years but it can be continually extended for up to 10 years.
You can obtain it in one of two ways:
- Prove that your monthly income is at least $2,500, or
- Deposit $60,000 at a local Costa Rican bank, and sign a commitment letter that $2,500 out of that sum will be made available to you every month so you can support yourself during your stay in Costa Rica.
The benefits of the rentista visa are:
- The minimal income and the sum you need to deposit don’t change no matter how many dependents you have,
- After 3 years, you can apply for permanent residency,
- After 7 years, you can apply for citizenship.
Rentista visa gives you the option to work from Costa Rica as well as access the country’s healthcare and educational systems. However, it also requires you to pay 10–25% of income tax on all your income.
Type #3: Pensionado visa
Unless you’re nearing your twilight years, the pensionado visa probably isn’t a good fit for you. It was established to attract even more retirees from North America (and, it worked).
The pensionado visa is fairly easy to get because it has only one requirement — you need to have at least $1,000 of monthly pension payments. These payments can come from social security, government, or private business.
Although tempting due to the low minimally required amount, there aren’t many digital nomads who receive pension payments. Furthermore, given that the pensionado visa doesn’t allow people to continue to work, not many digital nomads would find it that helpful.
Type #4: Inversionista
Finally, Costa Rica offers another form of temporary residence — the inversionista visa.
This particular visa is an excellent option for investors — those who might have some money to invest and are looking to spend it in Costa Rica.
So, if you happen to have between $100,000 and $150,000 lying around, you can spend a day in Costa Rica, invest your money, and automatically get a residence permit for two years. You can invest in:
- Local real estate or vehicles,
- New or existing business in Costa Rica, or
- Forestry projects.
The cheapest way to obtain a residence is to invest in Costa Rica’s forestry projects. If you opt to do that, you’ll “only” need to make an investment of $100,000. However, keep in mind that this comes with a lot of paperwork.
You’ll need to obtain appropriate permits from SETENA (Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental), a government gatekeeper agency that regulates all new developments according to their environmental impact.
If that’s too much of a hassle, you can also:
- Invest $150,000 in any type of new business in Costa Rica. To do so, you’ll need to make a business plan (that will get approved by the Costa Rican authorities) and comply with all the requirements the government has for foreign investments.
- Invest $150,000 in an existing business, by buying the entire business or just a part of it. This is usually done by purchasing stocks of an existing business in Costa Rica. Once you do that, you’ll automatically qualify for an inversionista visa.
- Invest at least $150,000 in real estate or vehicles, which basically requires you to buy $150,000 worth of property or vehicles. That sounds like a lot but, on the plus side, you can buy whatever you want (a farm, a condo, cars, boats, etc.), and your investments will stack up. That means you can buy $150,000 worth of motorcycles, for example, and qualify for the visa.
Which Costa Rica visa type is best for digital nomads?
Although the rentista visa has some advantages that might turn a digital nomad’s head, the new visa made specifically for remote workers in Costa Rica is undoubtedly the ideal choice.
The digital nomad visa:
- Is easy to obtain for digital nomads who can prove they meet the basic requirements,
- Lasts for 1 year and can be extended,
- Is available both online and in person,
- Will be processed quickly (between 15 and 45 days),
- Exempts digital nomads from all income tax as well as import tax for their work equipment, and
- Allows digital nomads to use their driving licenses for the duration of their stay in Costa Rica.
Costs you need to consider as a digital nomad in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the most developed countries in Latin and Central America and has shown steady economic growth over the past quarter of a century.
This growth is part of the reason people in Costa Rica have an excellent quality of life. Although Costa Rica doesn’t score quite as high as some other countries on the Better Life Index scale, it performs quite well when it comes to healthcare, housing, civic engagement, and overall life satisfaction.
Aside from that, Costa Rica has:
- Low levels of long-term unemployment (just 1.6%),
- Excellent water and air quality, and
- Above-average life expectancy.
Costa Rica’s outward-based economic strategy and the fact that it’s open to foreign investments (as the inversionista visa can attest), paired with the country’s leading environmental policies, make Costa Rica a great place to live in (no matter how temporarily).
But, does that great living come at a cost? Well, it always does.
So, let’s take a look at what expenses a typical digital nomad can expect in Costa Rica (and how high each of them is).
Expense #1: Rent (or accommodation)
Because you need an official address to qualify for your digital nomad visa, renting a place during your stay in Costa Rica is a necessity.
Although it will be one of your biggest expenses, rent doesn’t have to be astronomically high. Just like anywhere else, the amount of money you spend on accommodations in Costa Rica will depend on your needs and desires.
So, if you want a 4-bedroom house with a pool, you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for it.
But, you can also find something quite cheap, especially away from the city center. According to Euronews, San José, the Costa Rica capital, is one of the top 10 cheapest destinations for digital nomads, and 6 months’ worth of rent will cost you around $4450. That’s just $741 per month, which is far less than the average rent in major cities in North America.
Take a look at the table below where we presented the average rent in top destinations in Costa Rica.
|City in Costa Rica||Average cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment (per month)|
Keep in mind that, like most popular tourist destinations, Costa Rica has a high and a low season. Booking accommodations during the high season — from October to April — can be tricky. High season means high prices and low availability.
So, if you can, opt to look for accommodation during the low season.
It’s also important to remember that small, rural areas will always have lower rent than coastal towns that are popular tourist destinations.
Expense #2: Utilities
Although rent can be quite steep (especially if you opt to settle down in a city center or a seaside resort town), the good news is that the price you pay will most likely include the utilities. That’s especially true for short-term rentals and vacation homes.
To register utilities for your new apartment, you need to be a legal resident of Costa Rica. That’s why many landlords keep the utilities registered to their own name and just include them in the final rent price. That way, they can rent out their real estate to foreigners who aren’t on a visa as well as tourists.
All utilities are billed one month behind, so you won’t have to pay them the first month you move in. You will, however, have to pay another month’s worth of utilities after you move out.
If you do end up having to register your own utilities, you’ll need to go directly to the utility companies in question and provide them with:
- Proof of residency (your visa),
- The renter’s lease that shows you’ve rented the place in question, and
- Bank account information (for establishing a direct withdrawal).
- Heating and cooling,
- Garbage, and
On average, your monthly utility bill will probably be between $50 and $85.
Expense #3: Transportation
The public transport in Costa Rica is far from organized. On the other hand, it’s cheap. So, you win some, you lose some.
You can find your way around many of the larger cities like San José and Liberia for a buck or two by taking the bus or driving around in a taxi (which is also quite cheap).
|City in Costa Rica||Single fare bus ticket||Monthly pass||Taxi start||Taxi 1km||Taxi 1 hour waiting time|
Uber is also available in Costa Rica. However, you’ll only find Uber vehicles in a couple of major cities. Unfortunately, Uber still hasn’t been entirely regulated in Costa Rica (even though it’s been around for 8 years). So, don’t expect it to be available at every corner of Costa Rica.
Catching the bus
Luckily, even if you can’t find an Uber, you won’t be left stranded. Although a bit disorganized, the Costa Rican bus system connects pretty much the entire country.
However, you will probably have some trouble finding the main transportation hub or a central station— namely because there isn’t one.
Instead, there are a couple of bus terminals in major cities that serve as hubs for the major bus companies (all of which are privately owned). San Jose, for example, has two hubs like that:
- The Gran Terminal Caribe (Los Caribenos), and
- The Coca-Cola one (just ask for it; everyone will know what and where it is).
If you’re taking the bus, pay attention to whether you’re on a Directo or Colectivo bus. The Directo bus goes from point A to point B without stopping, while the Colectivo bus stops at smaller cities and villages along the way to pick up more passengers.
Hailing a cab
If you want to travel around Costa Rica in a taxi, you’ll probably get to your destination much quicker than you would with a bus. Buses are cheap, but they also often avoid major highways and make a lot of stops along the way.
Taxis are readily available and cheap. However, that’s only true if you manage to hail an authorized taxi also known as a rojo. All of these taxis are red and have a yellow triangle printed on the doors, so you’ll easily recognize them.
If you do opt for traveling around in a taxi, here are a few tips:
- Always ask the driver to turn on the “la Maria” — la Maria is the meter that’s usually mounted onto the dashboard or the vizor.
- If you’re going on an inter-city trip, negotiate the full price in advance. For example, if you’re traveling from San Jose to Manuel Antonio National Park, negotiate with your driver whether you’ll pay $200 or $230 for the entire trip (it shouldn’t cost more than that).
- Although taxi drivers will gladly accept dollars (unlike bus drivers), it’s important to pay with small bills. Taxi drivers usually don’t have enough to break anything larger than a $20 bill.
Expense #4: Groceries
Ticos spend quite a big chunk of their monthly earnings on groceries. If you take a look at the image below, you’ll see that 36% of their income is spent at markets, while only 21.5% is spent on rent.
So, if you plan on settling down in Costa Rica, expect to spend at least $350 to $450 on groceries every month.
Of course, just like with rent, the final price depends as much on quality and quantity as it does on location. So, if you opt to shop at local markets rather than big supermarkets in city centers, you might save money. Some reports say that certain items and groceries are up to 145% cheaper at local markets than they are at supermarkets.
However, some groceries are expensive in Costa Rica no matter where you buy them. For example, imported produce and American snacks are quite costly, so keep that in mind when you make your weekly shopping list.
On average, you’ll have to spend:
- ~$1.66 on milk,
- ~$2 on bread,
- ~$2.85 on a dozen of eggs,
- ~$11.40 on 1kg of beef (2.2 pounds),
- ~$2 on a bottle of water,
- ~$8.40 on 1 kg of chicken (2.2 pounds), and
- ~$2.20 on 1kg of potatoes (2.2 pounds).
Aside from that, if you’re a fan of a nightcap, you’ll also have to pay a pretty penny for alcoholic drinks. An average bottle of wine is around $12, while imported beer is around $4.50.
Expense #5: Restaurants, cafes, and bakeries
Typically, you’ll find food at any price in Costa Rica. From the casado and gallo pinto corner shops to Michelin-star restaurants, there’s something for everybody in Costa Rica.
Prices vary depending on what and where you eat. Generally speaking, expect to spend around $10 per meal at a cheap restaurant and around $40–$60 per meal at a high-end place.
There are several things you need to pay attention to when eating out or going on a night out:
- The “gringo tax” — the gringo tax refers to inflated prices that foreigners and tourists get served in popular, touristy areas. If you enjoy dining in restaurants in the most popular tourist spots in the county or bar hopping from hotel bar to hotel bar, then you’ll probably find yourself paying the gringo tax. That means that instead of the $1 beer and $6 cocktails, you’ll drink the $4 beers and cocktails that cost up to $15–$20.
- Along with the price of food and beverages, restaurants in Costa Rica might also include both tax and a service charge to your bill. These two additional charges are normal (and legal, unlike the gringo tax) and will add 23% to your bill — 10% for the tax and 13% for the service.
Expense #6: Internet
Compared to other Latin and Central American countries, Costa Rica has the second most expensive internet. 1 GB of data costs around $2.17, which puts Costa Rica just a bit under Panama, the most expensive country in Central America (with $2.98 per 1 GB of data).
On the plus side, Costa Rica is also the second-best country when it comes to internet availability and speed.
Of course, as a digital nomad, you won’t really be paying for your internet by the gigabyte.
Instead, you’ll most likely pay a monthly fee for your home wifi (that might even be included in your rent). Home internet in Costa Rica tends to be higher speed than those available in public places. What’s more, it might also be more reliable.
Just like with buses and utilities, there are a lot of government and private internet providers in Costa Rica: Claro, Kolbi, Tigo, Cabletica, etc. A monthly fee for a decent internet connection (with 50 Mbps speed) will cost you around $50 per month.
Expense #7: Coworking spaces
Costa Rica ranks 62nd when it comes to internet quality and speed. Although you’ll have no problem working in coffee shops and restaurants pretty much anywhere in Costa Rica, your best option (if you need a stable and reliable internet connection to work) are coworking spaces.
Luckily, there are plenty of those in major cities in Costa Rica.
On average, you’ll pay:
- $20–$30 for a day pass,
- $50–$70 for a weekly pass, and
- $150–$250 for a monthly pass.
Unfortunately, Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America when it comes to the price of coworking spaces. But, on the plus side, it’s also the second-best country when it comes to the total number of coworking spaces.
So, you might have to pay a bit more in order to get into one, but at least there are plenty of coworking spaces to choose from in Costa Rica.
Do digital nomads pay tax in Costa Rica?
One of the major benefits of the Costa Rica digital nomad visa is that digital nomads are exempt from income tax.
Thanks to the General Law on Immigration and Immigration Law 8764, you’re allowed to work remotely from Costa Rica for a full year (or 2, if you extend your visa) without paying any tax on the money you earned in that period. Of course, you’ll have to pay taxes in your home country (according to your home country’s laws), but as far as Costa Rica is concerned — you’re in the clear!
What’s more, digital nomads are also exempt from paying import tax on equipment they need for work, such as:
- Personal computers,
- Mobile phones, and
- Recording devices, cameras, and all necessary accessories.
This is an excellent benefit, considering that Costa Rica has an exceptionally high import tax.
However, keep in mind that you have to be in possession of all these pieces of equipment for the duration of your visa. In other words, you can’t just bring them into Costa Rica, get a deduction of import tax, and then sell them to a third party.
What are the benefits of being a digital nomad in Costa Rica?
Now that we know you can actually get a digital nomad visa for Costa Rica, let’s see why you should. Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with stunning nature and extremely pleasant locals. But, what makes it a prime destination for digital nomads?
Benefit #1: Central location
One of the major benefits of Costa Rica for digital nomads is its central location. Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is just a short plane (or sometimes even boat) ride away from Latin, Central, and North American countries.
So, if you’re a digital nomad with a penchant for wandering, Costa Rica might be the perfect spot for you, given that you’ll easily be able to visit plenty of other countries. Not to mention, if you’re from North America, traveling back home for visits or holidays won’t be such a hassle.
Benefit #2: Pura vida (quality of life)
Costa Ricans are friendly and welcoming, partially due to their attitude towards life. As soon as you arrive in Costa Rica and engage any locals in even the shallowest of conversations, you’ll get to experience this first-hand.
Ticos call it pura vida, which means pure life or simple life. It’s a belief that people need to be grateful for what life gives them and not dwell on the negative because life is too short for that.
Pura vida allows Costa Ricans to be happy, enthusiastic, friendly, and willing to help. That, in turn, makes Costa Rica one of the top destinations for foreigners. It’s extremely easy to get immersed in that type of lifestyle. In fact, it’s encouraged.
Well, thanks partially to pura vida, Costa Rica is one of the happiest countries in the world. It is 1st on the Happy Planet Index (which ranks countries according to life expectancy, general well-being, and ecological footprint). So, we’re guessing it’s really hard to be uptight, stressed, or negative when faced with such an abundance of positivity from everywhere around you.
Costa Ricans are relaxed, with an easygoing attitude. They live a stress-free life and lean heavily on community and family. That’s probably why Costa Rica is a blue zone — a place where people often live past 100 years of age.
Benefit #3: Great safety and stability
Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949 and redirected the resources that funded it into healthcare, environment conservation, and education. That’s partially why Costa Rica is now one of the safest countries in North and South America.
According to the Global Peace Index, Costa Rica is the 38th safest country in the world and the top Central American country when it comes to safety.
There’s a good reason for that. Costa Rica is also one of the most stable countries in Central America. The economy that’s continually growing stabilizes the country and strengthens its workforce, leading to lower levels of unemployment and crime. On top of that, Costa Rica has a 98% literacy level, the highest in all of Central America. So, Ticos are educated and intelligent, which also helps bring crime levels down.
Of course, Costa Rica can still improve when it comes to overall safety. But, as mentioned, it’s at the very top of the list of places to visit for female digital nomads (even solo travelers), which speaks volumes about how safe people feel in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is also fairly LGBTQ+ friendly. According to the LGBTQ+ Equality Index, Costa Rica scores admirable 72 points. It legalized gay marriage back in 2020 and is steadily working on becoming even more LGBTQ+ friendly.
Benefit #4: Flexible currency
Costa Rica has its own national currency, the Costa Rican Colon (₡). One dollar is worth around 540 CRC.
Now, we know what you’re thinking — that seems like you’ll be doing a lot of math in the future. If one pound of bananas costs ₡405, then that means you’ll pay $0.75 for them, right? Converting the cost of one pound of bananas shouldn’t be that hard, right?
Well, it isn’t, but Costa Ricans make it even easier. The dollar is accepted as an unofficial currency pretty much anywhere. You can negotiate prices in dollars, pay in dollars, and generally live your life as if the Costa Rican Colon doesn’t exist.
That is, of course, until it’s time to interact with government officials or any sort of public figure. So, you’ll have to pay for your bus fare in CRC as well as the fee for your visa. But everything else is fine in dollars.
Benefit #5: Admirable devotion to sustainability and preservation of nature
Costa Rica is not only a beautiful country full of lush, tropical forests and gorgeous beaches but also working hard to remain that way. It started its sustainability projects way back in the 90s and has since:
- Abolished deforestation (it’s 98% deforestation-free),
- Established 27 national parks,
- Fostered organic farming, and
- Designed a plan of implementing a green economy.
Costa Rica is extremely environmentally conscious. More than 99% of this country’s energy is renewable:
- 78% is hydroelectric,
- 18% is geothermal, and
- The rest is from eolic wind power.
So, if you’re a nature-loving digital nomad who’s passionate about sustainability and ecology, then Costa Rica is the place for you.
With 27 national parks, Costa Rica houses nearly 6% of the world’s biodiversity or around half a million different species of flora and fauna. From the Manuel Antonio National Park to over 100 volcanic cones and 800 miles of coastline — Costa Rica has plenty of nature for you to enjoy, explore, and feast your eyes on.
It also doesn’t hurt that Costa Rica is abundant with white, sandy beaches. If you’re looking for a spot that looks like a tropical paradise, then Costa Rica is the right place for you.
Benefit #6: Low-cost, easily accessible healthcare
One of the stipulations of the digital nomad visa in Costa Rica is that you have travel and health insurance for the duration of your stay. The government wants to ensure that you won’t rely on the existing healthcare system.
Well, because they don’t want it to get overloaded.
The healthcare system in Costa Rica is among the top in the world. Remember how we said that Costa Rica redirected its military funding into infrastructure? Well, healthcare got quite a bit of that money.
Today, Costa Rica provides free or affordable healthcare to all Costa Ricans through the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS or CAJA). This healthcare is universal and, if you want, for a small fee (or maybe even for free), you can get an individual plan and enjoy all the benefits of an affordable healthcare system.
What are the drawbacks of being a digital nomad in Costa Rica?
Of course, even though Costa Rica has a lot to offer to digital nomads, not everything can be perfect. So let’s take a look at some disadvantages of living in Costa Rica that digital nomads historically found problematic.
Drawback #1: Unmaintained roads and infrastructure
The highway systems in Costa Rica (that coincidentally connect the major cities as well as the main airport to the biggest national park) are well maintained. However, that’s pretty much it.
The infrastructure in Costa Rica leaves a lot to be desired. One of the main benefits of the Costa Rica digital nomad visa is that you can use your driver’s license for the duration of your visa. However, given how generally unsafe roads are in Costa Rica, we’re not sure you’re going to want to.
The roads are full of holes, badly marked (or not marked at all), and not well-lit. That’s probably why the main cause of injury or death in Costa Rica are traffic accidents.
Drawback #2: Unsafe local drivers
Aside from unsafe roads, Costa Rica also has unsafe drivers. Costa Rica is among the top 10 unsafest countries to be a driver in. It ranks 4th, just below Uruguay.
If you’re from a country that is particular when it comes to road safety, then you’ll probably find the local driving not only unacceptable but also ludicrous.
However, if you’re from (or have been to) an Asian country like Vietnam or India, then the driving conditions in Costa Rica won’t seem as dangerous or uncommon to you.
Drawback #3: The other side of the pura vida coin
The pura vida is an amazing thing to experience and try to strive towards. However, there’s another side to the pura vida lifestyle that foreigners might find difficult to deal with.
Because Costa Ricans are so laid-back, they are used to handling things slowly and at their one pace. In reality, that means two things:
- The government (and health) lines are always long,
- People are often late everywhere (even in a professional setting), and
- Businesses offer slow service.
You’ll never see Ticos rushing, red in the face, scrambling to make something happen. Instead, they’ll be relaxed and do things at their own pace. That often irritates foreigners (especially Westerners who are used to swift and exceptional service).
Drawback #4: The long rainy season
Costa Rica has a pretty heavy rainy season that lasts from May to November. This is also the low tourism season (and the best time to snatch a cheap apartment).
During the rainy season, you’ll see pretty heavy rainfall almost every day for anywhere between 30 minutes and a couple of hours. On average, Costa Rica will see about 100 inches of rain (but that can go up to 25 feet in the mountains).
So, if you plan to stay in Costa Rica during the wet season, prepare your umbrella.
However, keep in mind that the locals call this season the green season and absolutely adore it. It’s the time when Costa Rica is at its greenest and lushest (also, with as few tourists as possible). So, consider whether this is a drawback or not.
5 Best destinations for digital nomads in Costa Rica
Although quite small, with only 19,700 square miles, Costa Rica has a lot to offer. In fact, anyone will be hard-pressed to pick one spot to visit in this gorgeous country.
However, as a digital nomad, you have specific requirements and needs that a country has to meet. So, let’s see which Costa Rican destinations are the top spots for digital nomads.
San José — best for those looking for modern conveniences
City area: 17.2mi² (44.62 km2)
Time zone: GMT-6
Average internet speed: 75.06 Mbps (median download speed), 24.47 Mbps (median upload speed)
Average cost of living: $2,870 per month for a family of four, $800 per month for a single person (rent not included)
Average rent: $500–$1,100 per month for a one-bedroom apartment
Biggest advantage: The biggest expat and digital nomad community
Biggest drawback: Not on the coast
If you’re looking for some city action and a place where you’ll be able to both explore and party, then San José is a great choice.
As the capital, it’s filled with modern amenities and conveniences, while still being a stone’s throw away from gorgeous out-of-town nature.
San José is an excellent place to be because it’s centrally located to everything. You can explore the entire country from it with day or weekend trips. It also has an international airport, which means it’s the best place to be if you’re looking to spend a lot of time outside of Costa Rica.
As one of the only two cities that have Uber (as well as an affordable and well-developed public transportation system), San José is an excellent pick for young digital nomads that crave both adventure and comfort. It’s also worth mentioning that San Jose has a very well-developed nightlife scene.
With a variety of housing options, you’ll have no trouble finding an apartment no matter your budget. The best neighborhoods for foreigners are:
- La Sabana, and
- Barrio Escalante.
Where to work in San José
The capital has quite a few coworking spaces. If you wander downtown, you’ll find plenty of them to choose from. The most popular one is the Impact Hub San José, with a rating of 4,6 stars from 98 voters.
Tamarindo — best for those looking for that resort vibe
City area: 78.23mi² (125.9 km2)
Time zone: GMT-6
Average internet speed: 87 Mbps (median download speed), 9.5 Mbps (median upload speed)
Average cost of living: $3400 per month for a family of four, $1500 per month for a single person (rent not included)
Average rent: $800–$1,320 per month for a one-bedroom apartment
Biggest advantage: Plenty of activities like surfing and wave chasing
Biggest drawback: Quite remote
If you’re wondering why we’d put a town that has less than 7 thousand citizens on our list, then feast your eyes on this.
Tamarindo is a beach town that’s small but mighty. It rules the entire coast and is a hub of tourism in Guanacaste, one of the most popular areas in Costa Rica. It’s best known for its surf-worthy beaches such as:
- Playa Langosta,
- Playa Grande, and
- Playa Tamarindo.
Tamarindo is a popular tourist destination because it offers the best of both worlds. It’s both a family-friendly spot and a party town. Not to mention, it’s surrounded by gorgeous nature. So, no matter what you’re looking for, Tamarindo has it (especially if it’s fun in the sun).
Where to work in Tamarindo
Tamarindo is small, so it only has two coworking spaces — the Sand and Surf Co-working space and In the Shade coworking space. However, since it’s such a fast-growing digital nomad hub, we will most likely see coworking spaces popping up in Tamarindo in no time.
Santa Teresa — best for those who aren’t on a tight budget
City area: 9mi² (23.3 km2)
Time zone: GMT-6
Average internet speed: up to 100 Mbps (median download speed), up to 40 Mbps (median upload speed)
Average cost of living: $4,600 per month for a family of four, $3,200 per month for a single person
Average rent: around $2,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment
Biggest advantage: A strong community
Biggest drawback: More expensive than anywhere else in the country
Another Guanacaste gem — Santa Teresa — has a boho vibe and irresistible charm that you’ll surely fall in love with.
It got onto our list because Santa Teresa beaches are famous gathering places in the evening. They are the best spot for solo digital nomads who are looking to get a bit more immersed into the community or just meet other wandering souls.
Of course, we can’t help but mention that Santa Teresa is also the most popular spot in the entire country. It’s flooded with tourists during the high season, which also makes it quite expensive. However, during low season, a digital nomad can live on a much tighter budget (with some penny-pinching, of course).
Santa Teresa offers quite a bit, both during high and low season. You can:
- Go horseback riding,
- Wander down the Santa Teresa village,
- Go surfing, and
- Organize day trips to Montezuma and the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve.
Where to work in Santa Teresa
You won’t be able to find a coworking space in Santa Teresa, but luckily there are plenty of coffee shops for you to work from. Some of the best ones are:
- Ani’s Bowls,
- El Patio, etc.
Liberia — best for those looking for tropical temperatures
City area: 216.8mi² (561.6 km2)
Time zone: GMT-6
Average internet speed: 67.28 Mbps (median download speed), 10.26 Mbps (median upload speed)
Average cost of living: $1,800 per month for a family of four, $700 per month for a single person (rent not included)
Average rent: $500–$690 per month for a one-bedroom apartment
Biggest advantage: A tropical paradise with a colonial vibe
Biggest drawback: Quite expensive
The Guanacaste province seems to be the most popular in the entire country, so it’s only fair to include its capital — Liberia.
Liberia is on of the best places to live in Costa Rica. The second biggest city in the country, Liberia has an international airport. So, if you’re not a huge fan of San José (or simply wished that it was on the coast), then Liberia might be a better choice for you. With an airport and a coastal location, it makes for an even better central location than San José.
Of course, Liberia is significantly smaller than the nation’s capital. Still, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have just as much to offer.
Firstly, Liberia is a much prettier city with stunning vistas, white sandy beaches, and rainforests that surround it. Known as the La Ciudad Blanca or the White City due to the white pavements on the city streets and whitewashed houses, Liberia’s architecture exudes a specific turn-of-the-century colonial charm.
Where to work in Liberia
Although it doesn’t have as many coworking spaces as San Jose, Liberia offers a couple that you’ll probably find to your liking. Keep in mind that the digital nomad community in Liberia is on the rise but still developing, and the availability of coworking spaces reflects that. The best one is the GuanaWork — Coworking, which currently has 5 stars on Google based on 7 votes.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca — best for comfort lovers
City area: 165.3 mi² (428.17 km2)
Time zone: GMT-6
Average internet speed: below 10 Mbps (median download speed), 4 Mbps (median upload speed)
Average cost of living: around $2,000 per month (rent not included)
Average rent: $800 per month for a one-bedroom apartment
Biggest advantage: On the Caribbean coast and much drier
Biggest drawback: Not as big or well-developed as other cities
If you’re looking for a place where you’ll be away from tourists and able to experience proper Costa Rican life (or pura vida), then Puerto Viejo, Limon is the perfect place for you.
A gem of the Caribbean coast that also stays quite dry even during the wet season, Puerto Viejo is an excellent remote spot for digital nomads who are looking for something off the beaten path.
Although small and unassuming, this coastal town has a lot to offer. There are plenty of coffee shops and restaurants (even high-end ones) where you’ll be able to settle down in a hammock with your laptop, enjoy the views and work your days away in a true tropical paradise.
If you’re a nature and animal lover, then you’ll love Puerto Viejo and its Jaguar Rescue Center which takes in and rehabilitates wild cats and other animals.
Where to work in Puerto Viejo, Limon
Puerto&Coworking Space is one of two available coworking spaces in Puerto Viejo. It has a high ranking of 4.4 stars based on 76 votes.
Tips for digital nomads in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an up-and-coming digital nomad hub. In a couple of years, it will be all the digital community can talk about.
However, nomading through Costa Rica isn’t without its challenges. So, here are our additional tips for digital nomads in Costa Rica.
Tip #1: Don’t rush, embrace the pura vida lifestyle
The whole point of traveling while working is to experience other cultures. So when you get to Costa Rica, try to become a member of the community. Ticos are friendly and welcoming, so they’ll embrace you with open arms.
However, in order to really blend in, you need to embrace the pura vida lifestyle.
Rushing through life simply isn’t how Ticos do things. So try to take it easy and don’t get frustrated when you end up waiting for the plumber for four hours.
Tip#2: But don’t let it disrupt your flow
As mentioned before, the pura vida has a bit of a darker side to it. Everything is slow and laid-back, so you might find yourself slowing down even when it comes to work.
Establishing a good daily routine is a must for any digital nomad. Focusing on work when there are so many nooks and crannies to explore is hard, so don’t let the pura vida lure you away from your productivity goals.
Tip #3: Pay attention to money because Costa Rica isn’t cheap
Many nomads go to Central and South America expecting everything to be cheap. Costa Rica is far from cheap. The constantly rising prices are actually one of the reasons many expats and retirees are leaving Costa Rica.
Of course, this country is still more affordable than North America. With a bit of budgeting, you’ll be able to live a great life in Costa Rica.
Tip #4: Use word of mouth
If you’ve been scouring the internet searching for the perfect apartment in Costa Rica, you were probably appalled by the prices.
There are two reasons you see high accommodation prices online:
- You might be looking during high season when everything is more expensive due to a high influx of tourists, and
- Even during low season, online searching isn’t the best way to go about looking for an apartment.
The best (and cheapest) way you’ll find accommodations in Costa Rica is by utilizing word of mouth. So, find yourself a temporary residence, and then, when you immerse yourself into the community a little bit, ask around for better deals.
🎓 Pumble Pro Tip
Although lovely, Costa Rica might not be the ideal destination for you. But don’t worry; there are so many amazing countries in the world that offer digital nomad visas. Some of them have even fewer requirements than Costa Rica, while others might be a tad harder to obtain.
If you’re still on the fence about your next digital nomad destination, check out our digital nomad hub, which has full guides on visas for various countries:
Further reading for digital nomads in Costa Rica
If you’ve finished reading this entire guide — congratulations! You now know practically everything you need to obtain a Costa Rica digital nomad visa. However, as hard as we try, we simply can’t include everything in one guide.
That’s why we prepared this list of interesting reads that might give you a bit more insight into the life of digital nomads in Costa Rica.
- If you’re more of a visual person, check out the following YouTube channels. Firstly, Traveling With Kristen is an amazing source of information for anyone looking to travel to Costa Rica. Kristen is a content creator who spent 8 years living in Costa Rica prior to becoming a full-time digital nomad. Other great Youtube channels to check out are: Living in Costa Rica and Travel Costa Rica NOW.
- If you’re a solo traveler or a group of nomads who are looking for a community, you’ll find one on The Nomad List. This site also has information about each part of Costa Rica as well as personal experiences from other nomads.
- Another great potential hub is the Nomads in Costa Rica website which gathers the scattered but interconnected community of digital nomads in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica: A tropical paradise for digital nomads
The new Costa Rica digital nomad visa completely changed the way digital nomads organize and plan their travels in Central America. Giving everyone who meets the requirements an opportunity to spend 1 or 2 years in Costa Rica, this visa opened up a lot of opportunities, both for nomads and the country itself.
The requirements are quite straightforward. All you need is:
- Proof that you provide paid services remotely to someone (entity or clients) outside of Costa Rica,
- Proof that you have a steady monthly income of at least $3,000,
- Proof that you have a steady monthly income of at least $4,000 per month if you’re applying with dependants,
- Proof that your earnings don’t originate from Costa Rica,
- Proof of payment for both the application and the registration fee, and
- Health and travel insurance.
These regulations and requirements might seem like a lot, but Costa Rica also offers quite a bit in return. A year or two-year-long visa that exempts you from income tax and has a surprisingly short processing time isn’t that easy to find in the world.
Costa Rica digital nomads visa guide disclaimer
We hope this Costa Rica digital nomad visa guide has been helpful and that you enjoyed reading it. Throughout the guide, we have given you various links that might lead you to new interesting data or simply to articles that will expand your knowledge on various Costa Rica-related topics.
Please bear in mind that our article has been written in Q2 of 2023, so any changes that are made in the Costa Rica digital nomad visa procedures or laws after that time have not been included.
Before you start the application process, we advise you to consult with certified representatives, lawyers, and institutions that can provide you with all the information needed.
Pumble is not responsible for any negative responses, losses, or risks incurred, should this guide be used without further guidance from legal and other official advisors.
- Costa Rica: Ley No. 8764 de 2009 – Ley General de Migración y Extranjería [Costa Rica], 1 March 2010. Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.refworld.org/docid/4b0273cb2.html
- Equaldex. (n.d.) LGBT Rights In Costa Rica Report. Equaldex.com. Retrieved March, 2023 from https://www.equaldex.com/region/costa-rica
- Expat City Ranking 2022, an Expat Insider Topical Report. InterNations. Retrieved March 2023 from https://cms.in-cdn.net/cdn/file/cms-media/public/2022-11/Expat-Insider_City-Ranking-Report-2022_0.pdf
- FreedomHouse. (n.d.) Costa Rica: Freedom in the World 2022 Country Report. FreedomHouse. org. Retrieved March, 2023 from https://freedomhouse.org/country/costa-rica/freedom-world/2023
- Global Peace Index 2021: Measuring Peace in a Complex World. Institute for Economics & Peace, Sydney. (2021, June). Retrieved March, 2023 from https://www.visionofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/GPI-2021-web-1.pdf
- Happy Life Index (n.d.) 2019 Happy Life Index. Retrieved March 2023 from https://happyplanetindex.org/hpi/?show_all=true
- Instituto Costarricence de Turismo (n.d.). Statistical Report Costa Rica. Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.ict.go.cr/en/statistics/statistical-reports.html
- IQAir. (n.d.). Costa Rica air quality index (AQI) and Air Pollution Information. Retrieved March 20th, 2023, from https://www.iqair.com/costa-rica
- The World Bank (n.d.). Costa Rica Report. Retrieved March, 2023, from https://data.worldbank.org/country/CR
- L. Solís Bastos, J. Hernández Murillo (2022). Recent migration policies to address migration in Costa Rica. UNDP Latin America and the Caribbean, POLICY DOCUMENTS SERIES. Retreived March 2023 from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/publications/mpi-costa-rica-report-2021-english_final.pdf
- Macrotrends (n.d.). Costa Rica Crime Rate & Statistics 1990-2023. Retreived March 2023 from https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/CRI/costa-rica/crime-rate-statistics
- OECD (n.d.) Costa Rica Report. Retreived March 2023, from https://www.oecd.org/costarica/44535774.pdf
- OECD (n.d.) Costa Rica Better Life Index. Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/costa-rica/
- OECD (n.d.) Better Life Initiative: How’s life in Costa Rica? Retrieved March 2023 from https://www.oecd.org/costarica/Better-Life-Initiative-country-note-Costa-Rica.pdf
- OECD (n.d.) OECD Review of International Investment Policies in Costa Rica. Retreived March 2023 from https://www.oecd.org/investment/OECD-Review-of-international-investment-in-Costa-Rica.pdf