Expat Living Archives - HRG Costa Rica Vacations


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Expatriate Kids in Costa Rica Have Plenty of Education Options

kids outdoor learning

Moving to Costa Rica could be the most positive thing you do for your kids and their education.

Access to education is a very important deciding factor for families looking to move to Costa Rica. It ranks right up there with medical care, cost of living, and income generation. HRG Properties & Rentals not only lists wonderful properties in Costa Rica, but the majority of the real estate in their listings is located in an area where you can find good educational options for your kids too.

Many people move to Costa Rica for the unique advantages it offers. Simplicity, nature, and a multi-cultural advantage are all things that make life in Costa Rica shine.

However, many parents are concerned about educating their children, once happy settled in the rainforest. Not to worry: Costa Rica has a lot to offer on the education front.

There are many great private schools accredited by both the Costa Rican Ministry of Education and the United States here in Costa Rica.

In many of the private schools, classes are taught in both English and Spanish. Some schools, in the Central Valley, offer classes in other languages too. Placing your child in a bi-lingual private school can help ease the transition from a school in the United States or Canada to Costa Rica.

Public schools in Costa Rica, while excellent, are often crowded, with many students to one teacher. Many expatriates moving to Costa Rica send their kids to private schools for this reason. There are a few good schools located in the Central Pacific area.

Centro Educativo Inmaculada Escuela de Jaco


This k-10 school is located in Jaco, just down the street from Los Sueños Resort & Marina in Playa Herradura. Escuela Immaculada is a private bilingual Catholic school with around 100 students, about a fourth of which are North American or European.



Escuela Las Nubes


Las Nubes School is a bilingual educational institution founded in the year 2000, located in the area of Jaco, on the Central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, that offers an alternative academic option and where student development is promoted, yielding a high-level academic formation, motivating the development of life skills and generating attitudes of environmental responsibility, with the goal of shaping people with adequate skills, values and attitudes to reach an optimum role in society.



Ficus Tree School


Ficus Tree is a Montessori-enriched school which combines the Montessori educational approach with other philosophies and practices. Their preschool program now offers a fully Montessori 1-3, and 3-6, program and their elementary program is continuously being enriched with the Montessori philosophy and its use of materials.



Another great option for expatriate kids is homeschooling. Unlike the old days where you had to wait for the school to send you a big box full of books and the year’s curriculum, most home schooling programs are web-based now. There are dozens to choose from, both with secular programs and religious programs; many with one on one teacher to student ratios.

Worried about your children’s social life and skills? There are plenty of local activities for kids to get involved in, ranging from football (soccer), to karate classes or surf lessons, beach cleanups, and animal rescue programs.

HRG Properties & Rentals has a huge portfolio of listings, ranging from spacious condos to sprawling villas, raw land, and development properties. Costa Rica properties are surrounded by amazing views of the rainforest, and/ or ocean, as well as an abundance of wildlife and nature.

A move to Costa Rica could be the most positive decision you ever make for your family. Surrounded by nature and immersed in an international culture, your kids will become well rounded individuals as a result of being raised in Costa Rica.


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The Foodie’s Survival Guide to Living in Los Sueños Costa Rica

food and wine Los Suenos resort

Los Sueños Resort is a great place for foodies to call home

Foodies can live the dream at Los Sueños Resort & Marina: Fresh, locally sourced seafood, tropical fruits and vegetables, as well as local spices and coffees, are readily available. Here’s how to eat well without breaking the budget.

Right next door to Los Sueños Resort & Marina, you’ll find the Harradura shopping center, which is home to Automercado, the nation’s higher end grocery store. Automercado has a decent wine, beer and liquor section, and also stocks plenty of imported goods, as well as local fare including fresh fish, fresh meat, cheese, veggies (with a great organic section) and fruits.

In Jacó, 10 minutes from Los Sueños Resort, you can find artisanal breads, cheeses, and tropical fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market. Known as feria verde, the market opens Friday mornings at the south end of Avenida Pastor Diaz. From the center of town, turn right at the Palacio Municipal, then right again near the Post Office. Jaco also boasts a Mas x Menos supermarket (owned by Wallmart), and a Maxi-bodega for the more budget-minded shopper.

If you’re planning a trip to San Jose, there are several ferias throughout the week. Arrive early, within the first few hours, for the best selection.

Saturdays, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Feria Verde de Aranjuez is fun to visit at the Polideportivo of Barrio Aranjuez, and you’ll find plenty of seasonal organic produce. Food vendors sell breakfast, coffee, smoothies and more at the pavilion, including Bolivian peanut soup and falafel sandwiches. You’ll also find artesanal breads, pastries and cheeses at this very popular street market. With live music and a high vibrational, hippy kind of groove, it’s a great place to spend a Saturday morning.

Escazú’s market, every Saturday, 4:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., is on the south side of the San Miguel de Escazú church. Though not organic, you’ll find farm-grown fresh produce—the old standbys as well as the more exotic fruits, herbs and vegetables indigenous to Costa Rica. You’ll also find barley, chan, linseed, tamarind and other products—cheeses, juices, empanadas, tortillas, handicrafts, plants, flowers and live aquarium fish.

The market in Ciudad Colon, Tuesdays, 3 – 9 p.m., at the Mercado Viejo is associated with the Aranjuez organic market and like the Feria Verde de Aranjuez, vendors must meet organic growers’ guidelines. Fresh-picked produce, specialty cheeses, organic gluten-free flours, lovely spice mixes, local honey, breads and pastries rival any American health food store, including garden plants and handcrafted gifts.

If you hanker after the taste of home, Jimmy T’s Provisions and Gourmet Foods, at the Los Suenos Marina, has a variety of specialty items: Buckhead Beef, local and imported cheeses, marinades, Asian and Italian ingredients, as well as spices and condiments to satisfy the exacting epicure. Jimmy T’s has deli trays and offers concierge, chef and catering services that will keep the pantry full without lifting a finger.

Also in the Marina Village, you’ll find a well stocked wine specialty store so you can always find the perfect pairing for your gourmet meals.

Finally, many restaurants in and around Los Sueños take pride in innovative menus that offer a Tico take on the best of international cuisine. Most weekday evenings, one of the restaurants in Marina Village has great offers on great meals. For our top 10 picks, check out our post, “A Foodie’s Dream.”

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Everything You Need to Know About Shipping Your Belongings to Costa Rica


Moving to Costa Rica is easier than you think. Here’s what you need to know about shipping your stuff.

The adventure of an overseas move to your new home in Costa Rica comes with a few challenges that are easily met with preparation and advance planning. Just as with any move, you’ll probably want to pare down your belongings and decide what you what to take, dump or store. To help you make informed decisions, here are a few things to consider.

Contact two or three companies that specialize in international moves. Ask specifically about the company’s experience with moving to Costa Rica. A knowledgeable move coordinator can give you a reliable shipping timeline, explain the firm’s procedures and knows the paperwork required for particular items. The coordinator can also advise you on the correct container size for your possessions.

The Costa Rican government levies taxes and duties on everything shipped into the country, even clothing and toiletries. However, whatever is in your suitcase when you arrive is exempt from import duties. Extra baggage charges are almost certainly going to be less than taxes and duty. Also be sure the declared value of the items you ship is as low as you can reasonably state it.

With the right preparation, you can bring high-value items—vehicles, boats, large appliances—with you, but import duties will be expensive. Washing machines and similar home appliances incur heavy import duties, but they are very expensive to buy in Costa Rica for the same reason.

It’s fairly easy to bring dogs and cats into Costa Rica, you’ll need a health certificate (APHIS FORM 7001, in duplicate—a Spanish translation may also be a good idea) and proof of current vaccinations from your vet. Pets usually have a 72-hour quarantine and there are specialty companies that can handle the details for you. Costa Rica will allow you to bring your bird, but your bird will become a permanent resident—Costa Rica does not allow bird exports under any circumstances. Registered, purebred animals will require a statement or purchase receipt indicating market value.

Do your research about required vaccinations or you’ll risk having your pet euthanized or quarantined. A veterinarian from the U.S.D.A.’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services area office must endorse the health certificate. Visit Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for more information

You’ll probably want to want to buy into the Caja if you are a legal resident. Costa Rica’s healthcare system is one of the best and least expensive healthcare systems in the world. Costs vary depending on income but the monthly cost covers an entire family. Private insurance similar to that available in the U.S. is another option.

Moving is never easy, whether around the block or across the world. Ex pat life in Costa Rica has many benefits: beautiful scenery, friendly people and an easy lifestyle.

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Creating Your Community Connection in Los Sueños Resort

friends drinking in a bar at Los Sueños Resort

Moving to Los Sueños Resort in Costa Rica is the start of a new chapter; now it’s time to make some friends!

When you decide to buy property and enjoy luxury living at Los Sueños Resort & Marina, you may find that once you’ve settled in, you feel- as with any new move to a new neighborhood- a bit lonely.

It’s time to explore the neighborhood, meet people and find things to do. With the Central Pacific Coast at the front door and a vibrant tropical rainforest reserve out the back, you won’t lack for opportunities for an active life.

Marina Village’s merchant square is where you’ll find the bank, golf cart rentals, shops, the medical clinic and business services. The village is the heart of the Los Sueños and is often the go-to the venue for special events, including outdoor concerts, an arts and crafts festival, wine tastings and the annual holiday celebration each Dec. 27.  In addition to that, there is plenty of outdoor seating for the Village restaurants and cafes, and many Los Sueños residents enjoy time there, thus creating an excellent atmosphere for socializing.

The Marina Village has a host of restaurants offering a wide range of international cuisine with menu specials each weeknight. Bambu Sushi hosts regular Sushi Mondays, while El Galeón, serves or delivers prime rib dinners each Sunday. Thursdays at the Lanterna enjoy two-for-$39 three-course Italian specials. Wine Wednesdays at the Terrace Lounge, just upstairs from Lanterna, feature bottles of specially selected wines at half-price. The Terrace is also a great place to meet and mingle with the barkeeper’s specialty cocktail while enjoying the Pacific sunset. Try Dolce Vita in the village for an open-air brunch or afternoon ceviche or typical Tico dishes.

The Hook Up, a friendly sports bar at the Los Sueños Marina, serves American and international comfort food complete with a 270-degree view of the marina, mountains and Herradura Bay. It’s a great place to catch the sporting events on any of the restaurant’s seven televisions or the video wall over the bar.

Of course, the marina is where you can dock your boat or hire sport fishing, scuba or snorkeling charters. You’re also likely to meet folks from around the globe—Los Sueños boasts 200 slips at the only private, international marina in Costa Rica.

The young folks in your family can meet friends at the Undr8teen’s family center, also on the square next to the marina. The kid-friendly venue includes a snack bar with smoothies, popcorn, chips, hot dogs and other kid-friendly food. you and your family can enjoy ping-pong, air hockey or foosball. The big-screen TV includes Play Station, movies and music videos.

If golf’s your game, tee up at the par-72, Ted Robinson-designed La Iguana Golf Course at the Marriott Ocean Resort onsite. The course layout runs alongside the rainforest on one side, with breathtaking ocean views on the other. You’re likely to get a good look at the monkeys, scarlet macaws, toucans or other wildlife as you play through.

As residents, you have access to the oceanfront Los Sueños Beach Club with its large free-form swimming pool, Jacuzzi, shower and change facilities, extensive decks, a swim-up bar and an elevated, white sand beach. Relax under shaded palapas for a stunning view of the marina and Herradura Bay.

With a 200-slip marina, 18-hole championship golf course, the Beach Club and Marina Village’s restaurants and shops, you’ll have plenty of opportunities experience the Pura Vita lifestyle in Los Sueños’ unique and exclusive residential community.

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Expat Living: Your Medical Care in Costa Rica

costa rica medical nurse

Medical care for expats living in Costa Rica is affordable, good, and readily available

Any long distance move means leaving your doctor and dentist behind. Starting a new life in Costa Rica also includes find new healthcare providers. While it may seem daunting to find a new doctor in a new country, the process will be much the same as at home: asking acquaintances for recommendations or searching online for providers near you, then making an appointment to meet your new doctor. Your overall health and medical needs are considerations in finding the right physician for you and your family.

Costa Rica’s universal healthcare system, commonly known as the Caja is available to all legal residents, whether or not you are a full-time resident. For a small monthly premium, 8 – 10% of your income, you and your dependents have full access to healthcare services.

If you prefer, you can also go private. Private health insurance through the government-owned INS pays up to 80% for most service, 100% for surgeons, Premiums vary depending on age, gender and other factors, expect to pay $60 – $130 per person.

Clinics ( there’s a clinic on-site in Los Sueños Resort & Marina) are usually the first port of call for emergency care; while community health centers, known as Ebais, are where you’ll find a general practitioner and pharmacy for most routine visits.

Clinica Herradura is located just inside the main Los Sueños Resort gates. Regular consultations and family medicine are handled by Dr. Erisel Sanabria, who speaks English. Normal hours are from 9 am – 6 pm Monday to Friday, and 9 am – 1 pm on Saturday.

Emergency services at Los Sueños Resort are handled by Soporte Vital, along with off-hour consultations. Clinica Herradura is, however, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week for your convenience. The direct telephone number for Clinica Herradura in Los Sueños Resort is 2637-8610. The off-hour emergency contact numbers are 2285-0306, 2285-1911 or 2285-5433. These numbers will reach Soporte Vital’s main switchboard in case of an off hour emergency.

In the future, residents of Los Sueños will be able to schedule specialists services such as gynecology and dermatology, which will be programmed monthly.

Most doctors in Costa Rica were trained in the U.S. and speak English, but you may want to bring a translator to help you fill out the forms. Take a list of any prescriptions you are taking. You’ll also need your passport or residency ID (cedula de residencia). Wait times at Ebais and clinics can be long, if you have asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, are over 65, are pregnant or have a severe problem, let the staff know and they will see you right away.

All properly licensed physicians and surgeons are members of the Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos. Orthodontists are member of La Academia Costarricense de Ortodoncia; psychologists, the Colegio Profesional de Psicólogos de Costa Rica and dental surgeons, the Colegio de Cirujanos Dentistas Costa Rica.

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of providers, but neither evaluates nor recommends any particular provider. HuliHealth prescreens, rates and provides information about doctors. Other useful tools allow users to ask doctors questions to help narrow their search and rate or comment on the care they received. Costa Rica Medical Guide is another online reference.

Healthcare services in Costa Rica are among the best in the world, regularly outranking the U.S. You can be confident you’ll receive excellent care regardless of your medical needs.

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Expat Living: Bringing Your Pets to Costa Rica


What you need to know about bringing your pets with you when you move to Costa Rica

With advance planning, moving your pet to Costa Rica is as straightforward as moving ever gets. Horses, snakes, reptiles and other “exotic” pets may require import permits and have specialized requirements. Check and re-check with Costa Rican officials before departure; requirements may change without advance notice.

If you’re willing for your bird to stay in Costa Rica permanently with or without you, you can even bring your bird. Under no circumstances are avian exports allowed.

Registered, purebred animals will need a letter or purchase receipt that states market value. Although it’s not required, you may want to microchip your pets.

Your vet must prepare an international health certificate (APHIS FORM 7001) in duplicate that states your pet is healthy and shows no clinical signs of infectious disease. Include a Spanish translation for extra assurance that all will go smoothly, with a rabies vaccination certificate and record of all other shots. Dogs need current distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies vaccinations. Cats need vaccinations for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia (FVRCP) and rabies.

The veterinary exam must be within two weeks of your departure. Your pet must have been vaccinated for rabies more than 30 days and less than a year before its arrival in Costa Rica. Other vaccinations must have been done within the 30 days prior to arrival. The rabies vaccination certificate must accompany the health certificate endorsed by a veterinarian at an area office of the U.S.D.A.’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services. Visit Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and select “Travel with my pet” on the right side, to find an office near you.

Consular officials don’t have to stamp health certificates and the certificates don’t have to be notarized. You don’t need blood titer tests to check the level of blood antibodies.

Check with the airline for its requirements; policies and procedures vary. If your pets accompany you as checked baggage, you don’t need a pet quarantine permit. If your pets arrive later or on a different flight, you’ll need an import permit from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia and proof of Pet Customs Duty payment. Officials may quarantine your pet up to 24 hours for more paperwork and inspections.

It’s very important you meet all requirements or officials will return or euthanize your pets. Check with HRG staff or your Realtor for help finding pet relocation experts.

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Expat Living: A Simpler Life in Costa Rica

woman reading book hammock Costa Rica sunset

The Simple Pleasures of Living in Costa Rica

If you’re thinking buying property and living in Costa Rica to take up the life of an expatriate, you could be forgiven for visions of a future filled with nothing but strung up hammocks and umbrella drinks. Indeed, not every day will be “just another day in paradise,” but the culture and laid-back approach to life in Costa Rica, famously known for its Pura Vida (pure life) vibe, does make it easier to live a simpler life than that which we experience in the United States, Europe or Canada.

Ticos don’t spend their lives ticking off tasks on their to-do lists; they approach responsibilities with an attitude of … well … mindfulness. They may make a plan, but typically expect it to develop at its natural pace. Costa Ricans know that regardless of the undertaking at hand, something will happen; it may not be a final result or even close, but progress will be made and everything will resolve itself in good time so there’s no point in tilting at windmills or trying to force a result.

Culturally, Costa Rican life is about living in the moment; experiencing the great weather, the beautiful scenery, friends and family. A philosophy that avoids stress and embraces a peaceful life, Pura Vida exemplifies respect for natural life, and living in harmony. As a result, “Tico Time” is very flexible: “8:30 p.m.” could really mean 9 or 10; “tomorrow” might really be next week and “soon”, a few months; likewise, “the other day”, could really refer to something that happened several months ago.

In Costa Rican culture, people are reluctant to say “No,” or “I can’t do that,” because they don’t want to offend. Likewise, most are reluctant to give direction, give unsolicited advice or information, or otherwise meddle in the business of others. A non-confrontational culture, it is important sometimes to read between the lines and pay attention to unvoiced cues, but this can also be appreciated for its more tranquil, less aggressive atmosphere.

Because there are two season: summer or the dry season (December – April) and winter, known as “green” season because of the rains (May – November) the temperature remains fairly constant (low 70s to mid-80s). Even during the rainy season, mornings and evenings tend to be sunny and dry, especially on the Central Pacific Coast. Basically, every day is a summer’s day in Costa Rica and that makes life feel just a little sweeter, simpler and steady.

There are many reasons to consider making the move. While not as inexpensive as in years past, you can live quite comfortably on as little as US$2,500 – $3,000 per month, especially if you join the national health service (the Caja). Monthly living expenses for utilities, food, domestic help, medical care, and transportation vary according where you choose to live. Beach areas are slightly more expensive, but expect to pay about 22% less than what you do in the States, again depending up the area from which you hail. In a master-planned community, such as Los Sueños Resort & Marina, housing costs could include HOAs, but the good news is that property taxes are lower in costa Rica than in the United States. If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, living the dream of Pura Vida at Los Sueños just might be the answer. This overall lower cost of living helps expats to attain the simpler way of life they’re seeking; less stress, less pressure, less of a temptation to try to keep up with the Joneses.

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Expat Living: Shopping in San Jose Costa Rica

shopping bags mall costa rica

Expats living in Los Sueños Costa Rica can find everything they need and more in San Jose

For ex-pats living in Los Sueños, Costa Rica, “Chepe” (a local moniker for the capital city of San Jose) can be a getaway destination for much more than a night or two out on the town.

Local shops and suppliers near Los Sueños Resort and Jaco may not offer the range of choice that San José can for household goods or DIY supplies. A trip to San José can provide a nice dose of cultural and retail therapy for ex-pats.

Angloinfo, an online A to Z business and service directory for English-speaking ex-pats, has recommendations and reviews for everything from boutique women’s clothing retailers to construction to travel services. The site sorts listings by category and provides links to the stores’ webpages and online catalog.

For do-it-yourselfers, Ferreterías EPA, El Lagar and Ferreterías del Mar represent Costa Rica’s version of Home Depot, Lowe’s and other American chain hardware stores. The EPA store in Escazú just misses the Home Depot standard, but it’s still an excellent resource for DIY materials—paint, tools, industrial equipment, plumbing, electrical and construction materials—as well as some how-to advice. Home repair projects or redecorating projects can mean multiple visits to multiple stores, so be prepared.

Retail therapy in San Jose includes the Multiplaza in Escazú or Zapote, or Paseo de las Flores in Heredia among other U.S. style shopping malls. The Multiplaza shops include high-end retailers within its 246 shops, a supermarket, theatre and a food court.

Mercado Nacional de Artesania carries quality, handcrafted products, such as paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, leather, woodwork, beadwork, jewelry and more, all made in Costa Rica.

Ashley’s Furniture is a good choice for US-style furnishings and décor, such as hard to find table lamps, mattress and box spring sets. Ashley’s is located on the 27 freeway between Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon. For higher end, interior design quality furnishings, head through Escazu toward Santa Ana (and perhaps take a quick tour through Guachipilin)- you’ll find at least a half a dozen, or more, boutique interior design and furniture shops just driving down the main road. Specialty shops for lamps, art, upholstery, flooring and window coverings abound throughout the entire area.

If you’re looking for upscale furniture and soft furnishings for outdoor living, the Bali Home Center, on the 27 close to the Ciudad Colon exit, will appeal to the interior decorator within.

Avenida Escazu,  located next door to Hospital Cima, is the newest and liveliest outdoor shopping center, with live entertainment, DJs, and dance performances along the car-free zone of high-end boutiques and hip eateries.  Shops, stalls and vendors line Avenida Central, in downtown San Jose, offering everything from coffee and fresh produce to cell phone accessories and clothing.

Of course, life requires the more practical shopping too, and therein comes Pricesmart (Latin America’s own version of Costco), Wallmart, Office Depot, and Pequeno Mundo with its wide range of inexpensive products ranging from clothing to food, furnishings, household décor, toys and more.

Shopping in San José also means you can take in live dance and theatre performances, visit exhibitions, enjoy the Saturday morning organic farmer’s market, go out dining or dancing, and treat yourself to a mini-break (as though you need one from the paradise life you’re living in Los Sueños, Costa Rica!)

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How to Hire and Employ Domestics in Costa Rica


Domestic help is affordable and readily available in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s lower cost of living, while a bit higher than formerly, is one of several benefits to ex pat living and still an affordable option. Even though the Costa Rican government sets a minimum monthly wage for domestic workers, hiring a housekeeper, nanny, nurse or groundskeeper can be a relatively inexpensive proposition. As of late 2015, the minimum wage for a housekeeper was US$315 a month, plus statutory benefits and taxes.

Finding domestic help is easy; your Realtor can probably recommend someone. Ask neighbors or other ex pats; it’s very likely their employees know someone who knows someone to recommend. You may want to hire someone who is bilingual if your Spanish isn’t good. As with all things Tico, you’ll need to ensure you follow applicable laws.

As you interview your candidates, ask for references and check them. Be sure potential employees are Costa Rican residents or have a work permit; most household workers are Nicaraguan. It may seem obvious, but be clear about what you expect and how you want things done. It may seem silly but if you don’t want your non-stick cookware or silver scrubbed with an abrasive, you’ll need to spell it out. The point? There are different ways of doing things and you need to explain how you want things to be done.

Once you find someone to hire, execute an employment contract. Though seems a bit formal for hiring a maid, it protects you. Costa Rica’s labor laws support workers’ rights. Domestic workers receive paid holidays (official and unofficial) and vacation, social security/pension and health insurance, mandatory severance pay and maternity leave. There’s also the Alquinaldo, known as the 13th month, a month’s pay due each December. Wages are usually paid weekly, based on hours worked and the pro rata hourly rate of the monthly minimum wage.

Employer and employee have a 90-day trial period. After that, two weeks’ notice is required the first year; thereafter it’s a month. You may pay wages in lieu of notice. You may also be on the hook for accrued vacation and Aguinaldo. It’s customary for your employee to have a paid day off to look for a new job. If you housekeeper quits, be sure to have her sign a legal document (in Spanish) verifying she is leaving voluntarily and has received everything owed. Be sure to have someone witness her signature, for your protection.

For ex pats, good domestic help can be a real advantage. Your employees know how things work in Costa Rica and can help you understand their customs. While Costa Rica’s labor laws may seem excessive, if you think about it, they’re really just about fair pay, treatment and working conditions for a fair day’s work.


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Expat Living and U.S. Federal Income Taxes

Filing the form

What you need to know about filing your taxes as an expatriate living in Costa Rica

It’s the end of another year in paradise so you can expect Uncle Sam to come calling. The IRS says, “Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.” Even though you’ve been living in Costa Rica for years and even if you owe no tax, unless your income falls below a certain amount, you must file your 1040. If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, you must report ALL income, regardless of origin, earned or otherwise.

As a U.S. citizen or resident alien living abroad, you qualify for a few tax breaks if you’ve lived abroad at least 330 days in 12 months. The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion applies to any Costa Rican-sourced income you earned, allowing you to exclude up to US$100,800 from your foreign-sourced income.

If you rented your Costa Rican home, you’re eligible for the Base Housing Exclusion: the difference between your reasonable housing expenses (rent, repairs, utilities, etc.) and 16% of your FEIE amount.

The Foreign Tax Credit applies to a percentage of the Costa Rican taxes you pay on your Costa Rican-source income. You’ll also have to decide whether to claim the exclusion or the credit, no double dipping.


Points to remember:

  • Despite an automatic 2-month extension (June 15), pay your estimated tax to avoid penalties and interest.
  • Report in U.S. dollars, regardless of currency; use an annualized average exchange rate or a time-relevant rate.
  • Everyone on your 1040 needs a Social Security number or tax ID number.
  • There are tax implications for a non-U.S. resident/citizen spouse; you must also declare your spouse’s income.
  • Attach Form 8965 to your 1040 to comply with the Affordable Care Act and avoid a penalty.
  • The IRS Office in Philadelphia provides international tax assistance, as well as its customer service personnel at some embassies and consulates.
  • Report foreign bank accounts if aggregate foreign holdings exceed $10,000 at any time during the year while you’re living overseas or if those holding exceed $49,999 and you live stateside. The penalties are severe; foreign banks disclose that information.


The takeaway:

More detailed information about U.S. taxpayers living overseas and the tax law is available from IRS Publication 54. Unless you are supremely confident in your ability to understand and to apply tax law, consult an international tax expert or contact the IRS. We’re just pointing out a few things to think about come tax time.

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