Moving to Costa Rica with your family can be one of the most positive decisions you’ll ever make.
When you’ve make the decision to buy a new home in Costa Rica and move the family here, you’ve made a decision that is full of adventure but not without a few minor (though completely manageable) challenges. There is much to consider: possessions to take or not to take, schools, healthcare, and the legal logistics that come with expatriate living. Advance planning and the right support on both ends will make your family’s relocation relatively painless.
Sell it, ship it, or store it?
International living first requires some decisions about your possessions: move them, store them, or get rid of them. The Costa Rican government levies taxes and duties on everything shipped into the country (though everyone gets an exemption of $500 per year), even clothing and toiletries. You’ll want to decide which personal items–artwork, books, or family treasures–to take with you. The team at HRG can recommend professional movers to guide you through Costa Rica’s import process, or you can contact an overseas moving specialist in your area.
With the right preparation, you can bring high-value items–vehicles, boats, large appliances–with you, but be aware that import duties are expensive- especially on items that are considered to be “luxury” items. Washing machines and similar home appliances are expensive in Costa Rica because of high duties and taxes, but not so much that it makes it more affordable to bring yours down. Also, there are some “work around” options, like buying your appliances in duty free areas like Golfito (though, keep in mind that there is an annual limit on the amount you can purchase per passport or ID).
Whether you bought a turnkey property, a new house or condo, or are building, you will need to outfit your new home. You will need to weigh the cost of setting up housekeeping from scratch against the cost for shipping your household goods to Costa Rica. In my experience, it’s better to just let go of your furniture and appliances in the U.S., and only ship down your more prized possessions. Grandma’s China, your art, and that family heirloom rocking chair should probably make the cut, but everything else is easily replaced once you arrive.
Costa Rican teak and other fine hardwoods make beautiful furniture and cabinetry. Local textiles will also give your new home that exotically tropical feel that brought you to Costa Rica in the first place. Interior designers can help source and buy what you’ll need and there are a number of really great decorators in the area that your team at HRG can refer you to.
What about Fluffy and Fido?
It’s a relatively simple matter to bring your pets into Costa Rica; they’ll simply require a health certificate and current vaccinations.
And the kid’s education?
There are a number of excellent public and private schools in and around Herradura, including Falcon International School just outside of Los Sueños. Selecting the right school is always important, especially if your students are college-bound in the U.S., as not all U.S. colleges accept non-U.S. high school diplomas. Online home schooling is another great option you may want to consider.
How about medical care?
Los Sueños has an on-site medical facility for urgent care and routine appointments, but you’ll 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. Caja costs depend on your income but it’s the same cost for one person or a 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. Expat life in Costa Rica has many benefits: beautiful scenery, friendly people, and an easy lifestyle, but most importantly, it is a very safe and healthy environment to raise your family in. In fact, I’ve heard it said many times, ” kids just seem to stay kids a little bit longer in Costa Rica” and indeed I have found that to be true.