I'm Sarah. I'm a happy expat wandering through life. I moved abroad five years ago and since then I have lived in Germany and now Costa Rica. I run a blog called The Wanderlanders where I inspire and help other people move abroad. When I'm not blogging you can find me exploring new places, being a beer snob, and dancing like crazy at folk concerts.
Give a big Wandering Welcome to Sarah
If you want to follow Sarah's adventures through life you can find her here
What I Learned After Moving To Costa Rica
Five months ago my boyfriend, Thomas, and I did something crazy. We said goodbye to his family in Germany and boarded a one-way flight to Costa Rica. We were both terrified because neither of us had ever even been to Central America, and now we were moving there.
We decided to move to Costa Rica somewhat on a whim. I was tired of the gray days of Germany and wanted to go somewhere warmer. Thomas was way more stressed in his job as a kindergarten teacher than he should have been, and wanted a slower pace of life. We determined that it made the most sense for him to find a job and then we would move to whatever country he was able to secure a position in. I was teaching English at the time, and we figured I could do that anywhere in the world, but German kindergarten jobs are much harder to come by! He found a website through the German government that posts all the German school jobs internationally. He then started applying to anything that sounded appealing.
After a few months Thomas was offered the job in Costa Rica. They wanted him to start two months later. We talked it over, and him, the rational German, thought that was too crazy of a move to make in two months. After all, we had an apartment filled with furniture we'd have to sell, contracts to cancel, jobs to quit, and family and friends to say goodbye to. I, the spontaneous American, said, “It's never going to be the perfect time. Let's just go for it.”
So after two crazy months of getting rid of our life in Germany, we left.
Finding A Place To Live:
When we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica we stayed at a hotel for a few nights until one of Thomas' colleagues invited us to move in with her temporarily. She then helped us look for apartments. After navigating the impossible task of finding a place to live in Germany, this was a breeze. We drove around the neighborhood we wanted to live in and looked for signs outside of apartments advertising an open place. Then we just called the numbers on the listings. Within a few days we had looked at about 15 different places. We selected our favorite furnished apartment, signed the contract, and moved in the next day. It was so easy!
Just note, you may be surprised at the appearance of some places while looking. We found a lot of places that had not been well maintained at all. Just keep looking. You will find a great place like we did. It just may take a little time.
Thomas already had his job lined up, but I had nothing. I started applying to different English schools throughout the city and heard back from several pretty quickly. The problem was they all wanted me to teach classes either really early in the morning or late at night in different locations throughout the city. Being new to the country, and even now, I don't feel comfortable taking public transportation alone within the city late at night. The other problem with all of these jobs was that they didn't offer the possibility for me to get a visa. That means they wanted to pay me cash illegally and I would have to leave the country every 90 days. After living in Germany and growing up in the US where everything is very much by the books, I was hesitant about doing that.
Instead I started blogging. I figured it was a way to fill my days and hopefully make a little money on the side. Plus, it was a great way to fill the gap in my resume. After a few months running my site The Wanderlanders the money slowly started trickling in, but definitely not enough to survive off of yet.
I also do some English tutoring for students at local schools that have trouble in English. This is some extra cash and it keeps me busy for now until I can find something more permanent.
As I said, I don't have a job that allows me to get a visa. Because of that I have to leave every 90 days. I have only had to leave once so far and I flew to Florida to visit my grandmother.
By law you have to leave for 72 hours before you can reenter the country (but I have heard this is not enforced). It ended up being cheaper for me to fly to Florida and see my grandmother than it would have been for me to take a bus to Panama or Nicaragua and get a hotel for a few nights like most people do. When you reenter the country you need to also provide proof that you are planning on leaving again within 90 days. I always just buy a bus ticket to Nicaragua to show as proof when I reenter the country.
Although it is not technically legal to leave and reenter every 90 days, I have never heard of anyone having any problems so far.
There are a few different ways you can go about getting a visa. You can have a job that sponsors you, marry a Costa Rican, or have a pension that proves you make enough money each month to support yourself. It is a really confusing system to handle on your own. I highly recommend getting a lawyer to help you out.
Adjusting To Life Here:
I did not have difficult time adjusting to Costa Rica, but part of that may be because I had already lived outside of the US for four years before moving here. I'm used to new countries by now. The weather is perfect, the people are so friendly, and there are amazing places to see throughout the country; what's not to love! A few of the not so wonderful things I have encountered are a tarantula in my apartment (which basically ensured me not sleeping or several days after), being targeted as a tourist and being ripped off when buying things, and the scariest lightning storms I've ever experienced. I think every country has it's ups and downs and as long as you just focus on the positives and not let the negatives get to you, you'll have a great time in Costa Rica.
You really need a car to get around in Costa Rica. Here in San Jose the public bus system is actually really good and cheap, but if you want to travel throughout the country on days when you are not working, I highly recommend buying a car. There are buses that run from the city to all the different destinations that you may want to go to, but the ride can be extremely long, bumpy, and expect to wake up with a random person's head on your shoulder.
At the moment we do not have a car, but we are hoping to buy one as soon as I have a more steady income stream. It would be great to go away every weekend.
This seems to be everyone’s number one concern when moving here. I have not had any problems so far with safety, but I have heard some horror stories. I have learned to be much more vigilant to my surroundings and use a different level of caution than I'm used to. I don't walk around at night and in the day I carry as little as possible with me. I kind of expect I'll get robbed at some point, but if I only have a little bit of cash with me, it won't be such a hard blow. Also, I try to dress so that I blend in a bit more. I don't recommend girls wearing really short shorts or revealing tops. Although some of the women do it here, I think it's best not to draw extra attention to yourself.
And that's the jist of life in Costa Rica! If you have questions on how you can move to Costa Rica or life in Costa Rica feel free to ask them below. I'm happy to help :)