So you made the decision to move to Costa Rica. Maybe you got a job teaching English, or maybe you are on a gap year adventure.

Whatever the case may be, you are on a budget and you need a place to live. You need to find an affordable home for rent in Costa Rica, but how?

neighbors' painted ox carts

I recently moved to the mountains above Heredia. It’s awesome – very relaxing and peaceful. My neighbors have farms with bulls, chickens, goats, and horses and they even use the colorful painted ox carts.

Step 1.
Pick an area of the country to live in.

First, you need to figure out where your job is, or if you do not have one, figure out where it is most likely to be. For example, most English teaching jobs in Costa Rica are in the Central Valley, so you would need to pick a town in the Central Valley to start your search in.

If a location-dependent job does not apply to you while you live in Costa Rica, do some research and narrow down your list of desired places to live to just a few towns.

Towns in Costa Rica might look very close together on a map, but they can be very far apart when traveling in a car or on a bus due to congested, meandering roads and heavy traffic.

They can also be very different aesthetically. Two towns might be right next to each other, but feel completely different to you. This is why I say pick an area and try not to narrow it down to only one town because it’s likely that you might find something better once you are actually in Costa Rica.

low income housing in Costa Rica

This neighborhood is somewhere between San José and Cartago. It’s a good example of a neighborhood with extremely affordable housing and good access to public transportation, but there are no bakeries or fruit and vegetable stands. Plus, there was a lot of trash on the ground and a bunch of drug addicts wandering around, so I doubt it’s very safe.

Step 2.
Set up a temporary residence in Costa Rica.

After you have established the general location that you need or want to live in, set up a temporary residence (pay day to day or week to week) while you search for something more permanent.

This will cost you more upfront, but save in the long run because you really need to have your feet on the ground to find the perfect place to live in Costa Rica.

Finding a temporary residence is as easy as looking on Craigslist, AirBnB,, VRBO, or negotiating a deal through your employer. (Use my special link to get $42 off your first AirBnB stay) If you are staying a week or longer, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount on the nightly price – some landlords and hosts offer that.

If you do a temporary homestay with a Tico family, you will also enjoy the benefits of building connections in the community, learning about the culture, and having someone cook and clean for you as if you were their own child. 🙂

After you have decided on a general area and are in your temporary residence, the real search begins.

Good, inexpensive rentals are only on the market for a day or two before they are snatched up. You have to be quick and decisive, but don’t settle in fear of not being able to find something because there is a high turnover rate in rentals and there is always something new and exciting opening up. 


Here is the 2nd part of this article in which I discuss the last two steps in finding a place to live in Costa Rica, including some great tips and advice. Subscribe by email, find me on facebook, or just come back to the website.