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9 things to know before you study in Costa Rica – Part 1

Read this before studying in Costa Rica!

Do you want to study abroad in Costa Rica? We got you! Before you go abroad as an exchange student in Costa Rica you should know a few things. This week we will cover the first 4 important facts you need to know about studying in Costa Rica. After reading our tips you will be well prepared and ready for the biggest adventure of your life!

1. Visa to study in Costa Rica

Firstly, you need to inform yourself about the type of visa you need to study in Costa Rica. One valuable tip: take care of your visa well before your semester abroad starts! We recommend you contact the Costa Rican embassy in your home country for the latest information since visa regulations change frequently and they can be different from country to country. There are mainly two options for international students in Costa Rica: the tourist visa or the student visa.

Many nations, including European citizens, can travel to Costa Rica for 90 days as a tourist. Therefore, we advise students studying in Costa Rica for one semester to use this method, as it can take longer than 6 months to finalize the student visa procedure in Costa Rica. However, the immigration officer, upon arrival, will have the last word on the length of your tourist visa waiver. Because of this, please be polite to all officers when arriving in Costa Rica. At the end of 90 days, you must do a visa run; leave the country, and return. For example, Panama, Nicaragua, and Mexico have been common countries to visit while getting a visa renewal.

We recommend the student visa for students staying in Costa Rica for more than one semester. The procedure includes various steps and will challenge your patience. However, the study year in Costa Rica is definitely worth the effort.

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Make sure that your passport is still valid 6 month after your semester ends!

2. Arrival

When you study in Costa Rica, you should arrive in the country at least a few days before starting the study program, if possible. This will allow you to get to know the surroundings and recover from possible jetlag before your semester starts. However, we don’t recommend arriving in Costa Rica too early, especially with a tourist visa.

Once you arrive at the Juan Santamaría Airport, go through the Immigration and Customs control. Present your passport and other documents when asked to the immigration officers, and remember always to be polite to officials. After the inspection, go to the luggage pick-up area to collect your luggage. There is also a possibility to purchase a local SIM card from the airport, but you can also do it later after being settled in your destination.

We recommend students register for their trip at their home country’s embassy or Ministry for Foreign Affairs before starting the study abroad program. Once you have a local cell phone subscription, you can give the number to your local embassy. Most countries offer citizens the possibility of registering online. Registration includes giving out your personal data, contact information for the duration of your trip, and information about your stay abroad to the ministry in case of emergencies or crises.

You might also be interested in 8 activities you have to do in Costa Rica

3. Accommodation

Before studying abroad in Costa Rica, you should know your accommodation options. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but all students have managed to find accommodation to suit their needs. Firstly, students are responsible for making their accommodation arrangements. However, here is all you need to know.

ULACIT’s central campus does not offer traditional student residences like on-campus dorms. Consequently, the university advises students to live in one of the housing programs: Host Family Homestay or Selina Hostels. ULACIT will contact all students to ask about their accommodation choice about 1-2 months before the semester start and provide more information about the accommodation options. You can expect to pay $3.040 for a 16-week stay with a family in a homestay ($760 monthly or $190 weekly). If you stay in a Selina room, it can cost between $1.648 and $4.400 for the academic period.

Of course, you can also look for accommodation within the city or nearby the campus independently. There are many hostels and bed-and-breakfasts available, and it is also possible to find fully equipped apartments for a short-term lease. Airbnb and VRBO are also an option in Costa Rica. Please, check out the place on-site before renting it! A little hassling is a normal part of finding your accommodation. A good sense of humor, patience, and effort to understand a different culture will help sort things out.

Click here to read the interview with Marcel and Arthur who studied abroad in Costa Rica!

4. Fun facts to know when you study in Costa Rica

Here are a few things to keep in mind but not get too distressed about when you study in Costa Rica. Firstly, Costa Ricans are happy to welcome you to their beautiful country, help you out and chat with you. However, don’t assume that all Costa Ricans know English and learn some Spanish beforehand.

Interestingly, most streets in Costa Rica have no name or number. Or they might have a name and number, but there is no sign saying it. Usually, addresses work by highly visible or well-known landmarks and give you a direction and a distance to follow. Expect to get lost while navigating in Costa Rica, and don’t be afraid to ask for directions.

Also, when you study abroad in Costa Rica, you should know the standard tipping amount, which is 10%. However, tipping is not mandatory in Costa Rica because the tip, or service tax, is already included in your bill. But if you would like to tip your guide, driver, hotel maid, etc., you may do so.

Living in Costa Rica and Latin America is generally different from what you might be used to. Remember the saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This attitude will help you through the biggest culture shock.

When you study in Costa Rica, the term “Pura Vida” will come everywhere! If you wonder what it means, we will explain you! It means simple life” or “pure life,” and it reflects the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Don’t miss part 2 of what you should know before you study abroad in Costa Rica!

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Experience the Pura Vida lifestyle!

Find out more information about studying abroad in Latin America!

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The blog post was written by our Content Specialist Nele!