Study abroad for a semester in

Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a Central American gem, is renowned for its commitment to environmental sustainability, rich cultural heritage, and high quality of life. It’s an ideal destination for international students who seek both academic excellence and a connection with nature. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant capital city of San José, hiking through national parks, or relaxing on pristine beaches, studying in Costa Rica promises a unique and enriching experience. The country’s universities are known for their focus on ecological and social sciences, providing students with a diverse and holistic education.

Costa Rica is best known for

Ecological Diversity 🌿: Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot, home to lush rainforests, stunning beaches, and a plethora of wildlife, making it a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Pura Vida Lifestyle 😊: Embrace the laid-back, positive attitude of Costa Rica with its “Pura Vida” philosophy, which emphasizes a simple, stress-free, and happy life.

Affordable Living 💰: Compared to many Western countries, Costa Rica offers a relatively low cost of living, making it an attractive destination for students on a budget.

Table of contents

1. Visa and Health Insurance 🛂

Embarking on your educational journey to Costa Rica involves securing the right visa and health insurance. These crucial steps ensure you comply with legal requirements and have access to necessary healthcare services throughout your stay. Proper documentation and insurance coverage are essential for a smooth and safe study abroad experience.

Visa Types

  • Student Visa (Visa de Estudiante): Required for students enrolling in programs longer than three months.
  • Tourist Visa: For students attending short-term courses or programs lasting less than three months. Students can often enter as tourists and then apply for a student visa within Costa Rica.
  • Temporary Resident Visa: For those intending to stay longer, typically requiring additional documentation and processing.

Application Process

  1. Apply to Costa Rican Institutions: Gain acceptance to an accredited institution in Costa Rica.
  2. Receive Letter of Acceptance: Your institution will provide you with an acceptance letter, which is required for your visa application.
  3. Prepare Documents: Gather necessary documents including your passport, acceptance letter, proof of financial means, and health insurance coverage.
  4. Complete Visa Application: Fill out the visa application form at the Costa Rican consulate or embassy in your home country.
  5. Pay the Application Fee: Pay the required application fee for the student visa.
  6. Submit Application: Submit your application along with the required documents.
  7. Wait for Processing: Visa processing times can vary, so apply well in advance.

Required Documents

  • Proof of Enrollment: Letter of acceptance from a Costa Rican university.
  • Financial Proof: Bank statements or proof of financial support showing sufficient funds (approximately USD 500 per month).
  • Passport: Valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Costa Rica.
  • Visa Application Form: Completed and submitted.
  • Health Insurance: Proof of valid health insurance coverage.
  • Passport Photos: Recent passport-sized photographs.
  • Academic Documents: Transcripts, diplomas, and certificates from previous education.

Application Timeline

  • Start Early: Begin the application process at least 3-6 months before your intended departure.
  • Processing Time: Visa processing can take several weeks, so apply well in advance.
  • Important Deadlines: Be mindful of university application deadlines and ensure your visa application is timely.

Tips for Success

  • Complete Documentation: Ensure all your documents are complete and accurately filled out.
  • Financial Proof: Clearly demonstrate financial stability and sufficient funds.
  • Health Insurance: Secure a visa-compliant health insurance plan early in the process.

Importance of Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for all international students in Costa Rica. It ensures that students have access to medical care and covers a wide range of health services, from regular doctor visits to emergency care.

Types of Health Insurance

  • Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS): Public health insurance system that all residents, including international students, must enroll in.
    • Cost: Typically around USD 50 – USD 100 per month.
    • Advantages: Comprehensive coverage for a wide range of medical services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescriptions.
    • Limitations: Services are often limited to public healthcare facilities, which may have longer waiting times.
  • University-Sponsored Health Insurance: Many universities offer additional health insurance plans for their students.
    • Cost: Varies by university, typically between USD 100 and USD 300 per year.
    • Advantages: Convenient enrollment and comprehensive coverage.
    • Limitations: Coverage may be limited to university-affiliated hospitals and clinics.
  • Private Health Insurance: Some students opt for private health insurance to supplement public coverage.
    • Cost: Varies based on the provider and plan. IMG offers competitive and comprehensive plans.
    • Advantages: More extensive coverage, faster access to services, and flexibility in choosing healthcare providers.
    • Limitations: Generally more expensive than relying solely on public or university insurance.

Country-Specific Requirements

CCSS Registration: Upon arrival in Costa Rica, students must register for the CCSS at their local health office. This registration is crucial for receiving comprehensive healthcare coverage.
Private Health Insurance: Must meet the minimum coverage requirements set by Costa Rican authorities. Private plans often provide quicker access to healthcare services and more flexibility in choosing providers.

Finding the Best Health Insurance

wearefreemovers has developed a partnership with IMG with the intent of offering you reliable and visa-compliant health insurance for your stay in Costa Rica.

Choose IMG

IMG is our suggested visa-compliant health insurance for Costa Rica.

Or discover other insurance options

Thanks to our Insurance Finder


What happens if my visa application is denied?
If your visa application is denied, you will receive a notice explaining the reasons for the denial. Address the issues mentioned and reapply, or appeal the decision if you believe it was incorrect. Review the reasons for denial carefully and seek guidance from the embassy or consulate if needed.

Can I change my health insurance plan after arriving in Costa Rica?
Yes, you can change your health insurance plan after arriving in Costa Rica. Ensure the new plan meets the mandatory health insurance requirements for students. Compare different plans to choose one that offers comprehensive coverage and suits your needs.

What should I do if I need medical care and don’t have insurance?
If you require medical care and don’t have insurance, you will need to pay out-of-pocket for all medical services, which can be very expensive. It’s highly recommended to have valid health insurance to avoid these costs. If you find yourself without insurance, contact a health insurance provider immediately to enroll in a plan.

Additional Resources

Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Provides information for foreigners looking to study in Costa Rica, including visa requirements, application procedures, and living in Costa Rica.

2. Cost of Living 💰

Understanding the cost of living in Costa Rica is essential for budgeting and financial planning. Costa Rica offers a relatively low cost of living compared to many Western countries, allowing students to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without overspending.

Detailed Breakdown of Living Expenses

Accommodation: Monthly rent varies based on location and type of housing.
USD 200 – USD 800/month
Food: From groceries to dining out, here’s what to expect.
USD 200 – USD 350/month
Transportation: Getting around Costa Rica is affordable and convenient.
USD 20 – USD 60/month
Utilities: Essential services like electricity, water, and internet.
USD 50 – USD 100/month
Entertainment and Leisure: Enjoying Costa Rica’s vibrant culture and social life.
USD 50 – USD 150/month
Miscellaneous Expenses: Personal items and services.
USD 50 – USD 100/month

3. Accommodation Options 🏠

Finding the perfect place to live is a key part of your study abroad experience. Costa Rica offers diverse housing options to fit different needs and budgets, from student dormitories to shared apartments and homestays.

Types of Accommodation

Student Dorms: Typically provided by universities, offering convenience and a vibrant social scene.
Price: USD 200 – USD 500/month
Shared Apartments: Sharing an apartment with other students is a popular and cost-effective choice.
Price: USD 250 – USD 600/month
Private Apartments: Renting your own place offers privacy and independence.
Price: USD 400 – USD 800/month
Homestays: Living with a local family provides cultural immersion and a home-like environment.
Price: USD 300 – USD 600/month
Guesthouses: These are similar to hostels but often cater to a more international crowd.
Price: USD 200 – USD 500/month

Find accommodation in Costa Rica

Find the best student housing options with our Accommodation Finder

Tips and Resources

Start Early: Begin your search well in advance to secure the best options.
Budget Wisely: Include utilities and internet in your budget when planning for accommodation costs.
Consider Location: Proximity to your university, public transportation, and local amenities is important.
Ask for Help: Utilize university housing services and student forums for advice and recommendations.
Use Reliable Platforms: Ensure you book through reputable platforms to avoid scams and ensure quality accommodations. The ones you see on wearefreemovers have been preselected by us, so you can be more at ease choosing them.

4. University Information 🎓

Choosing the right university is a significant part of your study abroad journey. Costa Rica is home to reputable institutions that offer a rich academic environment and a variety of programs to suit your interests.

Discover our partner universities 🎉

Enjoy the best free mover experience on our platform by choosing our partner universities. Those institutions have close ties with us, so for any eventuality you can rely on our help.

Partner universities in Costa Rica

Our best selection of destinations is awaiting you

Otherwise, surf through the whole selection of universities

Apart from partner institutions, we also list other destinations. They might be a riskier choice since information can be uncertain and response times higher, but still they are worth a try in our opinion.

Find universities in Costa Rica

Try our University Finder and discover the best universities for your needs

5. Further Practical Information 🛠️


Costa Rica’s transportation network is affordable, making it convenient to explore the country.

Public Transportation 🚌: Most cities have reliable public transport systems, including buses. Monthly passes range from USD 20 to USD 40, with student discounts often available.

Bicycles and Scooters 🚴: Many Costa Rican cities are bike-friendly, and cycling is a cost-effective and healthy way to navigate urban areas.

Long-Distance Travel 🚐: Costa Rica’s intercity bus system connects major cities and towns. For longer distances, domestic flights are available and relatively affordable.

Tips 💡: Always check for student discounts on transportation passes. For intercity travel, booking bus tickets in advance can secure the best rates.

Banking and Finances

Managing your finances effectively is crucial for a smooth study abroad experience.

Opening a Bank Account 🏦: Most banks in Costa Rica offer special accounts for students with low or no fees. Popular banks include Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica, and BAC Credomatic.

Documents Required 📑: To open a bank account, you will typically need your passport, proof of enrollment, and a local address.

Currency 💵: The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC). Having a local bank account helps avoid foreign transaction fees and simplifies everyday transactions.

Tips 💡: Look for student-friendly bank accounts and make use of online banking apps to manage your finances efficiently. Consider using services like for seamless international transactions.

Local Culture and Etiquette

Understanding local customs and social norms will help you integrate smoothly into Costa Rican society.

Punctuality ⏰: Punctuality is somewhat relaxed in Costa Rica, but it’s still important to be on time for classes and formal appointments.

Greetings 🤝: A common greeting in Costa Rica includes a friendly “Hola” or “Buenos días,” often accompanied by a handshake or light kiss on the cheek.

Mealtimes 🍽️: Costa Rican mealtimes are usually social events, with lunch around 12-1 PM and dinner around 6-8 PM. Sharing food and hospitality is common, and tipping (usually 10%) is appreciated in restaurants.

Public Behavior 🤫: Costa Ricans value politeness and respect in public spaces. Being loud or disruptive is generally frowned upon, especially in quieter residential areas.

Do you still have doubts?

Book a 1:1 consultancy with us

We would be glad to help you guiding step by step in every application you have to complete or to simply solve your doubts.