Costa Rica promises digital nomads a life of ‘Pura Vida’ –

A year in the brave new world of pandemic issues, it looks like some significant changes in our lifestyle are here to stay.

One positive trend that is expected to continue is working from home, as businesses have learned that it can actually increase productivity while lowering the costs associated with maintaining large physical office spaces.

In fact, says Emergent Research, a California-based small business consultancy, “Numerous studies indicate that most businesses plan to dramatically expand their use of remote working even after the pandemic is over.”

It’s also good news for the roughly 10.9 million U.S. citizens who didn’t have to deal with rush hour traffic last year for their daily commutes or spend so much on transportation and clothing. of work.

In trying to gauge what these workers thought about working from home, the international company MBO partners surveyed 3,687 freelance writers, designers, editors and content creators, as well as professionals working in IT, marketing and communications, among other professions. They found that 83% of them said they felt “happier working alone”, and 71% said that “working alone is better for my health”.

We can only assume that none of the interviewees had children climbing on their laptops or spilling cans of juice on mom and dad’s papers.

But the idea that all these remote workers have to carve out a space at home to do their jobs is changing.

According to MBO, the ever-changing advancements in digital tools and communication technologies have enabled 4.8 million workers to travel while on the job. Some swap their desk chairs for a lounge chair at the beach, and their home offices for coworking spaces in faraway tropical destinations.

“As long as I have a good internet connection, I can work from anywhere,” says Marie Elena Hawkins, writer and holistic health consultant who moved to Costa Rica from Tennessee a few years ago.

This subset of self-employed people are often referred to as ‘digital nomads’ because they depend on digital technology to maintain a lifestyle that allows them to see the world while earning a living. They manage this by working from locations with similar or lower cost of living while earning wages tied to high cost locations.

“It takes time to figure out how to make it all work, but the pros far outweigh the cons,” said Paul Butcher, a digital nomad from the UK who currently lives in Costa Rica. “Before choosing my next location, I would take into account the cost of getting there and getting around, renting accommodation, and how much good Internet and mobile service will cost me.”

Nomads are twice as likely to be male as female, according to MBO, and are most often millennials, although Gen Xers make up about a quarter of the group. About half of the nomads have a university degree and the vast majority are “satisfied” with their life. Some 83% are optimistic about the future and 81% plan to continue their independent lifestyle.

“I’m the envy of my friends,” said US expat David Fulton, who runs a tourism business on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. “They think I’m on permanent vacation, but that’s not it at all. I go to work every day, just like them. But when my day is over, I’m already at the beach or enjoying a spectacular view. It’s a totally different experience.

The MBO Report on the Rising Trend of Digital Nomadism indicates that around 17 million self-employed people aspire to a digital nomadic lifestyle, although the vast majority never take the plunge. However, concerns about possible future lockdowns or potential hospital stays make traveling to the great outdoors with traveler insurance all the more appealing, especially to the uninsured.

Over the past decade, MBO notes a significant increase in the demand for outsourced professional services, as “organizations dramatically increase their use of self-employed workers.”

A few countries in Europe are trying to capitalize on this trend and attract international nomads to help boost economies that were hit hard during the pandemic. Most notably, the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is building a “digital nomadic village” with the cooperation of coworking spaces, real estate, hotels and car rental companies, all working together to attract this population. Portugal is also in the process of creating a special visa category that will make booking extended tours to this warm oceanfront location a no-brainer.

And according to The independent, “The Caribbean islands of Barbados and Antigua have unveiled similar programs” to help boost their economies.

And Costa Rica?

Last year, as lockdowns began around the world, the Costa Rican government allowed visitors to extend the validity of tourist visas. Currently, anyone who entered the country in 2020 can stay without penalty until June 2021.

As that deadline approaches, a group of Costa Rican lawmakers are working to pass a new one-year temporary residence status, aimed at digital nomads.

While details may change before the bill becomes law, the requirements would include proof of an average monthly income of $ 3,000 from sources outside Costa Rica and health insurance to cover all medical needs while in Costa Rica. the country. According to the bill, this new visa will be processed online and would allow nomads to bring a spouse and children, as well as request a six-month extension during their stay. Nomads under this immigration status will also benefit from tax-free status, which means that they can also bring the necessary equipment for their work duty-free.

The details of this new subcategory of temporary residence status are being discussed by Costa Rican lawmakers as they are drafted. But the information will be published in the Tico Times (or the website of the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica as it becomes available.

For now, newly arrived nomads can stay a maximum of 90 days on a tourist visa and apply for temporary resident status in the country. Many tourists choose to get perpetual 90-day extensions when leaving the country and returning under a new tourist stamp.

For those doing a “visa run,” as they are commonly known, immigration officials will be on alert when you return. They are mainly concerned with checking that tourists are not working for Costa Rican companies – and therefore taking jobs away from local workers. They also verify that tourists have enough money to support themselves while in Costa Rica and that a departure flight to their home country has already been purchased.

Is Costa Rica a good option for digital nomads?

We watched the Nomadic index, a list of countries ranked according to the best terms for digital nomads. The data was compiled by CircleLoop – a UK-based company providing cloud services to small businesses. The index compared the average speed of fixed broadband and mobile Internet, the average price of Internet service and visa access. It also took into account the acceptance of migrants, the average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment, and each country’s score on the Global Happiness Index, among other criteria.

Costa Rica ranked 41st in the world and fourth in Latin America behind Chile, Argentina and Brazil. What do these countries have that Costa Rica doesn’t? Chile (28) has much better internet speed and the cost of this service is cheaper. Argentina (40) has a much lower cost of living. And Brazil (35) ranks a bit better in most categories.

Where does Costa Rica shine? Its “happiness index” ranks the small Central American country at the top of the competition.

When it comes to tropical countries, Costa Rica takes third place, behind Singapore (15) which is much more expensive than Costa Rica and Thailand (18), which has a similar cost of living, but is less open. to migrants.

Become a digital nomad in Costa Rica

To help guide digital nomads considering long- or short-term relocation to Costa Rica, a new consultancy called Costa Rica Dream Team offers online courses designed to remove all the mystery of living and working there.

In addition to covering details about real estate, cost of living, and doing business in Costa Rica, the courses explore residency, health care, entertainment, recreation, and even dos and don’ts. culturally. Their digital format, complemented by online Q&A webinars and insider blogs, was developed for people on the go.

“We help our clients make a seamless transition to Costa Rica and enjoy an intercultural experience that is good for all concerned,” said Julio Fernandez, who helped found Costa Rica Dream Team in 2020. “Too much of people arrive with unrealistic expectations, get frustrated and leave. Our motto is “Know before you go”. “

Ultimately, most nomads agree that successful nomadic lifestyle requires making informed decisions, being open to new experiences, and having a strong internet connection.

For those who want to take the plunge, it can be an incredible adventure.


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