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Is renting a house as a tourist possible in Costa Rica?

Is renting a house as a tourist possible in Costa Rica?Do you want to try renting a house as a tourist in Costa Rica?

It’s often hard to figure out what’s legal and what not when renting a house as a tourist. There are so many wrong ideas about it.

Nathan wasn’t sure about a lot of things, so he decided to email me:


How’s it going? My name is Nathan, and I was hoping you could help me with a couple of different questions.

I have been doing a lot of research and reading about the average prices of rentals of apartments and condos in Costa Rica. I have read most are from 300-1200 Costa Rican colons, is this correct?

Although I have been reading, a US citizen can legally rent property in Costa Rica. I am a united states citizen and do not want to give up my citizenship here. My idea is to find an ideal apartment that I like down there, and sign a one-year lease. Then I’d pay the cost of the whole lease upfront, and just travel on a tourist passport for 90 days at a time to my apartment in CR. Is it legal for me to do this?

Will I legally be able to register with an electric company and stuff as well so I have electric when I do come down?

There are a few different questions to cover here if you’re looking at renting a house as a tourist in Costa Rica. So let’s get started.

Is renting a house as a tourist possible in Costa Rica?

Legal residency

You don’t have to give up your United States citizenship (or any other) to become a legal resident in Costa Rica. Becoming a resident in Costa Rica is like a foreigner getting a green card in the U.S., without giving up his/her citizenship elsewhere. More about this here.

Renting a house as a tourist

You don’t need to be a legal resident of Costa Rican citizen to renting a house as a residence or a business space. You are allowed to sign a lease agreement with a landlord, by using your passport.

A one-year lease

Residential and commercial leases are for 3 years, by Costa Rican law. But, most lease agreements are for 1-year minimum and that’s when they would return your security deposit unless you stay longer. If you stay less than 1 year, you’d lose that deposit. Learn more about that here.

A discount

A year lease upfront will probably get you a 10 – 15% discount on your rent. The problem is often how to get the money to the landlord.

A foreign check will take weeks to clear. You can wire money from your account in another country only when you’re there, not here. Unless you pre-arrange a wire transfer with your banker, as soon as you have a bank account in Costa Rica. Learn here what you need for that.

So bring cash for at least the first payments and security deposit.


Rents anywhere above $500/month are usually in US dollars, not in colones. 300 Colones is about $0.51

The exchange is around 585 colones to the US $. Check for rentals here.

The rental prices that you saw were probably US$300 – US$1,200/month.

Is renting a house as a tourist possible in Costa Rica?


You do need a legal residency to be able to get utilities in your own name.

Usually, the power and water stay in the owner’s name because it’s a hassle to get it changed.

As for phones, the easiest way is to bring your US cell phone (or any other country), you can get pre-paid cards everywhere. Cable TV and internet would have to be ordered in your name, but the realtor will help you with that and it’s only a matter of a few days to get it installed.

Live in Costa Rica

You don’t have to be a citizen or a resident to live in Costa Rica. Therefore, you are also allowed to rent a house as a tourist in Costa Rica. Non-residents need to leave the country every 90 days. That means you have to leave 4 times a year.

A hassle? Getting your residency card is a hassle too. There are quite a few options to become a legal resident. Check here for recommended attorneys if you plan to become a legal resident.

Contact us now for your property rental or purchase.

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Ivo Henfling

Your West-side of San Jose real estate agent, covering Escazu and Santa Ana, Rohrmoser and Ciudad Colon. If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the Central Valley or looking for any property for sale in Escazu or Santa Ana, you need to contact Costa Rica real estate agent Ivo Henfling. Ivo has been selling Costa Rica real estate on the westside of San Jose, in the locations of Rohrmoser, Sabana, Escazu, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and those other areas. For Ivo, a deal is not a good one unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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