GETTING off the plane with a couple of bags and directions to a nearby hostel with plans to search supermarket bulletin boards for an apartment may be an adventure seeker’s idea of moving to a new country, but it’s not for most people. For individuals and families transporting their lives to Costa Rica from another country, myriad questions and issues arise that a Lonely Planet guidebook cannot answer.“Should I sell my furniture or bring it? How do I get residency? What documentation should I bring? What about a car? Do I bring mine or buy one there? I want to bring my dog, my horse, my cow, my helicopter, my boat… what is the procedure, the paperwork?” said Ryan Piercy, giving examples of questions he faces as general manager of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR) (www.arcr.net, 233-8068), one of several institutions here that assist foreigners in their journey toward calling the country home.Rather than a welcome wagon and moving trucks, what the ARCR offers is information, Piercy explained.THE information flow of the ARCR begins before potential residents even leave their homeland, and continues throughout their life in Costa Rica.Piercy encourages anyone considering making Costa Rica their home to attend one of the association’s two-day seminars covering things people should know both before they come and once they get here.Despite requests otherwise, these seminars, offered once a month, are held only in Costa Rica to ensure potential transplants have been here at least once before making the move.“In our opinion, people should come to Costa Rica before they decide to move here – not for a week or two, but for three or four months,” Piercy said. “I know people who have moved here without ever having been here, and it is not the smart thing to do. In my opinion, it is insane… not everybody who moves here is happy… no place exists that is perfect for everybody.”“We can help you, but we can’t make you succeed at relocation – only you can do that,” Piercy added, warning people to think hard about their relocation decision.ONCE the decision is made, the association’s seminars are just the beginning. In addition to moving tips, the ARCR offers information on legal procedures (except criminal), insurance through a group plan, travel agency services, mail service, e-mail and a magazine.“The idea is to be a one-stop agency,” Piercy explained.The association also provides a social outlet and opportunities for community involvement, and holds periodic fundraisers to assist children’s or senior citizen’s programs.The ARCR, which has more than 2,000 members, costs $100 a year for nonresidents, $50 a year for residents and $10 a year for spouses or dependents.People looking for more than information, who want an outstretched hand to guide them through the supermarket or help unload the moving trucks, can ask the ARCR for references or work with one of the various relocation companies offering services here.ONE such relocation company is Guardian Angels CR (www.guardianangelscr.com, 832-2450 or, toll-free from the United States, (877) 889-1131).“Whereas the ARCR may send a client shopping for furniture armed with an excellent list of stores and good directions, Guardian Angels’ staff members go shopping with you,” explained Angela Passman, company founder and director. “This is particularly helpful to non-Spanish speakers for comparing service options on appliances, negotiating fair prices and arranging deliveries.”Guardian Angels offers various packages, from one-week orientation for corporate employees transferred here to four weeks of help with moving and settling in. After-care can involve help finding a gardener, maid, doctor or accountant. Other relocation companies include Mundanzas Mundiales (www.mudanzasmundiales.com, 224-2525), Doris Peters y Asociados (283-1868), which works with a lot of corporate relocations, and Ana Luisa Zúñiga (228-0154).These relocation companies understand that, while clean and often full of amenities, hotels are hardly a home away from home for recent movers to spend weeks or months while they search for a new house or apartment. Therefore, most recommend apartotels (see sidebar), which offer a homier environment complete with various rooms and at least partial kitchens.
Today in Costa Rica