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You are probably thinking of going on an internship experience abroad in Costa Rica; searching for possible options is definitely the first step. Maybe you have been bitten by the travel bug and want to go far away from home, or maybe you are passionate about Latin American cultures; maybe you have heard something special about this little country.
Costa Rica is a small but unique country in the middle of two big masses of land and in the middle of a natural path, giving home to an incredible set of circumstances all in one green, fresh and happy place. Let's get started with a bit of everything important you should know in advance on this juicy thoughtful guide for interning in Costa Rica.
Now that you have a general overview about Costa Rica, now it's time to get into some details about the internship programs going on in this great spot. Costa Rica is definitely for people with some particular interests as you might have noticed by now!
Costa Rica is a tropical country, meaning there are only 2 seasons: rainy and not-rainy...although you can still get rained on the not-rainy season! The best time to intern in Costa Rica is definitely between December and March. Those are the most dry and sunny months almost in the entire country, except for the Caribbean coast, which has very unique weather, but still enjoyable and workable if necessary.
Locations on internship programs are usually away from San Jose, the capital city, however there are programs right there too if wanted. Working outside the city center is also a great way to experience working in rural areas, such as the provinces of Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon.
Specifically, you can look for areas like Talamanca, where the only indigenous citizens remain and struggle to survive within national laws that seem have been less protective in recent years. Indigenous citizens get a lot of help year round, mostly from free health and veterinary services by national colleges' programs. Indigenous citizens also receive assistance through private volunteering programs for construction and upgrading their homes due to harsh weather conditions and difficult means of transportation, making them a very isolated community.
Costa Rica is quite a small country, so it's hard to say if one region or another is better or worse. It is very easy to move around in terms of time, however the transportation/roads system is not very efficient, which can be a major problem while you're in Costa Rica.
The cost of living in Costa Rica depends a lot on the area you are in. Definitely a lot cheaper on rural areas than the city. Costa Rica can be a very expensive site for its location, and as obvious as it is, even more on touristy places.
For a single person sharing an apartment in the city between two people (taking into account basic expenses such as food, water and electricity on a monthly basis), you should consider budgeting $600-700/month. In rural non-touristic areas, this would drop down to about $400-500, with complete comfort. Also consider the improved transportation system in rural areas, your may even be able to ride a bike to work, rather than having to pay for regular transportation!
For budget prices on food, it's better to avoid the Walmart chains (yes, it is more expensive here!) and also Automercado markets, delicatessen style. Look for these markets: Pali, Hipermas and any local grocery store anywhere. For fresh in-expensive vegetables, always consider visiting the Saturday/Sunday "ferias", usually held at the main plaza of every town or neighborhood. Definitely fresh and cheap!
In case of work needed, it will probably be easier in rural areas. Within the city, they will ask for legal permissions for being a worker in the country. The common thing as in almost every country is to have a regular and legal basis, with a social security number since this will be part of your monthly payment. It takes some time to get all this in order. However, there will always be options for some seasonal jobs, so don't be afraid! In touristy areas, it will be even easier to find something for a few months. There is no useful link to find jobs around Costa Rica. The easiest way is to look on local newspapers in the job section, and also asking directly to businesses and people around town.
Costa Rica is very protective of its local labor force, and therefore the laws favor the hiring of local Costa Rican workers. On the other hand, it does have an established process to obtain work permits, making it easier for foreigners coming to Costa Rica with an established company and also for those those who can clearly demonstrate that they have a skill set required by the country. For a detailed labor regulation guide you can read the official Costa Rica labor regulations. For further information on Costa Rica's working law, see Costa Rica Law.
This little green and army-free country has a variety of internship industries which keep its name ahead on the world's market, such as tourism and high quality coffee production. Not to mention pineapple and banana production as well. It is a very popular destination overall thanks to its beautiful natural beaches, rainforest, volcanoes and surfing spots. Enjoy this sweet piece of land, you will love it in the end!
Mariana Calleja is a costarican travel blogger based in Barcelona since 2010 with her travel and life partner, both curious for experiences involving the five senses in a conscious way...something we are never usually aware of when traveling. Between her two biggest passions, travel and writing, she found the perfect spot to do both in order to inspire everyone into their own senses, into sensing their own way through the world. Visit Mariana's website at, TravelThirst.
Do you think there is something missing in our guide to interning in Costa Rica? Contact us and let us know! We want to make sure our information is relevant and up to date.