We travelled Central America for one year and a large portion of that time was spent in Costa Rica. Why? Not just because Costa Rica is beautiful, but because there’s a lot of house sitting work out there.
Though it’s true that we house sat in Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala too, finding assignments house sitting in Costa Rica were by far the most common. When we accepted our first house sitting assignment in the small mountain town of Puriscal, we had no idea how many opportunities for house sitting Costa Rica there would be. We house sat for the same family in Puriscal multiple times and house sat once in Quepos. Though both of the locations where we house sat in Costa Rica were completely different experiences, they were both awesome. While every house and home owners are different, there are a few realities of house sitting in Costa Rica that you should know about.
Costa Rica is Expensive
To most people, it’s no secret that Costa Rica is more expensive than its Central American neighbours. Sure, there are a lot of American expats who are making the move south for year round warmth and lower living costs compared to the States – which is why there are lots of house sitting opportunities – but when it comes to costs, Costa Rica is no Vietnam. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still possible to travel Costa Rica on a budget, but it’s a stretch. I heard from a couple of different budget travel bloggers that they cut their travels in Costa Rica short and bolted to Nicaragua because it had eaten so much of their budget. House sitting is the way around this. When accommodation costs are taken out of the equation, being in Costa Rica works out much less expensive and much more awesome.
There’s No Address
Ask a home owner their address and most likely they won’t be able to give it to you. This isn’t because they’re not a real person with a real house, it’s just because Costa Rica doesn’t really do addresses. Mostly addresses will be something along the lines of “100 metres east of the church” or “across from the fruit market.” Costa Ricans just take the nearest landmark in their town and give you a vague description of their house from there. I’ve got to say, it doesn’t work too well when you’re trying to find a place but pura vida, and the post usually gets there eventually.
Everyone Has a Dog
Everyone in Costa Rica has a dog. That’s no lie, I haven’t met one person in Costa Rica who doesn’t have a dog. Even people who don’t like dogs have dogs. Costa Rica, like most countries in Central America, has a street dog problem. The spray and neuter thing isn’t really the Tico-way and apparently there are a million stray dogs in the country as a result, many of which have a pretty terrible fate. Fortunately, there are many expats who are setting up charities to help, or like the awesome woman we house sat for, fixing and taking in strays themselves (she has 11 dogs!) If you have a house sit in Costa Rica, it’s highly likely that there will be one or more dogs to love.
There are Snakes
This is probably not what you want to hear, but there are snakes in Costa Rica. Worse than that, Costa Rica is home to the terciopelo (fer-de-lance), one of the most deadly snakes in the world. I’m not even going to go into what happens if you get bitten by a terciopelo, because you just don’t want to know. But those snakes radiate to human houses for the warmth in the rainy season and where there’s a house, there are also dogs running around. Sure enough, while we were house sitting in Puriscal, a terciopelo turned up on our porch and bit one of the dogs on the muzzle. Thankfully we got the dog to the vet and against the odds he survived. In Quepos, the worst we had was a really long, thin grass snake which wrapped itself around the gate on the front door and swayed it’s tiny head at us.
There are Scorpions Too
Much less of a problem than the poisonous snakes, but also not nice are the (thankfully not poisonous) scorpions. We had a pretty sad incident where we killed a scorpion by crushing it with a broom – which is a lot harder than you might think because of their hard shell – after a home owner led us to believe the sting could really harm a kitten. We had just rescued a kitten from a rainstorm so didn’t want to take any chances. Another expat later told us that wasn’t the case and a scorpion sting is akin to a bee sting; all you need to do is brush the scorpion outside of the house to get rid of it.
Changing the Gas
I nearly forgot this one because we had gas canisters for the stove and hot water for a whole year living in Taiwan, but if you’re not used to it then changing over the gas canisters can be pretty niggly. One of the home owners, who has lived in Costa Rica for twenty years, is totally freaked out about the thought of changing the gas cannister over. If that’s you, you can usually persuade the gas delivery man to do it for you. If you’re like us, you can just unscrew the old one, screw on the new one and see if you can small gas. If you can’t, then you’re good to go.
House sitting in Costa Rica usually means that you’re practically living in the jungle, smack bang on the beach or up a mountain side. And, realistically, how many expats move to Costa Rica and choose a home without a gorgeous view? Very few. As a result, it’s hugely likely that you’re going to be blessed with a gorgeous view while house sitting in Costa Rica.
If you can get over the thought of snakes and scorpions being around, and you’re in love with the idea of year-round sunshine, incredible views and amazing wildlife (not including snakes and scorpions) then you’re probably going to love house sitting in Costa Rica. Before you jump on a plane though, remember that house sitting isn’t suited to everyone and involves much more responsibility than just crashing at a hostel or checking into a guesthouse does. Someone’s well loved home and pets are now yours to take care of, but if you’re like me and Luke then a home base and some cheeky animals for company can work out really nicely.
Interested in becoming a house sitter in Costa Rica?
Check out our post on How to Become a House Sitter.