What is House Sitting in Costa Rica Really Like?

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.

Sammy playing with Luke

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.

Gorgeous Views

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.

Morning view from house sit 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.

House & Pet Sitting Couple

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

20 thoughts to “What is House Sitting in Costa Rica Really Like?”

  1. House sitting is definitely a life style choice. An opportunity to travel, experience other cultures and meet some new and interesting people.

    1. Ha ha! Absolutely, it’s a gorgeous country and a great place to house sit. We’re yet to house sit in Europe but would absolutely love to, especially Scandinavia way. Have only heard good things!

  2. Changing the gas is such a nightmare! We had that problem on Tobago too- although we soon realised that it was actually the hob leaking gas… :/ I would love to house-sit in Costa Rica just for those views! What an amazing place to wake up every morning!
    Katie Featherstone recently posted…D7606 on street art.My Profile

    1. It really is for the first couple of times, especially when you’re not used to it or don’t speak the local language! A gas leaking hob sounds so bad!! The views were incredible for sure..

    1. Hey Samantha! Yes, house sitting in Costa Rica is ideal for that. Oh yes! The suicide showers, oh man! I found some were the most terrible looking and frightening thing even, and others not so bad… I remember being really worried the first time, but quickly got used to it.

  3. Great article. My husband and I have been travelling through Central America for the past eighteen months house sitting. Costa Rica definitely has the most opportunities. We are currently on our forth one here which is a nice four month stint right on the beach just south of Quepos. We take the bus in to Quepos every couple of weeks to get groceries and have found a really nice man who comes by every Friday in his truck with such an array of fruits and vegetables that it blows your mind. There are mango trees all around our property so we are never without a mango in the morning after taking the dog for a run. House sitting is definitely the way to spend plenty of time in an area and intergrate with the locals.

    1. Hi Karen – thanks so much for coming by and taking the time to comment. Great too hear that you’ve also been house sitting in Central America, and I we certainly had a similar experience finding more opportunities in Costa Rica than the other Central American countries.

      Quepos is such a fantastic area for house sitting (in fact I wrote a blog post on that very topic previously haha!) I love properties which have mango trees – oh my gosh, so delicious!!

      Hope you enjoy the rest of your house sit there, and looking forward to hearing about more of your adventures in that region :)

  4. Thanks for the tips Charlie! We are hoping to head to Costa Rica for Christmas and are planning to housesit while we are out there! I think I can cope with the snakes and scorpions for amazing views, delicious food and dogs to play with!

    We are doing housesits at home in the UK at the moment to get some references, but will hopefully do some abroad soon!
    Karianne recently posted…The Social Good City Guide to BarcelonaMy Profile

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