Book Review: Becoming an Expat Costa Rica by Shannon Enete

Cover of Becoming an Expat Costa Rica 2014 coverShannon Enete has started off an exciting and expanding series of country-specific expat guides with one on her own adopted country Costa Rica. It's unlike other books of its genre in the breadth of topics it covers and details about what you are likely to deal with during and after your move to the Land of Eternal Spring.

Besides the usual topics you see in travel guides regarding the basic necessities of life such as water, food and transportation plus historical, cultural and geographical data, Ms. Enete gets down and dirty with the many details involved in actually living here. Her topics cut a wide swath:

  • Finding the ideal location within Costa Rica
  • Moving your stuff here
  • Renting versus buying a place to live
  • Software for communication and daily life
  • The Costa Rica legal system
  • Applying for residency (or not)
  • Going about setting up a business
  • Access to healthcare
  • ... and much more
 If it sounds like you might feel bogged down in the midst of Becoming an Expat Costa Rica's many details, never fear. Ms. Enete has an engaging, light, enthusiastic style of writing that makes for easy reading and absorption of material.

This is not to say that I don't have a few bones to pick with this first edition. Some of the book's deficiencies would likely only be noted by someone who gets paid for writing and has actually lived in Costa Rica for some years, namely me.

Perhaps a minor point, but the book could use at minimum proofreading and at best some professional editing. Typos and grammar mistakes abound. For example, in several places there are monetary calculations that are clearly wrong. The location of my own town of San Isidro de El General is misplaced in Heredia Province and the access to Chirripó National Park via Cartago is incorrect.

The organization is uneven as well. Often, material covered in one chapter re-appears as a sub-topic in a different chapter. Whereas most chapters attempt to be applicable to a variety of personal situations, the chapter on Family and Education is really only about education for schoolchildren. The important topic of car ownership and maintenance is inadequately covered. The information on each of Costa Rica's provinces is similarly brief, and in any case, could probably be skipped by simply referring to other sources.

Of course, one of the difficulties with a reference-oriented book such as this is that the details of the landscape are forever shifting. I noted that many facts are already out-of-date. Enete plans on regularly updated future editions and on maintaining a blog containing the most recent information. I wish her luck with that!

Most reviews of the book I have read so far, tout the 290 pages of material it contains, but I'd like to point out that pages are not information-dense. Plus, because of the number of topics she tries to cover in a single book, it really can't provide the depth many people desire. Instead of plumbing the depths, the book is a flat stone skipping across a pond. Perfect for beginners considering the expat life, but I'm afraid readers will quickly move on more detailed references.

Finally, despite Ms. Enete's assertion that:
"The words that follow are not sugar-coated like other international lifestyle
resources that attempt to sell you a dream. Included is the good, the
bad, the stuff in-between, and the stuff you would never have thought of."
the text is rife with positive superlatives and unbridled enthusiasm for Costa Rica. Who can blame her for that? However, anyone considering the journey to expat life might appreciate more information on the potential logistical, cultural and economic land mines that come with relocating to a different country.

All in all, I have to say that Shannon Enete's book makes a solid contribution to one's international library, physical or virtual. It's definitely a must-read for aspiring Costa Rica residents if for no other reason than it will open your eyes to previously unconsidered possibilities as well as the challenges of relocating your life to this beautiful country.

I give it three stars out of four.


  1. Nice job Casey. 3 out of 4 with all of those problems?

    1. Most of the problems are mechanical, though certain areas could be fleshed out. I rated from the point of view of someone who is seriously considering moving here, not as a jaded, seasoned CR expat for whom the tourist glasses fell off a few years ago. :D Shannon is a new author and she's pulled together a lot of information in one place and if she keeps to her promise to continually update and improve future editions, I think it's a winner.


Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey

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