Living in Costa Rica – Everyone knows that the ability to support oneself whilst on the road is paramount to how long one can stay abroad- and in a country as beautiful as Costa Rica- who’d blame you for wanting to stay forever. It’s a safe assumption that this is the reason why so many English speaking international travellers you meet within the country are pursuing work within the TEFL field. But what if you are not suited to teaching yet would still like to earn your daily bread whilst travelling around? With my tattoos, scruffy appearance and minimal knowledge of American English (yes, it differs from Australian) I found myself in this very situation. Through first-hand experience, here are a few alternative occupations that might help to change your perspective on the matter.
Hostels, Hotels and Cabinas– Sure, at one stage or another you’re likely to stay in one, but have you considered working in one? Those beds don’t book themselves, and many hostel owners- especially American ex-pats –prefer to hire travellers. Depending on the establishment and how long you plan on sticking around, hotel wages start as low as bed-and-board for entry level positions, right up to a few hundred dollars a week for managerial roles. Once you have accustomed yourself to hotel living you’ll find that the work is quite easy and quite rewarding at times. What’s more is that these places of work are excellent environments for making new friends and networking.
Bars– If you have experience and knowledge of how to mix a good Mojito, Pisco, Daiquiri or Ice Tea then you’re already a cut above much of the local competition vying for these types jobs. Be sure to make yourself familiar with the terms ‘sarpe’ and ‘sarpesito’ prior to serving at any local bar or nightclub.
Park guides– If you’re an outdoorsy type, have a keen eye for local fauna/flora and a passion for conservation then this job is right up your alley. Costa Rica isn’t short on its parks and the smaller, lesser known ones are usually crying out for bi-lingual guides (i.e. English/Spanish). Although many of these positions are ‘volunteer only’ for foreigners, if you deal with the right people then surely something can be arranged.
Artisan– Crafty? Good with your hands? No, I’m not promoting pickpocketing, but jewellery, weaving, beading and trinket crafts are all types of things that can be made and sold quite easily whilst on the road. If you’re especially skilled and productive there are numerous locations around the country where you can even set up a street stall for a small fee.
Groundskeeping/housesitting/maintenance– Although any one of these three tasks might be considered to be ’underneath’ a lot of people from western cultures, if you’re serious about earning your keep then this line of work should be a breeze. Besides, I don’t really think there’s such a thing as ‘labour intensive work’ within Costa Rica- even the tough jobs are fairly relaxed. Truth be told, there are a fair deal of expats who split their time between Costa Rica and their homelands- those of which are in need of people to keep their properties in order whilst they are away. At the very least you will get a discounted rental rate and some will even pay. Personally, the real reward was getting down and dirty with the real Tico way of life, even if that meant earning a Tico wage.
Busking– No matter where you are in the world, if all else fails…
(Note: It is illegal for foreigners to work in Costa Rica without permits or temp residency, and a basic understanding of Spanish is a bare minimum for most of aforementioned jobs).