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Tips for starting a business in Costa Rica

Tips for starting a business in Costa Rica

8 Tips Dutch entrepreneurs can use to start a business in Costa Rica

It’s not so easy to start a new business, and it’s even harder to start one in another country. It all sounds so great when you tell your friends and family “Ik emigreer naar Costa Rica”.

Some friends will really wish you well. Others will respect you more from then on. But there are others that will hate you for it. Because you dare to do something like that. That fact should give you enough energy and character to make it a successful decision.

I started an adventure just like it in February 1980. I’ve been through hell and back, and I’ve been in paradise. But looking back, I have never regretted the decision of moving here and to start a business in Costa Rica.

To start a business in Costa Rica, or in any country where people speak a different language and have totally different habits, you really need to have one essential quality: courage.

Is there any difference when your company sends you to start a business in Costa Rica or doing it on your own? A salary check at the end of the month might make up for some of the hardship and culture bumps for those who relocate for their company. Something that those who are on their own risk don’t have.

Although times are quite different from when I moved to Costa Rica to start a business, there are a few tips that you might be able to use to your advantage.

1.The language

Oh yes, a lot of people speak English in Costa Rica, but not everyone. Depending a lot on the education level of your future employees, you might do better getting comfortable with the basics of the Spanish language. You might have to deal with a lot of financerr employees when you start a business, who do NOT speak anything but Spanish.


Dutch grow up using their brain matter well. Dutch think ahead and do things the logical way. In Costa Rica, logic is often way different than your logic is. Don’t fight it, it won’t get you anywhere. Accept it and move on.

3.Red tape

Permitting, getting registered with the Caja and tax authorities means red tape. A lot of it. You won’t get a nice list of what to do and what to bring. They’ll feed you the information and request documents needed by bits and pieces. Don’t despair, bring a book!

4.It’s mine

When you start a business with a low wage work force, you will need to find ways to protect what’s yours. They find amazing ways to smuggle out anything that belongs to the company. Dutch are not used to people who are poor and struggling, we don’t even think about it. Often it’s a matter of sheer survival. Some reason that “the company has a lot more than I have”.

5.Hire the right people

It’s not easy to hire the right people. Ticos have different work ethics and goals in life. Those employees that are used to a foreign work environment usually have a better feeling for what is important and how to deal with priorities.



  1. Decision taking

Not accepting responsibilities is quite engrained in the culture, depending on the education of the employee. “It fell” instead of “I dropped it” is a common posture for not accepting the consequences of a mistake, which affect decision taking,


Start by hiring a good accountant. Ask other members of Holland House for recommendations. A capable accountant is a primary source to start a business in Costa Rica. It’s the best start you can have.


Traffic is hell in most of the Central Valley. If that is where you’re going to start a business, first look for the school for the kids that you like best. Then look for an office or warehouse space. Keep the choice of home you’re going to rent or buy for last. We can assist professionally in both commercial and residential real estate.

Get ahead of the crowd and learn more about your new home country, Costa Rica. Check out Ivo’s Blog , weekly crammed with hints and tips about real estate, how to prevent culture shock and general information.

Ivo Henfling is a Dutch national, resident in Costa Rica since 1980 and a Costa Rica real estate broker for over 20 years. He is the founder of GoDutch Realty, with offices in several locations in the Central Valley, including Escazú, Atenas, Cariari and Grecia. Ivo can be reached at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at [email protected]


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