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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 03/28/2023

Living Abroad vs. Traveling Abroad?

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

Living abroad has been an amazing, life-changing experience for me.  Not only have I found a new career path and business, I have found a second home.  Some people face challenges as they move abroad, however, as they don't consider the differences in living abroad and traveling abroad.

The most important thing to remember is that your goals for vacationing in a different country will be different than your objectives of moving abroad to live and work.  When traveling, you're obviously going for a short time and your budget will probably include some extravagant spending that you wouldn't normally do.   Also, we normally participate in activities designed for tourists and don't really experience the local culture or meet many people from the area when on vacation.  Let's talk about these things more. 


Whether you are on vacation or living abroad, you always have to ask yourself which you are willing to sacrifice:  time or money?  Normally while traveling short-term, you chose to give up the money in order to maximize your time.  When living abroad in Latin America, you will probably have a salary that is smaller than what you are used to, so you will need to strongly consider this as you make your choices.  Find ways to explore and experience life abroad without breaking the bank. 

For instance, stay in hostels, airbnbs or sign up to CouchSurf  instead of staying at hotels, and although the all-inclusive "deals" are tempting, it's not a great idea to drop 300USD in one weekend when you're salary only allows you to break even.  Even though Ubers are cheaper than red taxis and both are cheaper in Costa Rica than back home, take public transportation like the bus or the train. 

Camping in Costa Rica

The small local restaurants in Costa Rica known as "sodas" serve incredible food at a great price (I mean, 5USD for rice, beans, meat, salad and a drink!), so skip the fast food and fancy restaurants.  Buy your meat at the central markets (each town has one!) and your produce at the "ferias" (farmers' markets).  Then shop around for everything else you need for groceries.  There is a large variety of super markets from small, neighborhood markets to Walmart and Auto Mercado that have lots of imported products. Many foreigners living abroad have to give up certain products they had been used to, like Nutella or coffee creamer, but make a budget and do your best to stick to it.

Budgeting in Costa Rica

Another thing to seriously consider is the frequency of your trips back home.  I know some may think this makes me heartless, but you probably won't be able to fly back home for all your friends' and family members' events.  The number of birthdays, weddings and even funerals I have missed is quite unbelievable, but I just simply cannot afford to do it all. 

Experiencing Culture & Meeting Locals

While vacationing, we often spend our time and money on activities designed for tourists, not for the locals.  So although we may feel like we are getting a cultural experience, it might not be that authentic.  As previously mentioned, take public transportation, eat and shop where the locals shop, and you will quickly find yourself learning more about the Costa Rican culture as the locals see it. 

We've already talked about making friends with locals while living abroad, but take our tips seriously!  Not only will your experience be heightened greatly, you will also get the inside scoop on things to do and see while you live and work in Costa Rica.  Your Costa Rican friends can fill you in on the hole-in-a-wall bars and how to get places faster and cheaper.  You will find out how the locals really celebrate and how they live life to the fullest on their set income. 

Take the time to ask yourself what you really want from your time abroad!  Not yet registered for one of our TEFL courses? Contact us today!

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