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Heredia offers a relaxed lifestyle while living in a city, and its convenient Central Valley location, near the capital and the Juan Santamaria International Airport, make it one of the most desirable cities to live in Costa Rica. Find out more about living in the City of Flowers in this article.

Heredia's spring-like temperatures and safe neighbourhoods make it one of Costa Rica's most popular places for expats to live, and its diverse mix of offerings attracts people of all ages and backgrounds. For many, it is considered to offer the best of both worlds — both the peace of the countryside and the convenience of a city. In Heredia, you can live in the mountains, while only being a 30-minute bus ride away from a shopping mall or cinema.

In spite of its rapid development and large population, this historic city still retains the feel of a countryside community with charming colonial architecture (you can even expect to see cars sharing the road with horseback riders and farmers leading their cows to pasture).

However, it is also a mini-metropolis in the foothills of Barva Volcano, and the municipality is continuing to build new infrastructure and public facilities to cater for everyone that lives, works and studies there. It is also close to other major metropolitan areas, such as San Jose, Escazu and Alajuela, and a large expat community lives in this Central Valley region. This means that there is an abundance of English speakers in the area, who should be able to help you with any challenges that may arise.

Heredia is surrounded by nature in all its glory — coffee plantations carpet the hillsides, a volcano towers nearby, verdant vegetation and colourful flora abound. However, the city and suburbs also boast much to do in the form of entertainment, and you can find museums, restaurants, art exhibitions, theatre performances, and dance clubs in the downtown area. Meanwhile, if you head up into the mountains, you can pass your time in local parks, public swimming pools, and laid-back cafes. The Monte de la Cruz Park in San Rafael de Heredia is considered to be a particularly lovely place, with picnic grounds, hiking trails and incredible views.

As well as technology companies that are driving growth and providing jobs in the area, the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (Costa Rica National University) and several Spanish language institutes are also based in Heredia, making it a popular place for students. This university has one of the most acclaimed veterinarian schools in Central America and is also known for its marine biology department.

Where to live

Heredia has a wide variety of properties that you can buy or rent. Accommodation ranges from modest and affordable Costa Rican-style homes, to modern condominiums, gated communities and luxurious mansions up in the mountains. With so much choice, you are sure to find something that meets your needs.

Where you choose to live depends on your requirements and what you enjoy. Many young foreigners tend to gravitate towards the areas where there is nightlife and the under-30 expat community, while couples with children tend to stick close to the international schools, and the retirees tend to appreciate the quiet suburbs, which also provide convenient access to top medical facilities.

If you wish to live an urban lifestyle and enjoy restaurants, shopping, and arts and culture on your doorstep, then you may wish to consider living in San Francisco, Santo Domingo, San Joaquin or Belen. However, if what you're really after is a slow pace, a serene lifestyle and breathtaking mountain or valley views, then San Jose de la Montana, Barva, Santa Barbara, San Rafael or San Isidro may be more up your alley. Each neighbourhood has its own unique flavour, so it's worth visiting all of them before you decide where to call home.

The good news is that Heredia generally offers a relatively high standard of living for a low price. Many services are readily available, and most people can afford to enjoy a semi-furnished, multiple bedroomed home with cable TV, a landline and high-speed internet at home. However, rent can vary greatly depending on your tastes and requirements — you can find a comfortable apartment for US$500 per month or splash out on a mountain mansion that sets you back over US$3,000 per month. Prices tend to be a direct reflection of the location (living in the city centre tends to cost more than living in rural, suburban areas), type of property, and any amenities included. Locations further away from the major metropolitan area are more budget-friendly than those closer to the major centres of Escazu and San Jose.

The cost of basic utilities in Heredia compares favourably with other Central Valley communities, and the city's moderate temperatures means that you don't have to always use air conditioning, which really cranks up your electricity bill. Heredia also has a weekly farmers' market, which is a great place to get fresh produce at cheap prices. If you are careful with your money, it is possible to live well on a relatively small budget, which frees up more funds to splurge on the fun stuff, such as travelling around this beautiful country.

Public transport tends to also be extensive, cheap and reliable throughout the Central Valley, and many expats choose to take the bus everywhere, especially as taxes on imported cars are very high. Just be aware that getting to other cities from Heredia isn’t as convenient as it would be from San Jose, so you may wish to take the hit and buy a car, or prepare to plan around the bus schedule when you venture further afield.

Finding accommodation

Living in Heredia comes with challenges as in every city. Most parts are considered safe, but do be aware that crime can be a problem in some of the neighbouring communities. It's a good idea to do your research about the safest places to live so that you don't have to worry as much about burglaries and petty theft.

There is a very strong and supportive expat community in the region, so it's worth attending networking events or joining an interest group (there are plenty that meet on a regular basis) to make like-minded friends when you arrive, as well as garner advice on where to live and the best way to go about securing your accommodation.

It's worth giving yourself time to explore as many different areas as possible before you sign a long-term lease. Don't buy a home or even sign a long-term contract before seeing as much as possible. You can start your research online on a specialised rental website to get an idea of what's available and where, or contact an estate agent directly for guidance.

 Useful links:

Costa Rica Real Estate

Costa Rica-Heredia

Century 21 Global

Expat.com

Heredia Official Portal (directory)

Busco mi casa

InmoTico

Mercado free

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