The Cost Of Living In Costa Rica

Hummingbird in Costa Rica

Table of Contents

If you’ve found your perfect tropical home or if you plan to retire to Costa Rica, like so many other Americans, we have good news. It’s cheaper! Of course, it all depends on where in Costa Rica you’re thinking about moving, because living in a beach resort will cost you quite a bit of cash more than other areas.

Another thing you will enjoy is universal healthcare. For a monthly fee of up to $50 your whole family will be covered. The average monthly cost for one person is $1500, but it can go up depending on each individual’s lifestyle. Let’s break down the list of expenses and see why the cost of living in Costa Rica is so much lower.

Housing & Utilities

Renting a one-bedroom apartment costs between $350 and $500, depending on the location, and around $800 for a three-bedroom in the city. If you’re thinking about buying a home or an apartment, it can be tricky. Mortgages are not easy to get, so you’ll have to pay in full.

Costa Rica buying houses

The property market is blooming in Costa Rica because of the low cost of around $150/ sq ft. According to research, the province of Alajuela is the most affordable when it comes to both renting and buying a home or an apartment.

The good news is that you don’t need heating in Costa Rica. The bad news is that you need air conditioning. Most of your utilities will go on electricity and internet, but the total only goes up to $120 (well depending on how much the AC runs) which is not half bad compared to the US.

Food & Transportation

Most of the monthly expenses tend to go on food in Costa Rica. The prices are very affordable, and you have healthy options, considering the farmer’s market is a big deal here. It’s worth to keep in mind that buying local products will be much cheaper than buying imported ones, a fact that applies to food and household items as well.

Local Food Costa Rica

If you want to get away with a smaller grocery bill of around $150/month, avoid shopping around resorts or in areas with a high population of foreign residents. Dining out is a luxury that most of us love. Expect to pay around $7/ person at an inexpensive restaurant, and $20 at a mid-range restaurant. The restaurants in beach resorts cost more.

When it comes to driving your own car or a rental you won’t be happy to know the price of gas is always about $2 higher than the price of gas in the US. However, public transportation is affordable, a bus ticket costing 80 cents and $1.70/mile for a cab. 

If we were to look at where your $1700 would go monthly we would see the following statistic:

  • Groceries and household items: 36.6%
  • Rent: 21.3%
  • Dining out: 14.4%
  • Transportation: 11.8%
  • Utilities (including medical): 5.2%

That will leave you with 11.6% of your budget to spent on what your heart desires. If you’re thinking about moving here, it’s always better to make a comparison between your current country of residence and Costa Rica Central America.

Moving requirements

Now, if we convinced you that moving to Costa Rica is definitely not a bad move, you need to be aware of the immigration requirements. U.S. citizens don’t need a tourist visa, and you could use these 90 days to explore your options. Visit different cities and explore the property market to find the best area that suits your needs and your budget.

Also, try the food, discuss with the locals and find the place where you would be excited to call “home”. If you do want to move, start making arrangements. Keep in mind that you must have “proof of return” in order to be allowed entry for these 90 days. 

To complete your move, you must apply to the Pensioner Program or Rentista Program. The first one requires applicants to have an income of at least $1000 a month, and the second program requires them to have an income of at least $2000 a month. The ones who are approved for these two programs will be required to contribute to the Social Security Fund.

Benefits of living in Costa Rica

The first one, as expected, is the feeling of being on vacation every day, due to the beautiful surroundings, weather, and easy access to stunning natural attractions. The beaches, waterfalls, tropical forests, and rich biodiversity will give you something new to discover every day. 

Costa Rica Beach

Aside from always having something to do, Costa Rica has one of the highest standards of life in Latin America. Public transportation is available, and because the country is so, is easy to travel from one place to another if you don’t have a car. Health insurance is a lot cheaper than in the USA, and the public hospitals are well-equipped, but everyone has the option to purchase a plan for private insurance as well if they wish to do so. Taxes in general are quite low as well.

When it comes to politics and political crises, Costa Rica is quite neutral. The country is well-known for having a stable political environment, and its residents don’t have to stress much about it. 

Food is a lot healthier than in the US because the country focuses on local produce. This is cheaper than the imported food in the supermarkets, so it will be a win-win situation for you.

Cons of living in Costa Rica

The country is quite safe, however, if you’re wanting to escape the crowded urban life, avoid moving to San Jose. The city has one of the highest population densities in the country, is way too crowded. If there are any crimes against expats, that would be the place they happen. There have been reports of thefts targeted towards them.

Because it can be quite far from some cities in the US, if you have a big group of friends or family, don’t plan many visits. Despite US citizens having open borders as tourists, these visas can be given at certain intervals. The immigration policy for Costa Rica is time-consuming in general, which is why it deserves a place on this list.

One of the things that expats have been complaining about is the difficulty to integrate into a local community, because of cultural differences.

Not all locals will receive foreign neighbors with open arms, and not all communities of expats are welcoming either. Put everything in the balance very carefully before choosing the community which you’re planning on calling “home”. Learn about local life and customs and see if you would be able to fit in.

If you own a car or plan to get one after you move, you should keep in mind that road infrastructure is not the best, definitely not as good as in the US. You’ll often find potholes and roads that are not well-maintained, especially when traveling out of the city.

Overall, Costa Rica is a safe and affordable country to live in. Do your research when it comes to relocating here and start planning way in advance. You can find more information and advice on the official website.

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