Cost of Living in Costa Rica
Most American, Canadian, and European expats in Costa Rica spend much less money on day-to-day expenses than they do in their home countries. Cost of living, of course, depends on lifestyle. But in many ways Costa Rica is much more affordable than back home.
The minimum needed for a decent standard of living for a single person ranges from $1,500 to $2,000 a month. Many retired couples do well on $2,000 to $3,000 a month. That includes all costs, including housing, transportation, medical care, utilities, food, and entertainment. Real estate, whether you rent or buy, is more affordable in Costa Rica, with North American-style homes in great locations reasonably priced.
Medical care is high quality and low cost, with legal resident expats enjoying use of the government-run universal healthcare system known as Caja. For a low monthly fee based on income, you get doctor’s visits, prescriptions, surgeries…any care you need…for free. Private clinics and hospitals are also a fraction of the price if you pay cash—and insurance is available, too.
When it comes to food, it pays to shop and eat out like a local. The feria, or weekly open-air farmers’ market, is an institution in just about any Costa Rican town or village. There you can find farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, beef and chicken, eggs, dairy products, bread, coffee, and more. Prices are low…$1 pineapples…a pound of red snapper for $4…a head of lettuce for 50 cents…fistfuls of herbs like basil for 25 cents—you can fill your fridge for about $30 per week for a couple.
Keep in mind that many beach destinations that are popular with tourists will be more expensive to live in on average because prices for dinners out and grocery stores tend to be more expensive. And you will use air conditioning, which drives up your electric bill. Still, wherever you are in Costa Rica, there are many ways to save.
Here are some average monthly expenses for living in Costa Rica:
Condo (large, luxurious): $500 to $900
Home (two or three bedroom): $500 to $1,200
(The higher rental prices are for homes in popular beach destinations.)
Electricity (house): $75 to $100 (Central Valley); $100 to $200 (on the beaches)
Water/sewage (apartment): $12
Cable TV: $40
High-speed internet (ADSL): $25
Maid/gardener: $2 per hour/$200 a month full-time
*Prices as of 2016
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