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Cost of Living

Last Updated: Feb 05, 2013

cost of living
 - Costa Rica

Living in Costa Rica gives you the freedom to spend almost as little or much as you choose; while many things are inexpensive, North American-style luxuries can add up. Despite this fact, life in Costa Rica is generally less expensive than an equivalent lifestyle in the United States, Canada or Europe, as many expatriates will happily attest.

Monthly Budget

Those expats interested in simple living should budget $1500 or less monthly. Generally, this budget allows for bus rides and the occasional taxi, big trips to the farmers' market and a few restaurant meals each month. Others choose to retire or live in relative luxury, employing full-time housekeepers, commuting by car, enjoying exquisite homes and consuming imported goods. In the Central Valley, such lifestyles can easily amount to $3000 or more monthly.

Housing

Rents in rural areas and select urban areas hover around $300-$600 for a well-furnished apartment or small home. At this price, renters can expect Costa Rican-style amenities, which may include line-drying laundry and bathrooms equipped with electric shower heads. A lavish three-bedroom home near San Jose complete with granite countertops, Jacuzzi bathtubs and hot water heater starts at approximately $1500 monthly, and can cost much more.

Food & Dining

Food costs in Costa Rica largely depend on personal preferences. At a moderately-priced sit-down restaurant, a salad, main course and glass of wine will cost $15-20 per person. At sodas, the Costa Rican version of the neighborhood mom-and-pop, a full meal plus natural fruit drink will only run you $2-4. For those who enjoy cooking at home, groceries run the price gamut, and depend heavily on whether you consume imported or local goods. For example, an exhaustive trip to your local farmers' market will cost $20-40, and can provide a small family with the fruits, vegetables, meats and fish necessary for a week’s worth of meals. On the other hand, purchasing expensive meats, imported wines and other premium goods at Auto Mercado, a grocery chain that specializes in high-end foodstuffs, could cost more than $200 per week for a small family.

Goods & Services

Remember that as a general rule, services and labor are inexpensive, but many goods are more expensive than back home. In other words, A housekeeper may charge $2 per hour, but a new car can cost almost twice as much as in the United States. (Used cars can be bought for only slightly more than their North American equivalents.) Gas and diesel are expensive here, usually costing $1-$2 more per gallon than in the U.S.

Entertainment

The extra money spent on transportation is easily recouped in entertainment costs – trips to museums, outdoor concerts and street fairs generally run less than $5 per person. Most concerts and traveling shows cost the same as in other countries. For outdoor entertainment, Costa Rica’s extensive park system, wildlife adventures and gardens will satisfy any nature enthusiast. Be aware that tourists (anyone not legally classified as a resident or citizen) pay entrance fees (usually $10-$20), though proceeds help support the country’s national parks and private reserves.

Health Care

Medical care in Costa Rica is of high quality and very inexpensive. Currently, residents have three options: private insurance, subscription to the CCSS (Costa Rican Social Security) or a combination of the two. Through INS (the National Insurance Institute), private medical insurance costs about $60-$130/month per person. Through the Caja’s public service, insurance for a family (two adults and their under-18 dependents) will cost $30-$50/month. Note that all legal residents are required to pay membership in the Caja. For those under age 55, Caja payments include a mandatory pension payment, which will be paid out beginning at age 65.

Cost Comparison Chart:

United States v/s Costa Rica

United States
Average ($)

Costa Rica
Average ($)

Average Gross National Income (per capita)

$47,390

$6,810

Housing (comparable 3 bedroom, 2 bath) 

$1000-3000

$500-1200

Gasoline (per gallon of regular) 

$3.00

$5.00

ADSL Internet monthly (1024/512 kb/sec) 

$34.95

$28.25

Home Phone Service (basic monthly fee)

$29.95

$7.00

Cell Phone (450/500 anytime minutes, plus taxes) 

$39.99 

$35.75

Cable TV (basic /monthly) 

$39.99

$37.00

Water (per unit m3) 

$.61

$.48

Electricity (average cost per kWh)

$.1063

$.11

Private Health Care (average annual cost of individual health plan for male 55-59 yrs)

$3695

$1300

Car (purchase price for 2011 Toyota RAV4)

$22,475

$36,000

Movie Ticket average cost

$12.00

$5.00

Housekeeper or Gardener (average pay / hour)

$9.00

$2.00

Haircut (in a beauty salon)

$18.00 & Up

$3.00 & Up

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