Last Updated: Apr 16, 2012
Household expenses can range from very cheap to relatively expensive, and are generally equivalent to what many pay in the United States. In Costa Rica, the key to the household budget is whether a home operates under American or Costa Rican standards – American luxuries come at a considerable premium.
Generally, a traditional Costa Rican-style home does not have a central water heater (most have hot water in the shower only), has no clothes dryer, dishwashing machine, and is not air-conditioned. On the other hand, many of the newly-constructed American-style homes may offer the ultimate in luxury, including hot water in all faucets, top-of-the-line appliances, air conditioning in warmer climates, and may also subscribe to premium cable television and high-speed Internet service.
Water is relatively inexpensive in Costa Rica, and most monthly water bills amount to no more than $10 or $15. Low per-unit costs are not the only reason for cheap bills – many Costa Rican-style appliances are geared toward water conservation: Semi-automatic washing machines consume very little water, low-flow, on-demand showers save additional water and most dishes are washed by hand.
Approximately 84% of Costa Rica enjoys potable water – unless otherwise and specifically stated, you can drink the water in Costa Rica.
First 200 kWh: 68 CRC (13.5¢) per kWh
201-300 kWh: 125 CRC (25¢) per kWh over 200
301+: 133 CRC (26.5¢) per kWh over 300
ICE - Electricity Customer Service: 2442-0128
More than 75% of Costa Rican electricity is produced via hydropower or wind power. These environmentally-friendly methods provide not only guilt-free power, but fair electricity prices. To make prices even more accessible, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE, pronounced ee-say) prices electricity on a sliding scale – the more you consume, the higher your per-KWh rate.
To keep consumption down, Costa Ricans and budget-conscious expats use on-demand water heaters, electric shower heads and low-consumption appliances. In addition, neither heat nor air conditioning is necessary in the Central Valley, which greatly helps to reduce electric bills.
Like in the United States and Canada, Costa Rican electricity operates at 110 volts. Most older homes and hotels have two-prong outlets, which require an adapter for three-pronged appliances.
Home & Cell Phones
Home Phone Basic Monthly Rate: $4.00
Cell Phone Basic Monthly Rate: $6.50 (includes 60 minutes of call time)
ICE - Home Phone Customer Service: 1115
Both home phones and cellular phones work differently in Costa Rica than in North America. Instead of buying minute-based or unlimited-use plans, customers pay for their consumption only. Under this system, you pay for the calls you make, not those you receive. Cell phones are more expensive to call.
Amnet is one of two cable television companies in Costa Rica, and is very popular in the Central Valley’s more populated towns and cities. Amnet basic cable offers everything from local channels to your favorite U.S. channels, including ABC, NBC, HGTV, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and more. Movie channels such as HBO and Cinemax are also included in Amnet’s basic service. Premium digital cable gives access to premium movie channels, high definition television, DVR service and more.
Amnet Basic Cable: $34/month
Amnet Digital Cable: $7/month additional
Amnet Premium Digital Packages (HBO, MovieCity, etc.): $2-$8 each additional
Amnet HD: $10/month additional
Amnet Customer Service: 2210-2929
CableTica enjoys a strong presence throughout the country, though it is most common in rural areas. Basic cable is available in many small towns, with premium cable service focused mostly in larger cities in the Central Valley. CableTica’s basic service offers a range of channels, from local Costa Rican television and Latin American favorites to U.S. broadcast stations and dedicated movie channels such as HBO. Premium digital cable offers high definition channels, extended movie channels, DVR service and many music channels. Call ahead to determine services available in your area.
CableTica Basic Cable: $36/month
CableTica Digital Cable: $6.50/month additional + $2-14/month (rented converter box)
CableTica Premium Digital Packages: $8/month each; $20 all additional
CableTica HD: $4/month additional
CableTica Customer Service: 2520-7777
Though SKY television is based out of Mexico, many U.S. channels are available. This service offers reliable satellite television, though reception varies with the weather. SKY is available throughout Costa Rica, wherever there is line-of-sight access to the satellite. For those living in rural areas, this is the only premium television provider.
SKY Basic Satellite: Approximately $32/month + equipment rental
SKY Movie City: Approximately $42/month + equipment rental
SKY HBO/Max: Approximately $47/month + equipment rental
SKY Universe: Approximately $55/month + equipment rental
SKY Customer Service: 2205-5151
Household help in Costa Rica is considerably less expensive than in the United States or Europe. A part-time housekeeper or gardener will charge $2-$3 per hour. A full-time, live-in housekeeper costs $278 per month, plus food and lodging. Other occasional helpers -- handymen, painters, etc. -- charge similarly low rates, usually less than 10% of their American or European equivalent.