Note: this article was updated in November 2022
What does it cost to live in Costa Rica? Many North Americans and Europeans ask this question before they make the move. They dream of a better life in paradise but often wonder if they can afford it.
Well I have great news! According to data on the website numbeo.com, the average cost of living in Costa Rica (including food, utilities, health care, and transportation) is 32% lower than the United States. Rent is factored separately, and it’s 64% less in Costa Rica (if you average all U.S. cities).
However, averages can sometimes be deceiving. So what does it really cost to live in Costa Rica?
There are some aspects of life in Costa Rica which are more expensive than in North America, and others are considerably less. Living in Costa Rica on a budget depends on the lifestyle you want to live and are accustomed to.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite—food. There are plenty of deals to be had, and fortunately, fresh fruits and vegetables are one of them. Playa del Coco has a variety of places to purchase great produce from. You can shop at local vendors such as Los Cartagos or one of the many open air markets. The prices are so low that you can fill two big bags for $20-30. Many vendors even offer free samples so you can try before you buy. (Check out this past blog for more info on produce https://blog.costarican-american-connection.com/fresh-fruit-and-vegetable-produce-in-costa-rica/)
But you may not want to turn vegan just yet… There are so many great butcher shops with very reasonable prices as well! Just last week I purchased a complete “lomito” or full tenderloin of beef, AKA-filet mignon. The price was $8.75 per pound all cleaned up ready to cut into steaks. Now you can’t beat that! Living right on the beach also means you have access to the freshest seafood. You can purchase fish, shrimp, and lobster all directly from the fisherman for half the price!
Have a taste for your favorite brand of beer, chips, or other processed foods from your home country? Then you will probably pay a premium if you decide to buy them. Basically any imported products will cost more in Costa Rica because of the additional costs of transportation and importation tax. Having said that, many of the local brands are as good if not better than “favorites” from back home. So buying local is a great way to reduce the cost of living in Costa Rica.
Transportation costs are a mixed bag. Bus service is VERY inexpensive and available in most areas, but the schedule may not be to your liking. A one-hour bus ride is only about $1. Taxis and Uber are another reasonably priced option if the trip is not too long. If you like the convenience and flexibility of owning your own vehicle, you may be shocked to learn that the purchase price can be almost 40% more than what you would have paid in your home country for a new car.
So how can you reduce the cost of living in Costa Rica? Some choose to drive a vehicle that’s older than what they used to own. Keep in mind, gasoline is also more expensive in Costa Rica than in North America and Europe but you may not need to drive nearly as many miles once you switch to the laid-back Costa Rica lifestyle. (Check out this past blog for more info on transportation https://blog.costarican-american-connection.com/cars-golf-carts-buses-or-horses/)
Rent can consume a large portion of the budget. How much? Once again, it depends on how and where you live. Rent tends to run higher in popular beach areas, especially if the home offers all the amenities you enjoyed before and has an ocean view. On the other hand, simpler homes within a short drive of the beach can be quite affordable. If you own your own home, property taxes are remarkably low, Only .25% of the assessed registered value. Basically $250.00 U.S. dollars per year for every $100,000.00 of registered value. As a real estate agent, I can help you sort out the options and find the one that’s right for your budget.
Electricity is expensive in Costa Rica, it can be as much as twice the amount per kwh than many places in North America. On the brightside, Costa Rica generates electricity from 100% renewable resources. Water along with internet and cable packages are quite comparable to prices in the United States. (Check out this past blog for more info on utilities https://blog.costarican-american-connection.com/utility-costs-costa-rica-much/)
Costa Rica healthcare offers great savings compared to costs in the U.S. As an example, when I visit my cardiologist the fee is $120.00 plus tax. Those who become Costa Rican residents are required to enroll in the national health care system called the “caja”. For a relatively low monthly fee, your visits to the clinic, hospital, and some prescriptions will all be free. (Check out this past blog for more info on healthcare https://blog.costarican-american-connection.com/healthcare-costa-rica-versus-us/)
When you add it all up, what does it cost to live in Costa Rica? In very general terms, a single person could live well on $1,500 a month, and a couple on $2,500. But as the aforementioned examples illustrate, your results may vary. Depending on your lifestyle, those estimates could be high or low for you. So come on down and see for yourself. Costa Rica just might be what you’re looking for.
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