Depending on how and where you live, you will experience substantial savings on utility costs in Costa Rica, living in this Central American paradise. There is no need to pay heating bills anywhere in the country–a huge saving over the $300 per month you pay for heat in northern climates just to survive the winter! Water is abundant and high quality. Phone, Internet and cable TV packages are reasonably priced.
Other than housing, electricity will be the biggest expense for you. If you choose to live in the beautiful Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa areas, you will likely need to air condition your residence to some extent. Not only do temperatures remain around 70-90 degrees all year long, but the average humidity is between 70-90% during the month of May through November depending on your exact location. Mid-November through April the humidity averages from 25-60%. Without AC, your home may be too hot and humid for you to feel comfortable, and you may also find it a challenge to stay ahead of mold and mildew growth. However, ceiling fans will alleviate this, depending on how you like it.
So, what can you expect your monthly electricity bill to look like? A two-bedroom, 1000 square foot house will cost about $125 per month to cool. If you only cool your bedroom at night, your cost could be around $80 a month. If you run two or three AC units all day and night in a larger home, your monthly bill could reach $400. It all depends on your standard of living and how you feel comfortable.
Some have wondered why electricity costs are so high in a Third World country that gets most of its electricity from renewable sources. Some expats believe they are victims of “gringo pricing,” meaning they believe that the local utility knows that they are foreigners and charges them more than their Tico neighbors. That is absolutely false! The truth is however, your electricity bill IS likely higher than your Tico neighbors because the electric company’s rates favor low consumption. Coopeguanacaste is the electricity provider for the area. It charges 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the first 200 used. After that, the rate increases to 15 cents per kWh. The Ticos simply consume less energy, so they may stay below the 200 kWh threshold. Even in very hot climates, most locals do not air condition their homes. Generally speaking, they have smaller refrigerators and stoves than their foreign neighbors, and they do not use (or in some cases even own) energy-sucking appliances such as water heaters, ovens, toasters, clothes dryers or hair dryers. If you are accustomed to using these types of appliances then, yes, your utility bill will be significantly higher than your Tico neighbor’s.
So, depending on where you lived before moving to Costa Rica, and how much electricity you consume now that you are here, your monthly utility bill could be lower or higher than you are accustomed to. It is really quite unique to each individual.
Phone, Internet and cable TV packages run about $80 a month. There are several companies offering these services. Kolbi and Claro offer phone, cable and Internet bundles. Movistar is a cellphone service, and CableTica and Sky Satelite offer satellite TV and Internet packages. Most offer excellent services, but it is important to do your homework and see what services are the best in your area and have the most attractive prices. Talk to neighbors and other expats for recommendations.
Costa Rica doesn’t have city gas, only tanks of propane gas, which can be purchased in most small grocery stores. You only buy the tank the first time; after that, when your tank runs out, you simply exchange it for a full one, paying only for the actual propane.
As far as sewage goes, it is “to each his own.” There are a couple of exceptions in upscale neighborhoods in San Jose and Escazu where there are community sewage lines, but in the rest of the country each home or condominium complex has it own septic tank or other wastewater treatment system.
Garbage pickup is typically done twice a week and is the responsibility of the municipality where the property is located. The cost is minimal and is paid when you pay other municipal taxes.
Costa Rica has excellent quality water which is readily available and reasonably priced. Monthly bills for water for normal household usage will be $10-15 per month. If you are watering your lawn and garden every day, that is a different story. Your real estate agent can let you know the particulars of the availability of water in your specific area.
As most expats will confirm, life in Costa Rica may cost less than where you lived before, but it will most certainly be a happier, healthier life that you lived before!
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