If living large without spending much is your thing, you’d be thrilled to learn that the cost of living in Costa Rica is quite attractive for an adventurer like yourself!
Of course, finding the happiest country to live and work in is everyone’s dream, so moving to sun-soaked Costa Rica might be more than a decent option.
Costa Rica is a magical land, boasting world-renowned beaches, remarkable hospitality, and interestingly, the most cost-friendly residence options. Without a doubt, Costa Rica makes a go-to destination for countless travellers across the globe.
Well, if you are someone who thrives in tropical weather, busy streets, and a laid-back lifestyle, Costa Rica will impress you in all of the above.
The amazing food, serene landscapes, and pleasant climate year-round make the country suitable for anyone who loves obtaining peace of mind without overspending.
> Read more: Guide to Costa Rica for digital nomads.
Below, let’s look at the many factors that make Costa Rica a fine destination to reside in – from living costs to food, entertainment, travelling expenses, and renting.
Stay tuned as we go into detail on the overall cost of living in Costa Rica.
Cost of Living in Costa Rica
The Northern Lowlands, Central Pacific, Central Valley, South Pacific, Caribbean Coast, and the North Pacific are the six main regions Costa Rica belongs to.
Generally, the cost of living in Costa Rica can differ from one experience to the next. This all depends on factors such as the city you plan to live in, as well as accommodation, travel, food, shopping sprees, and others.
Nevertheless, an estimated monthly cost of living in Costa Rica includes:
- Accommodation, from $500 to $1,000;
- Food and groceries, $400;
- Phone bills and internet expenses, $75;
- Transportation (car rental, bus, taxi), $150;
- Entertainment, such as gym, nightlife, and tours, $250.
Altogether, the maximum monthly expenses in Costa Rica might round up to $1875.
General estimation aside, don’t take these costs for granted, as the expenses may vary. For example, if you live on the coastline, you’ll definitely be using and paying for an air conditioner. This expense alone can kick your monthly costs for up to $300.
Utility Costs (Electricity, gas, internet, water)
Electricity is the greatest utility cost Costaricans experience.
The price comes as a result of the necessity for continuous air conditioning, and throughout the entire year. If not using an air conditioner all year long, the high temperatures and the average humidity of the climate can cause serious property damage in terms of mould and mildew. A bummer, I know, but a necessity as well.
|Electricity||50 – 70||28,300 – 39,600|
|Water||10 – 15||5,700 – 8,500|
|WiFi||20 – 50||11,300 – 28,300|
|Basic Cable||30 – 40||17,000 – 22,600|
|A gallon of milk||5.70||3,200|
|A loaf of bread||1.70||980|
|An egg dozen||2.80||1,600|
|A pound of potatoes||4.20||2,400|
Alcohol and Food Prices
When it comes to the cost of living in Costa Rica, you’d be happy to learn alcohol and food are particularly affordable.
From an expat’s experience, regular grocery stores are great for saving money and making the most of discounts. Also, there are plenty of supermarkets around the country, which leaves room for product price fluctuation. For instance, stores located in the more popular areas will likely sell their goods at higher prices.
If you want to have good management of the overall cost when living in Costa Rica, always ask locals for grocery shopping recommendations. Moreover, make sure to check for food stands at the local farmers’ markets. Here you’ll find fresh products at reasonable prices.
Average Costs for Eating Out at Restaurant
Same as the grocery shopping, eating out in restaurants or having a drink or two at the bar is relatively inexpensive, that is, if you know where to go, of course. More frequent places, usually tourist-places have nearly double the prices of meals and drinks.
Below you will find prices in the USA and CRC on the subject.
|Meal for two (cheap)||14||8,000|
|Meal for two (mid-range)||50||30,000|
|Latte at a café||2.80||1,600|
Transportation and Travel Cost
Reasonable prices can be expected on the travel and transportation subject when talking about the cost of living in Costa Rica.
Whether you own a car or choose to use the public transportation system for travel, Costa Rica offers quite affordable prices for both. A wide network, reasonable rates, and frequent stops are what make buses the most popular means of transport throughout the country. A less popular option are shuttle buses and taxis, which have a tad higher price than buses, but provide a more personalized experience, especially if you live out of town or want to visit a distanced destination. Interestingly, and should you need it, taxis can even drive you across the country.
Here is the travelling cost of living in Costa Rica in detail:
|Shuttle bus (one-way)||35 – 90||19,800 – 51,000|
|Public bus (one ride)||1 – 18||600 – 10,200|
|Domestic flight (direct)||50 – 100||30,000 – 60,000|
|Commuter train(San José to Heredia)||0.70||400|
|Taxi (base fare and per km)||1||600|
Unfortunately, this is one aspect where the country falls behind many others.
The internet is simply a must-have for frequent travellers. Even so, getting a good internet connection in Costa Rica is challenging to say the least. However, Costa Rica’s internet facility seems to be improving, although it still lags behind, compared to other neighbouring countries.
As reported, out of 207 countries, Costa Rica was ranked 117th place internet-usage-wise.
The average internet speed lies at 4.52 Mbps. If you inquire about particular internet speeds, however, you’ll notice it differs in different cities. If you’re lucky, you might even find several spots with 10 Mbps or higher.
Costa Rica’s public Wi-Fi facilities can be quite challenging. Costa Rica still has some work to do when it comes to providing free Wi-Fi at restaurants and coffee houses.
If you’re looking for an apartment to rent, make sure to do your homework on the facility’s internet policies first. If nothing else works, providing an internet connection by yourself might be a plausible scenario.
Costa Rica’s most popular internet providers are Cable Tica, Kolbi, Claro, and Tigo.
Kolbi stands as the primary internet provider, with a monthly cost of around $50 for 50 Mbps.
The cost of living in Costa Rica cannot omit possible healthcare expenses.
This country’s healthcare is rated among the best in the world due to its inexpensive costs and quality of care. Foreign residents in general need to ‘chip-in’ the social tax system. This will help subsidize the whole country’s healthcare costs. The amount you should pay is reasonable and ranges between 7% to 11% of your monthly income (pension, savings, or salary).
Free healthcare and some prescription medication will be available to you upon attaching to the public healthcare scheme.
Depending on the plan and carrier chosen, the amount paid can vary.
For example, if they opt for the INS (Instituto de Seguro Nacional), which is government-backed, they can expect to pay between $60 and $250 (CRC34,000 – 141,500) per month.
Finding a Place to Stay in Costa Rica
Getting around the country may cause a tough challenge when looking for a place to stay. Luckily, with a small push in the right direction, finding good accommodation in Costa Rica is not that difficult. In addition, let’s provide some of the best and easiest ways to find accommodation in the country:
- Airbnb – Airbnb is everyone’s go-to choice when it comes to finding accommodations abroad. Airbnb offers reasonable prices for some of the best locations in Costa Rica. Plus, neighborhood buildings that offer temporary rentals and great apartments are just a few minutes away.
Whether you look for an entire two-bedroom apartment or a private condo, Airbnb will get you covered. However, before making a decision, make sure to research the subject.
- Costa Rica Facebook Groups – Facebook groups can be of great help on accommodation. Among other things, you can also find accommodation solutions among groups like ‘Expats in Costa Rica’. Always feel free to ask the members to recommend nice spots in the frame of your budget. This way you’ll be able to easily manage your cost of living in Costa Rica prior to your arrival.
- Hostels – Hostels are both budget-friendly accommodation options and a cool way of meeting new people. Since not all hostels in this country are available online, you ought to ask the locals to help you find one. If you are a loner and do not want to share a room, you’ll be happy to hear that hostels in Costa Rica offer private rooms as well.
Top Destinations for Living in Costa Rica
Let’s talk about the affordable and less affordable, yet sublime destinations that most adventurous souls will find worth the visit.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Great nightlife, many beaches, and rich wildlife make Puerto Viejo de Talamanca a dream destination. This beautiful little town offers great coworking space as Puerto&Co solves the problem with a poor internet connection. This coworking place offers fiber optics connection thus you’ll have faster internet. This could mean spending a few extra bucks, but it’s well worth it.
Samara will offer visitors beautiful beaches, yoga activities, and surfing as entertainment while taking a break from work. This area offers ‘The black hole of happiness’, which is a popular co-working space for freelancers, remote workers, travellers, entrepreneurs, students, and artists. Again, it is a beachside place, so you can expect to be a bit salty.
Located in the Nicoya Peninsula, Santa Teresa is yet another beach town with rural beach areas and nature at its best. Santa Teresa offers an open-air coworking space at SkyLoft Coworking. Freelancers or other travelling workers will have an option to rent their own personal desk, for a price, of course.
Costa Rica’s capital is the perfect place for people who want to stay in the city lights. The largest city in the country offers Gracias Coffee & Cowork as a coworker space. Here you can enjoy great coffee and free Wi-Fi. Hallelujah!
This one goes to the surfers and backpackers among expats, who will just love Tamarindo. This district has a great coworking space for vibrant and young workers, called ‘Sand & Surf Co-working’. This place offers 24/7 access with daily rates of around $15. Not bad.
The Cheapest and Most Expensive Cities
Researching before choosing where to stay can be highly beneficial when estimating your cost of living in Costa Rica.
However, some choose not to save any money but instead live to the fullest while exploring this beautiful Latin country. This is why, besides mentioning the cheapest, I’ll be mentioning the most expensive cities as well.
The Cost of Living in Costa Rica by City and Province
Starting with the capital, San Jose is seen as the most expensive place in Costa Rica. One-third of the population resides there, hence the higher housing and everyday costs. However, a surge of tourists and expats can cause prices to rise in coastal towns, too.
Central Valley is the most expensive region, while the North Pacific is the second in line. The latter is a popular province where expats reside, chasing after the idealized beachside life.
Cost of living in Costa Rica in the three most expensive cities: San José, Puntarenas, and Tamarindo.
The cheapest places to rent and live in are most likely found outside of popular tourist destinations and major cities.
Expats looking to cut down on their expenses often choose this option as residing close to posh spots also means they’re closer to hospitals, shops, and other necessary facilities.
The area is known as La Zona de Los Santos, or ‘The Zone of the Saints’, along with Liberia make the cheapest places to rent.
La Zona de los Santos
Even though I mentioned the following three cities among the most expensive, there’s a cheaper option for those who want to live there, yet still manage their overall cost of living in Costa Rica.
Keep in mind that all popular beach destinations tend to be more expensive.
Other than that, Costa Rica offers plenty of options for all types of residents.
Whether you are looking for an adventure while working, or want to take an exotic breather, the cost of living in Costa Rica can be bearable, and more so, even affordable.
Pura Vida, here we come!