Expat Exchange
Ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, Costa Rica
Ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, Costa Rica
Ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, Costa Rica

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: What is the cost of living in Costa Rica? Hear what expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Costa Rica have to say about the cost of housing, health insurance and general living costs.

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Is the cost of living in Costa Rica high?

Live in Costa Rica? Answer this Question

We asked people how much they someone comfortably live on in Costa Rica, they wrote:

"Depends where you live and how you live. A friend in Palmares lives on $970 a month, including rent, vehicle, food, utilities and regional travel. Others live in Escazu in the high cost areas. We live in San Ramon and get by well in a nice place on less than$2000 a month, including yard guy, and maid for 12 hours a month! Depends on you," said another expat in Costa Rica.

"This is probably the number one question that people ask. Honestly, there is no "correct" answer to this because everyone has different needs. All I can say is Costa Rica is NOT as cheap as it used to be. It is one of the more expensive destinations but it is still much cheaper than the US. Housing, taxes, maid service, drivers, medical...these items are significantly less. Food, utilities, gasoline, dining out....can be close to US prices in an affordable city. Shopping at the "feria" for produce is your best bet for keeping costs very low," remarked another in Escazu.

"In Costa Rica, this is a difficult question as there are many different communities, some more popular with expats and others more with a local feel. You will certainly live comfortably at $2,000 per month. If you are renting, consider adding more to this amount. Again lifestyle is important to consider. High end dining and shopping, live concerts will be more expensive. Consider also these activities may not appeal to you upon retirement," explained one expat.

"Depends on lifestyle. I eat all my meals in restaurants, go to coffee shops, have a big social life and go on a lot of dates, I travel every month. My expense including all this are around $3500/mo," said another person in San Jose.

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Will I save money living in Costa Rica?

Live in Costa Rica? Answer this Question

"yes. it is a much more affordable living. I did have to spend extra money initially to get set up again since shipping belongings here was too expensive. I also need a vehicle which I will have to save for," remarked another expat in Grecia.

"Well, we have made some good investments and we have made some bad ones. My advice, be cautious. Best to have your resources set up in your home country before you take the plunge," explained one expat living in Escazu.

"Living abroad in Costa Rica has definitely exceeded our expectations financially. Imported products such as electronics can run 50% higher than our native country so this is definitely a downfall. Some imported foods are expensive too. However, it is not difficult to learn to live without all the high end electronics and the latest gadget. Learning to shop locally for food brings your grocery budget to a reasonable level. Fruit and vegetables are inexpensive and living on the coast, fresh fish is a great deal! Property taxes are inexpensive and a fraction of what we paid in the states. Vehicles are expensive as is gas; however public transportation is widely available and very affordable," said another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"No! Costa Rica is far more expensive than I thought. I eat out a lot and most of the time the prices are equivalent to US. You can eat for less at sodas and the market, which I do. Buses are a bargain, but cabs cost far more than any other major city in the region: Guatemala, Managua, San Pedro. Also, since everything is exported, prices for shampoos, soaps, tooth paste, razor blades, and things of that nature are much higher than the U.S. Also, my rent is much higher than anticipated," added another person living in San Jose.

What is the average cost of housing in Costa Rica?

Live in Costa Rica? Answer this Question

If you are thinking about moving to Costa Rica, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Condo's in Escazu, especially close to either Avenida Escazu or the San Jose Country Club also start at $ 500,000 and many head into the millions now. An older studio (70 sq. meters/800 sq. feet) just sold for $270,000 in Avenida Escazu...," explained one expat.

"Totally depends on many factors. Are you looking to rent or buy? How many bedrooms? City or country? Altitude, I.e., beach or mountains? Seasonal only, or long term? Hot water or not? Window screens or not? With Ticos or Gringoes? AC or not? Furnished or not? Close to hospitals and good medical or remote? Want views? What kind? Utilities included or not? Finished or under construction? Will you have a vehicle, and will it have 4WD? Are you ok with public transport (it’s excellent). Pets? You can see there are many possible answers to your question! We chose mountains with Nicoya Peninsula views, good infrastructure, home built to American specs with quality materials by reputable builder, hot water, screens, electric gate, and all in a Tico community of great diversity. City is only 3 kms away over the mountain. Pulperia up the street where we all hang out to watch futball! And we drive a 21 yr old SUV. Love Costa Rica," said another person in Costa Rica.

"Much much lower both in terms of cost of buying and maintenance (e.g. electricity, internet much cheaper, water, etc.). Also housekeeper, for example is only 3,000 colones an hour ($4.67)! Ridiculous! We doubled her "salary" from the start. And monthly condominium fee are only $ 400/month vs. $800-1200/month in CA. Wow," remarked another expat in Escazu.

"Housing costs are about the same as The States however, the taxes and expenses related are less except luxury taxes. VAT taxes are high but you can easily avoid them if you choose to manage your lifestyle," explained one expat living in Paquera.

"Our housing costs are lower than in the states. Taxes are very inexpensive in CR and the taxes in the states substantially higher. Private home insurance is less expensive in Costa Rica from our experience. It is very hard to determine the average cost of housing. In this area, the closer the location to the beach, the higher the price. Direct waterfront may cost well over $500,000 to the millions depending on amenities. However in a lower profile condo building with less amenities, you can absolutely find something at half that price. Knowing the market is really key here and return on investment must be weighed in if you plan to rent the unit, seasonally or long term," said another expat in Playa Hermosa de Jaco.

"Much, much lower. I wouldn't pay more than $300 per month in rent for a house in this area," added another person living in San Marcos, Tarrazú.

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

What are typical rental prices for expats in Costa Rica?

Live in Costa Rica? Answer this Question

"$1000 per month will be a condo with lesser amenities, smaller square footage, pool access, security. At this price range or slightly less, you will be expected to pay for electric but generally cable, wáter and internet is provided. At the $1,200 - $2,000 price point, an upper scale condo or a private home. The condo will have pool access, security, upscale appliances and a spacious layout. Generally three bedrooms and Americanized features. You most likely will be responsible for the electricity payment with cable/water, internet included. Over $2,000 - $3,000, you will find larger homes and upper scale condominiums. You will definitely have Americanized features such as upscale kitchens, bathrooms, furnishings, exclusive security, covered parking. Your utilities may be covered as some condos have "cooling towers" for air conditioning which will substantially reduce individual electric bills. The maintentance fees for these rental units are high so be aware if you are responsable for any portion of maintenance fees especially with these types of rental units. In condo complexes with buildings of several floors, the higher floors will have higher rental rates as these are the most popular and exclusive. Penthouse units will have exclusive entrances and these will be of the highest price range," remarked another expat living in Playa Jaco (Jaco Beach).

What appliances are typically included in a rental?

Live in Costa Rica? Answer this Question

We asked foreigners in Costa Rica what appliances are typically included in a rental, and, if there is anything else included or not included that a newcomer would not expect. Replies included:

"Generally rental properties are fully applianced. Lower scale rental units will have the basics, no dishwasher, possibly only a stove top and not an oven. A washer may be included but generally not a dryer. On the higher end scale, these will be fully appliances with American style refrigerator, stove/oven, dishwasher, microwave and washer/dryer. Be especially observant if the condo complex has a community área with tables, chairs, sink/wáter availability, bathrooms and BBQ grill. This is especially attractive for entertaining friends and family," commented one expat living in Playa Jaco (Jaco Beach), Costa Rica.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

Costa Rica GuideCosta Rica Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Forum Costa Rica Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Costa Rica on our Costa Rica forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Costa Rica Index Costa Rica Index
An index of all of our site's Costa Rica information.

Contribute to Costa Rica Network Contribute
Help others in Costa Rica by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Costa Rica.

Expat Healthcare Advice in Costa RicaHealthcare & Health Insurance in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Costa Rica.

Expat Talk about Healthcare Advice in Costa RicaMembers Talk about Healthcare & Health Insurance in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica offer advice about healthcare in Costa Rica.

Best Places to Live in Costa Rica Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about the high cost of housing and food.

Real Estate in Costa RicaReal Estate in Costa Rica

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Costa Rica.

Guide to Real Estate in Costa RicaGuide to Real Estate in Costa Rica

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Costa Rica.

Pros Cons of Living in Costa RicaPros & Cons of Living in Costa Rica

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Costa Rica.

Cost of Living in Costa RicaCost of Living in Costa Rica

If you're moving to Costa Rica, you'll want to understand the cost of living in Costa Rica. Lifestyle, location and health insurance are part of the formula.

17-Best-Places-to-Live-in-Costa-Rica17 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about the high cost of housing and food. In this updated version of the best places to live in Costa Rica we cover many more locations such as Playa Flamingo, Nosara, Lake Arenal, Jaco Beach and Ojochal.

Costa-Rica-ResidencyCosta Rica Residency

Applying for residency in Costa Rica can be a daunting process. Which type of residency is right for me? Do I need an attorney? Do I have to leave the country every 90 days? What is a cedula? This article answers these and many other questions.

Healthcare-in-Costa-RicaHealthcare in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has both public and private healthcare systems. When you become a resident, you must enroll in the public healthcare system (CAJA). Many expats use the public system for routine healthcare and have private expat health insurance for specialists, surgeries and emergencies.

10-Tips-for-Living-in-Costa-Rica10 Tips for Living in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica love the Pura Vita vibe, Costa Rican's focus of family and friendship and being surrounded by nature. Can you live in Costa Rica on $1,000 a month? Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous? Expats share their tips and experiences living in Costa Rica.

Ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera, Costa Rica

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

Costa Rica GuideCosta Rica Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Forum Costa Rica Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Costa Rica on our Costa Rica forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Costa Rica Index Costa Rica Index
An index of all of our site's Costa Rica information.

Contribute to Costa Rica Network Contribute
Help others in Costa Rica by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Costa Rica.

Expat Healthcare Advice in Costa RicaHealthcare & Health Insurance in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Costa Rica.

Expat Talk about Healthcare Advice in Costa RicaMembers Talk about Healthcare & Health Insurance in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica offer advice about healthcare in Costa Rica.

Best Places to Live in Costa Rica Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about the high cost of housing and food.

Real Estate in Costa RicaReal Estate in Costa Rica

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Costa Rica.

Guide to Real Estate in Costa RicaGuide to Real Estate in Costa Rica

Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Costa Rica.

Pros Cons of Living in Costa RicaPros & Cons of Living in Costa Rica

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what digital nomads & expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Costa Rica.

Cost of Living in Costa RicaCost of Living in Costa Rica

If you're moving to Costa Rica, you'll want to understand the cost of living in Costa Rica. Lifestyle, location and health insurance are part of the formula.

Living-in-Costa-Rica-GuideLiving in Costa Rica Guide

Our Living in Costa Rica Guide is a primer on everything about living in Costa Rica: best places to live, cost of living, pros and cons, healthcare and insurance, and more.

17-Best-Places-to-Live-in-Costa-Rica17 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a lot to offer expats with its tropical climate, eco-friendly culture, beautiful beaches, welcoming people, good healthcare system and relative safety. Many expats warn newcomers about the high cost of housing and food. In this updated version of the best places to live in Costa Rica we cover many more locations such as Playa Flamingo, Nosara, Lake Arenal, Jaco Beach and Ojochal.

Costa-Rica-ResidencyCosta Rica Residency

Applying for residency in Costa Rica can be a daunting process. Which type of residency is right for me? Do I need an attorney? Do I have to leave the country every 90 days? What is a cedula? This article answers these and many other questions.

Healthcare-in-Costa-RicaHealthcare in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has both public and private healthcare systems. When you become a resident, you must enroll in the public healthcare system (CAJA). Many expats use the public system for routine healthcare and have private expat health insurance for specialists, surgeries and emergencies.

Copyright 1997-2022 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal