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Costa Rica is a small country perfectly situated in the middle of Central America. Its diverse geography contributes to its unique biodiversity, highly praised and recognized worldwide as a natural haven. From countless paradisiacal sandy beaches, vertiginous mountains, different types of magical forests, lakes, rivers, and outstanding flora and fauna, Costa Rica has captivated many foreigners who have decided to stay here for good.
Many expats living in Costa Rica can agree that the cost of living here is inferior to the one they had back home. The cost of living is the sum of money used to pay for the expenses that cover basic needs. The main categories that make up the cost of living are housing, utilities, food, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment costs.
Although every province in Costa Rica is different, the average living costs breakdown is similar nationwide. You will find below useful data related to a rough monthly budget or estimated monthly costs per every category previously mentioned.
When it comes to housing costs, the options tend to include buying or renting a property along with utilities.
Buying A Property
The price difference of a property in Costa Rica depends on type (one floor, two floors, size, materials) , topography, geographical location, if it has a view or access to the sea, ease of public services, proximity to amenities like commercial centers, restaurants, supermarkets, and more.
The price per square meter in the greater metropolitan area of Costa Rica ranges between $800 and up to $3,500 per square meter.
The price of properties on the northern coast of Costa Rica-in the Guanacaste province- is the most expensive and luxurious. Homes can range from $900,000 to $3.6 million in the most exclusive area-the Gulf of Papagayo. For more affordable options you can find places at $200,000 in Tamarindo, $275,000 at Playa Flamingo, condos at $300,000 in Playas del Coco, or lots of land at $100 for each square meter, pre-construct. In the South and Central Pacific, as well as in the Caribbean, prices can be lower.
Monthly Rent Prices
Unless you are looking for something big and luxurious, the average rent for a regular one-bedroom apartment can go from $250-$500. One with three- bedrooms can be $615-$825. Be aware that properties closer to beach towns/coasts tend to be higher.
Monthly Basic Utilities (Electricity, Water, Internet)
Electricity and water depend on usage, however, for 1 person, the sum of these two can be around $45. Internet rate depends on speed, starting at $38 for 30 Mbps and up to $50 for 200 Mbps.
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Even if you live in a city center or a beach town where everything is within walking distance, you might at some point need to use transportation. The main ones in Costa Rica are:
Bus. The bus service offered in Costa Rica is affordable and relatively efficient. They are available from border to border. There is a direct bus service that rarely stops until reaching its destination, as well as regular bus routes, which stop at different points along the way. Between towns, the cost can be as low as $0.29, and between provinces it ranges between $1 to $12, depending on the route.
Taxi. The base rate or the first kilometer traveled in sedan-type cars cost $1.56. In vehicles adapted for people with disabilities, the rate is $1.39, and for the rural taxi service, the cost is $1.73.
Uber. Uber operates in Costas Rica in the great metropolitan area, a few major cities in the province of Guanacaste (Liberia, Tamarindo, Cañas, and surrounding beaches) the city of Jaco in the province of Puntarenas, the town of La Fortuna, and other towns in Alajuela province, Pérez Zeledón, and Guápiles, Guácimo, and Siquirres in the province of Limon.
Car Rental. There are many car rental providers in Costa Rica like Budget, Enterprise, Avis, Thrifty, and many more. Prices vary depending on the type of car, but the average car rental price in Costa Rica is $1,491 per month ($50 per day).
Train. The train service in Costa Rica currently operates only in certain towns and provinces. The current routes and costs are:
San Jose-Cartag0: $1,30
San Jose- Heredia: $1
San Pedro-Heredia: $1.10
The United Nations has designated the Costa Rican healthcare system among the 20 best ones in the world and on top in Latin America. In order to benefit from the Costa Rican public health system, you will have to pay the same amount as locals to the “Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS)”. The payment varies depending on your monthly income (between 7% and 11%). As a retiree in Costa Rica, the amount of the contributions will be charged according to the initial financial amount that you declared on your visa application.
There are many private services throughout the country. You will be seen quickly by a general practitioner and the quality of service is better than in the public sector, although the cost of consultations will be higher, about $70 per appointment.
Dental treatment in Costa Rica is cheaper than in Europe or North America. Costa Rica’s dentists are highly qualified, however, we recommend that you consult a private dentist if you want to be sure of receiving quality treatment.
Just for reference, these are examples of average fees charged by private dental offices:
Oral Exam/Specialist Evaluation/CT Scan and Panoramic X-ray: $200
Deep cleaning: $140
Tooth extraction without surgery: $90.
When it comes to food, the common options are:
Supermarkets. There are several supermarket chains in Costa Rica (Automercado, Mas X Menos, Walmart, Pali, Megasuper, and others). Most of them are located only in the main cities or towns of each province. In rural areas, you usually find average size grocery stores with all the products you will need. Prices in supermarket chains tend to be cheaper than in rural shops. Grocery prices depend on where you buy them but the overall cost of basic products per month can be around $85 for a single person.
Local Farmers market. These take place in most towns in Costa Rica during the weekend, mostly on Saturdays. Locations vary per town, so it is best to ask locals about the specific spots where they are held. They are known for having the freshest fruit and vegetables sold directly from farmers. Some even have dairy, meat, and organic local products. Prices are usually cheaper than in supermarkets, so you can surely save money.
Eating out. The menu of the day at any cheap bar, soda, or restaurant will cost you around $7. A dinner with drinks and dessert included in a higher-level restaurant can cost around $20-$30. On the other hand, if you choose to go to a fast food place like KFC, Burger King, Subway, or McDonald’s, the combos are around $8 to $10.
Activities & Entertainment
In the city what people tend to do for entertainment is:
Going to the Movies. The price can go from $6,60 to $12 for VIPs. Either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday-depending on the cinema- you can get two tickets for the price of one.
Going to the Theatre. Depending on the play prices can vary from $10 and $36.
Attending Concerts and cultural events. Depending on the band and the seat, prices can go from $50 to $2,350.
Bowling. Prices per hour range from $18 to $31 depending on the hour. The rental price of the shoes is $2.50.
Gym. The average monthly cost ranges between $28 and $40.
Outdoor activities. You can do many outdoor activities in Costa Rica for free like hiking, bird watching, jogging, swimming in rivers and the beach, and surfing. Activities that you have to pay for include but are not limited to water rafting, horseback riding, canopy/ziplining catamaran tours, coffee tours, chocolate tours, and more. Prices vary depending on the activity but they can go from $50 to over $200.
The cost of living in Costa Rica compared to the United States is certainly lower. Something to keep in mind in the general scheme of things is that the cost of living is also directly affected by the lifestyle you like to have. The good news is that there are plenty of options to live comfortably, a pura vida lifestyle in Costa Rica. For guidance on properties, location, and investments don’t hesitate to contact our real estate experts here.