Costa Rica Country Guide

Everything you need to know about moving to Costa Rica

Cost of Living in Costa Rica Compared to the U.S. & Canada

Costa Rica can be more affordable, but it depends on how and where you live

Costa Rica offers a diverse range of lifestyles and living costs, so it is important for American and Canadian expats to carefully consider their budget when relocating. It’s a common misconception that the cost of living in Costa Rica is significantly cheaper than in North America. The reality depends on various factors, including your where and how you choose to live.

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Key Cost Considerations for Expats in Costa Rica

Here are some key cost considerations to take into account when creating your budget:

 

1. Rent: The real estate market in many parts of Costa Rica has experienced substantial growth in recent years, making long-term rentals increasingly challenging to secure. Rental prices can vary significantly between high and low tourist seasons, with monthly rates sometimes dropping by as much as 50% from April to November. For instance, a basic one-room apartment may cost around $700, while a well-appointed three-bedroom house could reach approximately $2,500 per month.

 

2. Health Care: Costa Rica provides high-quality and reasonably priced health care services. As a resident, you can access the government-run healthcare system, known as Caja, which requires contributions based on your income. Alternatively, using private clinics may involve out-of-pocket expenses, such as around $50 for an x-ray, $25-50 for a doctor’s visit, or an MRI for around $325. Discount programs like Medismart, that charge a monthly fee in exchange for discounted prices on certain medical ticket items, are popular with many expats.

 

3. Transportation: Public transportation within metropolitan areas is both abundant and cost-effective, with a round-trip bus journey from San Jose to the beach typically costing $10. However, many expats choose to own a car in Costa Rica, which is generally more expensive than you expect to find in the US or Canada. This often leads Americans to shop for used vehicles in Costa Rica, which can be 20-50%  more expensive than what they would pay in the United States or Canada for a comparable vehicle.

 

4. Food: The cost of imported foods and dining at expat-oriented restaurants can be relatively high. Nevertheless, eating out in local eateries remains significantly cheaper compared to some places in North America. Opting for local products like rice, chicken, and fruit proves to be more budget-friendly, with items like a pineapple costing around $1.50 and a pound of snapper approximately $10. A typical lunch at a local soda, including rice, beans, vegetables, and a meat portion, often costs about $5 in most areas.

 

Understanding these nuances can help expats make informed decisions about their cost of living in Costa Rica and create realistic budgets for their new life in this vibrant and diverse country. Keep in mind, too, that prices for all goods varies dramatically between more local, rural areas, and developed, touristic areas.

Costa Rica Cost of Living Calculator

Use our Costa Rica cost of living calculator to determine how much YOUR monthly budget would be in Costa Rica. Explore sample budgets in different locations throughout the country!

Please note: The guidance in this calculator provides a high-level directional estimate of what your expenses may be, and is not designed to exactly predict your monthly expenses. Cost of living in any country will vary depending on where and how you choose to live. This calculator uses averages of many expats currently living in Costa Rica. If you work with StartAbroad, we can develop a detailed budget that is customized for your lifestyle and needs.

Sample Budget #1: San Jose

Please note: these sample budgets are directional only. The town you live in, changing prices, and your lifestyle will all influence your ultimate budget.

Living in San Jose for Two People per Month (USD)
 

Sample Budget #2: Ojochal

Please note: these sample budgets are directional only. The town you live in, changing prices, and your lifestyle will all influence your ultimate budget.

Living in Ojochal for Two People per Month (USD)
 

Sample Budget #3: Tamarindo

Please note: these sample budgets are directional only. The town you live in, changing prices, and your lifestyle will all influence your ultimate budget.

Living in Tamarindo for Two People per Month (USD)
 
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