Cost of Living in Costa Rica



Expats may find that compared to US, Canada or Europe, the cost of living in Costa Rica is less expensive, but nevertheless, it depends on one's lifestyle.


The local currency is Costa Rican colón or "₡". A passport is needed if you need to change your dollars in colones in Banco Nacional, Banco Popular or Banco de Costa Rica. Expect banking transaction to eat your time, especially in state-run banks. Common banks in Costa Rica include the Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, BAC San Jose, Citibank Costa Rica S.A. and HSBC Costa Rica. Requirements needed to open a bank account in Costa Rica include an Identification (DIMEX ID card), the required minimum deposit, a utility bill, proof of Income and U.S. Tax Forms for US citizens. Interest rates range from 0.23% to 2.26%.

Dollars are accepted in stores and taxis, but expats should be cautious when paying in cash, as some merchants do not give change.

Buying Property

Aside from the affordability and the rapid increase in value of Costa Rican properties, most foreign nationals invest in Costa Rica because of the tropical climate and beautiful sceneries.

Citizens and foreigners have the same rights when buying/owning a property, although, there is an exception if the property is located within the Maritime Zone (Ley Sobre la Zona Maritimo Terrestre), a total of 200 meters of land measured from the high tide markers. Of the 200 meters, the first 50 meters is considered public zones (Zonas Públicas), and the beaches are considered public property and no one can possess the area. The next 150 meters is a restricted zone (Zona Restringida), where titles are not allowed, but it can be leased with the permission from the local municipality.

The constitution guarantees the ownership rights regardless if the property is named after a corporation or an individual. Land ownership does not require foreign nationals to become citizens. It is best to get the services of a reputable real estate company to find the right property to ensure the purchase is done properly and legally.

Renting Property

Contracts on a yearly basis usually have an increase of 15% per year if the charge is in colones. A three year-lease contract to be paid in dollars prohibits the landlord to raise the rent. A security deposit or "deposito" is made, and will be returned when you leave the place in good condition.

Fully furnished apartments or a small home with amenities will cost US$300 to US$600 in rural and selected urban areas. On the other hand, a luxury house or apartment will be more costly and will start from US$900 monthly. The cost of a three bedroom with Jacuzzi bathtubs and water heater is approximately US$1,500 monthly. In Central Valley, expats can live in the lap of a lavish lifestyle, where monthly cost of living can easily amount to us$3,000 or more. The cost of monthly rent for a 1 bedroom flat with an attached bathroom costs ₡958,662.00 to 200,000.00 while monthly rent for a 2 bedrooms furnished flat costs ₡13,581,045.00 to ₡159,777.00. Monthly rent for a 3 bedrooms furnished flat costs ₡ 18,267,837.00 to 585,849.00.

Expats can find refuge in the safe neighborhood of San Jose. The largest population of expatriates settles in Escazu, which is located at the west of downtown San Jose. It is a premier suburb and is quite exclusive. The provinces of Alajuela and Heredia are fast becoming popular to expats as well.


Unless you're a citizen or a resident, you can't have a phone line under your name. Expats are better off with a phone line under the landlord's name. Most of the apartments/flats for rent include phone lines that will cost approximately US$3.80 monthly.

Surprisingly, the Internet connection in Costa Rica is more expensive than the US, as there are only two major companies offering cable Internet, Amnet and CableTica. Cost varies depending on the speed. Monthly charges can range from ₡ 21,479.76 to 36,515.59. The cost of cable television depends on the package offer; a basic package can start from approximately US$30 monthly plus any additional services.

Monthly water bills are inexpensive and can range from US$10 to US$15. The electricity in Costa Rica is 75% produced via hydropower or wind power, which makes it environmentally friendly. The average cost of electricity is at US$0.08 per KWh, however the monthly cost will depend on consumption/usage - the more you consume, the rate of KWh will be higher.

Domestic Help

In Costa Rica, weekly services from a part-time housekeeper for 4-6 hours can cost US$15, or they may charge you US$2 per hour. A full time live-in housekeeper can cost US$200 monthly inclusive of food and lodging. A gardener cost will range from US$18 to US$20 on a daily basis.

Food Consumption

The cost of food will heavily depend on whether the consumer goods are local or imported. A budget of US$20 to US$40 (meat, vegetable and fruits) can cover a week's meal for a small family if bought in a local farmer's market. Buying expensive meats, imported wines and other imported goods at high-end grocery like Automercado could cost more than US$200 weekly budget for a small family. 1 Daily menu in business district costs ₡ 4,909 while a dinner out for two in an Italian restaurant with wine and dessert costs ₡ 28,266.


Buying a new car in Costa Rica can cost twice as much in the US. Also, gas and diesel are usually higher per gallon. The current rate per gallon for the US is at US$2.89 compared to Costa Rica's rate at US$3.65. Note that 1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas in Costa Rica costs ₡ 700 to ₡ 800.

Most expatriates opt for public transportation and taxis to avoid the expensive cost of owning and maintaining a car. Bus fare is inexpensive and ranges from US$0.20 to US$0.47, and expats will pay ₡ 349.05 - 536.99 for one inner city bus ticket. The cost of a monthly ticket for public transport is at ₡ 23,889.

Taxi fare starts at US$0.77. Expats should always insist on using meters, as some taxis parked outside bus terminals can quote a flat fee, which is twice as high of the cost of the metered ride.



Continue reading:

Cost of Living Abroad

Expat Services in Costa Rica