What does it cost to live in Costa Rica? On average, 100 North Americans and some Europeans ask that question each month. They have the dream of a better life in paradise, and they wonder if they can afford it. One way to answer the question is with the average cost of living.
According to data on the website numbeo.com, the average cost of living in Costa Rica, including food, utilities, health care, and transportation, is 24% lower than North America. Rent is factored separately, and it’s 59% less in Costa Rica (if you average all U.S. cities).
However, averages can be deceiving. You can drown in a lake with an average depth of one foot. So, what are the depths and shallows, financially speaking, of Costa Rica? What does it really cost to live in Costa Rica?
Some aspects of life in Costa Rica are more expensive than in North American, and some are considerably less. Living in Costa Rica on your budget depends on the life style you want to live and are accustomed to.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite—food. There are plentiful deals to be had, and fortunately, fresh fruits and vegetables are one of them. Many communities have a farmers’ market, known as la feria in Spanish. Each weekend, local farmers display their recently harvested produce as well as eggs and dairy products. The prices are so low that you can fill two big bags for $20-30. And many vendors even offer free samples so you can try before you buy. But you may not want to turn vegan, so there are great butcher shops with very reasonable prices. Just last week I purchased a complete “lomito” or full tenderloin of beef, AKA-filet mignon. The price was $8.75 per pound all cleaned up ready to cut into steaks. Now you can’t beat that!
Have a taste for your favorite brand of beer, chips, or other processed food from your home country? You’ll probably pay a premium if you decide to buy them. Such imported goodies, basically any imported product, cost more in Costa Rica because of the additional costs of transportation and importation tax. Having said that many of the local brands are as good if not better than “favorites” from back home. So buying local is one way to reduce the cost to live in Costa Rica.
Transportation costs are a mixed bag. Bus service is inexpensive and available in most areas, but the schedule may not be to your liking. But you can’t beat the price. A one-hour bus ride is only about $1. Taxis and Uber are another reasonably priced option if the trip isn’t too long. Would you like the convenience and flexibility of owning your own vehicle? You may be shocked to learn that the purchase price can be almost 40% more and possibly higher, than what you would have paid in your home country for a new car.
So how can you reduce the cost to live in Costa Rica? Some choose to drive a vehicle that’s older than what they used to own. Gasoline is also much more expensive in Costa Rica than in North America and Europe but you may not drive nearly as many miles once you switch to the laid-back Costa Rica lifestyle.
Rent can consume a large share of the budget. How much? Once again, it depends on how and where you live. Rents tend to run higher in popular beach areas, especially if the home offers all the amenities you enjoyed before and has an ocean view. On the other hand, simpler homes within a short drive of the beach can be quite affordable. If you own your own home, property taxes are remarkably low, Only .25% of the assessed registered value. Basically $250.00 U.S. dollars per year for every $100,000.00 of registered value. As a real estate agent, I can help you sort out the options and find the one that’s right for your budget.
Electricity is expensive in Costa Rica, it can be as much as twice the amount per kwh than many places in North America.
Costa Rica health care offers great savings compared to costs in the U.S. As an example, when I visit my cardiologist the fee is $120.00 plus tax. Those who become Costa Rican residents are required to enroll in the national health care system called the “caja”. For a relatively low monthly fee, your visits to the clinic, hospital, and some prescriptions will all be free.
So when you add it all up, what does it cost to live in Costa Rica? In very general terms, a single person could live well on $1,500 a month, and a couple on $2,500. But as the aforementioned examples illustrate, your results may vary. Depending on your lifestyle, those estimates could be high or low for you. So come on down and see for yourself. Costa Rica just might be what you’re looking for.