Home to unspoiled nature, a mild climate that never bothers its residents with temperatures below 21°C (69.8°F) or over 27°C (80.6°F), and a calm pace of life, Costa Rica is a dream come true for a huge community of expats, international investors, and digital nomads looking for their next place to call home. The country promises a balance difficult to find in other countries and allows international investors to enjoy a better life for less money.
Living in Costa Rica means taking it slow and living simpler. It also means enjoying the little things if you can consider stunning tropical beaches, lush rainforests, and incredible biodiversity, little things. Add to Costa Rica’s natural gifts a stable political climate, great healthcare, and high quality of life, and it is easy to understand why the streets of major cities in Costa Rica are overflowing with happy visitors from around the globe.
Cost of housing
A hot spot for international investors from all over the world, Costa Rica keeps its rent and housing costs reasonable and some may say even budget-friendly. Here is what you can expect to pay for housing in Costa Rica:
- a Western-style one-bedroom apartment: $500/month
- a modern 1-2 bedroom house or apartment in San José, the country’s capital, or Central Valley: $800-$1000/month – you can expect modern building amenities such as a pool, gym, and laundry facilities.
- a modest beachside 2-bedroom house without air conditioning: $400/month
- a modern 2-3 bedroom house in a condominium: $1200-$2000/month
- a luxury house with a private pool in a gated community: $2000-$3000/month
The cost of living in Costa Rica is 26.6 percent lower than living in the U.S. Housing costs are significantly lower in Costa Rica, with the most expensive one-bedroom apartment in Costa Rica not costing more than $500 per month. If you want to leave the larger cities behind and live outside the capital city or in a small town, you can expect to pay half the price you would pay in San Jose or the city center of major cities.
Cost of utilities
Monthly expenses for utilities are within the same affordability frame. Basic utilities rarely cost more than $70 per month. The cost of electricity is around $50 per month while the average monthly cost of water is $10. International investors living in Costa Rica pay around $100 per month for fast Wi-Fi and cable, and their cell phone plan doesn’t cost more than $20.
The costs are calculated for a single expat living in a one-bedroom apartment in San José. The prices will surely vary depending on where you choose to live and how much water and electricity you use. When it comes to the utility bill, the biggest variable is electricity. The cost depends on how many modern appliances you use daily. Air conditioning and the washing machine will claim a big part of your utility budget. Naturally, a larger home and amenities like pools will increase utility costs.
Cost of food
Food is delicious in Costa Rica and on average 30-50% cheaper than in the U.S. or Canada. Food costs usually amount up to about $375 per month. The country is known for its abundance of fresh produce, with fruits and veggies dominating the local cuisine. People love their fruits and veggies in Costa Rica, and this might also explain why Costa Ricans live longer. It might also have something to do with the balmy weather and the many, many hours people spend outdoors exploring and enjoying the country’s spectacular nature.
People who love to cook will be happy to know that ingredients are a lot cheaper in Costa Rica than in the U.S. or Canada. One bag of potatoes costs less than one dollar, and so does a pound of rice. Expect to pay around $3 for one pound of chicken breast, $1.29 for one liter of milk, $1.52 for one loaf of fresh bread, and $2.32 for a pack of 12 regular eggs. The average price for the beloved non-dairy milk costs about $3 per liter, and you can get 2 pounds of banana for a little over $1.
The expat community loves to eat out and sample the local cuisine, especially when they found out that lunch in an inexpensive restaurant costs as little as $7. A romantic dinner for two in a mid-range restaurant will set you back at about $40. Expect to pay $4 for a bottle of imported beer in a bar, but you’ll find the same beer for $2.69 at the local supermarket. Coffee is for pampering in Costa Rica, a country renowned for producing some of the best coffee in the world. Coffee served at a cafe or restaurant costs around $2.45 per cup but is worth every penny. Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the fresh seafood. With oceans on both sides, Costa Rica’s seafood never needs to see the inside of a plane to be transported and stored for days. Closer to the coasts you can literally eat fresh seafood caught daily.
Cost of entertainment
In a land where the beaches are free to visit and national parks are never far away, entertainment comes cheap. Now, if by entertainment, you understand going to the movies, joining a gym, or playing tennis, things tend to get a bit more expensive but never as high as in the U.S., Canada, or some countries in Europe.
A movie ticket costs about $5, while a monthly gym membership is around $45. These entertainment costs are the norm in the more expensive cities but outside the tourist areas, you can expect to pay less for the same type of service. Renting a tennis court in Costa Rica will set you back at around $22 per hour. Netflix fans will be glad to find out their monthly subscription is $8.99, and Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime are also available.
Cost of healthcare
Unsurprisingly, medical care is more affordable in Costa Rica than in the U.S. If you’re a legal resident you can benefit from their national healthcare system called “Caja.” Expats can apply to become permanent residents after three years of temporary residency. The government-run healthcare system in Costa Rica is considered to be one of the best in the world.
Most international investors opt for private medical insurance, and they benefit from high-quality healthcare services. Expat health insurance gets them access to an extensive selection of doctors. One short doctor visit costs about $70, while basic medicine, like cold medicine, has an average cost of $6. Dental work is a lot more affordable than in the U.S., with a root canal costing $750 in Costa Rica and amounting up to $2200 in the U.S.
In other words
The cost of living in Costa Rica depends greatly on the way you choose to live and where you want to live, but everyone agrees that it is significantly low when compared to the United States, Canada, and Western European countries.
A single person can live comfortably on $1,000 to $1,500 per month. If you’re planning to buy a home in Costa Rica, you’ll discover a vast real estate market with prices for every budget. Building a house is a difficult mission dotted with numerous obstacles, so most international investors prefer to buy already built and furnished houses and apartments, especially since they have plenty of options to choose from.
Furthermore, the cost of retiring in Costa Rica is significantly lower than in the U.S. or Canada. Many retired couples are living their best life in Costa Rica on only $2000/month. Due to the affordable living costs, great weather, and friendly people, Costa Rica is often ranked by the Global Retirement Index as the number one place to retire. Only a few other countries in the world find it easy to keep up with what’s on offer in this beautiful country in Central America.