The Cost of Living in Costa Rica
As many expatriates will attest, the cost of living in Costa Rica is on average 50 to 70% less expensive than that of the United States. Because of this, living in Costa Rica gives one the freedom to spend as much or as little as they choose. While the vast majority of products and services are relatively inexpensive, North American-style luxuries can add up if spending is done haphazardly. But despite that, maintaining a lifestyle in Costa Rica is by and large less expensive than that of a similar lifestyle in the United States, Canada or even Europe.
For expatriates interested in simple living, a budget of $1,200 to $1,500 a month is adequate. Living on a budget in this price range enables one to utilize the local bus system for transportation, with an occasional taxi ride when needed. Big trips to the farmer's market are included, as is enjoying a few restaurant meals each month, with most meals eaten at home.
Food costs in Costa Rica primarily depend on personal preferences. At a moderately-priced sit-down restaurant, a salad, main course and glass of wine can cost $15 to 20 USD per person. At sodas, however, the Costa Rican version of the neighborhood mom-and-pop eatery, a full meal plus natural fruit drink can run between $2 and $4. For those who enjoy cooking at home, prices for goods can run the price gamut, depending whether or not the consumer chooses imported or local goods. For example, a trip to the local farmer's market can cost anywhere from $20 to $40, providing a family of four with the fruits, vegetables, meats and fish necessary for a week's worth of meals. On the other hand, purchasing expensive meats, imported wines and other premium goods at Automercado, a grocery chain that specializes in high-end and imported goods, $200 a week for that same family would not be unheard of.
As a general rule, services and labor are inexpensive, but some goods are more expensive than in the U.S. For example, while a housekeeper may charge $2 an hour for his or her services, a new car can cost considerable more than in the U.S., with used cars available for only slightly more than their North American counterparts. Gasoline and diesel fuel are somewhat expensive in Costa Rica too, usually costing $1 to $2 more per gallon than in the U.S.
But the extra money spent on transportation is easily recouped in entertainment costs - trips to museums, outdoor concerts and street fairs generally run less than $5 per person. Most concerts and traveling shows cost the same as in other countries. For outdoor entertainment, Costa Rica's extensive park system, wildlife adventures and gardens will satisfy any nature enthusiast.
Medical care in Costa Rica is of high quality, and very inexpensive. Currently, residents have three options: private insurance, subscription to the CCSS (Costa Rican Social Security) or a combination of the two. Through INS (the National Insurance Institute), private medical insurance costs about $50 to $100 month per person. Through the Caja's public service, insurance for a family (two adults and their under-18 dependents) will cost $30-$50 month. Please note that for those under age 55, Caja payments include a mandatory pension payment, which will be paid out beginning at age 65.
Retirees can live comfortably on only Social Security, or lavishly, with a bit more money. U.S. retirees living overseas also have the option of having their Social Security pension deposited directly into a foreign bank, which may give a more favorable currency exchange rate. In addition, retirees living in Costa Rica are eligible for pensioner residency status which enables them to bring personal effects, household items and a vehicle into the country without the typical government taxation. A luxury such as housekeeper is plentiful and inexpensive: about $170 per month for a full-time staff person.
For additional information contact Ed Hughes, firstname.lastname@example.org