Living In Costa Rica

Low cost of living with a high standard of living

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Cost of Living in Costa Rica

The cost of living in Costa Rica is quite low as compared to living in USA, Canada, or Europe. There are many imported products available and well as local products. Also, Costa Rica has low taxes compared to other countries. Health care is provided free to all residents. Foreign income is not taxed, only income from Costa Rica. According to data from, consumer prices are 237% lower in Costa Rica than the United States or Canada. If rent is included in the calculation then prices are 34% lower since housing is about 59% lower than the cost in the USA or Canada.

How much should you expect to spend living in Costa Rica?

What you will spend depends on your lifestyle and the area where you live in Costa Rica. Many people live for about $1,500 monthly while people can spend two times that amount. For $1,800 to $2,500 per month you can have a very comfortable lifestyle, with a maid and eating out when you wish. If you shop at the weekly farmers market then your costs for food will be much lower.

Living in Costa Rica gives you the freedom to spend as little as you wish and most items, like food and entertainment, are inexpensive, Imported luxuries can add up but life in Costa Rica is definitely less expensive than an same lifestyle in the United States, Canada, or Europe.

Some typical monthly costs are: Cell phone $20, Cable television $30, Internet service $25, Electricity $95, Water $15, Home telephone $8, Groceries $275, Gasoline $150, Car tag tax $35, Maid part-time $200, Property tax $30, House rental $900. That is a monthly total of $1,800 including a part-time maid.

Health Care

Everyone living in Costa Rica must join the government's health care system, the CAJA, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. As a member of the CAJA you and your dependents receive free medical care, hospital care, and all medicines. The emphasis is on preventive medical care with regular doctor appointments, laboratory tests, and vaccinations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) places Costa Rica among the best places for life expectancy due to less stress, calmer pace of life, fresh food that has fewer preservatives, and the wonderful climate. WHO statistics give an average life expectancy of 79.8 years, ahead of the USA at 78.6.

Private health care in Costa Rica costs about one third of the costs in the United States. Doctors usually charge about $60 per office visit, and they also make house calls. Most private practice physicians are fluent in English and many have been trained in the United States, Canada, or Europe. Many of them work for the CAJA in the mornings and then see patients in the afternoon and night. There are three large private hospitals with international accreditation: CIMA hospital in Escazú, Clinica Biblica in San José, and Hospital La Católica in Guadalupe. Also they are affiliated with United States hospitals for exchange and training. There is also a new private hospital opening in Liberia, near to the international airport and close to the Pacific Coast beach towns. Private health insurance is available from many insurance companies and cost about $60 to $100 per month.

Dental work is popular as many medical tourist visit Costa Rica for treatment like implants. Dental labs use FDA approved materials that are imported from the United States. Cosmetic surgery is also popular for medical tourist and the costs are about one-half of the cost in other countries.

Housing and Rent

Rents in rural areas and some smaller urban areas are about $450 to $600 for a furnished apartment or small home. The rent for a condo is usually between $500 and $900 per month. A nice three or four bedroom home near San Jose complete with Jacuzzi bathtubs chrome kitchen, and granite counter tops in the kitchen starts at around $1,100 monthly, and can go up to $1.900 per month. Keep in mind that you will probably pay a lot more if you’re planning on living in a large home in a tourist destination.

Rent is one of the highest costs that most Americans and Canadians face. The median rent in United States was $1,082 in 2017 and C$1,825 in Canada in 2019. It is easy to find a nice cheaper place to live in Costa Rica. The average house in Costa Rica is not quite as large as the houses in the United States, but they are well-built with solid construction.

Food and Dining

Food costs in Costa Rica are 30% lower than the United States or Canada. A weekly trip to your local farmers' market will cost $40 or $50 for a family and provides fruits, vegetables, cheese, and meats for the weekly meals. There are many local fruits and vegetables sold at the markets, and they are fresh and very tasteful.

A middle priced sit down restaurant meal with, a salad, main course, and a soda or a glass of wine will cost $15 to $20 per person. The little local restaurants in the neighborhood offer a full meal with meat, rice, and a salad, plus a natural fruit drink, for about $3.Costa Rica also has almost every fast food restaurant from the United States and prices are lower than in other countries.

Goods and Services

Services and labor are inexpensive compared to the United States. A maid or housekeeper charges about $2 per hour, mechanics charge about $50 for a tuneup, and plumbers and electricians are about $15 per hour. Imported goods are more expensive and cars cost about 25% more than in the United States. Gas and diesel are more expensive herewith gasoline at about $4.50 a gallon. Hand crafted furniture is less and computers and cell phones cost about the same. Bus service and taxis are inexpensive.


There are many museums, street fairs, outdoor concerts, and music shows that are less than $5 per person. Most traveling music concerts and shows cost about the same as they cost in other countries. Costa Rica has an extensive park system, wildlife adventures, outdoor gardens, and farm tours that are free or inexpensive. Movies cost about $4.


The VAT tax on most products and services is 13%. Education is not taxed and private medical services are taxed a 4%. There are also many exclusions from the VAT tax.

Foreign income is not taxed nor is retirement income. Costa Rica has a territorial tax system and only taxes income earned within Costa Rica.

All United States citizen, you are always subject to the worldwide tax system no matter where you live or work. Thus, you must report any income that you earn in Costa Rica or anywhere else. However, the United States has a Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, which means that the first $105,900 of your foreign earned income can be excluded from income taxation. To claim your exclusion you need to file your tax return with the IRS every year even if you do not owe any tax for that year.