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Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Costa Rica certainly seems to be popular these days with retirees as well as younger expats. Do you wonder if that means the cost of living is really low? Unfortunately it’s not very cheap as many things are imported but you will certainly be able to spend less than you would in North America if you live very on the basics.

The cost of living question can never be answered easily. That is because our lifestyles determine our cost of living more so than the country’s infrastructure does. Within the same country people’s costs will vary greatly because some need a large house, more property, fancier food, designer clothes, and others live more simply. I believe you can find happy and unhappy people of all economic situations in all countries.

One thing I find to be extremely inexpensive here is the cost of housing. You may buy a house for 50,000 in some areas, rent a room for $150 per month, and rent an apartment from $400. Of course there are also condos for over $2000 per month and houses that people pay 500,000 dollars to purchase! It depends on what you need to be comfortable. I’d say a general rule should be that if you are not comfortable living somewhere in the middle of the poor and rich of a specific country then maybe that’s not the one for you. Moving somewhere where everyone has significantly more or significantly less than you will cause discomfort for you and the locals.

Food here is the highest cost you will encounter I believe. Almost everything grown here is exported to countries that will pay more. Most food that’s in the grocery stores here has to be imported which adds shipping and tax costs. You may pay $20 for a bag of groceries. A way to save on food costs would be to buy from the local farmers (less then $10 for 4 full bags of groceries!) at weekly markets or to eat at local restaurants called “sodas,” where a meal may cost only $3. Restaurant chains from other countries are luxuries here and could be double the price they would be in their original country.

You will be happy to hear that entertainment costs here are lower than most other places. Movies run about $3. Many cities have free concerts and art exhibits. Transportation is also inexpensive if you travel by bus (about 50 cents). Taxis within a city could be about $5.

Ask around to see what currency conversion rates should be, which areas have cheaper housing and if those areas are safe, ask for referrals and average prices before hiring someone or paying for any service. If you ask around people will be glad to help you find good deals. Costa Rican’s and ex-pats tend to be very friendly and helpful in teaching you how to get around paying high prices.

By Kerry La

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