Live Like a Local & Keep Costs Down
The most important factor in determining your cost of living in Costa Rica is your lifestyle. Bottom line: live like a local and you can get by on $1200 per month, or less. How do the majority of Costa Ricans live? They eat simply -- lots of rice, beans and fresh produce. They shop at local grocers and farmers' markets where prices are reasonable ($25 buys a week's produce for a small family). Imported food items are a luxury and splash-out meals at fancy restaurants are a special treat. Most take public transportation, or own a fuel-efficient car. Gasoline currently hovers around $5 per gallon, which really adds up! Typical homes are void of air conditioners or heavy appliances like washers and dryers, which equates to lower utility bills.
Though inflation has resulted in rising living costs over the past decade, compared to North America, your dollar still goes much further here. It is entirely possible to spend a small fortune each month, but with a few key lifestyle changes, you can live healthfully and comfortably on a modest income. Keep your costs down by shopping locally, avoiding pricey imported food products, opting for fans rather than A/C, taking public buses, and eating out at sodas (mom-and-pop cafes). Dining and entertainment can take a huge bite out of your budget; consider wallet-friendly options like the local cinema (movie + popcorn & soda = $8), or attending one of the country's many free concerts and festivals.
Where you really save money in Costa Rica is in housing (rents range from $350-$600 per month for a comfortable 2-bedroom home) and health care costs. Between these two factors and the affordability of local goods and services, a small income goes a long way. Things like housekeeping, gym memberships, hair cuts, and manual labor services are incredibly cheap. Here are some examples to give you an idea:
Cost Comparisons in Costa Rica
|Monthly Gym Membership||Average $25|
|Housekeeper or Gardener||$2-$3 per hour|
|Monthly Electric Bill (no A/C)||$30-$60|
|Private Health Insurance||$80 per month|
|Cell Phone Bill||$15 per month|
|2-Bedroom House Rental||$300-$600|
|Meal at a local Soda or Cafe||$4-$5|
|3-Hour Bus Ride||$4|
|Haircut in a Salon||$4-$8|