There’s one thing that experts about Costa Rica cost of living agree upon: how much you spend per month depends entirely on what you need (or think you need) for living comfortably.
A couple or even a family with 1 to 2 kids can live on $1,500 or less, if they opt for a simple “Tico” style home, buy local products rather than imported foods and use public transport instead of driving their own car.
Costa Rica Cost of Living: Renting a Home
Location is an important factor too. While rents in rural areas for a well furnished apartment or small house are about $300 to $600, a lavish three bed room condo in the Central Valley near San Jose will set you back at least $1,500 per month.
To get a feel for quality and prices of Costa Rica rentals in different areas try Encuentra24.com. You can refine your search by location, property type, number of rooms and price. For the price, you can select either colones or USD as currency.
Local currency in Costa Rica is the “Colon” (¢). Exchange rate is roughly 535 Colon to 1 US $. Check up-to-date exchange rates at xe.com.
Restaurants and Groceries
In moderately priced Costa Rica restaurants you will pay between $15 and $20 per person for a main course with salad and glass of wine. The many local “Sodas” however, small eateries with little to no seating space, but often excellent food, charge $2 to $5 for a full meal including a fruit drink. The choice is yours!
The same goes for groceries: a whole week’s shopping of vegetable, fruit, fish and meat at the farmer’s market will rarely amount to more than $40. However, to feed a small family with largely imported goods from Automercado (one of the big local supermarket chains) can easily cost $200 a week.
Cheap vs Expensive
In general, labor and service are cheap in Costa Rica, but many goods cost more than in the U.S. or Europe. This is especially true for cars. Buying and operating a car can be as much as 75% more expensive than in the United States. Fuel costs are higher too, with approximately $0.86 per liter (or $3.25 per gallon, prices as of April 2016). From a European perspective though, those fuel prices are still a steal!
On the other hand, a housekeeper or gardener can be had for as little as $2 per hour. Note that the services of live-in maids are governed by law, with minimum wages of $180 per month.
Compared to other candidates on our list of 10 best places to retire, it is more difficult in Costa Rica to stay within our baseline budget of US$1,300 per month, but it is doable.
Related: Costa Rica vs Panama Retirement