Costa Rica living cost and living guide

Costa Rica living cost and living guide. That will be the topic of today’s article.

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The best time to consider your financial situation is when you are moving to a new country.


For decades, Costa Rica has been one of the major destinations for retirement. You’ll find expat and welcoming citizens in this country. It’s easy to make friends, and you can explore the city while watching the sunset from a beach. And, you don’t have to speak Spanish to communicate with the people.

With so much choice, picking Costa Rica as a place to live gives endless joy. Besides, you’re going to find things like North American-style amenities, better schools, and more paved roads. These are the sort of things you might not find in other countries. So, what exactly do you think made this nation wonderful?

Of course, the government makes it easy for foreigners to live and do business in the country. Not only that, but you don’t even have to be a resident of the country to buy or do things on your own. Although a work visa can be quite challenging but you’ll definitely enjoy the process in the long run.

More so, this tropical paradise is popular for study and entertainment. With its surfable beaches, abundant wildlife, the benefits of living in this country cannot be overemphasized. That way, we’ve compiled this guide to help you through the process of moving to Costa Rica without disturbance.

Again, Costa Rica is where many expats have been enticed to relocate. Thanks to its cultural diversity, tropical weather, hundreds of pristine beaches, amazing biodiversity, and the best way of life. In case you’ve been looking for the right platform to get the right details about Costa Rica, worry less as you’ve landed on the best one.

What Expat Need to Know About Costa Rica

If you ask me, why Costa Rica precisely? My answer would be – the best economic growth in recent years, a continued commitment to peaceful rule, English is widely spoken in several communities, and observing conservative traditions. Is that the reason why expats do travel to this country?

The answer is NO! There’s a lot to explore and like about this country. In fact, you can never go wrong with taking a vacation in Costa Rica. Expats who have traveled to this country will tell you that living is quite expensive compared to other Latin American nations. But, this isn’t the first thing to consider.

However, it’s easy to find tons of articles about living in Costa Rica. On the other hand, it isn’t easy to find the right information. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore whatever you see on other blogs. We’ve just stood out to create good information from a reliable source and expat in the country. Without further ado, let’s walk you through the things expat should know about this country.

  1. Cultural Heritage and Differences

We understand that living in a country you’ve not been to can be challenging. However, you should always be prepared for cultural diversity since it’s not your home country. Patient is a virtue that you’ll need to cultivate while living in Costa Rica. Although they are fun, lovely but traditions may restrict you from certain things, which you’ll need to abide by.

Moreover, you’ll need to be more flexible with your schedule when you find yourself in Costa Rica. This is because; they have a blend of indigenous heritage and Spanish colonial influence. Aside from that, it’s a nation that’s proud to be without an army. Does that sound unique? Of course, it’s one thing that isn’t common.

  1. Cost of Living In 2021

Expats who have traveled to other countries and have been here will tell you that Costa Rica is an expensive country.  According to the Big Mac Index published by Economics on an annual basis, living in Costa Rica is expensive. It is approximately $4.12 in 2020, which has surpassed that of Argentina and other countries.

With this in mind, you should know the upscale price of the places suitable for expat to reside. More than most places, the country strikes a balance that’s difficult to see in other Latin American countries. At every stage, you should plan to spend $1,100 for every tight budget.

Meanwhile, owning a car in this country will really drive up your costs. And the budgets mentioned above can only give you A/C on the hottest days. While you don’t have to live in Costa Rica feeling that you’ve exceeded your budget, the analysis below should not be ignored as it contains the cost of living.

Expenses in Costa RicaCost of Living ($USD)
Western-style for 1-bedroom$500
Utility bill including Wi-Fi$200
Transportation cost, including gas and car$200
Food (both local and international)$400
Healthcare service in a local hospital$80
Extras including coffees and small expenses$80
Cost of mobile phone$30
Total (Expenses)$1,490
  1. Public Transportation in Costa Rica

The import taxes, cost of maintenance, and other charges do not seem to placate Ticos’ appetite for passenger vehicles today. In fact, this trend is transforming the country’s mass transportation into a daily gridlock. Besides, getting around by bus is one of the best ways to experience the country.

Aside from that, there’s an inter-province train system that connects parts of the greater Metropolitan Area. Meanwhile, buses, ferries and taxes are widely used throughout the country. Also, people love Uber, and it is available only in the Central Valley. Keep in mind that multiple buses in the cities don’t have air condition. In fact, you might also find yourself in a crowded area with few passengers.

However, drivers will occasionally let people stand and sit in the aisles while on the bus. So, if you’re taking taxis, ensure that they are officially red taxis with the yellow triangle on the side. At the same time, double checks that the taxi drivers start the meter on time while you pay attention to where you’re going.

  1. Visa Applications in Costa Rica

It’s relatively easy for expat to move from Canada, United States, and other European Union countries to Costa Rica.  The same process applies to countries such as G20 member nations and Australia with good diplomatic relations with the country. Some of the visa categories include the following.

  1. Visa for Non-Residents – The visa for non-resident is generally for people from the countries above. They are granted three-month visas at the port of entry without any request. Moreover, you can extend this visa automatically by leaving the country but doing this could prolong your stay.
  2. Visa for Temporary Residents – The visa for temporary residents is quite similar to non-residents but different in some ways. It’s popular among expats who either receive a pension or have enough funds to live in Costa Rica for a couple of years. Also, if you have a stable income, you should upgrade your tourist visa to a temporary one.

Suitable Places to Live in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is not a large country, but you can definitely find a suitable place to live. Also, about half of the country consists of nature preserves, but you can also find low-density regions. We have listed about five countries that can accommodate expats. Without further ado, below are the suitable places.

  1. The Central Valley (Soul of Costa Rica) – The central valley is the smack-dab in the country’s middle. It is also known as the heart and soul of Costa Rica, accommodating about 70 percent of the country’s population. Not only that, but the central valley is the home to the Great Metropolitan area of San Jose.
  2. Guanacaste (Biodiverse parkland) – The Guanacaste province is the northwestern part of Costa Rica. This province is also known for its beaches and several parklands. Also, it is home to rare dry tropical forests and more than 250 bird species. Moreover, this expat town is awesome as they’re being known for affordable apartments.
  3. The Occidental Region (Costa Rica) – If you’re willing to move a bit far away to the west, this is the best place. Also, you’ll find expats living in towns such as Grecia, Sarchi, and Atenas because it’s affordable. As long as you’re prepared to integrate with the locals, you’ll enjoy moving to such semi-rural areas.
  4. The Southern Pacific – It’s no doubt that life is good in this town. It can also feel somehow isolated, but you’ll have to walk about 40 kilometers to San Isidro to get expats living around the communities. Once you heard south of Jaco Beach, you will find amazing such as Quepos and others in this town.
  5. Rural Costa Rica Area – Rural Costa Rica are small cities in the mountain sand that are not far from the national parks. Here, you’ll experience coffee-growing regions near the Poas Volcano. Aside from that, the rural areas have traditionally attracted Italian ex-pats, which is a place for modest income in the country.

Interesting Facts About Costa Rica

Everything about the denomination of Costa Rican cash features a different landscape and animal. Aside from this fact, Costa Rica may surprise you with lots of breathtaking views. We’ve compiled a list of ten interesting facts that will not only make you want to pack your bags but will help you through the process.

Bananas Exporter in the World

As of 2021, Costa Rica has become the second-largest exporter of bananas in the world. With this in mind, you must eat some of those delicious local bananas. They grew and supplied one out of every ten bananas consumed globally. Besides, this banana industry is vital to the rural Rican communities.

Biggest Exporters of Coffee

Again, Costa Rica is one of the world’s biggest exporters of coffee. From hotel coffee to local shops coffee, you’ll enjoy having a taste of coffee in this country. However, it’s against the country’s law to produce any coffee other than 100 percent Arabica. Besides, it’s also illegal to produce anything else.

Home to Plenty of Beaches

In Costa Rica, you’ll find some of the best beaches. So, it’s better to work with a travel guide to recommend the ideal beach for your vacation. With about 800 miles of coastline, you’ll have no problem finding a place to relax with family and friends. That’s why you’ll need enough cash when you’re moving.

Costa Rican Renewable Energy

Costa Rica has its unique ways of producing energy without being invasive to the world’s ecosystem. That’s why you won’t be surprised that energy is created from alternative sources such as solar and geothermal energy, wind power, and hydroelectric power.

Country of No Army

In Costa Rica, police officers exist and are even in charge of controlling and avoiding illegal behaviors. Meanwhile, as of December 1st, 2021, the country will mark the 73rd year since it abolished its army. And they use the fund to solve other relevant problems in the country instead.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated four sites in Costa Rica for their universal cultural and natural value. The four sites include; Area de Conservacion Guanacaste, La Amistad National Park, Cocos Island National Park, and the Precolumbian Chefdom Settlements.

Happy Planet index Ranking

As aforementioned, Costa Rica has been ranked as number one in the Happy Planet Index. Although it comes as no surprise for the citizens but you should understand this fact when you’re planning your next relocation. To determine the overall happiness index, you can compare it with the United States.

Total Way of Life

Again, don’t be surprised that soccer is the way of life in Costa Rica. No matter how big or small a town is, you’ll definitely see a soccer field. This way, if you’re looking for a way to make friends, or interact with the locals, don’t be shy to join in during their weekly Sunday pickup game.

Living in Costa Rica

Research revealed that Costa Ricans enjoy long lives. At the age of 60, estimation shows that men can still survive for about 20 more years. This fact raises curiosity since life expectancy is usually linked to wealth. But in Costa Rica, healthcare is essential, and that’s why citizens enjoy longer lives.

Safety and Wellbeing

As an expatriate, you must know that you’ll be living in an area that cherishes the safety and wellness of its citizens. As one of the longest-reigning democratic states in Central America, this country is known for its functional government. Aside from that, the country is also known for its stable economy.

CONs of Living in Costa Rica

With a reliable and stable democracy, Costa Rica has positioned itself as an ideal emigration spot for retirees and other foreigners. Foreign residents have flocked to the country in a great number recently. However, the country has its Cons. Let’s quickly walk you through the cons of living in Costa Rica.

Immigration Laws and Regulations

Unless you’re a retired emigrant with a substantial investment portfolio or plan to open a business in Costa Rica, obtaining residency may belong and not be a fruitful process. Moreover, the easiest route to residency in Costa Rica is through rentisa programs, available for retirees.

High Crime Rate

Since the country doesn’t have an army, crime levels may be higher than what you’re used to experiencing. That’s why you’ll need to consider the amount you take with you every day. While the immigration system might have you following some rules, some people overstayed here.

Expensive Property

In Costa Rica, sales of properties are quite challenging and expensive. If you decide to leave your home or even relocate, it’s very hard to relocate, and you might lose money in the long run. This is because; real estate brokerage is somehow unregulated in the country. So, you might see a real estate property around the corner, and you’ll see everyone trying to save money to buy it.

Not Suitable for Tech Person

If you’re a tech person, Costa Rica is not the ideal country for you. Besides, if you’ve been living in countries such as Canada, and the United States, you might have been spoiled with lightning-speed internet and high-quality smartphones. But in Costa Rica, many of the citizens don’t own a computer.

Public National Holidays in Costa Rica

Date ObservedName of the HolidayType of Holiday
January 1st New Year’s Day in Costa RicaNational public holiday
March 19th of every yearSaint Joseph’s Day in Costa Rica Observance holiday
March 31st Public sector holiday in Costa RicaGovernment holiday in the country
August 15th Mother’s day celebrationPublic national holiday
September 9th Children’s day in the countryObservance holiday
22nd NovemberTeacher’s day celebrationObservance holiday
1st of DecemberAbolition of the army dayObservance holiday

Aside from the public holidays mentioned above, many others include the December solstice, Christmas day celebration, independent day (13th September), and more. You can discover upcoming public holidays and start planning to make your relocation work during or within the holidays.

Cost of Moving to Costa Rica in 2021

Thousand of expats are moving to Costa Rica from Germany, Canada, the USA, and other countries to work and live with their families. Through our guide, you can organize a smooth relocation to Costa Rica at the lowest cost. This way, we’ve prepared you a brief guide on how to move to Costa Rica with ease.

Meanwhile, it’s fairly expensive to move to Costa Rica. But, if you find yourself there, living can be affordable. The process is easy, but there are few unique challenges you may face if you’re not prepared. A good example is relocating with pets as they’ll need a proper vaccination.

Other challenges may be as a result of covid-19 rules and regulations. This includes a proper quarantine period and many other procedures you’ll need to go through. The country also offers many types of visa applications, and of course, the total costs for each range around 226,400 CRC (400 USD).

Applying for the Costa Rican Visa (2021)

The eligibility to apply for Costa Rican visa depends on your specific case. The visa types include work visa, business visa, family visa, self-employment visa, temporary residence permit, and many more. Let’s quickly go through some of these concepts for you to understand the process better.

Costa Rica Work Permit Visa Application – The Costa Rican work permit requires you to submit all documents in person to the immigration department. Aside from this fact, you’ll also need to visit the Ministry of Public Security to register your personal information and fingerprints. The cost of this work visa as of 2021 is 28,300 CRC (equivalent to 50 USD)

Business Visa/Family Visa in Costa Rica – If you’re interested in moving to Costa Rica for temporary business, the business visa is such a category to apply for. On the other hand, expats who can secure a work permit may bring their dependents (spouse, minor-aged children, able or disabled) with them.

Self-Employment Visa in Costa Rica – The Special category residential permit includes different subcategories. Whether or not you qualify for the self-employed work permit, your application depends on how strong of a case you make and the discretion of the immigration officer viewing your profile. The self-employment category includes; investor’s visa, resident visa, and many more.

Self-Employment Visa Requirements – No matter which visa you’re applying for, these documents will hasten your visa applications. Below are the documents you’ll need to consider.

  • Two passport-sized photographs and an application form
  • Registration documents, including the legal constitution of the hiring company
  • Employment statements with a full detailed description of employment and salary
  • Payment proof of worker’s insurance, and police clearance from home country
  • Registration proof with a Costa Rican consulate and sufficient financial means


Expats love Costa Rica for its affordable cost of living and wonderful beaches – And I think you should love it too! But what exactly do you need to live in this country? Read this guide again to check everything needed, including accessing healthcare and enjoying the best possible life in Costa Rica.

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