Cost of living in Costa Rica

Cost of living in Costa Rica

Sign up

Where to live in Costa Rica

Located in Central America, Costa Rica offers a stunning collection of beaches, rainforests, and bustling cities. This paradise is becoming increasingly popular with expats with every passing year, with an exotic climate and lower cost of living than many European and North American countries proving major attractions.

The capital of Costa Rica is San José, a country that only ranks as the 124th most expensive city to live in out of 209, according to the 2021 Mercer Annual Cost of Living Survey. Coastal areas, however, such as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Tamarindo can be considerably more expensive to emigrate to and boast a growing expat community. Despite this, the overall cost of living in Costa Rica remains affordable for expats with budgets of various sizes.

How much does accommodation cost in Costa Rica?

The cost of property in Costa Rica varies greatly throughout the country, depending on the location you choose. Whether you want to rent or purchase property, you should make a considered choice regarding location, as property prices can dramatically influence your average cost of living in Costa Rica. For a capital city, San José is relatively inexpensive when it comes to renting or buying property. However, expat hubs such as Tamarindo and Puerto Viejo command higher prices due to their location on the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, respectively. Below is a general guideline of the prices you can expect when looking for accommodation in a few Costa Rican locations*.

(All figures taken from Numbeo.com and exchange rates calculated on 12th January 2022 at 09:36am).

San José

Monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartment (city centre)

£466 (406,001 ₡)

Monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartment (outside centre)

£291 (253,646 ₡)

Monthly rent for 3 bedroom apartment (city centre)

£723 (630,118 ₡)

Monthly rent for 3 bedroom apartment (outside centre)

£490 (426,956 ₡)

Price per square meter to buy apartment (city centre)

£1,388 (1,210,424 ₡)

Price per square meter to buy apartment (outside centre)

£1,005 (876,570 ₡)

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartment (city centre)

£401.45 (350,000 ₡)

Monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartment (outside centre)

£325 (283,333 ₡)

Monthly rent for 3 bedroom apartment (city centre)

£1,061 (925,000 ₡)

Monthly rent for 3 bedroom apartment (outside centre)

£918 (800,000 ₡)

Price per square meter to buy apartment (city centre)

£1,606 (1,400,000 ₡)

Price per square meter to buy apartment (outside centre)

£1,032 (900,000 ₡)

Tamarindo

Monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartment (city centre)

£743 (647,702 ₡)

Monthly rent for 1 bedroom apartment (outside centre)

£404 (352,272 ₡)

Monthly rent for 3 bedroom apartment (city centre)

£1,104 (962,330 ₡)

Monthly rent for 3 bedroom apartment (outside centre)

£736 (641,553 ₡)

Price per square meter to buy apartment (city centre)

£1,797 (1,566,312 ₡)

Price per square meter to buy apartment (outside centre)

£1,445 (1,260,177 ₡)

Cost of transport in Costa Rica

Transport is relatively inexpensive, which can help lower your cost of living in Costa Rica. That said, public transport can be limited in some locations. Bear this is mind if you do not drive or plan to purchase a car while in the country. Local buses are a popular and cost-effective way to travel, while shared shuttlebuses are commonplace when it comes to cross-country trips. Naturally, owning a car is the most convenient method of transport in Costa Rica. Car prices are still relatively close to those in Europe or North America, although you will pay less for petrol than you would in the UK.

Single bus ticket£0.57 (500.00 ₡)
Monthly public transport ticket

£25.27 (22,027 ₡)

Petrol (1 litre)

£0.78 (676.90 ₡)

Volkswagen Golf

£16,058 (14,000,000 ₡)

Toyota Corolla£18,024 (15,713,634 ₡)

What is the cost of living in Costa Rica?

Costs for groceries, leisure activities and other miscellaneous items can fluctuate greatly when compared to European prices. You might consider some of the supermarkets as having similar prices to back home, however the cost of dining out is substantially cheaper, while other utilities and amenities also present a cheaper way of living in the country. The examples below may give you a better idea of the cost of living in Costa Rica compared to UK.

Milk (1 litre)

£0.96 (834 ₡)

Bread (500g loaf)

£1.09 (949.17 ₡)

Eggs (12pk)

£1.76 (1,536 ₡)

Water (1.5 litre bottle)

£1.40 (1,223 ₡)

Chicken Breast (1kg)

£4.44 (3,873 ₡)

Cappuccino (regular, in a restaurant)

£1.82 (1,589 ₡)

Beer (500ml, in a restaurant/pub)

£1.72 (1,500 ₡)

Cinema ticket

£4.01 (3,500 ₡)

Gym membership (monthly)

£33.08 (28,842 ₡)

Preschool/Kindergarten (monthly)

£232.22 (202,457 ₡)

Primary School (yearly)

£5,443.56 (4,745,870 ₡)

The currency in Costa Rica

The Costa Rican Colón was named after Christopher Columbus, known as Cristobal Colón in Spanish. The currency replaced the Peso in 1896, and it is available in colourful waterproof banknotes and coins. The banknotes are in denominations of 1,000 ₡, 2,000 ₡, 5,000 ₡, 10,000 ₡, 20,000 ₡, and 50,000 ₡ and the coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 Colones. The currency is represented by the code CRC.

The Colón has had a ‘crawling peg’ relationship with the US Dollar that initially saw it grow progressively weaker at a fixed rate every month. The ‘crawling peg’ was modified in October 2006, and since then, the currency has not been subject to controlled devaluations. Instead, the Central Bank of Costa Rica posts exchange rates used as references by authorised financial institutions to determine their values independently.

The exchange rate now floats within a currency band referenced to the US Dollar. The band’s floor is set at a fixed value, and the ceiling changes at a fixed rate. At the time of writing, 1,000 ₡ was worth £1.15.

As well as considering the cost of living, you’ll need to educate yourself on how to make the move to Costa Rica as smooth and seamless as possible. One of the ways to do this is to get the most out of your international payments. Whether you’re buying a property there or transferring savings after the move, a moneycorp international payments account offers you access to great rates, low transfer fees and expert guidance for your foreign currency exchange

Making the most of your international payments account

Make a payment

Make a payment

No matter how big the transfer, we are ready to send your global payment.

Find out more
Regular payments

Regular payments

Hassle-free international payments for when you need to send them on a regular basis.

Find out more
Emigrate to Costa Rica

Emigrate to Costa Rica

Everything you need to know about moving to Costa Rica and starting a new life overseas.

Find out more
Tips on making the most for your money when you emigrate

Tips on making the most for your money when you emigrate

Our News Hub has plenty of easy-to-read guidance on how to emigrate abroad

Read more