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What Does Housing Cost For Expats In Costa Rica


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Audrie Spires



Are you considering becoming an expat in Costa Rica? One of the most important factors to consider when relocating to a new country is the cost of living. Understanding the cost of housing is particularly crucial, as it often constitutes a significant portion of your expenses.


In this article, we will delve into the cost of housing for expats in Costa Rica. We will explore both the rental and property buying markets, as well as other essential expenses that contribute to the overall cost of living in the country.


Costa Rica is a popular destination for expats due to its tropical climate, natural beauty, and affordable living expenses. However, it’s important to note that prices vary depending on the location, amenities, and type of accommodation you choose. Whether you prefer a bustling city, a tranquil coastal area, or a rural retreat, there are housing options that can suit your preferences and budget.


So, let’s dive into the details and discover the costs associated with housing for expats in Costa Rica.


Cost of Renting Accommodation

Renting accommodation is a popular choice for expats in Costa Rica, offering flexibility and affordability. The cost of renting varies depending on various factors such as location, size, amenities, and proximity to urban centers. Generally, the most expensive rental properties are found in the capital city of San Jose, while more affordable options can be found in smaller towns or rural areas.


On average, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a desirable neighborhood in San Jose ranges from $500 to $800. In contrast, a similar apartment in smaller towns or rural areas can cost around $300 to $600 per month. If you’re looking for a larger home or villa, prices can range from $800 to $1500 or more depending on the location and amenities offered.


It’s important to factor in additional expenses when renting, such as utilities. In most cases, utility costs are not included in the rental price, and you’ll need to budget for electricity, water, internet, and cable TV. On average, these expenses can amount to around $70 to $150 per month depending on your usage and location.


When renting in Costa Rica, it’s common to pay a security deposit equivalent to one or two months’ rent, which will be refunded to you at the end of your lease term. Some landlords may also require the first month’s rent upfront. It’s advisable to carefully read and understand the terms of the rental agreement before signing.


While renting provides flexibility, it’s worth considering the option of purchasing property in Costa Rica, especially if you plan to stay in the country long-term. Owning a home can offer stability and the opportunity to build equity. Let’s explore the costs associated with buying property in Costa Rica in the next section.


Cost of Buying Property

If you’re considering a more permanent move to Costa Rica, buying property may be a viable option. The cost of purchasing property in Costa Rica can vary greatly depending on the location, size, and type of property you’re interested in.


In popular tourist areas or cities like San Jose, the cost of property can be higher compared to more remote or less developed areas. For example, a two-bedroom condominium in a prime location in San Jose can range from $150,000 to $300,000 or more. On the other hand, you can find similar properties in less populated areas for prices as low as $80,000 to $150,000.


It’s important to note that in Costa Rica, foreigners have the same rights to own property as locals. However, it’s recommended to work with a reputable real estate agent or lawyer to navigate the legal process and ensure a smooth transaction.


In addition to the property cost, there are other expenses to consider when buying property in Costa Rica. Closing costs, which include lawyer fees, registration fees, and transfer taxes, typically range from 2% to 5% of the property’s value. It’s important to factor in these additional expenses when budgeting for your purchase.


Maintenance and property taxes are ongoing expenses associated with owning property in Costa Rica. Property taxes are relatively low compared to many other countries, typically ranging from 0.25% to 0.5% of the property’s assessed value. Maintenance costs can vary depending on the type of property, but budgeting around 1% to 2% of the property’s value per year for maintenance is a good guideline.


Whether you choose to rent or buy property in Costa Rica, it’s crucial to consider your individual financial circumstances and preferences. Renting offers flexibility, while buying allows you to build equity and create a more permanent home. Now that we’ve covered housing costs, let’s explore other essential expenses that contribute to the overall cost of living in Costa Rica.


Utility Expenses

When budgeting for living expenses in Costa Rica, utility costs are an important aspect to consider. While the exact expenses may vary depending on factors such as location and usage, it’s helpful to have a rough estimate of what to expect.


Electricity is a significant utility expense in Costa Rica. The cost of electricity varies based on consumption and the region you live in. On average, you can expect to pay around $40 to $100 per month for electricity.


Water is another essential utility, and the cost is typically included in the monthly rental payments for apartments and some houses. However, for standalone properties, the cost of water can range from $20 to $50 per month.


Internet and cable TV services are widely available in Costa Rica. The cost of these services depends on the package and provider you choose. On average, you can expect to pay between $40 and $70 per month for a basic internet and cable TV bundle.


Propane gas is commonly used for cooking and heating water in Costa Rica. The cost of propane varies depending on the size of the gas tank and your usage. On average, a refill of a standard 25-pound propane gas tank can cost around $15 to $25.


It’s important to note that these prices are estimates and can vary based on your location, lifestyle, and consumption. Additionally, it’s worth considering energy-efficient practices to minimize utility costs in Costa Rica.


Before moving to Costa Rica, it’s advisable to research the specific utility costs in your desired area and include them in your budget. Now, let’s move on to transportation costs, which are another significant aspect of the cost of living in Costa Rica.


Transportation Costs

Transportation is an important aspect of daily life in Costa Rica, and understanding the associated costs is crucial when planning your budget. The transportation options available vary depending on your location and personal preferences.


If you choose to own a car in Costa Rica, you’ll need to consider expenses such as purchasing the vehicle, registration fees, insurance, and fuel costs. The cost of purchasing a car in Costa Rica can be higher compared to other countries due to import taxes. Additionally, car insurance is mandatory and can range from $600 to $1,200 per year, depending on the type of coverage and the age and value of the vehicle. Fuel prices in Costa Rica are generally higher compared to other countries, with gasoline costing around $4 to $5 per gallon.


Public transportation is a popular and more affordable option in Costa Rica. Buses are the main mode of public transportation, with extensive coverage across the country. Bus fares typically range from $0.50 to $2 per trip, depending on the distance and route. Taxis are also widely available and can be a convenient option, especially for shorter distances within a city. Taxi fares start at around $1.50 and increase based on distance and time.


If you’re living in a more urban area, you might also have access to ride-sharing services such as Uber or DiDi, which provide a convenient and affordable transportation option.


Cycling is a popular mode of transportation in some areas of Costa Rica, especially in the more bike-friendly cities. It’s a great way to save on transportation costs and stay active at the same time.


When planning your budget, take into account your transportation needs and preferences. Consider whether owning a car is necessary based on your location and lifestyle. Additionally, factor in public transportation fares or the cost of alternative modes of transportation such as cycling.


Now that we have covered housing, utility, and transportation costs, let’s move on to another essential aspect of living expenses – grocery and food expenses.


Grocery and Food Expenses

When it comes to grocery and food expenses, Costa Rica offers a wide range of options to suit different budgets and dietary preferences. The cost of groceries and dining out can vary depending on your location, lifestyle, and choices.


If you prefer buying groceries and cooking at home, you’ll find a variety of supermarkets and local markets in Costa Rica. The prices of groceries can vary, but generally, they are affordable compared to many other countries. A basic basket of groceries including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat can cost around $150 to $250 per month for a typical household.


Shopping at local markets, known as “ferias,” can be a cost-effective option for fresh produce. Here, you’ll find a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and other staples at lower prices compared to supermarkets.


If you enjoy dining out or trying local cuisine, you’ll find a range of eateries in Costa Rica. Restaurants can vary from small “sodas” where you can enjoy traditional Costa Rican dishes at affordable prices, to high-end restaurants offering international cuisine. On average, a meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around $10 to $20 per person, while a three-course meal at a high-end restaurant can range from $30 to $50 or more per person.


It’s also worth mentioning that Costa Rica has a vibrant street food culture, offering delicious and affordable options. From “gallo pinto” (a traditional rice and beans dish) to “casados” (a typical plate with rice, beans, meat, and salad), you can enjoy local flavors at budget-friendly prices.


When planning your food budget, consider your eating habits, preferences, and dining-out frequency. Cooking at home and shopping at local markets can help you save on food expenses, while indulging in dining out experiences can be a treat.


Now that we have covered housing, utilities, transportation, and food expenses, let’s move on to another important aspect of living in Costa Rica – healthcare costs.


Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is a vital consideration for expats, and Costa Rica has a well-regarded healthcare system that is accessible and affordable. While healthcare costs can vary depending on your specific needs and circumstances, it’s helpful to have an understanding of the options available and the associated expenses.


Costa Rica has a combination of public and private healthcare facilities. The country’s public healthcare system, known as the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), provides comprehensive coverage to all residents, including expats who contribute to the system. The monthly contributions for public healthcare are based on your income and typically range from 7% to 11% of your salary.


Private healthcare is also widely available and provides additional options and faster access to medical services. Private health insurance is recommended for expats as it can provide coverage for private clinics, specialists, and elective procedures. The cost of private health insurance varies depending on factors such as your age, health condition, coverage limits, and deductibles. On average, you can expect to pay around $100 to $300 per person per month for private health insurance in Costa Rica.


It’s important to note that healthcare costs can also include out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays, deductibles, and prescription medications. The cost of prescription medications in Costa Rica is generally lower compared to many other countries, but specific medications and their costs may vary.


If you require specialized or elective procedures, it’s advisable to research and compare prices among different healthcare providers. Some expats may also choose to travel to nearby countries for specific treatments or procedures to access more affordable options.


Overall, healthcare costs in Costa Rica are relatively affordable, especially when compared to other countries such as the United States. However, it’s essential to plan and budget for healthcare expenses to ensure you have proper coverage and access to the services you need.


Now that we have covered the major expense categories, let’s briefly touch upon other miscellaneous expenses to consider when calculating the overall cost of living in Costa Rica.


Education Costs

If you have children or are considering pursuing education opportunities for yourself in Costa Rica, it’s important to understand the potential costs associated with education.


Costa Rica has a reputable education system that offers both public and private schooling options. Public education in Costa Rica is free for residents, including expat children who are legal residents in the country. Public schools generally provide a high standard of education, although the availability of English instruction may vary.


Private schools are also prevalent in Costa Rica, offering bilingual education and various curricula options. The cost of private schools can vary significantly depending on the reputation, location, and facilities of the school. Tuition fees for private schools in Costa Rica can range from $300 to $1000 or more per month, depending on the grade level and the specific school.


In addition to tuition fees, other expenses such as uniforms, books, school supplies, and extracurricular activities should also be taken into account when budgeting for education costs.


For higher education, Costa Rica has several universities and higher education institutions. The costs of tuition for higher education can vary depending on the institution and the program of study. It is advisable to research and compare tuition fees, financial aid options, and potential scholarships to plan for higher education costs in Costa Rica.


Overall, education costs in Costa Rica can be varied, but there are options available that cater to different budgets and educational needs. It’s important to consider your family’s education priorities and budget accordingly when calculating the overall cost of living in Costa Rica.


Now that we have covered the major expense categories of living in Costa Rica, let’s wrap up our discussion.


Miscellaneous Expenses

In addition to the major expenses we’ve discussed, there are various miscellaneous expenses to consider when calculating the overall cost of living in Costa Rica.


One of the significant miscellaneous expenses is insurance. While healthcare insurance is crucial, it’s also advisable to consider other types of insurance such as property insurance, vehicle insurance, and personal liability insurance. The cost of insurance will vary depending on the coverage and the value of the assets being insured.


Another expense to consider is leisure and entertainment. Costa Rica offers a wide range of recreational activities such as exploring national parks, going to the beach, or participating in water sports. While many of these activities are free or relatively inexpensive, budgeting for entertainment expenses like dining out, going to the movies, or attending concerts is important.


Communication expenses, including mobile phone plans and internet services, should also be factored into your budget. The cost of mobile phone plans varies depending on the provider and the included features, while internet services can range from basic to high-speed connections.


Additionally, consider other day-to-day expenses such as personal care items, clothing, and household supplies. While these expenses may vary depending on individual preferences and lifestyle choices, it’s important to account for them in your budget.


Lastly, it’s always wise to set aside a contingency fund for unexpected expenses that may arise. This could include emergency medical expenses, car repairs, or home maintenance issues.


By considering these miscellaneous expenses alongside the major categories we’ve discussed, you can create a comprehensive budget to estimate the overall cost of living in Costa Rica.


Now that we have covered various expenses, let’s conclude our discussion.



As an expat in Costa Rica, understanding the cost of living is crucial for a smooth transition and financial stability. By considering the various expenses involved, you can create an accurate budget that aligns with your lifestyle and financial goals.


In terms of housing, the cost of renting accommodation can vary depending on location and amenities. Buying property offers stability and the opportunity to build equity, but it comes with additional costs such as closing fees and property taxes.


Utility expenses, including electricity, water, internet, and gas, should be factored into your budget. Transportation costs can vary depending on whether you own a car or rely on public transportation options.


Grocery and food expenses are manageable in Costa Rica, with affordable options for both shopping and dining out. Healthcare costs are relatively reasonable, with options for public healthcare coverage or private health insurance.


Educational costs, whether for children or higher education, should be considered if you have educational needs or aspirations in Costa Rica. Additional miscellaneous expenses such as insurance, leisure activities, communication, and personal care items should also be accounted for.


By carefully considering these expenses and creating a comprehensive budget, you can plan for the cost of living in Costa Rica and make informed financial decisions.


Keep in mind that the cost of living can vary depending on individual preferences, location, and lifestyle choices. It’s important to research and gather specific information relevant to your situation to ensure an accurate estimation of expenses.


Ultimately, living in Costa Rica as an expat offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the country’s natural beauty, warm culture, and affordable living. With proper financial planning, you can enjoy all that Costa Rica has to offer while maintaining financial stability.


So take the time to assess your needs, research the costs, and embark on this exciting adventure with a well-prepared budget. ¡Pura Vida!