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Friday, July 12, 2024

Why is Gas so Expensive in Costa Rica?

Gas prices are the topic of almost everyone’s conversations these days. The rising cost of gasoline is on the mass’s minds making their way into social media at the forefront of every meme and joke, perhaps as a way to cope with what is happening.

Costa Rica’s fuel prices are determined by ARESEP (Public Service Regulating Authority) it is the country’s regulatory agency that has control over the price and supply of public services. ARESEP uses a formula where the international prices of oil and the dollar’s exchange rate create a monthly calculation.

It was back in December 2021 when ARESEP publicized a press release announcing a fuel reduction even though the effects were not likely to be felt. “it is appropriate to apply a reduction of ₡52 colones per liter in super gasoline, ₡53 per liter in regular gasoline and ₡38 per liter in the case of diesel.”

Within their press release, they noted that “the Regulatory Authority, after completing the public consultation process, recognizes that this reduction came at an opportune time, to contribute to the process of socioeconomic reactivation that Costa Rica must carry out”. However, since then we have seen a rise in gas prices since this statement and it does not appear to be the end.

As everyone is so clearly aware things in the state of the world and economy are not too stable with the continual ups and downs of the pandemic mixed with the effects of the unraveling conflict between Russia and Ukraine affecting the global markets.

Costa Rica’s oil refinery, RECOPE is responsible for the country’s fuels import and distribution located in Moin on the country’s Caribbean Coast from which the pipeline moves it across the country. Although Costa Rica does not produce petroleum itself, it does import it and the government oversees this through its ownership of RECOPE.

On March 11, 2022, RECOPE has gone to ARESEP with the request of increasing gas prices. After this proposal is submitted, ARESEP then must come to a conclusion in 15 days reviewing their submission to determine if the request is justified to alter the inflation of prices of gasoline.

Currently, the price of super gasoline is ¢822, in Costa Rica, this is considered the premium gasoline. Super gasoline does cost more but is composed of higher octanes with 95 octanes. The new proposal would see you paying ¢87 more, with each liter of super gasoline costing ¢909 going from around $1.28 a liter to $1.41.

Regular gasoline or as some may know it as Plus 91, comes with a cheaper price at ¢804 with its lower octane level of 91, hence the name. With the proposed increase the price would see you paying ¢889 an increase of ¢85 per liter of regular gasoline. In conversion that would be around $1.25 to now $1.38 a liter for regular.

Diesel is no different, with a current price of ¢724 and approximately $1.12 a liter it would be jumping ¢121 with a new price tag of ¢845 or about $1.31. If the application is accepted then we can see the effects immediately with changes in April.

According to, a website that compiles information regarding gasoline data for various countries has updated their stats as of March 14, 2022. Venezuela is currently the cheapest at $0.025 per liter, Russia stands at $0.431 per liter and Hong Kong with the most expensive per liter at $2.879. Costa Rica’s neighboring countries of Panama have rates of $1.167 and Nicaragua of $1.199.

So as Costa Rica continues to open up, removing the previous mandatory requirements of their health pass upon entry and travel insurance as of April 1, 2022, there may be a new hurdle for tourists in their vacation. You may save money on eliminating the need for your covid travel insurance, however, you may now be spending that money on filling up your rental tanks during your stay.

Costa Rica does offer a few good qualities when it comes to getting gas, one being that service stations offer full service. You don’t need to worry about getting out or leaving your valuables inside the rental, they come to you. However, it’s a good habit to have anywhere you go that before they start filling up the tank be sure to check that the pump has been reset.

Depending on where you are traveling to or staying some gas stations can be few and far between. Some small towns may not even have a service and gas station so if you see one it is always best to stop when you can, saving you the stress and fear later on, especially when traveling at night.

The last thing you want is the memory of being stranded on the side of a dark road with the nocturnal sounds of the rainforest as your only hint of nearby life, wishing you hadn’t thought there was cheaper gas ahead. Because, in fact, there isn’t cheaper gas ahead.

In Costa Rica, the government regulates the price of gas and therefore all gasoline distributors sell it at the same rate and are required to do so. Unlike other countries like Canada and the United States, you don’t need to shop around or carry around all your different gas and point cards. In Costa Rica, there is no competition trying to sway you into their pumps other than maybe a local raffle or sale they are offering.

With the upcoming Costa Rican run-off election taking place on April 3 as the candidates set forth proclamations of how they will address the country’s gas prices, combined with the Ukraine and Russian conflict the country is facing uncertainty.

However, one thing is certain and has made itself clearly obvious that we are most likely to see continued fluctuations at the pumps and in turn feel the unfortunate trickle effects within our daily costs of living.

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