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What are 5 Big Expenses for Costa Rica Expats?

Price tags always seem to catch expats moving to Costa Rica by surprise. Expectations for cheap prices for goods and services are quickly dispelled after a first trip to the grocery store or gas pump. Costa Rica isn’t cheap.

Many prices in Costa Rica are on par with those of “developed” nations. Certain goods and services, such as a bottle of wine, a box of cereal or a tank of unleaded fuel, are as expensive – in some cases more expensive – than in the U.S, Canada or Spain.

Here are 5 of the more expensive items expats in Costa Rica have to deal with when living in Costa Rica.

1. Clothes

Clothes here cost more per item than in the US.  This is mainly due to the import duty on imported items. But you do not need seasonal clothes as in the US.

Solution: It is better to  purchase clothes in the US and bring them  when you return. You can also shop online shop and have friends visiting from the States bring what you purchase there. Another cost-saving idea is to purchase clothes like many Costa Ricans do at second-hand American clothing stores, called Ropa Americana.

2. Food

If you want to eat like a gringo with all imported foods like those sold at Automercado or Pricesmart, you will pay twice what they cost in the USA.

Solution: Buy but locally produced products as much as possible. Vegetables and fruit are very inexpensive at famers markets. The prices there are 30 percent less than you will pay at a supermarkets here, most of which are owned by Walmart.

3. Eating Out

Dinning out can be just expensive as in the US. If you want to eat out, you can figure you will pay US prices or more.

Solution: Once you get settled, you can shop for reasonably priced restaurants like sodas or eat at home as many expats do.

4. Owning a Car

Owning a Car in Costa Rica can be expensive and may not be worth the expense

Solution: Cheap transportation is another way to counteract the cost of living in Costa Rica. By not owning an automobile, taking the bus, using taxis, walking  when possible, and using Uber or one of the platforms, a lot of money can be saved. For example, the cost of automobiles, annual marchamo, repairs, insurance for late model cars, and expensive gasoline all effect an expat’s pocket.

5. Health Care

Health costs due to unforeseen illness or accident.

Solution: Staying healthy is another way to reduce the cost of living here.vAlthough medical care and medicines are less expensive than the US, chronic illnesses can put a dent in your wallet. So, try to adopt healthy habits here like walking as much as possible, eating a lot of the inexpensive vegetables and fruit and avoiding alcohol as much as possible.

When you become a legal reside you have to join the National Health System which covers everything from Clinics, to drugs, to doctors, and hospitals. However, due to long waits expats may have to spend out of the pocket money on lab tests, medicines and private doctors.

Potential residents can find out more about the approximate cost of living in Costa Rica by going here

About Chris Howard

Christopher Howard Costa Rica’s foremost relocation expert and has been conducting monthly relocation/retirement tours to Costa Rica for over 30 years. See He is also the author of the one- of-a-kind bestselling, New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica — the official guide to relocation and  “Guide to Costa Rican Spanish,” that may be purchased through or 

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