So you are on a limited budget, but love Costa Rica and want to live here permanently. Everything seems more expensive than expected. The plummeting exchange rate makes stretching your meager funds that much harder.
How to get by? I have years of experience of living in Costa Rica, enjoying all the country has to offer while often possessing a dollar checking account balance that is in four digits– with a decimal point halfway. It can be done; just learn the following dos and don’ts to make the possibility of living life on the cheap in Costa Rica a reality.
9 Tips for Living in Costa Rica on a Budget
1) Learn enough Spanish to communicate. When you show you can speak the language decently, the chance of being taken advantage of financially is much less.
2) Look for housing options in Tico barrios or small, rural towns. Yes, you may have to get used to no air conditioning, barking dogs and motorcycles with no mufflers, but hey, you’re on a limited budget!
3) Eat lots of beans. And I don’t mean from the can. A two dollar bag of beans, cooked overnight, yields 15-20 delicious and nutritious servings. Go native and mix your beans with rice (another 15-20 servings from a $3 bag) and you can have a full belly for a week for less than the cost of a fast food hamburger.
4) Also eat lots of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Go to your local farmer’s market (feria). If you rent a house that has a green zone, consider a small garden. Fertility reigns here, drop some seeds in the ground and watch your food grow!
5) Look for discounts on meat. The phrase ‘discounted meat’ may sound ominous, like something you better cook the minute you get home before it begins to smell like it’s been dead in the sun for a while. But most every carniceria posts regular specials, with something for all carnivorous preferences.
6) If you are near water, 3 easy steps: Learn to fish. Catch fish. Eat fish.
7) Drink lots of water. Hydration is important in our climate. And most all of Costa Rica has drinkable tap water, which, while not free, is still cheaper than anything you can buy in a bottle. And on those days of the month when things are tight, it will help mitigate any hunger pangs.
8) Ride the bus. Yes it’s time consuming, sometimes uncomfortable, and increases your chances of catching whatever virus is in the air. But it’s cheap. And the buses go to virtually every corner of the country.
9) Take lots of day trips to places that people in North America and Europe save money all year to visit for a week or two. Amazing beaches, wild rivers, seething volcanoes, picturesque mountain ranges are all here, to be experienced at your leisure. If you want to spend extra days, there are cheap, no-frills cabinas for rent in most tourist areas.
5 Don’ts for the Budget Conscious Costa Rica Resident
1) Don’t dine in any restaurant that caters to tourists, unless of course, someone else is picking up the tab.
2) If you drink, don’t offer to buy the house a round (unless there are 3 or fewer people in the bar, and they are all drinking beer or Cacique guaro).
3) Don’t try to be a sugar daddy (or mommy) for a younger companion.
4) Don’t pay for sex, period.
5) If you include nuts in your diet, no cashews, almonds or pistachios– only peanuts.
Follow the above guide and you too can enjoy all that Costa Rica has to offer on only ten thousand US dollars per year.