Introduction to Living in Costa Rica

Welcome to our comprehensive ‘Guide to Living in Costa Rica.’ Whether you’re considering a move to this tropical paradise or simply curious about what life is like in the land of ‘Pura Vida,’ this guide will provide you with valuable insights. From the cost of living and healthcare to embracing the local culture, we’ll explore all the essential aspects of Costa Rican life. So, let’s embark on this journey and discover the joys and challenges of living in Costa Rica.

Why Choose Costa Rica?

There are countless reasons why people choose to make Costa Rica their home. The country’s natural beauty is breathtaking, with stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and impressive volcanoes. The Costa Rican lifestyle is laid-back and relaxed, allowing for a healthy work-life balance. The locals, or “Ticos,” are known for their friendliness and hospitality, making newcomers feel welcome. The country also boasts a high standard of living, with excellent healthcare and education systems. Costa Rica’s Official Tourism Website provides more insights into why this country is a top choice for expats.

Understanding Costa Rica

Geography and Climate

Costa Rica is located in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The country’s geography is diverse, with mountain ranges, valleys, and a plethora of beautiful beaches. The climate is tropical year-round, but can vary depending on altitude and geography.

Culture and People

The culture in Costa Rica is a blend of indigenous heritage and Spanish colonial influence. Ticos are known for their friendly and relaxed demeanor. The country’s motto, “Pura Vida,” or “pure life,” perfectly encapsulates the Costa Rican attitude towards life. Family and religion, particularly Roman Catholicism, play significant roles in the culture.


Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica, and is spoken by the vast majority of the population. However, English is widely spoken in tourist areas and by younger generations. Learning Spanish can enhance your experience of living in Costa Rica, but it’s not essential for day-to-day life.


Costa Rica has a stable economy, with tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports being the main industries. The country has a high standard of living compared to other Central American countries. The cost of living in Costa Rica is relatively low, although it’s higher than in some other Latin American countries.

Political Stability

Costa Rica is a democratic republic with a strong system of constitutional checks and balances. It’s known for its long-standing commitment to peace and democracy. In fact, it’s one of the few countries in the world without a standing army. The U.S. Department of State – Costa Rica Travel Advisory provides more information on the country’s political climate.

Practical Aspects of Living in Costa Rica

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Costa Rica is relatively affordable compared to many Western countries. However, it can vary depending on the location and lifestyle. Here are some average costs:

  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $500 – $800 per month
  • Utilities (electricity, water, internet): $100 – $200 per month
  • Groceries for one person: $200 – $300 per month
  • Meal at a mid-range restaurant: $10 – $15

Healthcare System

Costa Rica’s healthcare system is highly regarded and is ranked among the best in Latin America. The country offers both public and private healthcare:

  • The public system, known as Caja, provides free healthcare to all residents and citizens.
  • The private system offers faster service and is still affordable compared to U.S. standards.

Education System

The education system in Costa Rica is of a high standard. Public education is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 15. There are also many private schools, including international and bilingual schools.

Real Estate and Housing

Real estate in Costa Rica offers a wide range of options, from beachfront condos to mountain villas. The process of buying property is straightforward, and foreigners have the same rights as locals. Renting is also a popular option, especially for those who are new to the country.


Costa Rica has a comprehensive public transportation system, including buses, taxis, and a railway. Many people also choose to own a car, although the cost can be high due to import taxes.

The Pros and Cons of Living in Costa Rica


  • High standard of living: Costa Rica offers a comfortable lifestyle at a relatively low cost.
  • Natural beauty: From beaches to rainforests, the country is full of natural wonders.
  • Friendly locals: Ticos are known for their hospitality and friendliness.
  • Stable democracy: Costa Rica is politically stable and has no military.


  • Language barrier: While English is spoken in tourist areas, Spanish is the main language.
  • Cost of imported goods: Imported items, especially electronics, can be expensive.
  • Traffic: In cities like San Jose, traffic can be heavy.

Tips for Moving to Costa Rica

Before making the move, it’s essential to research and plan. Here are some tips:

  • Visit first: Spend some time in the country to see if it’s a good fit for you.
  • Learn Spanish: While not essential, it can enhance your experience.
  • Understand the cost: Make sure you have a realistic idea of the cost of living.


We hope this ‘Guide to Living in Costa Rica’ has given you a comprehensive overview of what life in this tropical paradise can offer. Costa Rica truly has something for everyone, from its stunning natural beauty to its warm and welcoming culture. Remember, moving to a new country is a significant decision that requires thorough research and consideration. This guide is just the starting point. We encourage you to continue exploring and learning more about the ‘Pura Vida‘ lifestyle that awaits you in Costa Rica. Here’s to your new adventure!

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


Frequently Asked Questions

Is Costa Rica a good place to live in?

Yes, Costa Rica is considered a great place to live due to its high standard of living, beautiful landscapes, and friendly locals. The country is known for its political stability, excellent healthcare, and commitment to environmental sustainability.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Costa Rica?

The amount of money you need to live comfortably in Costa Rica can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle and location. However, on average, a single person might expect to spend between $1,500 and $2,000 per month, including rent, utilities, groceries, and entertainment.

What is the average income to live in Costa Rica?

The average income in Costa Rica is approximately $10,000 per year. However, many expats and retirees have income from outside the country, such as pensions or investments, which can significantly increase their spending power.

What are the pros and cons of living in Costa Rica?

The pros of living in Costa Rica include a high standard of living, beautiful natural surroundings, friendly locals, and a relaxed lifestyle. The cons can include a language barrier for non-Spanish speakers, high costs for imported goods, and heavy traffic in urban areas.

What is the downside to living in Costa Rica?

Some downsides to living in Costa Rica include the high cost of imported goods, potential language barriers for non-Spanish speakers, and the need to adjust to a different pace of life. Additionally, while the country is generally safe, crime can be an issue in certain areas.

What is the safest city to live in Costa Rica?

Heredia, located in the Central Valley, is often cited as one of the safest cities in Costa Rica. It’s a popular choice for expats due to its proximity to the capital, San Jose, and its lower crime rates.

Where do most expats live in Costa Rica?

Many expats choose to live in the Central Valley, which includes cities like San Jose, Heredia, and Escazu. This region offers a mild climate, good healthcare facilities, and a variety of entertainment options. Other popular areas include the beach towns along the Pacific coast.

How much is average rent in Costa Rica?

The average rent in Costa Rica can vary greatly depending on the location and type of property. However, you might expect to pay between $500 and $800 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in a city. In more rural areas, rent can be significantly cheaper.

What is the highest paying job in Costa Rica?

High-paying jobs in Costa Rica are often found in fields such as information technology, finance, and healthcare. Additionally, many expats work remotely for companies based in other countries, which can offer higher salaries than local jobs.


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