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Practical Living Considerations

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Welcome to Practical Living Considerations

In this section you will be able to find practical tips about living in Costa Rica.

Money in Costa Rica.  How is the Currency.

The Costa Rican currency is the “COLON”. The different bills are set forth below. The exchange rate between the Costa Rican Colon and the US Dollar or EU Euro fluctuates according to pre-established band set by the Costa Rica Central Bank.  You can determine the current exchange rate by looking it up at the Central Bank of Costa Rica website  which provides currency conversion rates: Costa Rican Colon Exchange Rate

Utilities in Costa Rica

Most basic utilities in Costa Rica are government owned.


In most of the country the service is provided by either the CNFL (Compañia Nacional de Fuerza y Luz)  or I.C.E.  (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) both national electric companies and telecommunication companies.  In rural areas you may find Electrical cooperatives that provide the electrical service. In the Central Valley of San Jose you can expect to pay around $120 per month for electricity for a 2 bedroom 2 bath home of around 1,200 Sq. Ft. with 2 people living in the home and with no need for air conditioning. Larger homes with a family of 4 persons can expect to pay around $200 per month. In the Coastal beach areas where you require air conditioning during parts of the year expect the electrical bills to be  much higher if you are using air conditioning units.


The Costa Rica water company is A y A (Acueductos y Alcantaillados). In the areas where AyA does not provide service you may rely on local rural water administration boards called an ASADA. In the Central Valley a home hooked up to the AyA water supply system for a 1,200 Sq.Ft. home would pay around $25 per month.

Telephone Service

The land line telephone service in Costa Rica is provided by I.C.E. (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad). The basic phone rate for a land line in Costa Rica is around $5 per month. The typical bill for moderate local use generally does not exceed $15 per month.

For cell phone coverage in Costa Rica you have more private competition along with the government owned telecommunications company, ICE which operates under the KOLBI brand.   The other major players in the cell phone market in Costa Rica are CLARO a Mexican company and MOVISTAR a Spanish company.

Internet Service

In Costa Rica Internet service is provided by both public (government) companies and private cable and cell phone operating companies. The two largest cable operators are TIGO and CABLE TICA. The typical rate for a cable based broadband account is around $35 for the basic service up to around 1 Mb. The Electrical company ICE also provides ADSL internet service via the phone line and that one runs around $75 for 4Mb speed.

Cable Television. The two largest operators are TIGO STAR and Cable Tica. Some will have service in areas where the other does not. The basic cable rate without adding premium channels is around $ 40 per month.

Food - Going to the Supermarket

The least expensive places to purchase food in Costa Rica is at the Farmers Market. In every city and small town of Costa Rica every Saturday morning you will find a Farmers Market in the center of town. Here you will find fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices.

As far as Supermarkets in Costa Rica the major food chains are owned by WalMart which purchased the locally owned supermarket chain Mas X Menos which included the “Pali” and “Maxi Bodega” brand names as well.  Another chain is the Mega Super which has a presence in may of the cities of Costa Rica. The more upscale supermarket in Costa Rica is Auto Mercado which is more prevalent in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. It has been expanding and there is an Auto Mercado in the beach town of Tamarindo in Guanacaste.

The Supermarket is not cheap in Costa Rica because many of the goods are imported and are subject to import duties to enter Costa Rica. Many foreign visitors have indicated that the cost of going to the Supermarket in Costa Rica is similar to the United States and other cities in Latin America.

Costa Rica also has a COSTCO which operates in Costa Rica under the brand name PriceSmart and has several locations throughout Costa Rica.

Understand the Cost of Living

Costa Rica can be surprisingly affordable or expensive, depending on your lifestyle and where you choose to live. Areas popular with expats and tourists tend to have higher living costs. Budget carefully for housing, utilities, food, transportation, and healthcare. Exploring local markets and living a lifestyle similar to the locals can help keep costs down.

Understand Residency Options

Be sure to check out our residency section of this site so that you can understand all the residency options you have available to you.