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Guide to Living and Teaching in Costa Rica

September 24, 2013

Cost of living

One of the biggest mistakes – and therefore surprises encountered upon arrival – visitors to Costa Rica make is assuming that Costa Rica is inexpensive. Based on its placement geographically it is easy to see where this thought process is derived from, but it is inaccurate.

Being the most developed nation in Central America does have a cost. It is considerably more expensive than other countries in Central America and is even, in some instances, comparable to prices in the United States. This is especially true for imported items as the taxes applied by the Costa Rican government are extremely high. The trick is to befriend locals and have them point you in the right direction to avoid tourist traps and avoid overpaying for essential items.

Eating local cuisine, staying away from fast-food chains (which are quite expensive), taking the bus instead of taxis and shopping at local markets and fruit stands instead of big supermarkets are all tips that can help keep costs down.

Almost all worthwhile ESL jobs in Costa Rica are in its capital of San José, where affordable rent can be had. For a furnished two bedroom apartment rent would fall somewhere between $400 and $600 USD. If someone wants to live at the beach or other tourist rich areas, rent and cost of living in general can be increased by as much as twenty-percent.

The currency used in Costa Rica is the colón. Though it had drastic fluctuation tendencies five or six years ago, in recent years it has held steady. The normal conversion rate is 500 colones for one U.S dollar.

The Cost of Living question always comes down to lifestyle expectations. If someone wants to live like they did in the first world, they will find Costa Rica very expensive. If a person comes with an open mind and a willingness to adapt to Central American surroundings and customs, they will get by just fine.


The ELT News guide to living and teaching English in Costa Rica was compiled by Andrew Woodbury.



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