Why is Costa Rica so Expensive? 6 Things that Make it More Expensive Than Other Countries

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with its own unique features. From the capital city, San Jose, to beaches in the Caribbean. It’s a beautiful little country in Central America that is famous for its natural beauty. Think mountains, rain-forests, and beautiful beaches. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, it can be if you’re willing to dish out some cash to have the full experience. There are many reasons why this little country may be more expensive than you might think.

Costa Rica is on average 20% more expensive than the rest of the countries in Latin America.  San Jose the capital of Costa Rica is as expensive as London which based on any comparison is crazy. Today San Jose ranks 94th among the cities with the highest cost of living.

Santa Teresa Beach in Costa Rica

Here are the 6 reasons why Costa Rica isn’t as cheap as you might think.

  • Tourism is an important source of income for Costa Rica and Tourist attractions are US priced or higher
  • National Health System
  • Labor Laws in Costa Rica
  • Premium location for conducting business.
  • Good economic and political stability.
  • Income and Quality of Live is Higher.

Tourism is an important source of income for Costa Rica and Tourist attractions are US priced or higher

Playa Bonita Beach in Guanacaste

It is a fact that tourism is the main source of income in Costa Rica. This beautiful country receives more than 1.8 million tourists per year, most of them come from Canada and the United States. Costa Rica earnings from tourism are in the billion US dollars per year. Some estimate that about 80% of all visitors come to Costa Rica to do activities related to Eco-tourism.

A trip to Costa Rica offers the opportunity to visit 12 different life zones, seven wildlife sanctuaries, 26 protected areas, eight biological reserves, nine forest reserves and 20 national parks. Costa Rica is the birthplace of ecotourism. The country is often cited as a model for other countries in the world.

We can still be surprised by the price of food, gas, and other utilities. With more and more tourists arriving in Costa Rica, hotels, restaurants, etc. are charging their fair share. Food and Gas When thinking of food and gas, some of us may think of a visit to any American fast-food chain or a little road trip down the street.

While these may be some options, for many it’s the airfare or a special menu at your favorite Costa Rican restaurant that makes the most sense. However, if you plan on going abroad, don’t assume that you won’t pay for these items. Even though this is a country with natural resources, it’s not always the case. Sometimes is even more expensive when you plan on eating the local food.

Costa Rica also has the highest amount of biodiversity per square kilometer in the world. However, not everything is perfect in Costa Rica. As a nation, they also have a lot of deforestation problems.

Costa Rica is committed to the upper middle class and upper-class tourism segment. About 10% of tourism in Costa Rica repeats its visit. This shows that there is a high degree of satisfaction.

National Health System

National Health System covers everything from Clinics, to drugs, to doctors, and hospitals

Costa Rica is among the six countries in the world with the best health care in the world, according to the rating agency International Living and published on January 23, 2019, by Summa Magazine in its digital format.

You would be impressed of the latest technology equipment and the excellent care that anyone can get in Costa Rica regardless of whether you are rich or poor. Let’s hope that this system will endure for future generations to come.

Because of the government’s continuous effort to offer citizens of this country access to all their needs, most people in Costa Rica don’t have a worry about their health. Their national health system provides medical services, from regular check-ups, to doctors, to blood tests, to medicine. If you get sick, don’t fret, because there are free medical clinics available.  

What’s the downside to this? Well, you do pay in other ways, too. If you don’t qualify for the national health coverage, expect to pay in other ways. Medicines may be more expensive, dental care may be expensive, and eyeglasses may cost much more than you expect.  Food prices in Costa Rica are up to 40 percent more than the U.S. average, according to one study.

Labor Laws in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica social security is a human right for health protection and the right to safety in working conditions. It covers the right to insurance, the rights to comprehensive health, sickness disabilities and payment of subsidies.

In addition, it covers maternity and breastfeeding leave, the right to a pension for invalidity, old age or death, among other rights. It is the obligation of all employers at the time of initiating an employment relationship, to insure the worker before the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (C.C.S.S), so that in this way the worker can make use of all the services provided by the institution. The worker can request at the Central Offices of the C.C.S.S a certification that the quotas are up to date, both those that have been reduced, and those that must be provided by the employer.

The minimum wage in Costa Rica is one of the highest in Latin America at approximately $550 USD a month. Costa Rica has high property taxes, which has kept some people from purchasing property here.

Many areas lack of good public transportation. The high taxes and property taxes makes owning a car difficult There are several factors that play into the high cost of living in Costa Rica but without looking at all of them it can be hard to make sense of why it’s so expensive.

Just don’t let the beautiful beaches, beautiful wildlife, and abundant waterfalls sway you. If you are thinking about moving to Costa Rica but you’re hesitant on how much money it will cost you, you should get all the information you can if you should still consider the country.

Premium location for conducting businesses

As the third most populated country in Central America, Costa Rica has always been known for its living environment. It is also situated in a strategic spot at the end of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Although there are many cities in the country, they are generally small in population.

San Jose, the capital city, is a bustling metropolis that serves as a hub for commerce and development in the region. Costa Rica has a long-standing reputation for offering quality products and services at an affordable cost.

Their government is known to provide affordable health care for all citizens. And most importantly, they have low taxes on goods and services. Businesses operating in Costa Rica have an advantage as they can access the large Latin American market with ease.

Good economic and political stability

Costa Rica has been a true haven for investors, especially in the past ten years. Its economy has grown on average between 4.5 and 5 percent a year over the past ten years, which is impressive. This strong economic growth is thanks to the oil industry which has been flourishing in the country, and it has helped spur the tourism sector as well.

Tourists flock to the country to enjoy the natural wonders of the country and the abundance of wildlife and natural reserves. Inflation Costa Rica has been recording low inflation. This is a good thing because it means the cost of living isn’t increasing, making the cost of goods and services cheaper. However, it’s also a bad thing because it means the country is not earning any income.

Costa Rica has attracted important flows of foreign investment. This has helped to progress in the value chain and improve the exports. The country has also been a magnet for international tourism. This has been thanks to its rich natural capital, especially its biodiversity and the large expanse of rain-forest, and the policies to protect it.

These factors, together with the increase in real incomes, have allowed for steady and resilient growth, with rapid recoveries to exogenous shocks (Figure 1). GDP per capita has tripled in the last years, close to the Latin American average

Costa Rica has the third strongest democracy in Latin America and is among the top 20 in the world in the democracy index according to The Economist.

Costa Ricans enjoy a higher standard of living than many of its neighbored countries, thanks to their stable and developed economic base, Although Costa Rica’s economy is probably the best in Central America, is by no means comparable to the U.S. or European countries, it certainly punches its weight and was fortunate to recover quickly from the global financial crisis.

Costa Rica level of unemployment is low, with only 7.8% of the population out of work. The working population is employed in a variety of sectors, but those working in the primary and secondary roles produced billions of dollars of exports in 2013.

The education system of Costa Rica today is recognized worldwide as one of the best in the Americas, Traditionally, education has been an engine of the Costa Rica’s development and has been undeniable in building one of the most stable democracies, and one of the most skilled labor markets and highest levels of well-being in Latin America. Stagnant educational outcomes over the past decade, coupled with rising inequality and slow growth, could jeopardize the country’s development. Improving access to quality education has become more important than ever in Costa Rica.

Access to education increased in Costa Rica at a faster rate than other Latin American countries. Inequalities also remain large. While disadvantaged students have greater access to education, even the remaining gaps in the early years and the poor quality of teaching and learning environments entered their chances of getting out of poverty. Virtually, the most affluent students make it to college compared to less than one in five of the poorest students.

Income and Quality of Life is higher

Costa Rica offers different opportunities for those who want to live and work in a country where many things are free. No monthly bills or bank fees. The labor force is well trained and highly skilled, that is, there’s no need to pay extra for home care or eldercare when you’re older. It’s that affordable.

However, there is high demand for highly qualified labor. Costa Rica is a very social and family-oriented society. It requires professional nursing, teaching, and health care. The country also has a very high skilled labor force that demands more money.

Most of the labor force work in blue collar jobs, where the salaries start around 2,000 to 4,000 US dollars per month. But for those who have the right skills and have the means, it’s not hard to start a successful business.

Costa Rica is a story full of successes in many aspects. Costa Rica experienced sustained economic growth over the past 25 years. This progress is the result of a growth strategy, based on foreign investment, as well as other factors. Costa Rica is considered a country with upper-middle-income.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Costa Rica has one of the lowest rates of poverty. All this due to the sustained growth, social contract and the combination of political stability.

The pandemic had a major impact on its economy, despite Costa Rica’s strong health system and fast response to the crisis. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to have contracted by 4.4 percent in 2020, the biggest setback in four decades, driven by sharp diminution in investment and private consumption.

One in five workers was unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2020. Despite strong mitigation efforts, an estimated 124,000 people fell into poverty, bringing the poverty rate to 13 percent in 2020. The crisis also disrupted Costa Rica’s incipient fiscal consolidation built on major reforms in 2018 and 2019.


The truth is prices can vary from one part of the country to the other. They’re determined by many different factors. Be sure to do your homework and gather all the information possible before you go. If you’re not sure where to stay, try talking to local hotels and travel agents. Don’t forget, you’ll want to check out the location and the season, as well.

So, if you’re thinking of taking a vacation soon, Costa Rica is a good choice. It’s beautiful and diverse. When you go to the country, you’ll see how different it really is from all the other destinations you’ve seen. Just remember, you must be willing to pay for what you want. There’s nothing wrong with that!


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