Costa Rica

Living in Costa Rica?

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Living in Costa Rica

Living in Costa Rica, Central America’s green paradise with its amazing scenery, is a prospect that attracts many retiring expats — and a sudden reality for many assignees. Are you one of them? The InterNations Guide to Costa Rica gives tips on healthcare, traffic, safety, and more!
Luxurious houses are not out of your league on an average expat salary.
  • Housing is good value for money in Costa Rica, and the healthcare system is the best in Central America.
  • Costa Rica’s sacrificing of their army and directing their budget towards education is paying off.
  • Driving is the main mode of transportation as railway services are neither adequate nor reliable.


Comfortable Living Thanks to Low Costs

Costa Rica is popular amongst foreigners for a multitude of reasons, and the very affordable cost of living is definitely one of them. Wages might seem quite modest compared to many Western countries, but prices are far below what you might be used to.

But do not think Costa Rica is always cheap. High-end consumer goods and vehicles can be very pricy, even more so than in your home country. If you are a technology buff or audiophile, make sure to bring everything you need for your new life in Costa Rica. After all, you do not want your first paychecks to be mostly spent on computers and speakers.

Expenses for housing will consume a considerable part of your income. In this respect, Costa Rica is no different from any other country. But the level of luxury you can get will be quite surprising to some. Large apartments or houses, including cleaning and gardening services, are not uncommon.

Working and living in Costa Rica is somewhat lucrative for expats, as they are generally paid very well compared to their local colleagues. This is even part of the labor regulations for expats. While you might find it hard to save a little nest egg for when you return home, you will be able to live very comfortably on your expat salary.

Costa Rica’s Strength: Healthcare

Living in Costa Rica, you will enjoy the things millions of people travel for. Apart from year-round pleasant weather and breathtaking scenery, one major asset of living here is access to the country’s healthcare system, which is almost on par with many more developed countries. Costa Rica actively promotes medical tourism and annually attracts considerable numbers of people looking for affordable, high-quality procedures.

Any citizen and legal resident living in Costa Rica is covered by the national healthcare and social security system Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). Your affiliation with the Caja will grant you access to the major public hospitals. Little accidents and non-emergencies can be taken care of in small “neighborhood” clinics known as EBAIS. Please make sure to locate the one nearest to you and register before your first actual visit!

Most drugs are available directly through your pharmacist without prescription. Generally, if you have a small ailment, you should see your local pharmacist first, rather than directly consulting hospitals and clinics. Pharmacies are much more part of everyday life in Costa Rica than in many other places!

Most people in Costa Rica make use of the Caja, but, as in many other countries, socialized healthcare has its drawbacks. Services are adequate, but waiting times might be quite long for non-life threatening procedures. The only alternative available to you is private insurance with the government-affiliated INS. An overview of their services is offered on their website (in Spanish only).

Additionally, many companies offer healthcare plans for their expats. Living in Costa Rica is connected to considerable bureaucracy beforehand, so companies have a special interest in having their expats well taken care of.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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