Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What is the cost of living in Costa Rica

I am often asked about the cost of living in Costa Rica and I came across this excellent article by Jerry Minchey which gives a good indication as to just how cheaply you can live (and live well) in Costa Rica.

Can You Live in Costa Rica on Your Social Security? - Five Facts and Techniques to Help You Decide

Just to see if it could be done, I lived in Costa Rica for five months last year on my Social Security check. And I didn't just get by, I lived very well.

Before I get the to five techniques that will allow you to live in Costa Rica on your Social Security, let me give you a few real-life examples from my experiences.

To start with you don't need a car. You can go anywhere on new modern buses. (The roads are rough, but the buses are nice.) Buses pass most points (even in rural areas) every hour and most of the time every 30 minutes. The fare to anywhere is about one US dollar an hour.

Food is inexpensive IF you buy things that are grown or processed in Costa Rica and this includes about everything. For example Heineken beer and Oreo cookies are cheap, (but don't try to even find fig bars). Beer is cheap, but wine is about the same as in the US because they don't produce wine - at least, not much. A good meal at a restaurant (bar-b-que ribs, or steak and all trimmings) will run you less than $3 and that includes dessert, tax and the tip.

Costa Rica orange juice is about $1 for a half gallon and Florida orange juice is about $7 for half gallon. In other words, watch prices and buy local products. Farmer's markets are a great place to get fresh produce at extremely low prices. For example pineapples are four or five for a dollar depending on the size.

I lived in an almost new (less than a year old) house for three months and the rent was $600 a month for everything - utilities, phone, high speed Internet and cable TV. Then I stayed in a new apartment (I was the first person to live in the apartment) and the same things were furnished. The rent for the new apartment was only $450 a month and again this covered everything.

I think you are beginning to see that it's quite possible to live well in Costa Rica even with a small Social Security check each month.

By the way, medicine and first rate health care are both inexpensive. Many people go to Costa Rica for dental work and cosmetic surgery because the prices are extremely cheap and quality is first rate.

Yes, you can drink the water. Costa Rica is rated as the cleanest country in Central America. I ate and drank in restaurants all over Costa Rica for five months and I never got sick.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for eating in the US. The first night after I arrived I got sick as a dog (from food I had eaten in the Ft. Lauderdale airport). I know this was the case because I had not had anything to eat or drink in Costa Rica before I got sick.

Since I was so sick that night, at 9:00 p.m. friends took me into town to see the local pharmacist. He lived behind the pharmacy and he came in from his home, checked me over and gave me some medicine and gave me a shot (yes, pharmacists can prescribe medicine and give shots in Costa Rica).

He also gave me his home phone number and his cell phone number and told me to call him if I needed him during the night. I was well the next morning and never got sick again for the next five months I was in Costa Rica.

So yes, you can live in Costa Rica on a small monthly Social Security check. And you will not be just surviving, you can live very well.

Here are the five techniques that will help you to live in Costa Rica on your Social Security check.

#1. Rent a small apartment -- $400 to $500 a month. (Remember, this includes everything - electricity, Internet, Cable TV, phone, water, etc.)

#2. Buy locally produced food and get a lot of it from one of the many farmer's markets. $100 a month per person is easy to do.

#3. Yes, you can eat out some. Just don't over do it.

#4. Travel by bus.

#5. One last point -- Check out Spirit Airlines' $9 club. They have $9 fares (each way) from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Costa Rica almost every month. Just be flexible with your travel dates.

This covers the basics and for many Social Security budgets this will leave a reasonable amount for extra things you want to buy, see and do.

Will these techniques allow you to live in Costa Rica on your Social Security check?

The answer depends on the size of your Social Security check and your definition of "living" verses "existing."

Jerry Minchey is an engineer, author and researcher. He cuts through the hype and gets down to the bare facts to reveal secrets that are easy to understand using non-technical terms. He has written several books and produced DVDs as a results of his research.

To see what people are saying who have moved to Costa Rica (or are considering moving), check out the Costa Rica Forum.

To see examples of new apartments you can rent for $450 a month (completely furnished with utilities, phone, cable TV and high speed wireless Internet included), take a look at some Costa Rica Apartments.

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