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Should I stay or should I leave Costa Rica for a lower cost of living?

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Should I stay or should I leave Costa Rica for a lower cost of living?

Many of you know that the cost of living in Costa Rica has gone up a lot in the past few years. One of the reasons is that the Costa Rican government decided to stop with the mini-devaluations in 2006. They then moved to exchange rate bands that kept the Colon on the same value since then.

Therefore, exporters are suffering from a bad exchange rate. But more and more companies for the US and other parts of the world are still getting installed in Costa Rica. Even though the social security system in Costa Rica is expensive. So it adds excessively to the labor cost and operating cost of a business.

Procomer, the Costarican entity for commerce promotion, publishes that Costa Rica has 4.6 million people, with 4,600 products exported to 150 countries. In 2014, we exported $11,304 billion in goods, $6,341 billion in services by 2441 exporting companies. It is also true that quite a few Costarican industries have moved to Nicaragua because labor is cheaper there.

Is it true that everything in Costa Rica is more expensive than elsewhere? Why are foreign industries moving to Costa Rica and local Industries moving elsewhere? Is life for a retiree or expat better elsewhere? Should you stay or leave Costa Rica and go back to where you came from?

Should I stay or should I leave Costa Rica for a lower cost of living?
Essential Costa Rica is how Costa Rica promotes foreign investment

More expensive?

I just got back from Florida.  Grocery shopping in a supermarket in  Florida is pretty much the same as it is in Costa Rica. BUT the choice of inventory is 10 times or more than what you can get in Costa Rica.

Most products in Costa Rica that are not included in trade agreements with other countries have a high import tax and the 13% sales tax (soon going to 14 and 15%) adds onto it even more while in Florida there is only a 6% state tax plus a 0.5 – 1.5% discretionary surtax, depending on where you are. So buy locally made (or in Central America) products. Also, you can lower your cost of living by buying inexpensive things.

I have also made some inexpensive dining suggestions in another blog.


Health insurance, CCSS (obligatory Social Security) is affordable and you don’t need hurricane insurance in Costa Rica. You don’t need air-conditioning anywhere, just a ceiling fan here and there, fruits and vegetables is a lot cheaper on the farmer’s market and dental work is also a lot cheaper. Mostly, you don’t need all the stuff that the consumer society in the US almost obliges you to fill your garage to overflow.


The average American uses 300 shopping bags worth of raw materials every week and an amount of food that weighs as much as a large car. The constant consumption in the US leaves North Americans largely unsatisfied anyway, which has created what is almost an addiction. In Costa Rica, this urge is not so great because the inventory is simply not available or less affordable.

Depending a lot on your lifestyle, the cost of living in Costa Rica is not bad at all.

If you are creative enough…

Industries move

Why do some industries move and others arrive?

Costa Rica’s workforce is very well educated because we have no army in Costa Rica and the funds are used for education.

This puts the Tico workforce at a much higher educational level than Nicaragua or other Latin countries. This attracts a lot of foreign industries who invest heavily in Costa Rica and pay attractive salaries that in their own country would not attract such a well-educated labor force. Costa Rica attracted over $2 billion in direct investment just in 2014.

On the other hand, social security and production costs (mostly power costs) put Costa Rica out of the market for simple mass production products and it is cheaper for some local industries to move their operations to Nicaragua, where low-skilled labor is a lot cheaper.

Better elsewhere?

It just depends on the lifestyle you are looking for and what your income is. Are you living in a 1st world country and you don’t really care about the amenities and advantages this country offers? Would you like:

  • To live in a fantastic climate every day for the rest of your life?
  • Maybe even enjoy the advantages of a country with 5% of the world’s biodiversity in only 0.3% of the world’s territory?
  • Prefer to live in one of the happiest countries in the world?

Then living in Costa Rica is a great option for you. Most of those who are living in Costa Rica do not realize that the cost of living has changed everywhere in the world and how good life can be in Costa Rica compared to life elsewhere.

Should I stay or should I leave Costa Rica for a lower cost of living?
You might end up living in Costa Rica like this one day

Stay or go back?

Should you stay or leave Costa Rica and go back to where you came from?

Today’s recommendation

Before you take any wrong decisions, do your homework. Make a list of the issues that bother you when living in Costa Rica and send the list to as many relatives and friends.

Ask them to give you their thoughts about how they experience those issues in their own environment.  And if there are certain issues in their environment they think that could bother you when you’d move back as well.

Sure you won’t find a perfect place by moving to Costa Rica, you will have to work hard to make it to that place. I did and I still think it is, even with the cost of living higher than before. You might find out that the cost of living is not really such an important factor anymore. There are other more important issues you should fully take advantage of while you can.

I also recommend that when you stay, you should do business with GoDutch Realty. Contact us now.

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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. Also, please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, we appreciate it.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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