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Currency and Cost of LivingBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Costa Rica - Currency and Cost of Living
The official currency is the Colon (in honor of Christopher Columbus - Cristobal Colon in Spanish). Notes are in denominations of 10000, 5000, 2000 & 1000 colones. Coins are 500, 100, 50, 25 and 5 colones (also in circulation are old silver colored coins of 5, 10 & 20 colones). As of January 2007 the exchange rate was 517 colones to 1 US dollar. Until September of 2005 the currency was devaluated at a rate of 9% per year because of the Central Bank policy. In October of 2005, the Central Bank began to allow the colon to float within a crawling band, with the idea of eventually allowing the market to decide its value. Through January of 2007 the colon has held its value against the US dollar. The Central Bank is still monitoring the currency, but the band will allow increases slightly each day, so at some point they will implement the next stage of the plan. You can find the historical and current exchange rates on their site - http://www.bccr.fi.cr. The state banks and private banks post their daily rates in real time on the site and the reference rate is an average. You will get a better rate exchanging currency at the state banks, but the private banks are more convenient and speedier.
Cost of living - Utilities
Water: $20 per month; Power: $25 (without air conditioning, heating pool); Internet: $15 RACSA (state ISP) Unlimited home user plan; Internet: $30 Amnet Cable Modem.
Cost of living - Automotive
In general, parts are more expensive here and sometimes difficult to find. On the other hand, labor is cheaper. So a trip to the mechanic here might cost about the same as what you'd pay in the U.S.
Cost of living - Household
One of the great things about living in Costa Rica is that you can afford to have a maid and/or a gardener for very little money. By law, you must pay your maid $140 per month, plus food and lodging. In return she must only work 12 hours per day (up to 16 hours if you pay overtime). You must give her 1 hour off each day, to coincide with a meal time. You also must give her 1 half day off per week, a half day off on holidays and 15 days of paid vacation per year. You should also enroll her in the Costa Rica Social Security system, so you would deduct 9% of her salary for this tax, but you must also pay 11% to the "Caja".
Cost of living - Groceries
The rule of thumb for groceries is that your bill will be about 2/3 of what it is in the U.S. A lot depends on what products you buy. Some products have price controls under what is called the "basic food basket". Products imported from Latin America under free trade agreements, or products grown locally or considered local cuisine (rice and beans) will have a lower price than imported "luxury" items. Here are some sample prices and sizes (in metric measurements - 1 kilo = 2.2 pounds) 1 kilo onions - $1.10; 1 head broccoli - $1.14; 400 grams Mozzarella Cheese - $3.00; French's Dijon Mustard 340g - $1.87; ACT II Extreme Butter Microwave popcorn - $.58; 3 kilos RINSO laundry detergent - $6.40; 1 can Refried Beans - $1.13; Kraft Sandwich Spread 215g - $1.28; Natilla 300 ml (light sour cream) - $.52; 40 Panadol tablets (acetaminophen) $1.09; 2 liters milk Dos Pinos - $.99; Case of Cerveza Imperial (national beer, not including bottle deposit) - $15.14;
Cost of living - Eating out and Lodging
Lunch for 3 at Lukas en El Pueblo - $31 (includes tip & taxes); Week night at hotel Costa Rica Morazon - $30 + tax; Cerveza at your local "cantina" - $1.10 (includes tip & taxes); Single room at Best Western San Jose - $53 + tax; Cerveza at Hotel del Rey in San Jose - $2.00; Villa Caletas near Jaco - $68 double per night + tax (in 2 for 1 low season special); Special Menu at La Solera in San Pedro - $12.25; Hotel Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo - $62 double per night; Blue Plate Special Downtown - $2.50 ("casado" at a Tico diner, includes juice drink); Super Deluxe Cheeseburger at Gringo hangout in Jaco - $6.
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