Working and Living in Costa Rica

Real estate – buy or rent

Every prospective buyer should check the title of property before buying, in particular whether mortgages or usufructuary rights are registered. Building land should be marked “NATURALEZA TERRENO PARA CONSTRUIR”. We recommend buying through a real estate consultant who is a member of the Camara Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raíces (CCCBR), because this would be punishable if the property is not sold at market prices, fees and charges.

Labor market

Foreigners with a permanent residence permit or with a special permit, which can be applied for at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (local immigration office), can work in Costa Rica. However, this permit only allows you to work in the country for one year (renewable if necessary). This work visa is not always issued, although it is officially possible. It is not easy for foreigners to get such a work permit.

According to countryvv, every foreigner living in Costa Rica is required to register with the state health insurance company, even if they already have private health insurance. Residents and businesses are only taxed on income earned in the country itself. There are no taxes on income from foreign sources.

If you want to make money in Costa Rica, you should speak Spanish. The economy is relatively stable and relies primarily on tourism, which is currently stagnating due to high prices. Foreigners who speak the coveted foreign languages ​​German or Dutch can relatively easily find well-paid jobs, provided they have a work permit. Otherwise the wages are rather low.

German-speaking jobs for emigrants, which can also be carried out in Costa Rica, are available on the Osourced portal. Native speakers in particular are in great demand. The employers come mainly from Germany and DACH. The wages are usually below the German level but above the local level in Costa Rica. Emigrants with German language skills benefit from a locally above-average wage with low cost of living at the same time (geo-arbitrage). Tip: Emigrants can still apply for a job in Germany. With a job offer, emigrating is much easier.

Those with an entrepreneurial spirit open up further opportunities. Self-employment mainly offers some opportunities in the craft and commercial sector, in tourism and in the construction and agricultural sectors. In addition, there are some ‘niche activities’ with very special knowledge (e.g. media, IT, solar technology, energy technology, etc.). Outsourcing and high-tech jobs have meanwhile become important sources of foreign currency for the country.

Cost of living

Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Latin America. The cost of living is now almost at the US level. Food in particular is a little more expensive than in Germany. In contrast, local products such as bananas are significantly cheaper. 2,500 euros allow a couple to live comfortably. However, medical care is even cheaper than in the United States.

You would need around € 2,367.28 in San Jose to maintain the same standard of living that you could have in Berlin with € 3,700.00 (assuming you rent in the cities).

  • Consumer prices in San Jose are 28.38% lower than in Berlin (excluding rent)
  • Consumer prices including rent in San Jose are 36.02% lower than in Berlin
  • Rental rates in San Jose are 53.38% lower than in Berlin
  • Restaurant prices in San Jose are 33.15% lower than in Berlin
  • Food prices in San Jose are 16.00% lower than in Berlin
  • The local purchasing power in San Jose is 49.77% lower than in Berlin

Average cost of living in San José (from 08/2019 – 07/2020)

Restaurant Ø € Price € Price from / to
Food, price w. restaurant 5.94 4.16-11.88
Middle class, 3 courses for 2 people. 44.57 26.74-81.71
Local beer, 0.5 l 2.23 1.49-2.97
Imported beer, 0.33 l 3.60 2.67-4.88
cappuccino 2.41 1.19-4.01
Coca / Pepsi (0.33 l) 1.34 1.04-2.23
Water (0.33 l) 1.16 0.89-2.23
Food Ø € Price € Price from / to
Milk (1 L) 1.22 0.89 – 1.63
White bread (500g) 1.41 0.82-2.97
Rice (white), (1kg) 1.74 1.25-2.23
Eggs (12) 2.45 1.49-3.21
Local cheese (1kg) 5.84 2.97-10.40
Chicken breast fillet (1kg) 6.28 2.97-8.91
Beef (1kg) 8.29 5.20-13.37
Apples (1kg) 3.74 1.49-5.35
Bananas (1kg) 1.23 0.74 – 1.49
Oranges (1kg) 2.03 0.74-5.94
Tomatoes (1kg) 2.33 1.11-4.31
Potatoes (1kg) 1.90 1.04-4.01
Onions (1kg) 2.17 1.04-3.79
Lettuce (1 head) 0.88 0.52-1.63
Water (1.5 l) 2.01 1.04-2.97
Bottle of wine (middle class) 11.14 7.43-23.77
Local beer (0.5 l) 1.74 1.11 – 2.67
Imported beer (0.33 l) 3.29 1.19-5.20

Average costs for local transport, utilities, clothing, leisure, education of San José (from 08/2019 – 07/2020)

Mode of Transport Ø € Price € Price from / to
One-time ticket 0.67 0.52-0.89
Monthly pass 43.27 34.17-66.85
Taxi base amount 0.98 0.96 – 1.26
Taxi 1 km 1.03 0.83-2.23
Ancillary housing costs Ø € Price € Price from / to
for 85 sqm apartment (electricity, water, garbage, etc. 61.16 31.57-134.13
1 minute prepaid mobile tariff 0.06 0.04-0.07
Internet (60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable / ADSL) 56.47 40.11-96.06
Clothes, shoes Ø € Price € Price from / to
Jeans (Levis 501 or similar) 56.36 29.71-81.71
Summer dress (Zara, H&M,… 40.59 22.28-59.42
Nike sports shoes, middle class 82.35 54.98-133.70
Leather business shoes 78.05 37.14 – 126.28
leisure time Ø € Price € Price from / to
Fitness center, month / adult 50.34 29.71-78.74
Tennis, 1 hour on weekends 29.71 17.83-37.14
a movie ticket 5.20 4.46-8.91
training Ø € Price € Price from / to
Preschool / Kindergarten, private, whole day, monthly per child 319.25 148.56-499.16
International primary school per year and child 6,998.12 3,565.44-10,926.60

Costa Ricans and foreigners living in the country have equal rights to purchase real estate. Pay attention to the entries (land register, owners, debts, etc.) and the registration of the titles. If there are discrepancies or evidence is missing: hands off!

Average rental prices / purchase and salaries of San José (from 08/2019 – 07/2020)

Monthly rental price Ø € Price € Price from / to
Apartment (1 bedroom) in the city center 492.37 297.12-865.37
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside the center 385.81 222.84-692.29
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in the city center 878.81 519.96-1,730.73
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside the center 726.24 408.54 – 1,471.12
Purchase price of apartments Ø € Price € Price from / to
Price per square meter for an apartment in the city – purchase 1,547.49 742.80-2,596.10
Price per square meter – apartment outside the center – purchase 1,278.89 865.37-1,730.73
wages Ø € Price € Price from / to
Average monthly salary (after taxes) 645.62

Working and Living in Costa Rica