This Week in Costa Rica

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This Week in Costa Rica is a weekly, online radio program and podcast by US expat, Dan Stevens

Filtering by Tag: cost of living in costa rica

Electricity Rates in Costa Rica

Pura Vida Energy Systems - Another New Rate Hike for Costa Rica!  Customers all over the country received higher electric bills at the end of April ranging from a 5% increase for customers of ICE to close to 20% for customers of some of the rural cooperatives.  Over the last 12 months rates from ICE have increased 24%, considerably higher than the historical average of over 14%.


Prices for electricity in Costa Rica have doubled approximately every 5 years during the last 20 years.  The average annual increase was 16.3% from 1995 to 2010 and 12.7% from 2000 to 2010.  Unfortunately, since 2010 the government was forced to begin using a bunker-fuel generator in Puntarenas to assist renewable energy production facilities in meeting the needs of the people.  Last year ICE spent close to 20% of its budget buying fossil fuels like diesel and bunker fuel for peak demand generators. Those fossil fuel purchases represented 20% of ICE’s costs but were used to produce only 7.5% of the electricity used in Costa Rica.  As this trend continues it is easy to see that the rates ICE charges will have to continue to increase just as they have.


Projections for growth indicate that by 2021 the amount of energy produced by fossil fuel generators in Costa Rica may be as high as 28%.  It is for this reason that the government is finally embracing distributed renewable energy production after many years of maintaining a strict government monopoly.  After all, if it takes 20% of the budget to make 7% of the energy then it would take 80% of the budget to make 28% of the energy.  Obviously the rest of the production facilities would still need to be maintained and operated, so the only option would be enormous rate increases to cover the extra expense.

Grid-tied solar energy production has the potential to replace those fossil fuel generators and help Costa Rica return to a 100% renewable national energy grid.  For many years the fact that 100% of the electricity used in Costa Rica was generated by renewable sources was a point of pride as well as a marketing tool for the tourism and relocation industries.  By investing in solar energy production for your home or business you can help Costa Rica meet its energy needs as it continues to grow. At the same time you can save money every month even at today’s rates while helping to slow the rate of increases for those rates in the future.

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CR Teachers Cost of Living; Using Ferias

Costa Rica English Teaching News – Part of the adventure of living abroad is the discovery of the little hidden gems that make your time away all the more special. While discovering these on your own can often times be the most rewarding, there are certain exceptions that buck this trend: those items that you – and your wallet – wished you had known about right from the very beginning. For me, the first item on this list is la feria.


As an ESL teacher in Costa Rica, the most economical choice is often the right one. Living on less than $1,000 a month (in most cases), though not necessarily prohibiting, can certainly have its challenges. Where many hesitate to make sacrifices in what they buy is in food. While most have open minds about trying new cuisines and the tastes of different cultures, we all like what we like. The good news, in terms of buying groceries in Costa Rica, is that there are options to buy your trusted ingredients outside of the traditional venues.

For the first calendar year that I lived in Costa Rica I bought one-hundred percent of my groceries in supermarkets. I did most of my shopping, based on the advice of local friends I had made, at more inexpensive chains – but they were still supermarkets. Sometime after that one year plateau, a friend of mine invited me to go with him one Saturday morning to la feria. I went along, to find out what it was, and my shopping patterns changed drastically.

As en ESL teacher in Costa Rica, if you use la feria, living on little income will become exponentially easier. La feria – The Market in English – is a farmer’s market that occurs every Saturday and Sunday in San José (if you live outside of San José the days change). The biggest ones are in Plaza Viquez on Saturdays and in Zapote on Sundays. However, with ferias also in Santa Ana, Escazú, Heredia and many other locations – including an organic feria – the options are plentiful and the commute is minimal, no matter where you reside.

Within the feria you can find just about anything you would find on your weekly grocery list. From fruits and vegetables to meat, fish, eggs, juice and even flowers, la feria is something that you should make a weekly occurrence.
Aside from the financial benefit, there are two other significant factors that come into play. The first is that all the produce is extremely fresh, often picked that same morning. Some of the best tasting fruits and vegetables that I’ve ever had have come from la feria. The trick is to not buy too much. As the produce is bought in a “ready to eat” state, it won’t last longer than five or six days. This would, if you do it correctly, coincide with your next weekly trip. In shopping at la feria, thinking in seven day intervals is best.

The other factor – and arguable the most important – is the vendors. The people you buy your weekly groceries from are the same people that grew them. By frequenting the feria you are not only cutting your grocery bill in half, but you are also supporting the local farmers and small companies that are often brushed aside by large supermarket chains.

La feria is one of the coolest things I’ve had the privilege of experiencing in my time in Costa Rica. You save a lot of money, start a first-name basis with the vendors you frequent the most, and give back to the local community that you are living in. I would strongly encourage every ESL teacher in Costa Rica to acquaint themselves with their local feria as soon as possible.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


Where do English Teachers Live in Costa Rica?


Costa Rica English Teaching News  - One of the most common queries about teaching English in Costa Rica is the question of where a teacher will be living. It’s clear why this ranks high on the list. Among other things, when someone is thinking about a life abroad, they like to imagine what their apartment will look like and where it will be situated. While dreams of living on a Costa Rican beach and watching the sun set over the ocean every night might be realistic for some, it is not a realistic expectation for an aspiring ESL teacher. 

Ninety-five percent of ESL jobs in Costa Rica are found in the Central Valley. The few jobs that do exist outside of the valley are with very small institutes and teachers earn a very minimal wage or are actually volunteers. This is especially true in tourist rich areas like beaches, where schools do not have to entice teachers to come, and can simply take the ones who are willing to offer their services for little to no pay.

With this said, if money is less of a factor than comfort and surroundings, the available positions outside of the valley will suit you just fine. In addition to this there are more lucrative private school options, such as the Falcon International School just outside of Jacó Beach. These schools generally have great benefits and competitive salaries to institutes in San José, but are extremely competitive and available positions are far and few between.

For the other ninety-five percent that will be working in the valley, the options are plentiful.

San José represents almost all of the capital’s metropolitan area. However, once more acquainted with the area, you quickly realize that there are actually many different regions, towns and neighborhoods that have their own uniqueness – and Ticos will be quick to correct you for incorrectly calling an area San José that is not.
Case in point can be found with the airport. Any local will interrupt you before you even finish saying that the airport is in San José – it`s actually in Alajuela. So while living in or around the capital will be your most likely destination, in all likelihood you won’t be living right in San José.

With Cartago, San Pedro and Los Yoses in the east, Heredia to the north, and La Sabana, Escazú, Santa Ana and Lindora to the west, there are many great options for living. Where you end up should mostly, but not entirely, depend on where you find work.

In the ideal scenario you would be able to stay in a low-risk environment, financially speaking, such as a hostel while you carried out your search for employment. This way, you would be able to apartment hunt with a general understanding of where your school is located. While certainly not an end of the world scenario, the constant high volume of traffic and precipitation during the rainy season make commuting longer than necessary distances an annoyance worth averting if possible.

If the hostel option is not viable, most language schools are located in Escazú, Heredia or San Pedro so apartment hunting right off the bat in these areas would be safe bets.

In terms of cost, as a general rule the further west you go the more expensive rentals become. Santa Ana and Escazú, while beautiful and more ‘Americanized’ – especially in the case of Escazú – are expensive. The same goes for La Sabana, which is also extremely beautiful, centrally located and home to La Sabana Park, one of the city’s biggest attractions.

San Pedro is a college area with lots of Universities and bars. Rent is quite affordable and many younger teachers prefer to reside here. Heredia, located just north of San José, is the most economical option. Rent on two bedroom apartments can be had for little, but the downside for some is it is not as lively as other places and lacks things to do in the evening. Though, for some, this is a positive.

The San José area is where most English teachers in Costa Rica settle. Where they actually live, though, is usually not right in San José. The options are plentiful and diverse. A little research and exploration when you’re on the ground will serve you well.

If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (, and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.


Setting a Budget; CR Cost of Living Comparison


 Costa Rica News – So many people are looking to make their hard earned dollars go further and are moving out of their home countries living abroad.  One of the areas drawing a large number of expats is Central America.  Most people do not have the ability to live themselves in the various countries before choosing one to call home.  The biggest question that people looking to move overseas asks “What is it going to cost me to live there?”

One of our readers submitted this to us today and it has incredible information about the cost of living in costa rica cost of living 1Panama, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. Tricia lived in multiple places and these were her findings.

Before you go peeking at our expense chart below, I need to make a few statements:

* This is OUR full disclosure cost breakdown of everything we spent money on based on the way WE live our lives.

* Our goal for a total monthly budget is $1,800 for living expenses ONLY.  Our income is higher but this amount is what we wanted to see if we could live with so that the extra could be set aside for savings toward further traveling.

* Our monthly rental goal with ALL utilities including WiFi is $800. We rented many different types of property from 1 bedroom/1 bathroom to 2 bedroom/2 bathroom; from 425 square feet to 1,200 square feet; high rise to apartment attached to a house, to single family home; from in town to rural to ocean front. We know we paid higher rents because it was only for one month. We also know that when we’re ready to rent for a year, our monthly rate will either decrease substantially or we will get a lot more for our money. Thus, keeping the rent within our budgeted goal.

* Phone costs are averaged based on what we actually spent over a 3 month period including initial purchase of SIM card, minutes, and data for both of us and any subsequent purchases of minutes/data. NOTE: we have only been Ecuador for 5 weeks and the line item shows the average of what we’ve purchased to date with 1.5 months remaining. We own our own unlocked iPhones.

* As we must be out and about much more than we would if we lived long term somewhere, we are eating out more than our “normal” 6-7 times, and are out socializing and meeting people to get a truer feel for each area. Thus, the dollars in meals below reflects eating out on average between 15-20 times a month and the “drinks only” will eventually be incorporated into our Entertainment budget. Where we ate was either typical fare or moderate priced. On a rare occasion, we went out for a special meal that was still well below US prices.

* We have NO car so there is nothing in this budget to indicate each countries cost of gas, which varies considerably at the moment.

* Currently, we are self-insured and pay everything out of pocket.  So only the true consistent item of Dental Cleaning was included and averaged over each 3 months (every 3 months for me; every 6 months for Mike)  We do have traveler’s insurance for catastrophic until we establish residency somewhere. Once residency established, a budget line item for medical/dental/vision will be made.

* Our meals at home became very simple and consistent. So that with what we bought at the grocery store being pretty similar in each location.  Groceries include wine & beer.  I don’t get into what’s more or less expensive in each country because it becomes a moot point when looking at the overall grocery budget.  Same for the cost of wine & beer in local establishments.

* Our One-Time Expenses are just that. Medical included my annual female checkups, swimmer’s ear in CR for Mike, and a banged up shoulder in Salinas, EC for Mike.  In my blog posts I breakdown the costs for each expenditure at the time we had to make them and won’t do that again here.  You may go back and read my blog posts for those individual occurrences. Dental included my new partial (1 every 15 years) and a new cap & veneer for Mike’s 2 front teeth. Tours included our actual time being a tourist but we will not be doing those on a consistent basis but will incorporate those costs in entertainment. Hotels & Transportation is the cost incurred while getting to and from an airport or when taking a side trip which has occurred every 3 months and will not be part of our usual agenda once we live somewhere full time.

See Full Detailed Cost of Living Comparison Here

So, with all of the above said, you can see, for actual day to day living expenses we spent a total of $5,521 in costa rica cost of living 2Panama for an average monthly of $1,840; a total of $5,387 in Costa Rica for an average of $1,796. And, so far, Salinas, EC is showing it was quite expensive.

A few specific clarifications to help you understand the spending patterns:

*Gorgona, PA: Our apartment had a death trap of a kitchen, so we ate out often (25x). Thus, there is no separate amount in Drinks Only because we always had our drinks where we ate.

*Tronadora, CR: We have nothing in Entertainment because all of our Entertainment was actually “free”. We would go with friends to the Tabacon hot spring river with drinks & snacks and sit for hours in the steam for FREE! We also did not get any “medicinal” massages that we love so much that are included as Entertainment in other locations.

*Grecia: Here too when we went out for drinks, we ate.

*Salinas: Can’t put a finger on it as to why groceries were so much more except that everything was always just a bit more. A dollar here, a dollar there. Wine & beer were definitely more for actually less quality.

Each location presented its own challenges from awkward housing with deficient kitchens (the term “fully furnished” is very loosely used), too few choices for eating out, to too remote of a location. In ALL cases, we are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt based on the data we accumulated, that we could make the necessary adjustments to keep within our desired budget of $1,800/month including medical once we are established and NOT diminish our lifestyle.

By Tricia Lyman

Any comments or questions can be emailed to Tricia directly at or visit her blog at

This Week in Costa Rica is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, expressed or implied.  This Week in Costa Rica is produced by Podfly Productions, LLC and broadcast with permission by the Overseas Radio Network.