Unfortunately, there is no simple answer when asking the question, is Costa Rica expensive? The reason is some things are expensive, and some things are not costly. We will stick strictly to travel expenses and save living in Costa Rica for a separate topic. This makes the answer a bit easier. The answer is yes! You might be wondering why things are expensive in a country where the minimum wage is just over $3’s. Well, those Costa Rican’s making $3’s an hour don’t have to worry about housing nor healthcare expenses. Now without getting into politics, we will look at whether Costa Rica is expensive when traveling?
Having already answered yes, I thought we could break this down into the different traveling expenses, which are: lodging, food, tours, transportation, and of course, sunscreen and bug spray.
Lodging in Costa Rica is not cheap. It’s an easy concept. There is a demand for accommodation. When places are full, they have little reason to offer deals. If you come during the slow season, then you can expect better prices, but I would not go as far as to say you are getting it cheap.
You also have to consider that Costa Rica offers a wide selection of lodging for visitors looking for budget accommodations and those looking for more luxurious stays. Many guests like to spend on fancy hotels, which might not be a bad idea depending on the occasion. With Costa Rica, we always suggest spending first on the experiences. The reason is that a fancy hotel you can find anywhere. The uniqueness of some experience in Costa Rica is hard to come by. If you spend your money on the right things, you will not feel that Costa Rica is expensive.
It very much depends on where you eat. Stick to the local joints, and you will never be too surprised. Tips are included, which makes things easy. Most menus now have the 13% sales tax not included, so you can expect to add 13% to it. If you eat at a US chain restaurant, you can expect to pay 60% more than you would in the US. Because there are places to eat off the tourism radar, you can usually eat on a budget if you want.
Tours are like lodging. It falls under the tourism radar, and there is a demand. We are strong advocates of not trying to shop cheaply on tour. There are many different options for adventure in Costa Rica, and let’s say you pay for what you get from service and, more importantly, safety.
If you are talking about transportation and want to know if Costa Rica is expensive, yup! Overall, getting around should be more expensive. Gas is more expensive, and all vehicles have a 40% import tax, so you should pay more than most transportation companies. You will pay a similar price when renting a car or uber lifts. You will find it expensive but nothing too crazy. I have a lot of friends in the transportation industry, and their margin of profit is low.
Sunscreen & Bugspray
For the love of Costa Rica tourism. Sunscreen and bug repellent are marked up 400%. If you are looking for some SPF, get ready to dig deep in the pockets because it will cost you. My only guess is that certain chemicals found in them require an astronomical import tax. If you know of any other reason why I would love to hear?
In closing, we will still say Costa Rica is cheaper than traveling to Europe based on what you get. But if you want to know if it is expensive, we answer that it is certainly more expensive than some neighboring countries. The days of Central America being “cheap” are over, and you can blame Costa Rica for it. When you know you got a beautiful country with amazing people, it doesn’t make sense to sell yourself cheaply.