When planning to pack for your trip to Costa Rica, whether it is a week-long trip or a 3 month-long trip, you want to make 100% sure that you only bring the essentials with you and leave the rest for when you arrive. However, the things that we consider “essential” differ for everyone. For example, when I heard about how expensive the price of beauty products here are, I made sure to double up on all of my makeup, hairspray, lotion, shampoo and conditioner. Bug spray and sun screen were on my list as well (I think it’s around $1.30 for a 2oz bottle of good sunscreen here). The cost of any name brand product here in Costa Rica is relatively expensive, as it is in every other country of the world. So before coming to the country, I would recommend developing some type of strategy on how and where you plan to spend your money during your time here.
Dining out in Costa Rica is a really popular thing to do with friends. Especially with students, I have discovered that at the end of our 4 hour intensive Spanish learning period the one thing we are all wanting is food. Sure going out for lunch is very enjoyable and relaxing, but can you afford to do it every day? Is it economically wise for you to do? The answer is obvious, of course it isn’t! However, dining out can be as inexpensive as you want it to be. There is an abundance of nice restaurants to choose from in downtown San Jose ranging from Applebee’s to Ichiban. Of course there is always the cheaper option of eating at a local soda for lunch instead. Soda’s, which are the Costa Rican equivalent to diners, mostly contain what is known here as típico food. Típico food is mostly made up of dishes with rice, beans and some type of meat (or vegetables for the non-meat eaters). There are also things like burritos, empanadas, hamburgers, and French fries available. All of these options are almost always going to be under $10, but remember there is always a 13% sales tax and a 10% service charge (because Ticos don’t like to tip) to factor in as well. The nice thing about soda’s is there is more than likely at least 1 located within walking distance of everywhere you go near the outskirts of the city.
Although this option may seem very inexpensive, it would start to add up over time. There is always the old fashioned option of bringing your own lunch with you in attempt to save money. Like dining out, grocery shopping is also very inexpensive if you allow it to be. Depending on the places you shop at and the brands you are looking for, this could potentially be the most economic option. A loaf of white bread is around $1.50, 2.2 lbs. of tomatoes is about $0.85, a head of lettuce is $0.80, and 1kg of boneless chicken breast is around $8. All the essentials for the perfect sandwich! And if you want to add a side of white rice or an apple, a 4lb bag of rice is around $2.20 and a bag of 8 apples can be purchased just about anywhere for no more than $2. All of these items can be found at your local Palí or “Super” (Chinos to me) for about the same price and is sure to last you at least 1 week.
Other food items like milk ($1.38 for 1 liter), local cheese (Monte Rico, $5 for 1 kg), eggs (15, $2.35), and coffee ($9 for the biggest container of Folgers) all vary depending on brand and location. Speaking of location, a one way ticket for the bus is around $0.70 and the regular price for a monthly pass is $30. Taxi service usually is anywhere around $1.15 and gas prices are around $1.40 for 1 liter. However walking is always free, and very popular to do amongst the Tico culture here in Costa Rica. Just be careful and double bag your grocery’s when necessary!