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Teaching English in Costa Rica

Cloud Forest bridge
Sloth in the rainforest
Tenorio National Park
Cloud Forest bridge
Sloth in the rainforest
Tenorio National Park

Map of Costa Rica

See other ESL teaching opportunities in
Latin America
How Much Can I Earn?
Monthly Salary:
300,000 - 600,000 CRC ?
560 - 1,130 USD
Private Tutoring per Hour:
10,000 - 17,500 CRC
20 - 30 USD
Income Tax Rate:
Ability to Save per year:
500 - 4,000 USD
What Are My Benefits?
Rarely included
Rarely included
Health Care:
Rarely included
Usually paid
What Will Teaching Be Like?
Teaching Hours:
20 - 25
Typical Contract Length:
One year or less
Typical Start Date:
Jan/Feb, Jun/Jul, or year round
Application Timeline:
1 - 4 months
What Do I Need?
Work Visa:
Employer sometimes sponsors
Education Requirements:
Bachelor's Degree
Oxford Seminars TESOL/TESL/TEFL Certificate
Additional Notes:
Candidates are encouraged to apply in person; minimum requirements are generally higher for those applying from out-of-country
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Living in Costa Rica

ESL teachers in Costa Rica can spend their time off hiking volcanoes, zipping through the misty canopy of the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and soaking up the sun on one of the many beaches. All this, combined with the many ESL teaching opportunities available, make Costa Rica an excellent destination of choice.

Why Teach in Costa Rica

ESL Teachers in Costa Rica can enjoy the Monteverde Cloud Forest, the quiet black sand beaches of Puerto Viejo, and the exotic wildlife of the Corcovado National Park. They can enjoy the colorful markets, warm climate, and exotic food, all while teaching ESL.

The country of Costa Rica is partially made up of tropical islands and is one of the world's largest tourist destinations, including many visitors from Canada and the United States. Costa Rica may be a small country, but it is known for its biodiversity and its large portion of protected wilderness. There are many ESL teaching opportunities available which adds to making Costa Rica an excellent destination of choice.

What to Know About Living in Costa Rica


Foreigners to Costa Rica have many housing options, including condos, apartments, and houses on the beach in gated communities, or among local Ticos (Costa Ricans) in their communities. While there are ultra luxury homes with price tags of over 2,000,000 CRC per month (US$4,000), modest small houses can be found in the range of 175,000 - 275,700 CRC per month (US$350 - $550). Much depends on proximity to large city centers. Accommodations in the heart of a large city center are priced higher than those 50 miles beyond city limits.

Utilities such as telephone, electricity, and water are less expensive than they are in North America, running at approximately 15,000 - 25,000 CRC per month (US$30-50). Air conditioning is rarely required as most regions are temperate. Those living in beach areas, however, typically have the added moderate expense of air conditioning.


As is the case for most countries in Latin America, airfare is not usually included in contracts for teaching ESL in Costa Rica. Due to the high number of expatriates that travel to Costa Rica to find work in person, and due to its less than thriving economy, most schools decline including this benefit in remuneration packages.

Health Care

Health care in Costa Rica is ranked among the best in Latin America. Boasting both a universal and a private system, health care in Costa Rica is affordable, of high quality, and readily available. While private insurance is more expensive than the cost of public services, it is still substantially less costly than health care in North America. Both the private and public systems are available to all citizens and legal residents.

Health care benefits are not usually included in ESL teacher contracts.

Retirement Age

The official retirement age in Costa Rica, the age at which citizens are eligible for state pensions, is 61 for men and 59 for women. While the average age of teachers in Costa Rica is in the late 30s or early 40s, older teachers do find opportunities.

Communication Technology

Costa Rica has a relatively modern telecommunications system; however, a number of factors prevent it from keeping up with the speed of changing technology, most notably the state-owned monopoly of the industry.


A residency permit is usually required to apply for a phone line or to purchase a cell phone; however, receiving assistance from a local Costa Rican to do so is quite common. Cell phones in Costa Rica tend to be marginally higher in cost than they are in North America, however due to the fact that proof of purchase of the phone in getting a connection is required, buying a phone once there simplifies the whole process.


Internet service is available throughout Costa Rica; however, by North American standards, it is typically quite slow, expensive, and less than reliable. These factors are due in part to the state-owned monopoly of Internet and other related services and a reluctance to embrace higher technology.

American Food

For a taste of home, American restaurants/cafes have become a common part of the urban landscape in Costa Rica, including:

- McDonald's
- Taco Bell
- Subway
- Quiznos
- Wendy's
- Burger King
- Church's Chicken
- Papa John's
- T.G.I. Friday's
- Pizza Hut
- Tony Roma's
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Outback Steakhouse

Among others, two grocery chain stores, Auto Mercado and Hipermas, carry many North American brands and items. While prices are higher than they are at local markets, these are still affordable stores at which to shop. Walmart also has stores in Costa Rica.

Transportation in Costa Rica

Public Transportation


Taxi service in Costa Rica is widely available and reasonably priced. Most taxis are red and have the company's insignia on top or on the door of the car.

Fares generally start around 600 CRC with an additional 600/km (.6 miles). ESL teachers should ensure that the taxi's meter is in working condition. Should a driver try to negotiate a flat rate, a different taxi should be chosen, as the law requires taxi's to be metered.

Tips When Traveling By Taxi:

- Ask other foreign teachers which taxi companies are safe and reliable.
- When flagging a taxi, stand at a spot on the curb where the driver can pull over.
- Choose a taxi driver that appears to be well-groomed with a well-kept car.
- Make note of, and use, the driver's name.
- Follow your instincts. If you feel unsafe, remove yourself from the taxi and get another.
- Carry a map so that you can point to the location to which you are traveling.

Train and Subway

Traveling by train in Costa Rica is not a common form of transportation. There is not an intra-city train system; however there are some inter-city commuter lines that run, primarily to and from San Jose. Trains are generally fast and inexpensive. The train costs between 220 - 440 CRC, depending on the length of your trip.


Some claim that bus service in Costa Rica is the best in all of Latin America. Buses are inexpensive, comfortable, reliable, and accessible. City bus fares typically run between 130 - 360 CRC, depending on distance traveled. Cash is usually required for payment of fares.

While there are designated bus stops throughout cities in Costa Rica, buses will often stop if hailed by someone, providing there is a safe place to pull over and stop.

Bus service between cities is available and very inexpensive. Most fares between cities run under 5,000. Buses are generally air-conditioned.

Other Modes of Transportation

Other modes of transportation that are available for ESL teachers include:


Airline service between cities in Costa Rica is well established. There are two main domestic airline companies with competitive pricing.

Costa Rica is in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Sansa and NatureAir are the most popular airlines of choice.

Boat/River Travel

Travel by boat or ferry is a great way to see the spectacular sights of Costa Rica. As most boats are open to the elements, following weather patterns would be helpful.


Cycling in Costa Rica should be done with a great deal of caution. Vehicular accidents are higher than in most industrialized countries due to road conditions, reckless driving, ignoring of traffic laws, and intoxication. Cyclists must ride defensively.

Tips When Riding a Bicycle:

- Wear a helmet!
- Take an extra shirt to school as hot temperatures will make for a sweaty ride.
- Ensure that one's bicycle is well-secured when parked or stored.
- Foreigners should write their name, phone number, and work address on their bicycle.

Motor Vehicles

Driving in Costa Rica can be a challenge. Roadways are crowded and often shared with pedestrians, cyclists, and farm animals. Potholes are an ongoing problem on roadways and traffic laws are often ignored. Visibility is impaired at times due to extreme weather systems and heavy rain. The shoulders on roads are often narrow and don't leave much room to negotiate other traffic or road users.

Drivers from the US or Canada can use their own country's driver's license or an international driver's license for up to three months after arriving in Costa Rica, provided that one's visa is still valid.

Foreigners seeking to obtain a Costa Rican driver's license must provide a current passport, valid visa, medical certificate, and current driver's license from one's home country. As the driver's blood type is recorded on the license, knowing this information is vital. Obtaining a driver's license is one of the easier governmental documents to obtain. It would be prudent to verify required documents as rules and regulations change from time to time.

Some tips to keep in mind:

- Adopt a mildly aggressive and yet defensive driving demeanor.
- Be aware that failing to wear a seatbelt or exceeding the speed limit may result in being ticketed by a traffic officer.
- Doors should be kept locked when driving as robberies are quite common.
- As a pre-cautionary measure, interior car lights should not be illumined at night.
- Valuables should be kept out of sight if traveling with open windows.
- Avoid driving in bad weather as visibility can be greatly reduced and road conditions impaired.

Etiquette in Costa Rica

Costa Ricans, commonly known as Ticos, are warm, gracious, and polite. They are somewhat less demonstrative and more reserved than many of their Latin American neighbors; nevertheless, are quick to engage in dialog with foreigners. They enjoy hearing about other cultures and are eager to share their own. Costa Ricans hold a deep sense of honor and as such avoid situations and conversations which could be interpreted as disrespectful to themselves or others.

General Etiquette

The following are some helpful guidelines for etiquette.

- Men tend to greet each other with a firm handshake. Hugging is not a common form of greeting.
- Women greet one another by gently patting the forearm of the one they are meeting. A light kiss on the cheek may be exchanged between good friends.
- Individuals should be addressed by using their professional title. For example, a teacher should be called, "Professor". Those who do not have a professional title should be addressed as Miss. (Senorita), Mrs. (Senora), or Mr. (Senor), followed by their surname.
- Boasting is not highly regarded and should be avoided.
- Being punctual is less important for social events, but expected for business and formal events. Arriving up to 30 minutes late for a social event is acceptable.
- Office attire is generally conservative and more formal than North American office attire.
- Expressions of gratitude go a long way when appropriate.
- It is considered good manners for a man to open doors and carry baggage for women.

Dining Etiquette

Following are some helpful dining hints:

- Giving a hostess a gift when dining at someone's home is common. Wine or chocolates are appropriate. Flowers are also an appropriate gift choice, however, avoid giving calla lilies as they are associated with funerals.
- As Costa Ricans tend to put an emphasis on appearance, it is best to dress somewhat formally when dining in someone's home or in a restaurant.
- It is impolite for women to drink alcohol.
- Putting feet up on furniture while visiting in someone's home is considered to be offensive.
- Excessive drinking is frowned upon.
- Appropriate topics of conversation include politics, family, and the beauty of Costa Rica.
- Guests are usually seated at the head of the table.
- First time guests should be careful not to overstay their welcome. Lingering up to one hour following the completion of dinner is acceptable.
- If there are no servants attending a meal eaten in someone's home, offering to help with clean up is usually appreciated.

Language in Costa Rica

Spanish is the national language spoken in Costa Rica. Students in school are required to learn it along with a second language, either English or French, with English being the predominant choice because of its international influence.

Learning conversational Spanish can be a fun process when using interesting approaches such as: watching English movies with Spanish sub-titles, studying a pocket phrase-book, or striking up conversations in the marketplace. Learning to speak Spanish in order to get around and to purchase goods is extremely helpful.

Following is a list of common Spanish phrases. Learning to speak the language, even at a very basic level, makes one's experience in another culture much richer and is a compliment to the national people.



How are you?
Como esta?

What is your name?
Como te llamas?

My name is
Me llamo



Por favor

Thank you

Do you speak English?
Habla usted ingles?

How much does this cost?
Cuanto cuesta?

Where's the toilet?
Donde esta el bano?

Investing in a pocket phrasebook would be an invaluable purchase. Even if pronouncing a particular word is difficult, pointing to the word in a phrasebook could prove helpful.

Eating in Costa Rica

Costa Rican Cuisine

Costa Rica's staples are rice with black beans, virtually served at every meal. Of course, these two food items are used in a myriad of ways to create a delicious array of meals.

Popular food choices include:

- Gallo Pinto (served at breakfast, a mixture of beans and rice usually served with eggs, meat, and vegetables)
- Casado (served at lunch or dinner, a variation of cabbage, tomato salad, fried plantains, meat - chicken, fish, or beef)
- Picadillos (pureed vegetables and meat)
- Arreglados (meat-filled sandwiches)
- Olla de Carne (beef broth with chunks of meal, tubers, and corn)
- Spit Roasted Chicken
- Corvina (sea bass)
- Pargo (red snapper)

A good practice is to keep a notebook for food preferences after sampling various dishes at functions or good choices ordered at restaurants.

Climate in Costa Rica

Costa Rica enjoys a diverse, yet moderate climate, with average annual temperatures between 70 - 81F. It has two seasons: "winter" (rainy season), and "summer" (dry season). Its diverse geography and elevations create mini weather systems. The beaches are tropical and reach very hot temperatures, averaging between 80 - mid 90sF. The mountains are cooler and usually don't exceed 65F during the day. The rainforests are hot and humid, while cloud forests are cool and moist.

Summer - Costa Rica's dry summer season generally lasts from December through late May. Rarely does it rain during this time.

Winter - Costa Rica's rainy winter season generally lasts between late May or early June and November. While it typically rains one or more hours during the early afternoon, there are still many hours of sunshine to be enjoyed. This season is also called Green, as the landscape is lush due to the combination of rain and sunshine. September and October tend to be the months with the heaviest rainfall.

Natural Disasters

Earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods are the most common natural disasters in Costa Rica.

Due to the fact that it is geologically positioned in an active land area in which tetonic plates are constantly shifting, Costa Rica experiences its share of earthquakes. The shifting of these plates also has an impact on the active volcanoes in the region.

Hurricanes and flooding combined have accounted for the greatest impact on Costa Rica in terms of natural disasters.

Holidays in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is predominately a Catholic country, and as such, most of its holidays are religious in nature. Below is a list of the primary holidays celebrated in Costa Rica:

New Years Day - January 1

St. Joseph's Day - March 19
Commemoration of Joseph, the husband of Mary, Jesus' mother

Easter - Thursday and Friday of Holy Week

Juan Santamaria's Day - April 11
Commemoration of the death of Juan Santamaria, national hero of Costa Rica

Labor Day - May 1
Celebration of the economic and social achievements of the working class

Guanacaste Day - July 25
Annexation of the province of Guanacaste from Nicaragua in 1824

Virgen de los Angeles Day - August 2
Commemoration of the patron saint of Costa Rica

Mother's Day - August 15

Independence Day - September 15
Celebration of Independence from Spain

Discovery of America/Dia de la Raza - October 12

Christmas - December 24 and 25

New Year's Eve - December 31

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Teaching English in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a popular choice among ESL teachers due to the high market demand for English instructors, the stable economic and political atmosphere, and the vibrant culture.

Peak ESL Hiring Season in Costa Rica

The Costa Rican school year begins in February and goes through until December, at which time students enjoy a two-month holiday. They are given a two-week semester break in July. Peak hiring is generally between September and December. Teaching positions are available through public and private schools, language schools, universities and colleges, and through private tutoring. Language schools typically hire year-round.

Public and Private School System

The Costa Rican government places a high priority on education and has poured its energy and resources into this sector of society in a significant way. As a result of this, and ongoing reforms, its literacy rate is 95% plus, second only to Cuba in Latin America.

While literacy has been a main focus in the education system, resources for anything beyond this are lacking by North American standards, public schools in Costa Rica are generally quite poor and lack necessities. Books are in short supply and finding a computer in a classroom would be highly unusual.

Private schools vary in quality. Some have a solid reputation and follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, while others follow the National Baccalaureate program.

Private Language Schools

Private language schools provide supplementary education for students who require additional tutoring. Classes are offered during after-school hours and at other convenient times. As private language schools do not follow the semester system of conventional schools, teachers are hired year round. Most positions are available in the Central Valley region.

Teaching Business English is in demand in Costa Rica as in other parts of Latin America. As in most other Latin American countries, applying in person is a definite advantage. Many Costa Rican newspapers, some of which can be viewed online, have classified ads for English teaching positions.

Universities and Colleges

Public universities in Costa Rica conduct their classes in Spanish, while some smaller, private universities offer classes in English. Tuition for public universities is quite low and scholarships are available, albeit competitive. Tuition for private universities, compared to their public counterparts, is quite high.

Private Tutoring

ESL teachers who choose to do private tutoring can expect to earn approximately 10,000 - 17,500 CRC per session, which is higher than most school teaching positions. Provided that it is not a breach of contract, gaining contacts through one's primary place of employment, for example, a school or company that hires in-house English language instructors, is a great way to build a tutoring clientele.

How to Find Jobs Teaching English in Costa Rica

There are many resources available to ESL teachers searching for teaching positions abroad, including:

- Oxford Seminars' English Language Schools Directory
- ESL Jobs
- Dave's ESL Cafe
- TEFL.com
- ESL Employment
-The Chronicle of Higher Education

Graduates of Oxford Seminars receive our Job Placement Service with exclusive access to established schools and recruiters around the world.

Large Chain Schools in Costa Rica

- Berlitz Costa Rica
With more than 470 centers in over 70 countries, Berlitz is a well-established English language training company. Berlitz offers one-on-one tutoring as well as small and large group instruction.

- English First Costa Rica
English First has language learning centers in 50 countries around the world and is located in the nation's capital.

Jobs Teaching English in the Summer in Costa Rica

ESL teachers who are interested in teaching during the summer in Costa Rica will find that the North American summer does not coincide with the summer months in Costa Rica, February through December. As such, seeking a teaching position during North American summer would be to arrive in the middle of the school year in Costa Rica, for which there are short-term teaching opportunities. The most likely way to find teaching positions during these months would be to contact volunteer agencies and refer to job boards for applicable positions. Private tutoring is also an option during the summer months.

Additional ESL Resources to Help Teach English in Costa Rica

There is an abundance of ESL resources for teachers to help teach English as a Second Language on the Internet. Examples are listed below.

- Oxford Seminars' ESL Teaching Resources
- Scholastic
- BBC Skillswise
- About.com - ESL Teaching Resources
- Classic Reader
- ESL Junction
- TeAchnology
- Discovery Education
- Songs For Teaching
- Genki English
- ESL Base

Tips for ESL Teachers in Costa Rica

- Learn some basic Spanish phrases before you go to Costa Rica and plan to continue learning it once there.
- Ensure you always carry identification. A photocopy of the relevant pages of one's passport is sufficient.
- In light of the laid-back, time-flexible way of life in Costa Rica, one should be prepared for slow line ups in stores, supermarkets, etc. Having a pocket phrase-book handy to study the language while waiting may help to alleviate the anxiety caused by waiting.
- Bargaining in the markets is not a usual practice.
- Putting one's thumb between the middle and index finger when making a fist is considered obscene.
- Adopt an adventurous attitude and experience the cuisine, culture, and sites of Costa Rica.
- Consider getting an international driver's license in your home country.
- Petty thieves are always on the lookout to take advantage of foreigners. Teachers should take care to watch their wallets and cell phones.
- While most water is potable, it is still prudent to purchase bottled water or boil water before consumption.
- Ensure fruits and vegetables are washed well before consumption.
- Many brand-name toiletries and medicines can be found in Costa Rica; however, if you are not open to trying new brands, you may want to consider taking a supply of your favorite cosmetics and essential items.
- Sit-down restaurants generally add an automatic 10% to the bill. A 250 CRC per bag tip is standard for baggage handlers. As well, a 250 CRC tip is appreciated by parking attendants or maids. Tipping taxi drivers is not common practice.
- If ever in a traffic accident, those involved must wait for the police and insurance agent to come to the site. Violation of this could result in loss of insurance coverage.
- Voltage in Costa Rica is 100V/ 60Hz with standard 2-prong (3-prong if ground required) plugs, the same as those used in North America.

Teaching Requirements for ESL Teachers in Costa Rica

The requirements and guidelines below are listed for ESL teacher applicants to Costa Rica who are citizens of: United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.

Minimum Requirements to Apply for Teaching Positions in Costa Rica:

- Oxford Seminars TESOL/TESL/TEFL Certificate
- Bachelor's Degree
- Native English speaker

Types of Applicable Visas:

- For Those Entering as Tourists: A Tourist Visa is not required for citizens of United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. Citizens from these countries can enter (upon approval of Immigration Officer) for a maximum stay of up to 90 days. While illegal, many teachers choose to work in Costa Rica without a visa, leaving the country every three months in order to gain entry for an additional 90 - day period.
- Temporary Residence Permit (TRP): Designed for those, including ESL teachers, who wish to work in Costa Rica. This permit takes approximately 90-180 days to process. Once this temporary permit is obtained, a work visa is required. This takes an additional 30 - 60 days. While this is a lengthy and difficult process, it is required for obtaining a legal work permit.
- Spousal Visa: Designed for those married to a Costa Rican citizen and living in Costa Rica. This visa can be used to teach English, providing the necessary requirements are met.

Important Visa Information:
- As work visas are difficult to obtain, some schools are willing to hire teachers who enter without a visa. While this is very common, deportation is a potential consequence.
- Documents required for obtaining a work permit must be authenticated and legalized. It is important to refer to the Costa Rican embassy/consulate in one's home country to discover the specific process for authentication/legalization of documents.
- Application for work visas must be made while in Costa Rica.
- Visas will only be granted if there is sufficient time remaining on the applicant's passport. This should be confirmed by local embassy/consulate.

Standard Process for Obtaining Documentation to Work Legally in Costa Rica:
- The applicant secures a contract with a legitimate school.
- The teacher enters Costa Rica with all necessary documentation (see below).
- The school assists the teacher in applying for a work permit.
- The teacher applies for a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP).
- Once the temporary permit is obtained, the teacher applies for a work permit.

Standard Required Documents for Visas:
(Important to check with embassy/consulate as variations in requirements sometimes occur)

- A valid passport with at least six months remaining after travel dates.
- Completed visa application.
- Passport photos - as recent as six months.
- Academic degree(s).
- Original birth certificate.
- Employment contract with letter of invitation.
- Other documents at the discretion of Immigration.

Embassy and Consulate Information for Costa Rica

American Embassy and Consular Offices in Costa Rica

Embassy of the United States, San Jose
Street Address: Calle 98 Via 104, Pavas, San Jose, Costa Rica
Mailing Address: 920-1200 San Jose, Costa Rica
Phone: + (506) 2519-2000
Fax: + (506) 2519-2305/ + (506) 2220-2455
Website: http://costarica.usembassy.gov/
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday: 08:00-16:30

Canadian Embassy and Consular Offices in Costa Rica

Embassy of Canada, San Jose
PO Box: 351-1007, Centro Colon
San Jose, Costa Rica
Phone: + (506) 2242-4400
Fax: + (506) 2242-4410
Email: sjcra@international.gc.ca
Website: https://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/costa_rica/index.aspx?lang=eng
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday: 08:00-12:00

Australian Embassy and Consular Offices in Costa Rica

Diplomatic representation for Australia in Costa Rica is handled by the Canadian diplomatic mission:https://www.dfat.gov.au/missions/countries/cr.html
(See Canadian Embassy and Consular Offices in Costa Rica - above)

British Embassy and Consular Offices in Costa Rica

Embassy of UK, San Jose
Address: Apartado 815-1007, Edificio Centro Colon (Piso/Floor 11), San Jose
Phone: + (506) 2258 2025/ + (506) 2256 8574 (After hours)
Fax: + (506) 2233 9938
Email: consular.costarica@fco.gov.uk
Website: http://ukincostarica.fco.gov.uk/en/
Hours of Operation: Monday -Thursday: 08:00-12:00, 12:30-16:00/ Fri: 08:00-13:00

Irish Embassy and Consular Offices in Costa Rica

Diplomatic representation for Ireland in Costa Rica is handled by the embassy in U.N., New York, USA: https://www.dfa.ie/

Phone: 1-212-421-6934
Email: ireland@un.int

New Zealand's Embassy and Consular Offices in Costa Rica

There is no diplomatic representation for New Zealand in Costa Rica

Embassy of Costa Rica in the United States

Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington, DC
2114 S Street, N.W.
Washington D.C 20008
Phone: +1 (202) 499-2991
Fax: +1 (202) 265-4795
Website: http://www.costarica-embassy.org/
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday: 09:00-14:00 (Phone Service - 09:00-17:00)

Embassy Offices outside Costa Rica

Embassy of Costa Rica in Ottawa
350 Sparks Street, Suite 701 (Office Tower)
Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 7S8
Phone: +1 (613) 562-2855
Fax: +1 (613) 562-2582
Email: embcr@costaricaembassy.com
Website: http://www.costaricaembassy.com/
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday 09:00-17:00
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Costa Rica: A Financial Snapshot

ESL teachers in Costa Rica can enjoy a moderate lifestyle with low cost housing, dining, and traveling. They typically earn between 250,000 - 500,000 CRC per month.

Expected Apartment Costs

There are various housing options for ESL teachers in Costa Rica. Many choose to stay with a family approved by their school, where one can rent a room for around 100,000 - 200,000 CRC per month. Apartment costs vary depending upon large versus small city centers and are generally higher in the Central Valley region. They range between 200,000 - 300,000 CRC per month for a modest level of accommodation.


Costa Rica has two types of banks: private and state-owned. State-owned banks include: Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, Banco de Costa Rica, and BanCredito. There are several private banks in Costa Rica, including: HSBC, BAC San Jose, and BanCrecen.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both the private and state-owned banks. State-owned banks are more secure, while private banks are generally more progressive, more customer service oriented, and offer more services in English.

Internet banking is available with most private and public banks, allowing one to pay bills and transfer funds. ATMs are available everywhere and are a very handy way to withdraw cash for shopping in markets. Some ATMs charge a service fee, which can be fairly hefty. Credit cards are accepted at most stores and are the standard for transactions. As credit card theft is commonplace, caution should be exercised.

Most banks in Costa Rica are open Monday through Friday, 09:00 - 16:00.

The following documentation is required in order to open a bank account in Costa Rica:

- Passport or Cedula (Costa Rican ID card)
- Letter from bank in one's home country
- Two or more local reference letters
- Personeria Juridicia (Notarized Personal Guarantee)
- Cedula Juridica (Corporate ID)

A few tips:

- ESL teachers should take start up money to cover initial set up costs, apartment costs, and other living expenses prior to receiving their first paycheck.
- Credit card companies in one's home country should be made aware of one's relocation so that they don't freeze accounts when they see charges in another country.
- Caution should be exercised when using ATM machines by covering the keypad when entering the PIN.

Food Costs

The cost of living in Costa Rica is quite low; however, as in most countries, the purchase of imported goods is generally higher than those found in North America. The following table provides ESL teachers with examples of approximate costs of food in Costa Rica. Prices listed are in Costa Rica Colones (CRC).

Local Market:

- 1 lb. Potatoes - 190
- 1 lb. Black Beans - 590
- Pineapple (large) - 450
- Bananas (large bunch) - 200
- Loaf of French Bread - 748
- Corn (each cob) - 78
- 1 lb. Eggs - 354
- Lettuce (each) - 399
- Orange (each) - 43
- 1 lb. Chicken Breasts - 910

Chain Grocery Stores:
- 1 lb. Red Delicious Apples - 580
- Pineapple (each) - 625
- 1 lb. Potatoes - 310
- Cucumber (each) - 175
- 1 lb. Bananas - 120
- 1 dozen Eggs (Grade A) - 1,198
- Kraft Macaroni & Cheese - 375
- 0.5 gallon Whole Milk - 515
- 1 lb. Chicken Breasts - 1,440
- 20 fl. oz. Coke - 390
- Microwave Popcorn (each) - 215
- 1 lb. Coffee - 1,295

Other Miscellaneous Items

- Complete Meal in Local Restaurant - 3,494
- Aquafresh Toothpaste (6.4 oz) - 880
- Secret Deodorant (2.6 oz) - 1,480
- Ivory Soap (3-pack) - 1,180
- Movie Ticket - 2,260