Why are some things so expensive in Costa Rica?

This post is a question to all my readers:

WHY are some things SO expensive in Costa Rica???

We all understand that Costa Rica is far from the USA, Japan, Colombia, Europe and other places where quality items might be imported to Costa Rica. And so importing those things might cost a bit more.

So the sheer distance and shipping costs does account for some things being somewhat more expensive in Costa Rica than in the United States or other countries...

BUT... That said, some things are really out of line and the only thing I can think of (I welcome your comments and info on this subject) is that ultra high import duties are the reason. And also this would explain why a special deal with the Chinese - who loaned Costa Rica a bunch of money and made who-knows-what deal with the government - is the only country exporting tons of stuff here - much of which is pure junk that breaks quickly.

I believe that  someone or ones in the  Costa Rica government might be pocketing a bunch of money with these high import taxes...

I admit I have no evidence of this but it is a logical theory and I am wondering if anyone can prove it wrong...

40% or so import taxes on cars imported to Costa Rica from  the USA? What?! It's crazy!

Then there are just mundane items like this. Why are these things SO expensive here in Costa Rica?

  • I bought a yard sprinkler in the USofA for $4. Here one just like it is $22!
  • I bought some metal door hangers (to hang hats or coats on) in the USA for $10 for 6, very high quality and pretty! Here, average looking ones of similar quality but not as pretty, cost $5 each!
  • Phones here cost way more. I bought my LG in the USA for $350, here it is the equivalent of $550!
  • My Tico friend always asks me to bring stuff back from the USA for him. The latest example: A backpack of high quality with a lifetime guarantee in  theUSA costs $20 on sale; here, for that price you get a Chinese made one that lasts maybe 6 months, for that price!
  • An AC surge protector to plug phones and chargers, etc into to protect form lightning and electrical surges costs $20 for a good quality one that holds 3 plugs. In the USA I bought a good quality one that holds 12 plugs for the same price!
  • Benadryl for allergies or when a scorpion bites you, costs about 50cents a pill here. In the USA you get 40 at the 99 cent store for - that's right! - 99 cents!
  • I could go on and on and on... but you get the idea!

So WHY - please explain it to me! - are these things marked up 400, 600, 2,000 PERCENT?!!?

Let me also point out that Mexico is not that far, you do not have to cross any seas to get from Mexico to Costa Rica, yet Mexico has good quality items and a wide selection of them at good prices! So why then are things more expensive in Costa Rica?

If China can import stuff here at fair prices (most of it is junk but at least some of it is good at a good price), why can't the USA or Germany or Colombia etc. do the same?

Let me finish this post by saying that I am not one of those people who say "It's just as expensive to live in Costa Rica as it is to live in the USA."

I think that's completely erroneous. It is NOT equally expensive over all, to live in  Costa Rica vs. the USA!

As one who lives here on very little money I know I could NOT live like I do here - beautiful house, beautiful view, a part time gardener and handyman, etc. - in the USofA!

Things that are cheaper here make up for the high price of the above items!

Here are some of the big things that are cheaper in Costa Rica:

  • Renting and owning property
  • Labor:
    Construction workers and other laborers
  • Fruit and veges (some, at least)
  • Pharmaceuticals (some)
  • Doctors and surgical procedures (how about $1000 for a colonoscopy at a private hospital vs. $12k in the USA?!)
  • And so on (Please add your own examples below!)

So I would really like to know if anyone has any inside knowledge about this:

Why are some things so expensive in Costa Rica?


  1. Grumble on August 4, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Politics, backhander deals, protecting local industry (Usually of a politicians relative) revenge on USA, ‘because we can’, to make more profit for sellers.

    Rorts in short.

    • miguelbgood on August 13, 2016 at 1:59 am

      Grumble I think you’ve hit the head on the nail, and the nail on the head!

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