It has been a while since we sent out our last newsletter — three months, in fact, without monthly Costa Rica cost of living reports, featured properties, or anything else. A few folks checked on us via email to be sure all was well. Thank you for your concern. We appreciate it so much.
We are doing well, living in Oaxaca, Mexico at the moment where we will be through the end of the year. Since our website and this newsletter are about our lives and living expenses in Costa Rica, there hasn’t been much to report. However, we return to Costa Rica just after the 1st of the year so stay tuned for our January Costa Rica cost of living report which will come out in February.
Cost of Living Comparison
Many of you have asked how our living expenses in Oaxaca compare to our Costa Rica living expenses. It’s difficult to say as our lives here are much different than in CR so we can’t compare “apples to apples”:
- Transportation: Here in Mexico, we don’t have a car and either walk or take public transportation wherever we need to go, which is a big cost-saver. Buses are about the same in price as in Costa Rica, however, taxis are much less expensive. We can go just about anywhere in the city of Oaxaca for 50 pesos (about $2.70).
Food: Our grocery expenses are lower and our “Meals Out” expenses are higher. In CR, I cook dinner most days and we eat out only occasionally. In Mexico, we eat out often and I cook much less frequently. Restaurant meals tend to be much less expensive in Mexico than in CR and the food is varied and delicious. Of course, there is an abundance of Mexican restaurants and inexpensive comedores, which we love, as well as ethnic restaurants including Thai, Indian, Italian, and American.
- Housing: In general, housing and utilities are less expensive in our part of Mexico than in CR in general. With utilities included, in Oaxaca, we spend about $250 less to rent a one-bedroom bungalow than we do in Costa Rica to rent a two-bedroom apartment. In Mexico, electricity is subsidized by the government, so our monthly electric bill is about 25% of what we pay in CR. The negative is that housing prices in Oaxaca are shooting up. One big reason is that many owners are converting their rental properties to Air BnBs where they can make more money, leaving fewer rentals available for year-round and long-term residents.
- Entertainment: Our entertainment expenses are about the same, however, we go out much more frequently in Oaxaca. Most cultural activities are either free or low-cost. To give you an example, last week we went to the live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera at the beautiful Teatro Macedonia Alcalá. Tickets ranged from 150-200 pesos ($8.11-$10.81). Tickets for the same broadcast in San Jose, Costa Rica ranged from 10,000-20,000 colones ($17.27-$34.54). And last evening, we went to a concert at the same theater to hear Oaxaca’s Primavera Orchestra perform a jazz concert, which was free. So, we can afford to take advantage of more cultural activities, which we enjoy, in Oaxaca than we can in Costa Rica.
- Personal Care: Generally, hair cuts and other services are priced similarly in Oaxaca as in Costa Rica, and in both places, they are significantly less expensive than in the States. For example, I just got my hair cut and colored in Oaxaca and paid 270 pesos (about $14.50).
- Healthcare: This category is difficult to compare. We are not part of any public or private plan in Mexico, so we pay for any needed healthcare out-of-pocket. The few times we have seen a private doctor (a specialist in both cases), the cost has been about 550 pesos (about $30). This is about half of the cost in Costa Rica. We have not needed any lab work or other diagnostic tests or scans while in Mexico, so we can’t speak to those costs. However, last year at this time, we were pricing PET Scans and discovered that they were about $400 USD less in Mexico City than in San Jose, Costa Rica. We elected to have it done back home in Costa Rica where we could drive to the appointment and stay in our own home, versus in Mexico City where we would have had to commute 7 hours and stay at least one night in a hotel. [Note: during our absence, we have continued to pay our Costa Rica Caja payments (public system) and our MediSmart membership (private system). When we return in January, we want to be able to take care of any medical tests and exams we need without issues or delays, especially Paul’s follow-up care for his cancer.]
In Oaxaca, we live in a cute one-bedroom bungalow located north of the historic center. It takes us about 25 minutes to walk to our twice-weekly Spanish class and another 5-10 minutes to walk to the Zócolo (main plaza in the historic center).
When we need to go to the grocery store about every 10 days, we take a taxi to Chedraui, a Mexican “Walmart-type” store, for about $3 each way. We buy most of our fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, and fresh flowers at one of the many municipal markets in town.
Once a week, we go to Boulenc, a French bakery, to buy a loaf of freshly-baked sourdough bread.
We buy tamales on Sunday mornings from the lady on the corner and I buy fresh tomatoes from Carmen who lives across the street.
We walk three blocks to the lavandería at least once a week to drop off clothes to be laundered and pick up our clothes from last time. When we walk to town, almost every day, we stop to say hello to neighbors, to Samuel the locksmith who makes keys a few blocks from where we live, and to Aurelio who sells fresh pineapple juice and fruit salad from his truck a bit further down the street.
We have to watch where we walk because the sidewalks, like in CR, are cracked, full of holes or being pushed up by the roots of trees.
As in CR, there is a rainy season in Oaxaca, however, a normal year gets about 30 inches of rain, as opposed to 90 inches or more where we live in CR. We call it “rainy season light,” and it’s just about over for the year. Oaxaca is known for its big blue skies and semi-arid climate. As I write this on November 19th, we are expecting a high of 79° F and a low of 55° F.
While Oaxaca doesn’t have the lush greenery that Costa Rica offers, we do have many of the same flowering plants — bougainvillea, heliconia, orange trumpet vine, hibiscus, morning glory vines — and a huge variety of cacti, agave, and ferns. We enjoy looking out the windows of our bungalow at the flowers and greenery just outside.
We live in a development with seven rental bungalows. It reminds me of when we lived in the Cabinas in San Ramon, Costa Rica in the sense that we have neighbors nearby with whom we can visit, share a meal, watch the Democratic Debates, or split a taxi to the grocery store. There are also three “community cats” which we share feeding and taking care of since none of us are here year-round. Whereas Costa Rica is an extremely pet-friendly place, Oaxaca isn’t. The majority of rentals, including ours, do not accept pets. We are hoping to find a cat-friendly rental in the future.
- Caja Payment Exemptions for Snowbirds, Rainbirds, and Other Part-time Residents
- Our June 2019 Costa Rica Cost of Living