Study Abroad on a Budget in San Jose, Costa Rica

By Madeline Hume, ISA Program Manager, Chile & Costa Rica

If you’re looking to study abroad this summer, but hoping not to have to break the bank to do so, look to Costa Rica. Some of ISA’s most affordable program options are the San Jose summer programs!

Both the Summer 1 – Spanish Language & Latin American Culture and Summer 2 – Spanish Language & Latin American Culture courses cost just $3,650, but there are other course options as well. And round trip flights are only about $550 USD too (prices estimated from Google Flights departing from major US cities).

For Personal Expense planning, check out the Money Matters tab for budgeting tips!


Public transportation in Costa Rica is very affordable and accessible. For example, you can easily take an Uber across the city for under $10 USD! Another great way to really integrate into the Costa Rican culture, and save some money, is to use public buses. One ride costs about $0.75 and this can get you almost anywhere you need to go. TIP: You can use Google Maps to track your journey without Wifi if you aren’t sure exactly where you need to get off the bus! Or, you can ask the driver – they will likely be happy to help.

Another aspect of Costa Rica’s affordability is their inter-region bus system. This is a great option if you are interested in seeing all that Costa Rica has to offer. One popular destination to visit is Manuel Antonio, a beautiful national park town located on the Pacific coast. A round trip bus fare to the beach may only cost around $20 USD!


All ISA students participating in a San Jose summer program have host family accommodations included in the overall program cost! This is a great way to keep costs low and get a strong feel for the Pura Vida lifestyle!

A great thing about living in a homestay is that two meals a day are already included. This means you will only need to budget for lunch! In Costa Rica there are great options for inexpensive lunches. For example, you can get a casado (a typical Tico meal including a choice of protein, beans, rice, plantains, and a salad) for around $6 USD. There are also other great options for cheap and delicious coffee and pastries for less than $3 USD.


Apart from the excursions and cultural activities already included in Costa Rica summer programs, there are great options for free and inexpensive cultural activities all over San Jose! To check out a list, visit the agenda cultural or talk with the ISA onsite staff for recommendations. You could attend a free dance class or an international conversation exchange at a cafe after class!

Another great, inexpensive activity in Costa Rica is going to the movies. Cine Magaly (a beautiful old theater in Barrio Escalante showing international and art films) costs only about $4 USD for a ticket, and some movie theatres on Wednesdays have entrance fees of about $2 USD. This is a great way to see a Latin American film and practice your language skills!

Using your Costa Rican student ID may also score you some discounts. For example, using your student ID to enter the Museo del Jade only costs $2 USD when the usual entrance fee for foreigners is $15 USD!

Financial aid

If this all sounds like your kind of summer, but you still have questions about funding your program, check out this link for helpful information about paying for your program! Many students are able to use their home university financial aid toward study abroad and ISA has scholarships you can apply for that can help with the cost.

The deadline for summer scholarships is on February 28th and you must be accepted to be eligible, so be sure to apply soon!

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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