I spent a total of 21 days in Costa Rica, including my two travel days getting there from the States, and leaving by bus to Nicaragua. From the moment I landed on Pura Vida soil, to the moment I walked through customs to Nicaragua, here is what I spent:
That makes for an average of $22.33 per day.
I know. Way. Over. Budget. Costa Rica ended up being much more expensive than I thought, pluuuuus there were a few celebrations included here, which definitely added up. The two highest spending days for me fell on New Year’s Eve and my dear friend’s birthday. I splurged a bit, so shoot me. I’m justifying this to myself by saying that the next few months I will be spending much more time by myself, which means much less spending money on beer, eating out, and buying groceries in order to make a cheesecake (yep, that cake may have actually cost me $24, but damn was it delicious)
Anyhow, here’s the breakdown:
Transportation 🚕 🚌 🚙 $103.97 –> $4.95 per day
By far my cheapest category here. Travel around the country is relatively cheap, i.e. 50¢ for in-city bus travel; $2-5 city to city buses. Colectivos are also a wonderful thing down here – regular cars that drive designated routes around cities, and only charge 500 colones (about $1USD). They will honk at you if there’s space in the car, and just hop in and make sure they are going the right direction for you.
The most expensive transportation costs came at the beginning and end of my stay – $33 for a taxi from the San Jose airport to the bus station, and a total of $33.11 for the buses from Quepos to Nicaragua (you can do both of these trips cheaper by taking more local transport, but due to time constraints and my willingness to sacrifice an extra $20 for the comforts of air conditioning, I spent a little more… #treatyoself?).
Food 🍍🍕🍴 $201.32 –> $9.59 per day
Any way you look at it, Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America to eat. Now don’t get me wrong, you could do this for maybe half the price if you are okay with eating nothing but rice, beans, and eggs every day for every meal, but I tried that, and wanted to eat my foot by day three just for a change of pace.
Rice, beans, and eggs are definitely the staples around here, and the cheapest things you’ll find in the grocery store.
Any dairy is going to be expensive. Even the local “squeaky” cheese is about $5.00 for a pound.
Fruit, surprisingly, wasn’t that cheap. Pineapples, bananas, and plantains are well priced, but everything else hikes that grocery bill right up, especially avocados. Keep your eyes open for farmer’s markets, where prices on fruits and veggies are nearly half of what you’ll find in the stores – Quepos held one every Friday and Saturday.
Dining out is definitely not cheap. Tourism is Costa Rica’s main business, and prices in restaurants reflects that. I ate out three times, spending on average $15 for one meal, including a beer. The saving grace here are the small local/family run restaurants called sodas, which usually offer a plato del día for $3-4 USD. This is almost always rice, beans, and chicken or fish.
Entertainment 🍻🎉🏄🏼 $163.61 –> $7.79 per day
I’ll be honest, this category was solely booze related for this part of my trip. I was staying with raft guides, and if any of you know raft guides, you may know they like to imbibe… Yet again, this is another pricey part of Costa Rica – local beers (Imperial and Pilsen) run about a buck a can in stores, and generally $2 in bars and restaurants. Hard alcohol, bottom shelf, sets you back about $15 for a 1 liter bottle. And if you’re anything like myself and occasionally go through hops withdrawal and decide to splurge on a high quality craft IPA from one of the only craft breweries in the area (THANK YOU Fuego Brew Co.), you’re looking at $12 a beer. Worth it? You betcha.
As for actual entertainment and activities, which Costa Rica is plentiful in, the range is vast. There’s everything from $30 per person zip lining tours to $100 per person rafting trips to $3000+ chartered fishing trips. I chose not to spend money on this (except for the entrance free to Manuel Antonio National Park – $16), instead asked around for a few good hikes, found some hidden waterfalls, and convinced my friends to throw me in a raft with them for free. Sometimes, when traveling, it’s all about who you know, and how good you are at sweet talking and begging 😉
So there you have it. Three weeks down, many more to go. Hopefully my wallet can keep up! Do any of you have any great budget traveling tips? Or experienced something different traveling through Costa Rica? Let me know in the comments below!