After blowing the budget in Costa Rica, I had to do some reevaluating… I decided to up the daily budget from $16.50 to $21.00 per day, making life much more enjoyable. I spent a total of 40 days in Nicaragua, staying mostly on the Tola surf coast, and spending a bit of time traveling through Isla de Ometepe, Leon, and Granada. Here is the grand total:
That makes for an average of $22.67 per day. Yep. Still went over budget. But I did a little better, right? No? No… Ok. But damn was it fun. As per usual, “plans” changed, and I ended up spending almost all 40 days of my wonderful time in Nicaragua with my wonderful friend Johnny. Lucky for me, Johnny has a badass little surf shack on the coast, meaning minimal accommodation costs. Unlucky for my wallet, Johnny likes fruity rum drinks just as much as I do, meaning that “Entertainment” budget may have walked the plank again, so I’ll just go ahead and blame the pirate in me for going overboard this time…
Anyhow, here’s the breakdown:
Food 🍍🍕🍴 $391.32 –> $9.78 per day
The largest category. What can I say, I like to eat! I honestly think that might be the only reason my average here is actually more than my average in Costa Rica, when it is most definitely cheaper overall as soon as you cross the border to Nica.
Dining out, you can get a full dinner for around $3.50-$4 USD if you know where to look – small sodas will offer huge plates of food (usually rice, beans, meat, and a small salad) for around this price. Just be sure to always ask for the price ahead of time – otherwise they are more than likely going to charge you the “gringo price.”
Entertainment 🍻🎉🏄🏼 $218.27 –> $5.46 per day
Believe it or not, this wasn’t ALL booze related this time. I actually did things in these 40 days besides drink! Woah! Okay, so yeah, most of the activities did have a few drinks tagging along for the fun, but when the rum is as cheap as it is in Nica, how can you not?
Flor de Caña is the locally made rum and the pride of Nicaragua, and you can get a large bottle for around $8 USD. It is delicious. Drinks at a bar can be anywhere from 40 to 140 cordobas, depending on where you are, and if you see rumlala on the drink menu, get it. Rum and passionfruit, you can’t possibly go wrong.
National beers are pretty cheap – Toña for around 29 cords per bottle, or a liter of Toña light for 40 C, almost everywhere you go.
Activity-wise, we did a lot of fun things on Ometepe that had a few entrance fees – $3 for the San Ramon waterfall, $3 to go to El Ojo de Agua; we rented a kayak one day ($10); in the cities, the bell tower climbs were a few dollars each, and the museum entrance fees a little bit more; and of course I had to do the obligatory afternoon surf rental one day. At $10 a day, I couldn’t justify renting a board more than once, but at least I tried. Maybe next year.
Accommodation 🏡 🔑 🏨 $143.36 –> $3.58 per day
Well, really this could be averaged out of $15 per day, being that I didn’t actually pay for accommodation for the majority of this part of my trip (Thanks Johnny!). We spent 4 nights in Ometepe at various places, and were paying an average of $20 for a private room. We had found, at least on the island, that most of the dorms were $9-10 anyway, so we may as well pay the same each, and get a private room.
In the cities once I was on my own, I was staying in dorms – I paid $12 in Granada for a semi-decent dorm, and definitely could have found a cheaper place. In León, I was paying a measly $6 per night for an even nicer dorm.
Miscellaneous 🎁 👗 💆 $113.41 –> $2.84 per day
Okay, so I know I said I wasn’t going to be buying frivolous things, but hear me out. I didn’t bring a skirt. What the hell was I thinking?! After a few hours of walking around León in the heat, I couldn’t handle it, so I bought a skirt from a second-hand store. Then there was this charming Spanish gal sitting next to me making bracelets, and I couldn’t resist. Aaaand there’s a place where you can get an hour long massage for $20 in León (Seeing Hands, check ’em out!). My muscles thanked me for that one. Then there were a few postcards and stamps, plus a few tiny souvenirs for the folks back home. All in all, I think I did alright in this category. Also, if I could, I would totally rename this category “#treatyoself.”
Transportation 🚕 🚌 🚙 $40.76 –> $1.02 per day
Last but not least, transportation. Nica is just downright cheap in this category. Nearly half of this was the $14 I paid to enter the country. The rest is a small spattering of filling the gas tank on the motorcycle, and a few chicken buses and mini shuttles here and there (Chicken buses: around $.50 per hour ride; mini-buses: about $1 per hour). Even the taxis were well priced, being about $15 for an hour ride. Granted, I do believe the cheaper the taxi, the more intoxicated the driver is, so I guess you get what you pay for?
Uffda. This budgeting thing is hard. But we’re hanging in there.