Costa Rica used to be synonymous with budget travel, but increasing interest from tourists around the world has driven prices up.
However, the country’s landscape, food, and culture are still more than worth a visit, even for the cost-minded traveler. It is still possible to visit Costa Rica without spending too much, provided you plan ahead, are willing to forego some of the more tempting tourist attractions, and you follow these five tips.
Tips for Budget Costa Rica Travel
1. Go During the Off-Season
The nicest time to head to Costa Rica is during North America’s winter months, but the cheapest time to go is from June to September. While the weather won’t be as ideal, the prices you’ll pay for accommodations and airfare will more than make up for it. Remember that Costa Rica is beautiful no matter when you visit.
2. Eat Like a Local
Food is one of the many highlights of world travel, and you can still eat like a rich man, even on a budget, if you are willing to eat like a local. Local mom and pop restaurants called sodas serve up hot, delicious food that runs from $3 to $8. The portions are usually big enough to share if you’re traveling with a companion. If you’re on a solo mission, make sure you’ve packed some collapsible Tupperware into your bag, so you can make lunch last through dinner.
You can also try to pick up some things here and there at groceries and markets, but you won’t save much money. Most of the prices are on par with North America and Europe, so eating at sodas is actually your best bet.
3. Travel With a Buddy
Traveling alone definitely has its perks, but saving money isn’t one of them. Especially when it comes to lodging, splitting costs on where to sleep will go a long way in keeping you under your $25 a day threshold. The least expensive options, hostels or habitaciones, will still set you back anywhere from $20-$60 a night, so splitting a room is essential. You can also pack a small tent and sleep out under the night sky. If your Spanish is decent, you may be able to convince a local to let you set up a tent in their pastures for little to no money, and having a companion when you’re sleeping in a tent is always something that makes for greater peace of mind. Traveling with a friend also means that you can always share meals — another great way to save money.
4. Buy a Bicycle (Then Sell It Before You Go)
There are plenty of ways to get around Costa Rica, but if you’re serious about being money-conscious, you’ll need to travel by foot or bicycle most of the time. Costa Rica is actually a perfect country to tour by bike, and while renting is certainly an option, it will cost far too much money over the course of a week or two. Buying a bicycle is, therefore, a great option. You’ll likely pay around $100 for the bike, but when your vacation ends, you should have no problem selling it for a $25 discount. If you’ve spent two weeks or more in Costa Rica, you’ve certainly saved money.
Be sure to always lock your bicycle up when you aren’t riding it and brush up on bike maintenance before your vacation. Those $100 bikes are rarely in perfect condition.
5. Do Some Work Instead of Going on Tours
Tours and guided sightseeing excursions can cost a lot of money, but you’ll actually see more of the country and save money by doing volunteer work or paid work while you’re here. Help on a fishing boat, pick coffee, work on a small farm — wherever you see people working ask if you can join in. Even if you don’t get paid for the work, you’ll gain a rich hands-on and cultural experience, and you’ll have a better potential to form local friendships.
Touring Costa Rica for less than $25 a day is still possible; it just takes some foresight and willingness to step away from comfort. From traveling with a companion to buying a bicycle, follow these five tips, and you’ll have the time of your life and stay within your budget in the paradise known as Costa Rica.
Is Costa Rica on your bucket list?