How Much Does it Cost to Travel Nicaragua on a Budget? [Infographic]

Nicaragua was named one of the cheapest travel destinations for backpackers in 2014, so I was amped to be travelling in a country where our small travel budget would stretch further.

Nicaragua, to the north of Costa Rica, is the largest country in Central America. Before travelling there we’d only heard good things from other backpackers – and they were pretty much spot on. The country is beautiful, the people are friendly, and it’s pretty cheap for travellers.

Here’s our travel budget, which breaks down the cost of travel in Nicaragua. Flights are not included in the budget.

Cost to Travel Nicaragua - Charlie on Travel

Where We Travelled

During our 2 week trip in Nicaragua this October, we travelled through Managua to Leon, and through Rivas to Ometepe Island. We have also travelled to Granada before this, which we found to be more expensive than other places in Nicaragua because it’s more focused on tourism.

Want to know how we kept our budget so low? Keep reading…

Steer Clear of Gringo Hostels

As a couple, we’ve recently decided against staying in dorm rooms for the most part, though a bunk can be as cheap as $5 for the night in Nicaragua. We quickly realised that looking up hostels online before arriving was the wrong thing to do. The hostels listed online are the ones most travellers will head for and therefore have higher prices. Searching ‘hospedaje’ on Google Maps is a much better way to search for budget accommodation online, however the best way is to look around the towns for family-run guest houses. Budget accommodation is of a decent standard, but like Costa Rica, it’s only ever cold water showers.

Ometepe Island street in Nicaragua - Charlie on Travel

Chow Down on Rice and Beans

Like Costa Rica, if you want to eat as cheap as possible, you’re going to be eating local rice and beans. You can get hold of gallo pinto anywhere you go in Nicaragua, just look out for small sodas, huts in the central parks and street vendors with barrels full of rice. Other budget meals include indio viejo (a traditional tomato and orange stew) and pupusas (small, handmade corn tortillas). Most food is very affordable in Nicaragua and you can eat on average for around $4 per plate. As always, pizza and pasta are notorious for being the most expensive food options around.

Vegetarian Indio Viejo Nicaragua - Charlie on Travel
Vegetarian Indio Viejo, cooked up on Ometepe Island

Activities & Tours

There are a lot of tours on offer in Nicaragua where mini buses will drive you to places and a guide will take you around. We’re personally not fond of tours, but many of the places are hard to reach without your own transportation and some require a local guide. Volcano boarding in Leon is a tourist favourite (which I thought was average) though there are cheaper treks on offer. We also splurged on a half-day scooter rental on Ometepe Island ($15), so that we could zoom around the island. Renting bicycles is always far cheaper at around $5 for the whole day.

Luke speeding down
Volcano boarding in Leon

For budget travellers and backpackers, Nicaragua is a great destination. Compared to Costa Rica, which is notoriously expensive by Central American standards, finding budget options is a whole lot easier in Nicaragua. I’ve heard that backpacking in Guatemala comes in at a similar cost to travel in Nicaragua, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they compare next year.

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

12 thoughts to “How Much Does it Cost to Travel Nicaragua on a Budget? [Infographic]”

  1. Charlie, your infographic looks spectacular! You put a lot of work into this, and it shows.

    You have some great tips in here, as well. Knowing to look up “hospedaje” instead of “hostel,” for example, is sound advice many travelers might not be aware of beforehand. Thanks for putting together such a stellar post!
    Cassandra recently posted…Spanish Customs That Make a Guiri CringeMy Profile

    1. Hi Cassandra! That’s very sweet of you to say! I’m still new at making infographics, so I really appreciate your compliments on one of my first few :)

      Yes, we realised it pretty quickly after stayed in a few local “hospedajes” and a few dudd “hostel” searches.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting! Very much appreciated.

    1. That’s interesting and good to know! Volcano boarding was ridiculous :p Yes, I certainly agree with that sentiment about it, though some people really do love it. Except it’s not always hot outside in green season haha!!

  2. Great work with the infographic! And great tips about hostels as well – I’ve found that the ‘go and look’ method was the most effective in that region, although not so much everywhere else in the world. Though we found a few places that were QUITE scary in the smaller towns!
    Polly recently posted…(Nearly)Year-End SurveyMy Profile

    1. Hey Polly, thank you so much! Yes, we have as well, though it can be really tiring when it’s hot and you’ve got a heavy backpack. Yes, we’ve stayed in a few less than lovely places for sure, I know what you mean!

  3. Yes! I agree with every single thing that you said Nicaragua was definitely the cheapest of all of the Central American countries we backpacked. Guatemala was my favorite, but Nicaragua was a close second. Guat was also just a cheap, though I was there are the beginning of my trip and was so excited and so shocked on how cheap everything was, that we kind of spent more than we should of. I made an infographic on the cost of travel in CA a little while ago ( http://aroundtheworldinktdays.com/central-america-travel-budget/), I may make one for each country…you inspired me!
    Katie recently posted…Candy Rain and Tears: Halloween in a Korean KindergartenMy Profile

    1. Hey Katie, thanks so much for commenting and linking, I found your infographic super interesting! I’m really quite nervous about travelling to Belize now because it looks so expensive!! :/ I’m also impressed by your low Costa Rica budget. We had an easy time in Quepos and Manuel Antonio, but really struggled in Ostional and here in Puerto Viejo have found that the cultural activities we want to do are real budget breakers!
      Charlie on Travel recently posted…How Much Does it Cost to Travel Nicaragua on a Budget? [Infographic]My Profile

  4. I think it would have been even cheaper for us because I wouldn’t have done the volcano boarding, or at least I think so, never say never! I absolutely adore the infographic, such a great way to summirize it all and in a pretty way too, love it! :)
    Franca recently posted…Five Tips and Pics for AntwerpMy Profile

    1. Hey Franca, thanks for stopping by. Oh yeah, volcano boarding was quite expensive, though going on the volcano hike was only $5 less. Do you think you would’ve gone hiking? The volcano was very cool, so I’m glad we saw it, even if I wasn’t the biggest boarding fan! Oh and thank you, I’m still real new at infographics but trying my best!

    1. Hey Elena! Thank you so much, I’m still new to making infographics, so I like to practise. Nicaragua is a really great place to travel, I totally recommend it! I’m not sure about the costs of the rest of Central America, but I’ve heard Guatemala is just as cheap as Nicaragua, and that South America wise Peru is also a good spot :)

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