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.
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.
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.
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.
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.