What we spent: April 2018
After seven straight months of traveling around Latin America on a budget of $1,000 USD for two people, we knew cheap prices wouldn't last forever on our journey. With the exception of Chile and Argentina, we expected Costa Rica, Panama, and Cartagena would be the most expensive places on our trip. Knowing that it would be impossible to stick to our budget in these three places, we decided to bite the bullet and squeeze them into the same month. Despite paying for the most expensive dorm beds and border crossing we've done on this entire trip, plus splurging on some diving and a couple of incredible meals at the best restaurants in Cartagena, we were shocked we only spent $1,672.04 between the two of us in this notoriously expensive region of Latin America. This month, what helped us keep our spending in check was:
reserving Airbnbs months in advance
purchasing our tickets from Panama City to Puerto Obaldía a month in advance
skipping tours and opting for activities like snorkeling, free concerts, and walking around historic neighborhoods
What we spent: $1,672.04 USD
Average daily cost: $55.73 USD
Total spent: $509.26
Percent of monthly spending: 30.5%
Once again, we found Airbnbs to be the most affordable option for two people. We scored a private room close to the beach in Costa Rica for $18 USD a night and another one in Panama City for $17 USD a night. When we arrived in Cartagena, we were shocked to be paying close to $14 USD per person for a dorm bed in a hostel (the most expensive lodging on this entire trip), and quickly decided to move into a two-bedroom apartment in the Walled City for virtually the same price (Rebecca's brothers were visiting, so we needed the extra room anyways).
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Total spent: $174.94
Percent of monthly spending: 10.5%
Between moving around a lot and having Rebecca's brothers in town, we treated ourselves to everything from arepas and empanadas to some of the best food in Cartagena. The coconut ceviche at La Cevichería was oh-so-fresh and tasty, and the multi-course dinner at Moshi will go down as one of the best meals we've ever had.
Total spent: $225.79
Percent of monthly spending: 13.5%
We expected grocery store and market prices in Costa Rica and Panama to have us living off rice and beans. Thankfully, we found some of the juiciest produce for unbeatable prices at the frutería down the street in Costa Rica, and the grocery store in Panama City had all kinds of imported goods without the hefty imported prices. Thrilled to see things like quinoa and feta cheese, we were cooking some pretty elaborate meals at home.
Total spent: $18.14
Percent of monthly spending: 1.1%
We really don't know how this number is so low, and more than likely some of the grocery budget above includes several packs of beer. We also tried some really great local beers in San José, which has several breweries in Barrio Escalante.
Total spent: $6.76
Percent of monthly spending: 0.4%
After six weeks of gorging on sugar-loaded treats in Nicaragua, it was time to cut back.
Health & hygiene
Total spent: $3.69
Percent of monthly spending: 0.2%
Hygiene products in Colombia were pricier than we anticipated, and thankfully we only needed to re-up on some floss.
Total spent: $485.24
Percent of monthly spending: 29%
Yikes! This month cost us nearly double our flights from New York to Mexico City! However, it could have been MUCH more if we sailed from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas Islands, which costs around $550 USD per person. So with that in perspective, we managed to get from northern Costa Rica, through Panama, and up to Cartagena for less than the cost of one person to sail through San Blas. While sailing to Colombia sounds thrilling, we definitely don't feel like we missed out on an adventure taking the route we took, which involved taking a twelve-passenger jumper plane into the jungle of the Darien Gap and then a boat across choppy waters into Colombia.
Total spent: $30.55
Percent of monthly spending: 1.8%
The local buses in Costa Rica are reasonably priced and much more comfortable than chicken buses, and Panama City has a shockingly cheap metro system.
Total spent: $190.03
Percent of monthly spending: 11.4%
We didn't have plans to dive in Capurganá, but we are so glad we did! Plus, we did a couple touristy things with Rebecca's brothers like visit Playa Blanca with an agency, because sometimes convenience just works better when traveling with a group of people.
Total spent: $3.57
Percent of monthly spending: 0.2%
Jared's backpack straps were tearing, and Rebecca's hiking sandals were coming apart. Thankfully, our Airbnb host in Costa Rica pointed us to a shoe repair man who got both looking like brand new in an hour.
Border crossings & visas
Total spent: $16.00
Percent of monthly spending: 1%
Costa Rica has an $8 USD exit fee.
Total spent: $7.80
Percent of monthly spending: 0.5%