Total Cost – 23 Days in Central America

Ever wonder how much it costs to spend a few weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua while following my travel advice? This post has outlined my expenses for the past three weeks; the first third of my trip!

Flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico with layover in Fort Lauderdal, FL to San Jose, Costa Rica – $130.98

Food for two weeks in Costa Rica (including four days at a friend’s house, during which, I was given food) – I ate rice and beans, some meats, fruits, a lot of peanut butter and jelly (Goober brand) sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, and along with other foods, brownies! – $49.23

Food stand in Monte Verde, CR
Food stand in Monte Verde, CR

Food for one week in Nicaragua – I have been much less conscience about what I’m eating here, eating pretty much whatever looks good, ice cream, shaved ice, cookies, different breads, meats, gallo pinto (rice and beans,) chicken, and a variety of other foods, I also bought one beer for one dollar. – $45.80

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Gallo Pinto Breakfast

Hostel for one night in San Jose – $10. Hostel for one night and one days use of another hostels facilities in Nicaragua – $8 – Total – $18

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Meat in a Bag from a Street Vendor

Three souvenirs – $14.18

Tours, guides, and park and country entrance and exit fees – The exit fee from Costa Rica is $7.00, there are no fees for Panama, the Entrance fee into Nicaragua is $12, $30 for Volcano Boarding, and $25 at Monte Verde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica – $92.18

Buses and Ferries – $15.13

Ferry Ride to Ometepe, Nicaragua
Ferry Ride to Ometepe, Nicaragua

Other miscellaneous purchases such as earphones, sim cards, and replacement gear, a hair cut, first aid, and maps (before I found the offline Mapswithme app) – $38.76

Money I have been given during hitch hiking – $2.09

Total: $402.17

After twenty-three days of traveling the average is $17.48/day

Without flight – $402.17 – $130.98 = $271.19/23 = $11.79/day

Without flight and tours/entrance fees – $271.19 – $92.18 = $179.01/23 = $7.83/day

While my total expenses are averaging at $17.48 per day right now, the longer I travel, the less it will become. By following the current and future tricks and tips of my blog, it is possible to reach the actual amount of less than $10 per day, even with tours and excursions!

Here is proof that traveling can be cheaper than you ever imagined, so make a sign and get going!

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Make a sign and get going!

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Hitchhiking?!

Ever wonder how to cut out some extra expenses while traveling? While in many countries, buses are very cheap and are the budget travel solution for many backpackers, they still cost money. If we want to cut out every expense possible, try hitch hiking to get rid of extra travel fees. We may only save fifty cents on some buses, but we could save twenty dollars or more on others, and even those fifth cent buses add up. There is a general idea that hitch hiking is too hard or too dangerous, but it can be surprising how many great people are willing to help out a complete stranger with a ride, and sometimes much more; I have been given free food, drinks, and even money during my rides. I have fallen in love with hitch hiking, it is a great feeling when a vehicle pulls over to the side of the road to offer you a ride and you have a chance to make some new friends!tmp_IMG_5252768895265-1207574808It is true that hitch hiking is not always a walk in the park, but the best experiences in life often come from a bit of struggle! I have often had to walk for hours, sometimes in the rain, before someone would stop to give me a ride. I was also robbed once, a man left me at a gas station and drove off with my backpack, but even with this, I have never experienced any real danger. “You could be getting into a car with a serial killer!” This is a true risk, but the “serial killer” is also inviting you, a possible killer into their vehicle; it is a situation that relies on mutual trust and respect. Although there are risks, use this guide to reduce the risks and increase the likelihood of catching rides from tourists, locals, and even taxi’s and buses!

Have a sign!

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This is a very important part of hitch hiking. When I first started trying to catch rides, I walked for a full day without getting a ride for more than a mile. The second day, I started thinking and decided to go to a local store and buy a black marker and some paper so that I could create a sign. I went to a traffic light on a popular road that lead to my destination and held it up with a smile. In less than a minute I heard a honk from a car stopped at the light and saw the driver waving me over, I hurried over and hopped into the car and we were on our way to my destination.

Sign rules:

1. Spell correctly

2. Make it legible and as large as possible

3. Black on white works best

4. Use popular destinations – for far destinations, use shorter destinations as mid-points

5. The sign does not have to have a destination! – Writing North, East, West, or South in the local language works well too, sometimes better than a destination, because the drivers do not know how far the destination is and will not worry about feeling obligated to go very far.

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Where to Catch Rides:

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Decent place to catch a ride – a lot of cars coming

1. Get on a road that goes straight to the destination

2. Find a busy road, the more vehicles, the more likely it is to get a ride

3. Busy traffic lights are best; drivers can read the sign and have a few moments to decide to give a ride or continue and are already stopped

4. Highways can work, but places where cars are traveling at less than 50MPH are best

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Where not to hitch hike

Dress Code: How you look is important.

1. No hats, glasses or anything that can cover our heads unless necessary – ladies, pull your hair back if it is long.

2. Clean shave is best

3. Men; short hair is best, although a crew cut is not recommended

4. Well fitting clothes are best

5. No dark clothes and make up

6. Take out facial piercings

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How to catch the ride:

1. Make eye contact with the driver

2. SMILE!

3. If walking, turn around and face traffic to follow prior rules

4. If there is another hitch hiker around, find another spot, or wait your turn

Keep in mind, it is harder to catch a ride in the rain.

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I can’t stop smiling in the back of a pick up!

Safety Rules –

I do bring any weapons with me – I prefer to trust in people and believe in God for my protection

1. Always take our stuff with us when exiting the vehicle, even if just using the restroom

2. If the gear is in the back of a pick-up truck or trunk of a taxi, leave the door open until we have our gear or do not exit the vehicle until the driver has also exited

3. Remember, we do not have to take every ride offered; if a driver looks dangerous, we can tell him/her that we will wait for another

4. It is more dangerous to hitch hike at night – it is also much more difficult if it is necessary

This guide to hitch hiking will greatly reduce the difficulty and danger of hitch hiking along with aiding in the creation of great friendships, experiences, and memories. So grab your sign, put on a smile, and go meet some new people!

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-The Travel Economist

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Flexibility – Darian Gap

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One of the most important factors in traveling economically is flexibility! It is great when we make a plan and set out to do it and everything goes accordingly. Many times though, we run into obstacles, and sometimes because of these obstacles, we may realize that the original plan is not the best option anymore, that continuing on the planned route may bring your trip costs up substantially or it may be too difficult to face this unforeseen obstacle on the current trip. While we want to fight through the obstacle, no matter what the cost, to continue on the planned route and not give up or be beaten, we must remember that flexibility is key in our travels.

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When I planned my trip from Costa Rica to South America, I had no idea what the route would look like, but I felt I was prepared to take on any obstacle in my way! I had not known about the Darian Jungle that stood between Panama and Columbia, the only gap in the Pan American highway, littered with drug lords, bandits, and a forest so thick that a machete is necessary to pass through. The photo below is one of many wanted banners hanging in the Darian, his name is Gilberto Torres “The Calf” Muñetón, a commander of the notorious Colombian FARC guerrillas. Wanted for drug trafficking, arms smuggling, kidnappings, and a bombing that killed 80 people along the border of Panama & Colombia.

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I have found many solutions to the jungle, there are many ways to get from Panama to Columbia by air and by boat, such as those listed on Overlandtraveller.com, thedariangapster.com, mamallena.com, or use google traslate for this site my Costa Rican friend found for me, viajerosustentable.com. This trip will cost anywhere from $120-$600 for anything from a flight to a leisure boat, catamaran, or sailing vessel with multiple days of sailing and visiting beautiful uninhabited island beaches to an uncertain amount of very adventurous, difficult, and often boring days of switching boats and rugged towns with nothing to do and so dirty that a person may not even want to shower.

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With all of this being said, I started my trip in Costa Rica, being able to decide which direction I want to go. I have not traveled any further in Central America than Cozumel and one town on the mainland in Mexico and have not done any in South America yet, so I decided to go South because of Peru and Brazil. I decided that I will return to Costa Rica to fly home at the end of my trip to save hundreds of dollars by traveling with Spirit airlines where flights can be purchased for a total of around $150 or less. Knowing that the trip to Columbia and back will cost at least a extra $120 each way, I have decided that I will tackle South America and the Darian Gap another day on another trip when I have prepared for it. I have not been defeated nor am I giving up, I am simply taking a step back to reevaluate the task to find the most economical solution to this obstacle. That is the point of The Travel Economist, to find the most economical solutions to usually expensive trips and obstacles!

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A young indigenous girl in the Darian

I will now spend a few days in Panama before heading back into Costa Rica and beginning my journey into Nicaragua, Honduras, and continuing North into the rest of Central America! Always remember during your travels to be extremely flexible; the original plan may not always be the best plan, so do not get too attached to the idea of it and be prepared and willing to do a complete 180 and throw away all of your plans in exchange for another adventure in the budget of your plans!

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-The Travel Economist

I would like to thank the Expert Vagabond, Matthew Karsten, for giving permission to use his photos of the Darian Jungle in this blog. His full photo essay of his trip into the Darian can be found here; expertvagabond.com/darien-gap-photos/

Energy on the Road

Have you ever wanted to go on a trip, whether it be a weekend camping trip or an extended backpacking trip, but worried about the inaccessibility of energy on the road? Not many people know that you can have plenty of energy with you at any time to last weeks of charging cell phones, tablets, and other small electronics. While wall outlets are still harder to access for things such as Li-ion battery packed camera’s and computers, as long as you have USB port style charging can have all the power you want, and soon they will have USB to wall outlet adapters.

The solution to power on the road can be found in a few options. First, there are power banks such as the EC TECHNOLOGY® New 22400mAh Portable Ultra-high Density External Battery Pack Backup Charger, my favorite because of the low cost, high battery capacity, and even though the size is a bit larger and it weighs about a pound, it is still about the same size and weight as power banks with half it’s capacity. These things can charge a cell phone about ten times! Secondly, for complete power independence and in conjunction with the power bank, there are great, light-weight solar charges such as the Anker® 14W Solar Panel Foldable Dual-port Solar Charger. Anker has proven to me numerous times of their quality electronics, which is why I trust them with so many of mine. Use the two USB charging ports to charge your power banks, cell phones, and other electronics, plug a USB hub into it to charge multiple electronics at once. These items combined can keep you charged no matter how long your trip is as long as you get some sun along the way!

Another way to get energy is to search restaurants, bus stations, and airports almost always have power outlets available, bring along a smart hub to distribute the power to you devices most efficiently for the faster charge available! If you hitch hike, bring along a car charger and the smart hub to get some juice on the go, even if it’s only for a few minutes!

With these tricks and tips, you can have all the power you want, anywhere you want! Never worry about your phone or tablet’s battery again!

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-The Travel Economist