Costa Rica budget guide: how much we spent in 25 days

Planning a trip to Costa Rica soon and do not know what to expect in terms of costs, or just exploring some options for relocating to Central America? Then this article is for you.

 For us, Costa Rica proved to be the wildlife heaven expected: iguanas and monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, beautiful parrots and toucans and lots of other birds, insects and sea animals species. Costa Rica can be cheaply accessed by land from Nicaragua or Panama via the Ticabus.com service, or by place from all over the world.

Although it might be seen as an expensive country for a vacation we found it to be nothing like that. Indeed, it truly depends on your style of traveling, but you can definitely have a beautiful trip within a smaller budget.

Curious how? You can find below what Costa Rica looked for us in terms of expenses, while visiting everything that we had planned before boarding the plane.

Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio
We spotted this guy inside the Cahuita National Park

Our budget for 25 days, by category

AccommodationDescriptionCost in EURLink
 San Jose 2 nights41Booking link here
 Cahuita 5 nights120AirBnb link here
 San Jose 1 night18,25Booking link here
 Cartago 2 nights38Booking link here
 La Fortuna 5 nights93AirBnb link here
 Puerto Jimenez 1 night26AirBnb link here
 San Jose 1 night15Booking link here
 Quepos 7 nights112Airbnb link here
Total 463,25 

This time we got lucky and all our bookings turned out to be just fine.

In terms of accommodation you can generally find one room/cabin for around 20 EUR/room/2 persons/night. Be prepared also for more expensive areas, such as Cahuita or Puerto Himenez, but if you book with a few weeks in advance you will be able to get lower prices for sure.

The accommodation we had in Cahuita was just amazing: located at the entrance to the jungle with lots of wildlife, fruits and even a pool

In our case, due to the fact that we found out that we are good to fly to Costa Rica only in the morning of the flight, we had to book some of the rooms that exact day, some after the first week of travel through the country and in 2 cases even the night before the stay (hence the higher prices).

When looking for accommodation in Costa Rica make sure to either search for options with AC, or at least with a fan. The second option would mean that it will be hot at times inside the room but manageable. If you are traveling on a budget this will also be the cheaper option.

Just some regular customers of the farmer’s market in Quepos
Food and DrinksDescriptionCost in CRC per 2 personsPrice in EUR per 2 persons
 Restaurants98386,31135,52
 Groceries133110,46183,35
Total 231496,77318,87

When it comes to food and essentials prices, Costa Rica is not a cheap country at all. The only category of goods that have a far better price compared to Europe are the fruits (very cheap).

Also, be aware that the prices and availability of goods differ a lot from region to region. For example the Cahuita-Manzanillo area has extremely high prices for everything and just 3 big supermarkets to buy from. On the other hand, the prices in San Jose are more accessible and there are many big supermarkets to choose from (even Walmart).

What you can buy for 16 EUR in Cahuita (actually in Manzanillo, because the Cahuita store was even more expensive)
What you can expect to pay for a cheap restaurant in the center of San Jose
Fruit stalls on the streets of San Jose
A 9 EUR meal in Puerto Jimenez (cheap restaurant)
TransportationRoutePrice in CRC per 2 personsPrice in EUR for 2 persons
 Ticabus San Jose-Panama6313685,19
 Bus San Jose center-Juan Santamaria Airport13101,77
 Bus Juan Santamaria Airport-San Juan center13101,77
 Rental car through “Amigo rent a car” (rentalcars.com) for 9 days192691260
 Taxi Jose Santamaria Airport-San Jose hotel (at night, during curfew)1704623
 Bus San Jose-Cahuita1031013,9
 Bus Cahuita-Puerto Viejo de Talamanca16802,27
 Bus Puerto Viejo de Talamnca-Cahuita16802,27
 Bus Cahuita-Manzanillo27403,7
 Bus Manzanillo-Cahuita27403,7
 Bus Cahuita-San Jose1031013,9
 Volcan Irazu parking fee20002,7
 Volcan Tenorio parking fee20002,7
 Other parking fees in total8001,08
 Uber rides in total47006,4
 Road tolls in total26553,62
 Fuel for the car for 9 days86551118
 Bus Juan Santamaria Airport-San Juan center10301,77
 Bus San Jose-Quepos926012,55
 Bus Quepos-Manuel Antonio park6701,82
 Bus Manuel Antonio park-Quepos6701,82
 Ferry Quepos-El Cocal roundtrip8001,08
 Bus Quepos-Manuel Antonio park6701,82
 Bus Manuel Antonio park-Quepos6701,82
 Bus Quepos-San Jose993013,45
Total 427359582,1

The public bus service in Costa Rica was quite good and cheap, thus it makes a good option for you to move around. Uber had a good price as well, but unfortunately there is not a very good coverage around the country (only used it in San Jose).

Because we had a short time to spend in Costa Rica and a lot to see, decided that for part of the stay was more time efficient to rent a car. And while it really was, it was also way more expensive than using public transportation. This was mainly because of the gas and road tools taxes which add up a consistent sum in the end.

We paid for the smallest car they had and got this, being the only available

We went 1 day before to the airport arrivals section and tried to get a good price for renting a car for 9 days, but with no luck. That same day made a search on rentalcars.com and found a very good deal with full insurance (from rentalcars.com only) which we decided to take.

! Be aware of the fact that the car rental companies in Costa Rica will not recognize any full insurance bought online from external providers, thus the cheapest way would be for you to rent the car online (on rentalcars.com or other platforms) with CDW insurance only and then buy your full insurance from the car provider at pick-up time (around 20 EUR/day in our case).

However, there is a good part in this: driving in Costa Rica is really easy. The only area which is very crowded is the capital city, San Jose, and its surroundings.

Costa Rica is expensive for its residents also. There is a lot of poverty everywhere and the highest concentration of homelss people in San Jose that we’ve seen so far
ActivitiesDescrptionPrice in USD for 2 personsPrice in EUR for 2 persons
 Volcan Irazu National Park entrance fee33,928,64
 Bioluminescence + kayak experience (booked on Airbnb)112,7995
 Volcan Arenal National Park entrance fee3227
 La Fortuna Waterfall entrance fee3630,37
 Volcan Tenorio National Park entrance fee27,1222,82
 Manuel Antonio National Park entrance fee3630
Total 277,81233,83

Some of the general entrance fees that you should expect to pay are around 10-15 USD, while the other ones are completely free (or in exchange for a donation). This was the case of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge, Cahuita National Park, all its beautiful public beaches, several hot springs and a large variety of wildlife-watching in their natural habitat (crocodiles, coatis, parrots, monkeys and many more sometimes just on the side of the road).

Cahuita National Park
Wildlife. Wildlife everywhere!
The Arenal Volcano
Irazu Volcano
Other costsDescrptionTotal cost in EUR
 Shopping7,85
 Revolut fees1,5
 SIM Cards and recharge10,94
 Country exit by land tax15,35
Total 35,64

The ATMs in Cost Rica worked just fine with both our Revolut and ING debit cards and took no withdrawal or transaction fee. The SIM cards and recharges were a bit expensive though, with a Claro plan for 15 days costing 6,2 EUR.

I just love papaya plantations
Casually having his siesta. You can find wild crocodiles, in their natural habitat (uncontrolled by humans) near Tarcoles
Gandoca-Manzanillo National Refuge
 Total costs in EUR for 25 days, 2 persons
Accommodation463,25
Food & drinks318,87
Transportation582,1
Activities233,83
Other costs35,64
Total1633,69

In total we spent 1633 EUR (2 persons) during 25 days of travel. These costs could have been much lower without a rental car, which took about 390 EUR (everything car-related included). This sum meant sleeping in budget friendly accommodations, doing our own laundry, eating in restaurants used by locals and lots of locally-grown food and having many outdoor activities. And while the expenses you may have when visiting Costa Rica could be higher compared to South American countries for example, this wildlife and nature heaven is something worth every penny!

Is this total expense is a lot or not? We would be curious to know your thoughts and hope that the above info will help you!

Rio Celeste (the picture is not edited at all)

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