Similarly to my blog post about cost of traveling around South America, I will compare prices of each country in Central America. Hopefully this will help you to plan your backpacking trip better trough this beautiful part of the world. Please note that it is just a basic info, as we all have a different style of traveling. Some like to explore more and spend more money on it, some have a very tight budget and can spend daily way less than stated in this blog-post. I, for example, traveled around Central America from Panama up to Mexico City for 2 months, and I have spent around 3.600$, excluding all my flights. That is around 50-55$ a day. However, I stayed mostly in hotels, and I was always going out with people, if there was a party going on, spending a lot on drinks and street food. In expensive Costa Rica I was even going out everyday….what can I say. Apart from that, I visited most of the worth seeing places, and I did solo activities combine with organized tours. Having said all that, if you will stick just to hostels, not going out as often as me, you can easily do it at 25-30$ a day (including buses to travel from A to B). Anyway, let’s have a look at costing.
Overlook: Third most expensive after Costa Rica and Panama, thought not too pricey for such a popular tourist destination with one of the most beautiful Caribbean cost line.
Accommodation: In most expensive places hostels start at 12$, hotels at 35$ (Caye Caulker). Belize City offers expensive hostels from 15-20$ only because not so many of them around. Hotels start at 20$ there.
Transport: Affordable in general.
Buses: Public buses are very affordable and start from 3-4$ for 1h of journey. Chicken buses are the cheapest at 1-2$ for an hour of journey. Loads of private, expensive companies available to choose too.
Public: Cities and towns in Belize are very small with 8,000 living in the capital, so the public transport is not as complex and include only buses and taxis. In Belize City is probably best to use a taxi, thought Chicken buses can start from 0.50$ for a journey.
Taxi: No official data, but I paid 7$ for around 8 minutes of ride in Belize City (from docks to bus station).
Food: Not so cheap in restaurants, but rich range of street food available to pick. Caribbean chicken, rice and salad can be found from 4$ on the street in Belize City, but in very touristic Caye Caulker from 6-7$ as cheapest option for lunch. Restaurants offer a dinner from 10-12$.
Daily budget: Can start at 25$-35$ a day.
Overlook: Most expensive in Central America. Accommodation is affordable, but food is one of the most expensive in the world, with the cheapest 1.5L bottle water from 2$, and cheapest sliced toast bread from 2-3$. Aldi say……whaaaaaat???? 😉
Accommodation: Hostels in San Jose starts at 6$, hotels at 16$. By Caribbean Coast, hostels starts at 9-10$, hotels at 20$.
Transport: The best bus company I found, was Tica Bus. Very comfortable with toilet and wifi, but expensive to travel from Costa Rica. This company operates trough the whole Central, starting from Panama, all the way up to Mexico. Chicken buses operates between cities and towns at very affordable price.
Buses: Again, Tica Bus was my best option to travel around, especially between capitals. Ticket from San Jose to Tegucigalpa cost 56$, so a bit expensive, but there is not many companies to choose between anyway. For bus from Puerto Viejo (town by Caribbean Cost in Costa Rica) to San Jose, the capital, I paid just 10$ (5h of journey), so domestically is very affordable to travel.
Public: For most city buses fares range between 0.35-0.70$, to be paid in cash, as a general rule. Costa Rican bus drivers will pick you up anywhere, so just stick out your arm and flail wildly when you see your bus.
Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 1.14$ with 1.16$ for 1 km after in San Jose.
Food: Very expensive to buy food even in discount shops. Meals at restaurants start at 15$ as the cheapest to be found, but street food can be more affordable, starting from 5$ for a take away small lunch-snack.
Daily budget: Can be done from 25$, but only covering own cooking and cheapest possible accommodation, no activity and transport, otherwise be ready to spend 34-55$ a day.
Overlook: Very cheap in all fields: eating out, hotels, transport. Possible to fully enjoy and indulge yourself.
Accommodation: Hostels start at 6$, hotels at 15$ (San Salvador). Santa Ana is just a little bit more expensive, hostels from 8-10, hotels 15-20$.
Transport: Buses are very affordable, especially domestically between towns and cities.
Buses: Buses that operate between cities and towns are very cheap. I think it can starts from 0.50$ for one hour of journey. I paid around 1$ to travel from San Salvador to Santa Ana (2h of journey) in a Chicken Bus. Tica Bus from San Salvador to Guatemala City, in Guatemala, costed me less than 35$.
Public: Public buses are very cheap and relatively easy to use. They do have stops, but you can get off anywhere you like, just tell the driver to stop. The ticket costs around 0.15-025$, depending on the length of your travel.
Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 5$ with 3$ for 1 km after in San Salvador. Please note, this is an official info. However, I do remember they were way way (third) cheaper than presented data.
Food: Very very cheap to eat out. Possible to grab a good breakfast with coffee from 1-1.5$. Good big lunch can start from 2-3$. No point to waste your time to cook. Fresh fruits and veg on the street at a very low price too. Mercados are the best places to shop.
Daily budget: It can be well possible at just 20$ a day, easily can be done cheaper.
Overlook: Very similar to El Salvador, nice and cheap, so we love it!
Accommodation: Hostels start at 5$, hotels at 16$ (Guatemala City). Touristic Flores, from where travelers do biggest Mayans side (Tica) luckily at the same prices, if you will book in advance and look well before, otherwise hostels start from 7$.
Transport: Very similarly to El Salvador, Guatemala offers a very cheap local and international bus transport.
Buses: Few choices to pick, starting from the cheapest chicken bus that can cost as little as 0.50$ for an hour of journey. Shutter service available in most areas, especially touristic. Tica bus from Guatemala City to Tegucigalpa in Honduras costs 44$.
Public: Chicken bus starts from 0.20$ to get around the city.
Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 3.40$ with 0.68$ for 1 km after, in Guatemala City.
Food: No point to cook anything. Ready made delicious food is very cheap. You can grab a breakfast for 1$ and lunches start at 2-3$, but from street stands. Restaurants can be very cheap too. Mercados offer cheapest and best fruits, veg, cheeses and meat.
Daily budget: Same like El Salvador, can start from 20$ a day, possible at 15$-17$ as the lowest.
Overlook: Can be affordable, just tiny more expensive than El Salvador and Guatemala, especially Caribbean islands and coast.
Accommodation: Hostels start at 7$, hotels at 13$ in Tegucigalpa. Most popular Roatan Island offers hostels from 8$, hotels from 18$.
Transport: From very cheap chicken buses to expensive shuttle transport.
Buses: Very affordable to travel between towns domestically in chicken buses and vans which cost around 1-2$ for an hour of journey. International Tica Bus cost 44$ from Tegucigalpa to Guatemala City, in Guatemala.
Public: One way ticket bus cost 0.48$ in Tegucigalpa.
Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 2$ with 3.69$ for 1 km after in Tegucigalpa. Again, like in San Salvador, Honduras is relatively cheap, and I do think taxis are way cheaper than what is stated in official info.
Food: A little more expensive than Guatemala and El Salvador, yet still very cheap. Lunch can be found from 4$. Loads of discount shops to choose as well, as mercados, with fresh range of food. Street food stands offer snacks from 0.5-1$.
Daily budget: Can start from 20$ a day in cheaper places to 25$ in touristic areas like Roatan.
Overlook: Probably the cheapest on my list. Nice break for our purse when coming from Belize, like myself. Well possible to fully enjoy, even for a budget backpacker. Apart from traveling and discovering, it is very cheap just to relax at massage center, spa, etc.
Accommodation: In Mexico City hostels start at as little as 3$, hotels at 10$. In very touristic Caribbean cost town, Cancun, hostels start at 7$, hotels at 14$.
Transport: Very cheap for short distance travel between towns, more expensive with a greater distance, as buses are more exclusive, and you have less companies to choose from.
Buses: Can be very affordable, but distances are great in Mexico, and bus tickets can cost around 90$-100$ for 22h of journey (Chetumal-Mexico City for example). Good to do some research, as sometimes is cheaper (and more comfortable) to buy a plane ticket.
Public: 0.28$ for public transport in Mexico City.
Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 0.55$ with 0.29$ for 1 km after (Mexico City).
Food: Very cheap. No point to cook anything (from breakfast to supper). 5 tacos can cost as little as 1.50$. Big burrito, with loads of cheese, even for 2 people, can be found at 3$. Portions are usually very big and satisfying.
Daily budget: Can start at 20$, but well possible even from 15$.
Overlook: Nicaragua is a very cheap, again, place to travel around. Eating out is the best option. Breakfast (rice, eggs, meat, beans plus coffee or tea) can start at just 1$, lunches from 2-3$.
Accommodation: In Managua (capital) hostels start at 8$, hotels 18$. In a very touristic Granada, hostels start at just 7$, hotels at 12-15$.
Transport: Vans and chicken buses are the cheapest, probably best to pick when traveling short distances. Longer journey is more expensive, as the buses offer a better comfort and sits.
Buses: Vans and chicken buses cost around 1-2$ for an hour of journey domestically. International Tica bus from Managua to Tegucigalpa in Honduras costs 30$.
Public: Public transport costs 0.25$ in Managua.
Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 1.01$ with 1.02$ for 1 km after in Managua.
Food: Very cheap to eat out. Loads of stands on the street that offer a good lunch for as little as 2$, a snack or small lunch cost around 1$.
Daily budget: Can start at 20$.
Overlook: Panama City is a very expensive place, especially restaurants and bars. however, 1-2 nights is enough to explore it and move to the next location. Caribbean coast can be affordable, especially when it comes to accommodation.
Accommodation: In Panama City hostels start at 8$, but they are far away from the city center. In the city center hostels starts at 11$, hotels starts from 14$, but from 23$ in the center. Most popular Bocas del Toro offers hostels from 10-12$, hotels from 18-20$.
Transport: I think it is a bit pricey comparing to the rest of Central America, especially between Panama and Costa Rica. Bus is the cheapest option as flying can be very expensive.
Buses: International Tica bus costs 40$ from Panama City to San Jose. Bus from Panama City to Bocas del Toro (Caribbean island) costs around 27$, plus 5$ for water taxi.
Public: 0.25$ for a single ride in Panama City, but you need a card to use it. You can also pay to someone to swipe you in.
Taxi: Taxi starts (Normal Tariff) from 2$ with 2$ for 1 km after in Panama City.
Food: Eating out can be very expensive, especially in the capital. Lunches starts at 15$ in the cheapest restaurants. Sea food cocktails at fish market starts from 10$. Street food stands can be found, but not around Avenida Balboa (business center with skyline).
Daily budget: Can start at 35-38$.