Last week, we set off on Spring Break for a week in Nicaragua. We are both focusing on saving money – specifically for Richard’s graduate school tuition and my upcoming summer plans – so we wanted to be as budget friendly as possible on our trip. We didn’t want worrying money to be an issue, however, so we allowed ourselves multiple splurges from excursions and nice restaurants to guesthouses and private rooms. We were lucky Nicaragua is a fairly cheap country as it is. Although we didn’t always eat at the cheapest street stands or sleep at the stingiest hostels (as future posts will show), we definitely had some awesome saving opportunities.
Here are 10 Things We Bought for Less than $3 in Nicaragua
#10.) Snacks – There is no doubt that snacks can be found cheap everywhere in the world, but in Nicaragua, we especially enjoyed the fresh fruit and nuts. Rather than splurge at my local Costco on a tub of cashew nuts, vendors sold them by various bag sizes. We bought mangoes, bags of cashews, and plantain chips throughout our trip. Mangoes that were already sliced and cut could be bought for 25 cents. Bags filled with cashew nuts ranged from 50 cents to $2, and my beloved plantain chips were only 50 cents. If you step away from the street vendors, you can still find a cheap snack. Eskimo ice cream was everywhere, and a single scoop only set us back 50 cents. Their prices definitely even put Thrifty ice cream to shame, although Richard and I both agreed Thrifty ice cream can’t be beat in taste.
9.) Breakfast – Breakfast is no doubt usually the cheapest meal of the day. IHOP or Denny’s cheap prices still can’t compare to less than a $3 breakfast for fresh waffles with fresh strawberries, a healthy spinach and egg mix, or Richard’s Nicaraguan breakfast favorite: gallo pinto.
8.) Beer and Cocktails – While the food prices definitely varied depending on where you ate (restaurants along the coast doubled or tripled the prices of a tiny market stall), the price of beer remained fairly consistent. Richard could depend on his Nicaraguan beer – Victoria or Tona – to cost anywhere from $1 to $1.50 no matter what type of restaurant we were at. When he wanted to add an extra kick, he ordered michelada with his cerveza and the combo still didn’t reach over $2. Unlike the price of beer, cocktails generally varied depending on the type of restaurants, but we were able to consistently find them for $2-$3 for fresh pina coladas and daiquiris.
#7.) Appetizers – The appetizers we tried tended to be large enough to be a full meal. Even at a beautiful restaurant with a view, a plate of traditional Nicaragua fried plantains with fried with cheese costs $3. A tiny cafe in the local part in Granada served us up a delicious salad and fresh mandarin orange juice all for $3.
#6.) Full Meals – We should definitely emphasize that food throughout Nicaragua is cheaper than American restaurants, but the food prices still greatly depend on the location of the restaurant. We had our fair share of meals that were the typical $7-$10 per person, especially when we splurged on restaurants with a beach front view. However, food quality on the other hand was not always associated with food price. Some of the best food we had during our trip was from the local mercado or small shacks rather than the restaurants with high overhead. Most smaller places also did not charge a tax or include a tip in the bill. Surprisingly, in touristy cities such as Granada and San Juan Del Sur, it can actually be a challenge to find these small places and not get drawn into solely eating where the tourists eat. Here are three of our larger plates that we couldn’t believe were less than $3.
#5.) Buses – Yes, you can get a bus for under $3 in the United States, but how far will it take you? We were forced to take a taxi to and from the airport because we arrived very late at night and left very early in the morning. We were lucky throughout the week, however, because the bus system was on our side. We were originally scared we would have to pay up for either taxis or private shuttles to save time on our trip. We had plenty to see and do and we didn’t want to be stuck on a bus for most of our trip. We lucked out with our multiple bus trips. For example, a taxi from Granada to San Juan Del Sur would have cost us $80 for a private transfer. If we tried to get more people and took a shuttle, it still would have cost $20 a person, each way. We managed to travel very easily by both the microbuses and chicken buses for $1 – $3 each trip. We never had much of a wait – which can be rare on local buses – and had no significant delays. The buses were definitely the best option for us, and it surprisingly didn’t take away much more time than a private transfer would have.
#4.) Late Night Munchies – Richard’s favorite late night munchies were these three tacos for 75 cents each. Yes, Del Taco might offer a similar or even cheaper deal, but these tacos were incredibly fresh and delicious. We watched them shave off the meat that was spinning on the skewer right in front of us.
#3.) Souvenirs – Each of these souvenirs ranged from 20 cents to $1.25. The leaf creations – a grasshopper and a flower – were given to me even though I didn’t really want it, so I gave a small tip. The elephant and bird figurines make bird calls (yes, an elephant that makes a bird call seemed funny at the time), and the souvenir magnet is beautifully hand painted.
#2.) Climbing the steps of churches and cathedrals to see the views on top – We paid between $1-2 to climb the cathedrals and churches in Granada and Leon. Seeing the rooftops and the views were definitely worth the minimal fees.
#1.) Beautiful Miradors (Landscape Viewpoints) – We hiked the trail to the Jesus Status in San Juan Del Sur and saw the mirador at Catarina over Laguna de Apoyo. Each hike was well worth the stunning views on top. Tourists pay a small $1 fee for the captivating mirador.
There you have it, 10 things we bought for less than $3 in Nicaragua. Despite our fairly budget conscience minds, we still managed to spend about $50 per day per person during our 7 day trip. $350 each doesn’t seem like too much, but it is quite a lot for Nicaragua. The buses, guesthouses, private rooms, and multiple excursions including volcano boarding down cerro negro, ziplining, and taking the Masaya volcano night tour all contributed to our costs that we will write more about soon. Although we didn’t always stay at the cheapest hostels – our biggest splurge was a guest house for $36/ night – someone traveling in Nicaragua in dorm bed hostels, eating cheap local food, and limiting themselves to very few excursions or city transfers could definitely travel the country on less than $25/day.
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