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  • Total days on the road: 586
  • Currently in: USA
  • Miles Driven: 36821
  • Countries Visited: 17
  • Days Camping: 389
  • Days Indoors: 202

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Nicaragua Budget Recap

Written by Jared on May 1, 2012

This article is part of our Budget and Money Report series.

Our per diem expenses cover food, lodging, gas and other supplies and travel costs for three people. We travel in a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, tent camp in paid facilities roughly 70% of our nights and eat less than 10% of our meals in restaurants. This budget does not reflect personal spending money, which is mostly used to buy souvenirs and booze. We don't track this money, but we do know we have not come close to spending our budgeted amount of $10 per person per day.

Another country, another budget recap. Like the last couple, this one's a quickie. We only spent 16 days in Nicaragua, largely because our CA-4 visas were running out of time, and we have family visiting in Costa Rica.

Nicaragua is a very inexpensive country, but I may just be saying that because of the shock of Costa Rican prices the past couple days. Food and lodging, especially camping, were the cheapest we've seen yet. Even in the tourist-laden towns of León and Granada.

Budget Recap

Number of Days in Nicaragua:  16
Average Exchange Rate
(Córdobas per USD$):
Budgeted Per Diem:  $76.34
Actual Per Diem:  $70.99
One-Time Expenses Budgeted:  $60.00
One-Time Expenses Spent:  $72.00
Total Spent:  $1,209.59
Total Budgeted:  $1,281.44
Nicaragua Balance:  +$71.85

US dollars are accepted everywhere in Nicaragua. Many prices were listed in USD and almost every ATM is capable of spitting out dollars or córdobas. We would typically get an exchange rate of C$23 when spending dollars, which wasn't a bad deal.

Our one-time expenses covered the costs related to importing our vehicle across three borders, El Salvador to Honduras, Honduras to Nicaragua and Nicaragua to Costa Rica. Prices were a bit off what we had heard, it seems Nicaragua has raised the rates.

Per Diem Breakdown

Groceries:  $255.60 22.26%
Lodging:  $209.23 18.22%
Gas:  $198.93 17.32%
Eating Out:  $187.82 16.35%
Supplies:  $74.87 6.52%
Transportation:  $67.55 5.88%
Vehicle Import:  $64.21 5.59%
Immigration:  $54.63 4.76%
Entertainment and Tours:  $42.08 3.66%
Coffee and Booze:  $30.49 2.65%
Laundry:  $15.00 1.31%
Gifts:  $12.88 1.12%
Phone and Internet:  $9.02 0.79%

As usual, this breakdown shows where we saved the most money. Lodging, usually our #1 expense, was way down. Coming in at #4, eating out was lower than usual, mostly because we were able to cook most of our meals and ate out only when it was cheap and convenient.

We did drop $75 on supplies just before crossing into Nicaragua. Three packs of batteries and the Spanish version of Scrabble, to be delivered by our loving parents upon arrival in Costa Rica.

Food & Lodging

  Budget Actual Difference
Percent Time Camping:  50% 63% +13%
Average Camping Cost:  $15.00 $5.17 -$9.83
Average Hotel Cost:  $30.00 $26.25 -$3.75
Daily Food Expenses:  $25.00 $25.51 +$0.51

We lucked out with camping costs. Two campgrounds we stayed at charged us a flat rate, not per person, which almost never happens. We're pretty sure some of that was a mistake in our favor by the checkout lady. You can't beat paying $5/night for three people to camp on a beautiful beach with running water and bathrooms.

Food costs were very reasonable in Nicaragua, even meals at restaurants were not crazy, no more than $5 per person for dinner and half that for breakfast or lunch. We ate out 15 times, an even mix of breakfast, lunch and dinner.


  Budget Actual Difference
Average MPG: 13 18.5 +5.5
Average Gas Price $USD/Gallon: $4.50 $5.47 +$0.93
Miles Driven: 600 667 +67
Total Spent on Gas: $207.69 $198.93 -$8.76

Gas continues to be more expensive the farther we get from Mexico (Belize aside, that place is just nuts). We broke even with our budget even though costs were higher than expected and we drove more. Our over-budgeted gas mileage continues to save our butts.

Lessons Learned

  • Not much new here. Camp, cook for yourself, research cheap hotels with kitchens ahead of time and save yourself some cash.
  • Also, Joyita is stupid cheap Nicaraguan hooch that's not half bad. Just ask James over at Home on the Highway.

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