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My Central American Budget - Advice/Scuutiny wanted, please!

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean My Central American Budget - Advice/Scuutiny wanted, please!

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1. Posted by pit_yacker (Budding Member 3 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I’m looking for some advice in relation to my budget to travel in Central America. Please can you tell me if I am being completely unrealistic.

I will have £6000, equivalent to about $9500 USD. My flights to and from are already paid for.

I am flying out 5th April, to Costa Rica and after a couple of days in San Jose, I plan to spend a 2-3 weeks in a Spanish school in Orosi – I expect this to cost me around $600-700.

I then plan to spend end of April May, June and July and beginning of August travelling around Panama, CR, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico (not necessarily stopping in every country along the way) and fly to Cuba for 2 weeks. (flights to Cuba are about $350-400 dollars). I appreciate Cuba isn’t for the budget traveller. But I have always, always wanted to go there and will do anyting to see it before it changes in the next 5 years. I’ve signed up to and I am considering signing up to WWOFF. Basically I’m prepared to stay put for a month or few weeks at a time to save money. I’m happy to volunteer and work hard – I think this is part of what seeing other countries is all about. I’ll be staying in hostels, dorms, eating cheap etc. and travelling overland. I’m not interested in quantity of places visited, but quality. I want to get to know places, get a feel for people, experience local cultures and improve my Spanish. It’s not about ticking boxes. I will want to splash out for a bit of comfort every now and then and I do enjoy activities (hiking, cycling, kayaking) – so I need to budget for that. So, 3 months I’m planning on budgeting $4,000-$5,000

August-December will be spent in Caye Caulker, Belize. I am volunteering for a school there. I’ll be looking at about $400 a month in rent – and I am budgeting the same for food and leisure (no idea if this second figure is correct). So, this part of my trip will cost me about $4000, I think.

Am I being unrealistic? I will have access to emergency funds in case something comes up and I need to fly home etc in a hurry. But I don’t want to get into mountains of debt before I come home. I really want to do the long stint of volunteering in Belize at the end of my stay…. The school I’ve been in touch with has an incredible ethos and I’ll be gaining really valuable experience for when I return home, I’ve been offered a proper position, rather than a general volunteering opp. – it is worth the investment I feel.

Please help!

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3. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 980 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Belize is no cheap place, so you'll have to be VERY frugal to survive on 400 dollars a month for leisure. Don't fall in love with Belikin's.

I think you can find three weeks of English classes for half that amount....I just did a week in Antigua learning the passive voice for 95 dollars.

I daresay that it's almost impossible to go from one end of any CA country to another without having to stay over....excepting El Salvador...I'll leave discussion of that country to another.

My pricing of Cuba is woefully out of date...But that's where you'll take a big hit, is my guess.

Honduras, Nica, Guat and El Salvador are real cheap. Costa Rica ain't...Panama is cheap in some spots, expensive in others. Depending on where you stay, you could last four months in those countries on about four thou....probably less. That figures 30 dollars a day, or thereabouts. Which I think is doable. Again, profess no love for Gallo, Salva Vida, Victoria or Balboa.

Your own budget has you falling short. (your own numbers add up, at a glance, to 9600 bucks) I'd bin Cuba, (with sadness, do I suggest this) so that you have a decent pad on your budget. Eight months can be rife with contingencies.

Interested in what other people think

Either way.....Good luck out there. Come back and tell us how it went.


4. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Again, Piecar is right, Cuba is an Island, so one is only able to fly into and out of the Island, there are are daily flights from CR and Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador. All visitors must use CUC, which is the convertible peso, about .90 Euro per peso, buy with Pound Sterling or Euro, a 10% levy is charged on the USD, use small demonation USD bills for emergency in Central America, there are family run bed and breakfast in Cuba, cheaper than hotels 20 to 40 CUC a day depending location, in and around Havana, Santiago de Cuba travelers must use tourist buses or taxis that accept CUC, local public transportation is crowded and accepts only cuban pesos, which legally you cannot use, and the 'tourist areas' of La Habana can put a dent in your budget. As for Spanish Schools, Guatemala is half the price of Costa rica, with better quality if you find the right school, volunteer opportunties and home stay. Guatemalas Highlands have a thriving Indingenous culture, CR has only eco tourism, you choose, never choose a Spanish school online, sight unseen, nor a volunteer project, always visit first, if possible. I live in El Salvador, size of the State of Masssachusetts, great beaches, eco tourism, I will send by private message my primer for first time travelers to Central America then start doing your homework. saludos.

5. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I also have sent you a list of portals on the web, included in my 'primer' low and no cost volunteer ops in Central and south America, however short term volunteers without advanced Spanish language ability and or special skills usually pay for room and board, as most small non profit projects are unable to afford to feed and house short termers, however there are several good Spanish academies in Guatemala that have their own projects, or work with others as part of the total learning program. saludos

If you require insider info on saving money in C.A. while having a good time and meeting people, send me a pm. saludos

6. Posted by pit_yacker (Budding Member 3 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Hi All,

Thanks for your comments and thoughts.

I appreciate what you have said about Cuba, but the whole reason I first thought about travelling Central America was because of the proximity to Cuba (which was always number one on my list). .. I’ll have to do some thinking…
There are still lots of variables– I may be able to work a few more weeks and come away with an extra $1k a few weeks later…. Which would make some difference to my budget.
I looked at Spanish classes in Costa Rica because that was where I was planning on flying into (I can change this). I was getting quotes of $270 a week for 4 hours tuition a day and a homestay. For Guatemala the same was coming up at about $200-230 a week. But, I wondered if Costa Rica might be a better country to arrive into – as then I only have to work my way northwards, rather than if I fly to GC and have to loop down to Nicaragua/Costa Rica, before I continue on to Mexico/Cuba. I thought this would add more expense than I would save on Spanish lessons… but perhaps I’m wrong?!
I’m not confident in flying into one location and doing any significant travelling until I have done some further Spanish. I’d also like a few weeks ‘settled’ in one place while I get used to being in a new continent. So, if I go for Spanish lessons in Guatemala – then I’d have to fly there.
Just found out I can rent a place much cheaper than I first though in Belize (the head teacher at the school I am volunteering at has apartments to rent for volunteers for $225 a month) – which would give me more money to play with in Belize. I can’t imagine having loads of costs on Caye Caulker, I’ll be able to cook for myself most nights and use the schools kayaks etc for leisure. It’ll just be occasional meals out or odd trips to mainland. If you think $400 is unrealistic – can you give me a more realistic prediction? Excluding accommodation.

Thanks again for your help. It’s so useful getting the feedback as I don’t personally know anybody that has travelled to the region.

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8. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Do your homework, you are complicating things by making 'loops' Central American travel is often slow and arduous on a budget, fly into Cuba if possible, then Cuba direct to Cancun Mexico, where you have direct buses to Belize via Chetumal, Go to Caye Caulker from Belize City, everyone speaks English in Belize, former British Colony, from Belize are buses to Guatemala, try a week of classes in Guatemala, if you like them another week, if not head south, join the Hospex portals as I suggested, join the active regional and country groups on them, from Guatemala by Tica Bus you are able to visit the rest of Central America, there are flights in and out of both Cancun, Guatemala and Costa Rica, now El Salvador, directly back to Europe, start checking on the Internet for lowest fares, only you can plan your trip, be flexible after arrival, when you see the 'apartment' in Caye Caulker it MAY be a room with a bed and a fan in a concrete house, traveling in Latin America one has to learn to bargain and say NO sometimes, advices are cheap, experiences are priceless. My first trip to Europe in early 1970s had my 4 week itinerary planned out, met some interesting people and stayed over in interesting places, dumped my 'itinerary' after three days, never BOOK ONLINE, SIGHT UNSEEN nor send a deposit via Internet for Lodgings (except hostals), Spanish Schools nor 'Volunteer Vacation Package' in Latin America..never pay for anything in advance here, get on those Hospex (Hospitality) sites and Localyte native guides website and get some localized advices first. Try to find online people who have volunteered before in the Caye Caulker project, and what is your 'apartment' going to be like? Again, best of luck in your travels. Just advices..probably 100 ways to do it, research. saludos.

9. Posted by pit_yacker (Budding Member 3 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Research!! I've done nothing but read books/forums/websites for months!! I'm not completely nieve and stupid, so please don't speak to me like I am so!... My last post was more a thought out loud than a plan of action,

Everything is checked out with this school + the apartment, I've got references from other volunteers and information about the people who run the school (It is founded by a prominent Canadian and I have contacts in Canada from an internship I completed there - I've checked it all out!

Thanks for the websites and advice I'll be using it more over the next few weeks.