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Welcome to a new series we’re running on Why Wait, called How Much Does it Cost to Travel?
The goal of this series is to provide you with real budgets people have used for trips they have actually taken. This could be anything from a long weekend in Miami to 6 months backpacking around South East Asia. It’s our hope that by shining a spotlight on what people are actually spending- and the value they get for it, you will have a better idea of what it really costs to travel.
All of the travel budgets will live on this dedicated page.
If you’re interested in contributing to this series please send me an email using the contact form on the site.
Today’s travel budget is from Ali Garland of Ali’s Adventures.
Where did you go?
Last year, my husband Andy and I spent just over three weeks in Central America. We traveled to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Briefly, what was your itinerary?
We started in Belize and stayed in Caye Caulker for 4 nights. Then we went to Guatemala, where we spent most of our trip. We spent 3 nights in Flores/Tikal, 1 night in Rio Dulce in transit to Copan Ruinas, Honduras where we spent 2 nights. Next was 3 nights in San Salvador, and then back to Guatemala where we spent 3 nights at Lake Atitlan and 6 nights in Antigua.
How much money did you spend overall?
For two people, we spent $6,248.15 for 22 nights in Central America, so that comes to about $3,124 per person.
How much did you spend on transportation?
Our flights cost $1,703.59 for the two of us since we were coming from Germany, but if you live in North America, you can probably get cheaper flights. Other transportation, which includes taxis, tuk tuks, buses, and shuttles, came out to $452.93 for the two of us. We didn’t take chicken buses, but if you want to go that way, you can save a little money. They tend to be less comfortable and take more time, so we chose not to.
What kind of accommodation did you stay in?
We stayed in a mix of basic guesthouses and nicer (but not resorts) hotels. Since we travel as a couple, we always opt for private bathrooms these days. A few of the guesthouses were a little below my normal comfort level, which led to us picking nicer hotels towards the end of the trip. We spent $1,892.40 for 22 nights in the region, so that’s about $86 per night. Certainly you can do this cheaper if you’re willing to stay in hostels. But we quite enjoyed some of the nicer hotels we found.
What sort of activities did you do?
We spent a total of $804.56 on activities, and $200 of that was for a scenic flight I took over the Blue Hole Reef in Belize. (Andy skipped that one.) We also did a snorkeling tour in Belize, tours of both Tikal and Copan, a volcano tour near San Salvador, a city tour in San Salvador. In Antigua, Andy did a coffee tour while I made a purse with a local artist (in Spanish!), and we both did a chocolate tour.
What did you splurge on? Was it worth it?
The scenic flight was definitely a splurge, and yes, totally worth it! I don’t normally spend that kind of money on a tour, but this one was fantastic. It was a small plane that held the pilot plus 5 passengers, so everyone had a window seat. He flew around the Blue Hole several times in each direction and at different heights so everyone got lots of great views.
The other splurge was a few of the hotels, and that was worth it too. We found a hotel in Antigua that was a little over $100 a night, but we got so much more than we would for that money in most places in North America or Europe. It was so comfortable, included a nice breakfast, and every night around 6pm they brought us little snacks like cookies or mini flan. It was a good splurge, especially at the end of our trip.
What did you scrimp on? Are you happy with that decision?
While we splurged on some hotels, we definitely scrimped on others, and for the most part, I wasn’t really happy with it. The guesthouse in Flores felt dingy and the walls were so thin we could hear people at all hours of the night and early morning when they were getting up for their sunrise tours. The hotel in Rio Dulce had a super hard bed and the back wall was only a screen, so it was actually cold at night. I’m definitely finding that I’ve lost the ability to view hotels as simply a place to sleep; I need a little more comfort.
Did you purchase any special souvenirs?
No, we normally don’t buy souvenirs when we travel.
Did you do anything special to save up for this trip?
Travel is a huge part of my life, so it’s always in the normal budget and we didn’t do anything special to save. I track our spending when we travel and when we’re at home, so it’s easy to see when we start going overboard and reign in our spending a little.
Do you have any regrets regarding how you budgeted this trip? Would you do things differently next time?
I think I had it in my head that Central America is a cheap region and the trip shouldn’t cost too much. It definitely is inexpensive, but as soon as we decided the bare-bones guesthouses weren’t cutting it for us anymore, our expenses went up a lot. Now I know we have to budget a little more for accommodation to make sure we’re comfortable enough to actually enjoy our trips. I’m not a fun person to be around if I don’t get enough sleep!
There isn’t much I’d do differently as far as budget if I were to do this trip over. I’d change the order so that we’d go to all the Guatemala destinations before Honduras and El Salvador, ending in and flying out of San Salvador. That way we could’ve skipped Rio Dulce which didn’t seem to exciting and felt like wasted time and money.
Anything else to add?
We did a fair amount of sit-down restaurants which meant we spent a little more on food that we needed to. I also have quite a few dietary restrictions (gluten, dairy, eggs, beans) that make it hard to eat the cheaper options available, so you can do this cheaper. We spent $1,296.71 on food and alcohol for the two of us.
Read more about Ali’s budget for Central America in her blog post here.