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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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Expenses: Costa Rica

Aug 8, 2017
by John

One of the things we had heard many times was that Costa Rica was significantly more expensive than the other countries in Central America. While certain things did cost a lot more, especially vehicle parts, it was not as astronomical as we had been led to believe. Sure, an extra dollar or two here and there will definitely add up, but looking back it wasn't that significant. The $6,538.56 we spent over the 80 days we explored Costa Rica averaged out to $81.73 per day. Considering that we spent $1,490.30 for parts and repairs, $18.63 per day, our daily average was more like $63.10. Removing the hotel expenses and dining out while we waited for parts in San Isidro would easily push the average below $60, not bad at all.

It could be argued that we tried to keep our expenses lower, subconsciously worrying about the expected higher costs. Realistically, that never is the case, we aren't focused on having to reach the southern tip of South America, we prefer to maximize each day and only get as far as our trip takes us. When we stumbled upon kilos of raw nuts we bought close to a hundred dollars worth, then finding different kinds further along we did it again. We also splurged a lot at restaurants that served Western cuisine, having become burned out on local tipico dishes. Honestly, the hype of the higher costs is overrated. A determined couple could easily come in at $50 per day, as friends of ours did.

The exchange fluctuated between 550-570 Colones per US dollar, all of our expenses are reported in their respective rate.


Our Border expenses are hardly worth mentioning, $0.20 per day, but being an expected cost it is something future travelers may want to know. The cost for copies is dependent on the attendant but the $8 per person exit fee is the only expenditure collected by the government.

When we tried to recharge our Nicaraguan SIM we were given the run around so we switched to Movistar, recharging three times before leaving Costa Rica. Our DeLorme is still on the cheapest plan, we've never turned it on this year, but we still like having it connected. All totaled, the $97.58 we spent under communication was worth the $1.22 per day. We used our cellular data a lot more than we expected since the available WiFi was really bad.

We expected our entertainment expenditures to be really high after hearing all the complaints about how expensive park fees were from other travelers. While the parks were pricey, we feel our experiences in Monteverde and Manuel Antonio easily justify the cost. We also couldn't imagine skipping the quetzal tour, Frog's Heaven, or the zip lining at 100% Aventura. The $293.14, $3.66 per day, isn't much when compared to the memories.

Food, as always, was one of our largest expenses at $2,270.74, or $28.38 per day. We dined out 59 times averaging $19.51 per culinary experience. Our grocery total is inflated due to the amount of nuts we stocked up on but we have been making our own paleo style cereal with them to help me manage my gout through diet. Water was expensive but usually potable water was available where we camped with remote coastal areas being the places we had to buy garafons. The average price per 20 liter container of drinking water was $6.25, meaning we only bought 10 over the 80 days...6 were during our 17 night stay at Punta Uva.

Our living expenses were higher but acceptable at $1,514.51, or $18.93 per day. We spent 68 nights in the van for an average of $10.76 per night. Having lived in the van for as long as we have we prefer even the most basic services over free dirt parking lots. Something must be said for flush toilets and surf showers, without those van life would be much harder. We also stocked up on butane, $60.94, and spent $38.81 on Laundry as an electric dryer is essential during the rainy season in Central America.

At less than $0.40 per day, $32.50 in total, miscellaneous didn't amount to much. We picked up a small zippered pouch to better organize our charge cables, a new beach dress for Mandi to help in the heat, and we split the cost of the photos of the zip lining tour we took with Pete & Natasha (whom we miss greatly).

Transportation, not surprisingly, was our largest category of expenditures since we had to have several repairs while traversing Costa Rica. At $2,313.73, $28.92 per day and 35.4% of total expenses, it was much higher than anticipated. We expected something to crop up, having reached 2 years on the road, and we knew we'd need to have our spare set of brake pads installed at some point. The double dose of issues definitely hit us hard but we still managed to mostly absorb it. Our maintenance expenditures of $309.10 cover a very large service we had performed while our new steering pump was being installed and the 5 new water separator filters we purchased for less than what they cost back in the States. By the time we reached the Panamanian border we had driven a total of 1,946 miles, averaging a horrible 12.85 mpg from the 151.4 gallons of fuel we purchased. Diesel hovered around $3.11 per gallon.


The pie chart and expenses table are programmatically added to this page. Meaning, if we update our expense information then those will automatically reflect the change possibly creating a disparity between the textual breakout and the actual expenditures. This information has been provided to assist others in planning a long-term trip so use accordingly, by all means contact us to ask any questions or to point out any errors so we can remediate them.

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Say what? (3)
Aug 8, 2017 at 03:21 PM
Aug 8, 2017 at 09:21 PM
Thanks again for doing these expense posts. As we get closer and closer to our own trip they really come in handy for planning. Sorry about the brake expense. Plastic..who knew? Sounds like the plastic sockets in the stock ball joints in our Dodge. We preemptively replaced them with rebuildable Dynatrac units when we just had the front-end all rebuilt. One less worry for the road.

Keep up the posts...we love reading them!

The Nomads
Aug 27, 2017 at 03:23 PM
You're welcome and sorry for the delayed response. Rebuilding what you can before you leave is smart. Our front sealed Ford hubs both failed before we even made it to Mexico, we had serviceable replacements installed in San Diego.
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