Adoration 4 Adventure’s budget breakdown of costs to backpack Central America.

If you are contemplating a backpacking trip in Central America, then this is a great place to start! After spending 9 weeks traveling to each of the 7 countries, I am sharing what I know. This is the total trip costs broken down to help you budget for your own Central American adventure.

How much does it cost to backpack Central America?

The countries in Central America will vary in price difference, as will some cities – the more touristic locations attracting higher costs. As a general rule of thumb, the cheapest countries to travel within are Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Nicaragua is slightly more expensive, and gets more pricey the further south you travel. The more expensive countries to travel in are Belize, Costa Rica and Panama.

Each country has its own charms and uniqueness so it is a shame to skip any based on budget restrictions alone. For example, I cooked more in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama but in the other countries enjoyed the street food instead (USD $1-2.50 each for a meal). By using this article as a guide, you will be able to set your budget and expectations for whichever Central American destination you are heading to.

I traveled on a backpacking budget, e.g. hostels, budget hotels, street food and local transportation. I also traveled during the rainy season which meant off peak prices, particularly for accommodation. Although I wasn’t as strict as I could have been – splurging on ice creams, beers and the occasion shuttle bus. So feel free to take that into consideration and adjust your budget estimates accordingly.

My average daily spend: $27 USD per person ($35 AUD as of 11 August 2016).

To help you plan for your trip, I have included below:

  • The locations I stayed in
  • The daily cost for each country
  • Resource links for more information
  • Tips on how you can save even more
  • Screen shots of my budget breakdown for Entertainment, Food, Travel (Transport), Vacation (Accommodation), Health Care (I caught a bad cold!) and Automobile (Car Hire).

How much does it cost to backpack Belize?

Places I stayed: Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye and San Ignacio (10 days in total).

Average daily spend: $40 USD per person* ($51.90 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the ATM Caves tour and cost of accommodation on Caye Caulker.

*This daily amount could be reduced by sticking strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. Budget rooms on Caye Caulker start at around USD $50 per night.

Resources to help you plan:

How much does it cost to backpack Guatemala?

Places I stayed: Flores, Lanquin (Semuc Champey), Antigua and Lake Atitlan (12 days in total).

Average daily spend: 244.25 Quetzales per person* ($31.71 USD /  $41.15 AUD as at 11 August 2016).

*This daily amount could be reduced by taking local transport (see itinerary post for alternative methods), sticking strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. 

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Guatemala

How much does it cost to backpack Honduras?

Places I stayed: Copan Ruinas.

Average daily spend: 728.75 Lempiras per person* ($31.46 USD / $40.82 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding accommodation costs.

*This daily amount could be reduced by skipping certain activities or spreading them out over a longer period of time to reduce the daily cost. Budget double rooms in Copan Ruinas start around USD $15 per night.

Resources to help you plan:

How much does it cost to backpack El Salvador?

Places I stayed: Juayua, El Tunco and El Cuco.

Average daily spend: $11.30 USD per person* ($14.66 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation.

*Budget double rooms start around USD $29 per night. There were problems with bed bugs in Juayua, which is why I received the full refund – make sure to check your mattress carefully before taking a room.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking El Salvador

How much does it cost to backpack Nicaragua?

Places I stayed: Leon, Granada, Omtepe and Playa Marsella (16 days in total).

Average daily spend: $17.90 USD per person* ($23.23 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation in Playa Marsella and two nights’ accommodation in Granada.

*This daily amount could be reduced by sticking more strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. Budget rooms start around USD $18 in Granada and USD $20 in San Juan Del Sur.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Nicaragua in USD

How much we spent backpacking Nicaragua in Cordobas

How much does it cost to backpack Costa Rica?

Places I stayed: San Jose and La Fortuna (4 days in total).

Average daily spend: $38.24 USD per person* ($49.62 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation in La Fortuna.

*I decided to rent a car from San Jose to La Fortuna. You could opt to travel by bus which would save you money upfront but could end up costing more if you have to catch taxis to get around the town. Budget rooms in La Fortuna start around USD $25.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Costa Rica in USD

How much we spent backpacking Costa Rica in Colones

How much does it cost to backpack Panama?

Places I stayed: Bocas del Toro and Panama City (8 days in total).

Average daily spend: $20.50 USD* ($26.60 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation in Panama City and two nights’ accommodation in Bocas del Toro.

*The daily cost could be reduced further by sticking strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. I cooked a lot in Bocas del Toro but not in Panama City. Budget rooms start around USD $15 in Bocas del Toro and USD $30 in Panama City.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Panama

All photos in this article are the were sourced from Pixabay and are free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.


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Adoration 4 Adventure's budget breakdown for our costs to backpack Central America. My 9 week backpacking trip broken down so you can plan yours.

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