In most respects, Nicaragua is the cheapest place to travel in Latin America, which makes it the cheapest destination in the Americas period. Since it’s also close and easy to get to for a reasonable airfare, at least for those of us in the U.S. and Canada, your total cost for visiting Nicaragua is going to be lower than almost anywhere else you could go internationally.
Naturally, you have to give up a little comfort in the process though. You’ll be on a “chicken bus” now and then if you get off the main tourist track. Budget hotel choices are a good value, but the selection and overall level of quality are not always up to what you find in Guatemala or even Honduras—again, outside the main tourist towns that is. In part this is because domestic demand hasn’t been there and while tourism numbers are growing fast, they’re still relatively small.
This is a country where you can feel like an adventurer though, with almost no tour buses in sight, affordable restaurants everywhere, cheap drinks, and limited hassles from touts and scammers. If you’re looking for somewhere to kick back for a while and let your budget recover, here you can do it in a beautiful colonial city (Granada), on a beach (San Juan del Sur or a more isolated surfing village), or in the mountains of coffee country.
At the time of writing, the exchange rate was 23 cordobas to the U.S. dollar. So if two happy hour cocktails are 35 as in a photo of a bar I visited below, that’s around $1.50.
Hotel and Hostel Prices in Nicaragua
Dorm bed: $3 – $8 per person, often incl. basic breakfast & Wi-Fi
Basic double room with shared bath: $6 – $15
Double room with private bath, A/C, TV, maybe a fridge: $10 – $30.
Nice double room with all that, good bedding, daily maid service, breakfast, maybe a pool: $25 – $60
(There are probably only about 12 hotels in all of Nicaragua where rates for a standard start at more than $125 double per night.)
Food & Drink in Nicaragua:
Market stall lunch: $1.50 – $3
Basic restaurant lunch: $2.50 – $7
All-you-can eat buffets: $4 – $8.
Fancy restaurant meal, cloth napkins: $7 – $15
(There are probably only about 20 restaurants outside Managua where you can spend $20+ per person on dinner excluding drinks.)
Flor de Caña rum, 4-year: $2.50 – $4 per liter
Flor de Caña rum, 7-year: $4 – $9 per liter depending on where.
Cheap local rum: $1 – $2.50 per liter.
Rum cocktail in a bar: $1 – $2.50.
Small beer in a bar: 60 cents to a dollar in a bar
Liter-sized beer in a bar: $1.50 – $2 (Less in a store or at happy hour.)
Seasonal fruit: 50 cents to $1 a pound
Tortillas: 50 cents for a handfull
Bread: 10-20 cents for sandwich roll, 50 cents for a baguette
Coffee: 50 cents to $1 a cup, from good local beans
Transportation in Nicaragua:
The regular buses in Nicaragua are mostly converted school buses discarded by U.S school systems and on their second life here. They can be slow and crowded, but will often only cost you a dollar or less to get you where you’re going.
Express bus: 60-80 cents per hour of travel.
Express minibus: around $1 from Managua to Granada, around $2 Managua to Leon.
Tourist door-to-door shuttle: pricey, but quick and air-conditioned. $27 for Granada to San Juan del Sur, $18 to $35 each between Granada and the Managua airport depending on group size.
Local buses in cities: 15 – 25 cents.
Taxi ride: 50 cents to $4 in city limits anywhere. $6 to go across Managua, more from the airport.
Taxi from the Ometepe ferry dock in San Jorge to the bus station in Rivas: $1 – $2 (depending on your bargaining skills.)
Ferry from San Jorge to the main port on Ometepe: $1.50 (small boat on the right above) to $3 (air-conditioned large ferry, on the left).
First-class air-conditioned seat on the overnight trip from Granada to San Miguelito: $9. (Second class is $4, but can get crazy crowded.)
Bike rental: $3 – $8 per day, less for half day.
Scooter/motorcycle rental: $12-$40 per day depending on quality, demand, season, and your bargaining patience.
Internal flights: $80 to $140 round trip on a puddle jumper prop plane.
Other Prices for Travelers in Nicaragua:
Hop-on, hop-off tourist site buses: $10 – $22 per person
Internet access in cafe: 75 cents to $1.50 per hour
Hourlong massage from a blind masseuse in Granada – $15
25-minute VoIP phone call home – $1 USA, $1.50 Europe
Museum admissions – 25 cents to $2