Category Archives: Costa Rica

Budget: Money Talk – Colombia 2009

Below is how money was spent for my 10 months trip across Latin America (Aug 2009 to June 2010). Colombia was the first country, then I went up to Mexico and visited Cuba. I didn’t really do a estimation of how much I should spend. I just went with the flow. Now, I’m much better in creating a budget and sticking to it. I stayed in Colombia for 4 months and took Spanish classes for 3 months at two different institutions. I also took Spanish classes at Nicaragua and Guatemala. Some countries were cheaper than others. By far, Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico and Cuba were the most expensive. Those were the countries where I had to be very strict on how I spent money. Whereas, in countries such as Honduras and Nicaragua, I could afford to pay more for better hostels, take more comfortable buses and eat at nicer places. Panama and Colombia are in the middle tier, sometimes I enjoyed ‘luxury’, other times I was careful on what I spent money on. Below, you will find a breakdown on how money was spent in general and by country/city. Oh, a good amount went towards ATM and Credit Card transaction fees.

Country Total USD Per Day (USD) Duration
Colombia $5,914.78            $53 16 Weeks
Panama $1,148         $32.8      5 Weeks
Costa Rica $294 $49 6 days
Nicaragua $1,679.29 $50 5 Weeks
Honduras $1,110.69 $26.4 6 Weeks
El Salvador $255.48 $36.5 1 Week
Guatemala $951.13 $45 3 Weeks
Belize $277 $40 1 Week
Mexico $902.54 $44 3 Weeks
Cuba $910 $65 2 Weeks
Sub Total $13,442.91
Ticket $1,490.50
Shots & other travel gears   $1,138.06  Included Backpack, medications, travel insurance e.t.c
Total $16,071.47
 *Ticket was Multi-city:First leg: Atlanta – Miami – Medellin (Colombia). Second Leg: Cartagena (Colombia) – Panama City. Third Leg: Mexico City – Havana (Cuba) – Panama City – Guatemala City. Fourth Leg: Mexico City – Houston (Texas, USA)

Colombia 2009: Aug 13 to Dec 12, 2009

Colombia USD Duration
Medellin $4,862.78 3 Months
Bogota $200 5 Days
Cali & Buenaventura $540 2 Weeks
Cartagena $312 1 Week
Total $5,914.78 4 Months
Medellin: Breakdown USD Duration
Spanish classes $1,572 7 Weeks
Home stay (2 meals per day, Laundry & Internet) $1,540 8 Weeks
Belly Dancing $103
Student Visa $150
Others (Food, Entertainment, Weekend trips, Tours, In-City transportation) $1,497.78
Total $4,862.78
Panama (Panama City, Bocas, David, Playa Las Lajas & San Blas) USD 1148
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $1,076
ATM fee $73
Costa Rica (Puerto Viejo & San Jose) USD 294
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $280
ATM fee $14
Nicaragua (Managua, Leon, San Juan del Sur, Playa Popoyo, Isla Ometepe, Corn Islands & Granada) USD 1679.29
ATM fee $86.21
Domestic Flight $171.33
Spanish class & Homestay $260
Fedex Shipment to the USA $221.83
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $939.92
Honduras (La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula, Copan, Sambo Creek, Tela) USD 1110.69
ATM fee $56.80
Other (Hostel, weekend trip, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $673.89
Room & Board $380
El Salvador (San Salvador, Playa El Tunco & Mozote) USD 225.48
ATM fee $5.48
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $250
Guatemala (Antigua, Lago Atitlan & Xela) USD 951.13
ATM fee $20.99
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $815.14
Spanish class $115
Belize (San Iganacio, Hopkins & Caye Caulker) USD 277
ATM fee $5
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $272
Mexico (Mexico City, Tulum, Merida, Oaxaca, Palenque & San Cristobal de las Casas) USD 902.54
ATM fee $10
Tour – (Chichen Itza) $35
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $857.54
Cuba (Havana, Santa Clara & Trinidad) USD 910
ATM fee $10
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $900

!From Pura Vida to Rocking Chairs!

My first blog of the year. Happy New year to everyone and hope it brings all the things you deserved, also do not forget to help those affected by the earthquake in Haiti – I believe Red Cross and other Non profits have information on how to help.

So I only spent a week in Costa Rica, mostly on the Caribbean side -Pueto Viejo. Like I said in my previous blog, Costa Rica is not for poor/broke people – seriously a plate of the food that cost $5 in Panama, cost $10 in Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo has a very strong Reggae/Bob Marley presence – everything pays respect to Bob Marley and 90% of its people wear dreadlocks. That was the only thing I liked about Costa Rica. On Sunday -January 3rd, I left for the border with Nicaragua but we got there 30mins late so I spent the night in the only hotel at the border which was the dirtiest hotel I have been to so far. The border crossing was easy and very busy so get there early.

I got to Leon, Nicaragua same day around 12 noon – I was shocked on how hot the weather was but I was not complaining either. Leon is beautiful, am glad I choose it to spend my first weeks in Nicaragua. It is not too touristy and is very rich in Nicaragua culture. There I learnt about the Sandinista, the US sponsored contra war, the revolution and Ruben Dario (the most celebrated poet & writer). In Leon, I took Spanish class at Metropolis Spanish School for two weeks. I liked the school because it is run by a Nicaraguan Woman and all the teachers are from Nicaragua – also the fact that my teacher did not speak any English at all helped. The school is adjacent the cathedral (the oldest cathedral in Central America I was told) and close to everywhere. For more information on the school, check out their website Metropolis Spanish. My Spanish has improved – am between the upper intermediate and advance level. I pretty much understand everything that is being said to me, even though they do not pronounce their ‘S’ here in Nicaragua.

This past Friday, I left Leon with another student at the school to visit Isla de Ometepe but we stayed the night at Granada which I do not really like.

Granada is very beautiful and has all the colonial building and ‘charm’, however it feels like am in Miami without the beach – very touristy, most of the colonial houses and business are owed by foreigners and there is this one street blocked out from traffic that is filled with just foreign owned restaurants and the disturbing pattern many kids begging foe money from foreigners.


Isla de Ometepe – this city is formed by the formed by two volcanoes, there are two major islands and about 6 smaller ones. It is an experience to travel from the 2 major islands to the smaller ones because the roads are not paved and very rocky. The smaller islands are almost isolated from everything modern -that means no phone service, no internet, no bar, no discotecas and 99.5% of the restaurants are those in the hotel. Also it is very difficult to travel between the smaller islands – the bus run every now and then and on Sunday it doesn’t run, so your only options of getting around is to rent a motorcycle or bicycle or hitchhike, you can walk but it will be painful because the distance is usually more than 1 hour and uphill.

However, it is very, very, very beautiful and a great place if you want to hike, lie by the beach or just relax without distractions. Some of the interesting places to see/do are the waterfall at San Ramon, hike up either one of the Volcanoes -Concepcion & Madera, Ojo de Agua (semi-artificial swimming hole that is rich in a lot of natural minerals) in Santo Domingo, Finca Magdalena (a farm house in the middle of nowhere – reserve a room before showing up or you will get a shity dorm room) in Balgue.

On Monday, I left to San Juan del Sur – the beach town, I was surprised because I was expecting something else. Very beautiful town and a laid back vibe to it, the beach that surround the town is much beautiful and cleaner than that in Costa Rica. However the only people that will really appreciate the town are surfers because that is pretty much all to do in San Juan. I left today Wednesday to Granada because I left my backpack in the storage at the hostel. Tomorrow I will be going to Managua – the capital for the rest of the week.


Oh as for the rocking chair title – it is part of the culture here that every home has at least one rocking chair. As they say, after a hard day work – you need to relax on one of those and it is good for the back ……………. and ‘Pura Vida’ is the most popular phrase in Costa Rica, if you ask them how they are doing, their reply is pura vida -which literally means pure life.




Panama: the 51st & cheapest state of USA


I was sad about leaving Colombia, in my heart I considered myself a ‘paisa’ (a paisa is someone from the Antioquia state of Colombia) but at the same time, I was excited about exploring Central America especially Nicaragua and Mexico……….

I had the worst experience ever at the Colombian airport, my bags were searched – I mean they took out everything from the bag and even broke open one of my tampons, I do not know what they were looking for ……I was almost crying, anyways that is the past.


Finally I was in Panama, I stayed in a hostel that is extremely hyped -Lunas Castle, for me it was just a big hostel with too many people and unclean. I met a girl from Texas on my very first day and together with other peeps from Israel , we explored Panama City. The most impressive sight is the canal – I have never seen such innovation before, we got to see a cruise ship going through the canal – I can not describe it so I’ll upload a video. After 6 days in the Panama City, I was ready to see Bocas del Toro (the Caribbean side). One thing I liked about Panama City was the food – the city has great food (better than in Colombia) for cheap and a lot of shopping mall selling cheap stuffs – so I got a 2 purses, a scandal, 2 flip-flops, a short and 10 pairs of underwear for only $10 USD – imagine, you can not get that deal anywhere else……….

Bocas is cool & better than Cartagena (Colombia) in my opinion and have a lot of beautiful beaches…… favorite so far is the wizard beach, then the playa estrella which has a lot of star fish, red frog beach is great also but you have to pay $3 to get in. The party here is great because every night there is ladies night somewhere so I do not have to pay for drinks -Que Bacano! The hostel I’m staying in – Hostel Heike- is cool, you meet wonderful people and the roof-top area is amazing, however the hostel is not very clean and you cannot get much sleep here either…..Christmas was very interesting, we spent the day at the beach, then went to dinner and party later on. So far there are a lot of people from Israel, Germany and Switzerland traveling this part of the world and you just have to love the SWISS.
I crossed my first land border on the 28th, it was hassle-free – I was sort of disappointed when we got into Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (Costa Rica), and more frustrated when we couldn’t find a hostel or hotel because they are all fully booked to January 3. Well, we finally found a room in hotel puerto viejo, its not the best but we don’t have a choice. Now I understand why people say Costa Rica is very expensive. I wish I was still in Bocas del Toro……..

Well Happy New Year to all of you and thank you for reading my travel blog since I started writing it in August…………….