Nickel and Dime-ing my way to Tanzania

Despite the title of this entry, this is really about budgets and Costa Rica.

You see, I get a week off between Christmas and New Years, and it seems like a waste to not travel when you’re given holidays.  So months ago I started planning a trip to Costa Rica, on the cheap.  I’ve been told it’s hard to do – out of all the Central American countries, CR is the most expensive.  So I figured it was going to be challenging, but I’d do what I could.

It started at home, of course.  I drew up a budget, and set out how much I would spend on the necessities – rent, hydro, phone, internet, and cable (ok, so cable isn’t a necessity, but if I was going to spend more time at home, I needed something to do!) as well as food, my bus pass, apartment insurance and my sponsor child through World Vision.  I then factored in entertainment, and how much I’d like to save per month for Tanzania.

This budget worked out great until I realized that I hadn’t thought of Christmas gifts.  No problem right?  I have a small family, it was doable.  Until I found myself with a boyfriend, which increased my Christmas spending.

I ended up getting a part time job in a bookstore (more spending!) to fund my trip.  I asked that an extra $40 be taken off for taxes, so that I didn’t get hit with a surprise at tax time (and with luck, I’ll get a small return, which I can then put towards Tanzania.)

Currently, I have paid off my flight, and exchanged currencies – I’ve gone with American dollars, as they tend to be easier to exchange for local currency in many countries.  I’ll get enough Costa Rican colones to get me through a day or two, as well.  My hostels are going on my credit card.  We’re staying in moderately priced hostels, so it shouldn’t be more than $200 for the week that we’re there.  My surfing lesson was a present from my friend Steph – she graciously offered to pay for it as my Christmas gift, which is amazingly awesome. 

And now all that is left is in incidentals.  Zip lining, guided night walks of the cloud forest, a coffee plantantion tour, bike rentals…whatever comes up. 

It’s not easy to travel cheap, or rather it’s not easy to plan to travel cheap.  You can save on accomodation – even a single room at a hostel is cheaper than a hotel, and you still get the privacy, albeit with a shared bathroom and shared kitchen.  Taking public transit, or local buses (chicken buses) over private/tourist buses helps as well.  Buying and making your own food, or going to smaller, local places, is also helpful.  Do some research – there’s lots out there, on any number of destinations.  Someone, somewhere, has been there and done that, and they want to share their tips!