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PLEASE NOTE: The official exchange rate at time of writing was US$1 = C$570.
I made my way from Granada, Nicaragua to Puerto Viejo (PV) by 2 long distance buses: Granada to San Jose and San Jose to PV.
I arrived in PV late at 11:30pm and took the first hotel room that I could find. My room was at the Sel et Sucre.
I got an attic room up a ladder that had a double mattress on the floor, a mosquito net over the bed, no furniture, no space to open my luggage, a fan, and a shared bathroom. They wanted US$30 / night. I negotiated them down to US$20 and stayed 1 night.
The hotel charge an extra US$2 for you to stow your luggage after check out.
The next day, I needed to look around and find somewhere decent that I could afford …
ABOUT PUERTO VIEJO:
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (PV) is a popular tourist destination. It is known in the surfing community for the biggest and most powerful wave in Costa Rica, the Salsa Brava. It is also said to be home to some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful beaches.
Many tourists stop in PV en route to the Panamanian border at Sixaola. This border crossing is popular with people going to and from Bocas del Toro. Puerto Viejo offers the closest accommodations, restaurants, and services to that border.
The townspeople are made up of ticos (native Costa Ricans), many people of Jamaican descent, and a number of Europeans who have emigrated to the area.
PHOTO GALLERY – THE COAST:
I had to check out of my hotel by 11am. I did the 25km (ish) round trip to Manzanillo and back in 2.5 hours. My photos start in Manzanillo …
All along this beachfront road, hotels are expensive and the villages quiet. I was, typically, quoted US$50 / night for a GRANDPAcking Double Room in a ‘budget’ hotel near the beachfront.
PHOTO GALLERY – PUERTO VIEJO:
You are still only about 150 meters from the beach.
WHERE TO STAY:
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online within walking distance of the beach … this is for 1 night in the middle of March 2018 (February and March are PV’s driest months – it is meant to rain here all year round – but, it only rained once overnight whilst I was there) …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites usually display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 17% to the displayed price to get the final price. Also, some of the cheaper rooms have a Shared Bathroom … so, check the details first.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Due to additional ‘service’ and ‘cleaning’ charges, Holiday Rentals are usually best rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … Please Note: these prices are in US$s …
PLEASE NOTE: Most of these AirBnB options are, in fact, the same cheap hostels already listed, above.
PLEASE NOTE: Vacation Rentals are usually displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any ‘Security Deposit’ (if required). BUT, the displayed price may also be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Extra Fees (which can add as much as 16%).
In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, here, they are worth a look.
There are very few GRANDPAcking options to choose from.
But, there are several places around town that are not on the internet. Several of these off-internet places offer Double Rooms for under US$25 / night. Even at that price, you may still have to share a bathroom. It is hard to find a ‘hidden gem’.
You can stay anywhere around town … it doesn’t make much of a difference to your experience here … you cannot afford to live on the beachfront anyway.
I didn’t want to stay in an isolated village with few restaurant and bar choices … Puerto Viejo was going to be expensive enough without putting myself in a ‘captured market’ situation. I decided to stay in Puerto Viejo town.
I couldn’t afford to stay anywhere on the beachfront. For GRANDPAcking prices, you have to hit the back streets.
Cabinas Popular is set back 2 blocks from the main street about 150 meters from the beach.
Have a look yourself:
INTERNET / WIFI:
I bought a Kolbi / ICE SIMcard in San Jose. The SIMcard was provided free and I bought a 2GB Data Plan for C$9000. I added C$1000 in call credits (just in case). I had a good and fast 4G signal most of the time.
You can rent push bikes from many places around town for US$5 (morning to night – for 24 hours, you have to rent for more than 1 day).
Restaurants around town are, generally, expensive (compared to other countries in Central America).
The normal price for a Breakfast with Coffee is C$4000-C$5000.
There are roadside stalls which are good for snacks for Lunch but, again, the simplest filled pastry snack costs about C$800.
The normal price for a Dinner is C$5000-C$10000.
To eat cheaply, you need to eat in ‘Sodas’.
SODA LA FRANCIA:
Located 1 block back from the main road at the west end of town (next to the Supermarket). They do Large Pizzas starting at C$3000 (a simple Margarita). The good thing about this place is that you can buy cheap beer in the Supermarket and drink it with your pizza 🙂 I tried their Pepperoni for C$4800.
HOT ROCKS RESTOBAR:
SODA GHETTO GIRL:
I went back another night and ordered a similar meal (beef) for C$3500 and paid her C$4000.
Expect to pay an average of C$3000 / US$5.75 for a cheap Breakfast with coffee.
Expect to pay an average of C$2000 / US$3.50 for a cheap street-stall Lunch Snack with fruit drink.
Expect to pay an average of C$5000 / US$10.00 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / Small Beer.
Drinks are expensive. The standard price for a small beer is $1500 / US$2.65. Some places do a bucket of 6 for C$6000 / US$10.50.
You will need to follow the Happy Hours. Happy Hours do not include beer … they are just, generally, watered down 2-for-1 cocktails. The cheapest 2-for-1 cocktails start at C$4000 / US$7.
Get down to a Supermarket to buy your beers. A decent 1 liter local beer costs about C$1200 (this is for a returnable bottle which cost C$320 for the bottle deposit – KEEP YOUR RECEIPT if you ever want to see a refund!). You pay about C$1400 for a 1 liter disposable bottle.
I bought a 1 liter bottle of 4 year old Flor de Cana rum at a Supermarket for C$7200.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
I wouldn’t shop here unless I had to.
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:
There are a couple of banks on the main street with ATMs. You will, also, find an ATM in some of the larger Supermarkets.
I had enough Colones (from my previous visit to Costa Rica) and US$s on me already … I did not have to get to an ATM … so, I cannot advise you on transaction limits nor fees. Sorry.
You won’t find any Bureau De Change.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
There is a drug scene – mainly marijuana. Expect to be approached on the street.
When I was there, mosquitoes were around and they were annoying at dawn and dusk.
Don’t drink the tap water.
WHEN TO GO:
I targeted March on purpose – it is one of the few months with minimal rainfall.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
Beach time! And, the best way to do it is to get on a push bike! You see people on them everywhere … which, I find, very pleasant to see (as well as do).
You can take day trips to the nearby National Parks. You can kayak / paddle board up river from Manzanillo.
You can also river raft / tube nearby.
But, mostly, you are here to enjoy the Carribean ‘hippy vibe’ and do the beaches.
From PV, I head to Bocas del Toro, Panama.
I can do it myself by local bus to the border, Colectivo on the other side, and a boat out to the islands for about US$10.
However, I bought an end-to-end Shuttle-Boat ticket in PV for US$25.
To enter Panama you must have an onwards ticket. I hear that they do not accept return bus tickets … it has to be a flight … but, I cannot verify that. It didn’t matter to me anyway because I was planning to fly on to Colombia anyway. Two days before entering Panama I got online and purchase a real flight ticket.
As usual, I went to WHICHBUDGET.COM to search for flights from anywhere in Panama to anywhere else. This showed me that I could buy a one-way ticket from Panama City to Cartegena in Colombia for US$68 with WINGO Airlines. Perfect … Cartegena was where I was planning to go! I went onto the WINGO website and bought my ticket. With an extra 20Kg stowed luggage charge, I got my ticket for just under US$100.
This is a detailed breakdown of costs for 2 GRANDPAckers holidaying here to GRANDPAcking standard.
As a reminder, this “standard” requires 2 GRANDPAckers to:
- Stay in a Double Room with Fan and Private Bathroom
- Eat 3 ‘balanced’ meals each day in a budget restaurant
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
MY ACTUAL COSTS:
My costs are purely provided for information purposes. I do not always follow ‘GRANDPAcking Standards’. In fact, I deviate from them all of the time! But, my costs are real costs and they may help you formulate your own budget.
I lived in PV to GRANDPAcking standard.
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
Accommodation: I stayed at the Cabinas Popular for US$20 / night.
Transport: I walked everywhere around town and rented a push bike for 1 day at C$2900 / US$5.
Communications & Fees: I bought a Kolbi / ICE SIMcard and 2GB Data Plan in San Jose for C$9000 and added C$1000 in call credits.
Food & Beverages: I spent an average of about C$7300 / day. I only ate in Sodas.
My COE was US$33 / day (58% of my total budget).
COST OF LIVING (COL):
In / Out Costs: It cost me C$5,590 / US$10 to get from San Jose to PV by long distance bus. It cost me C$14300 / US$25 for the Shuttle/Boat from PV to Bocas Del Toro.
Living Costs: I spent an average of C$1840 / day on beer – this was mostly on 1 Liter bottles of local beer from a Supermarket which I drank sitting down on the beach. I bought a 1 Liter bottle of Flor de Cana Rum for C$7200. I spent nothing on Entertainment.
My total COL was US$42 / day (73% of my total budget).
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
COST OF EXISTENCE:
Accommodation: Book yourself into something for the first 2 nights at about US$30 / night. Anywhere around PV town will do. Once here, look around … get yourself into a decent budget hotel for US$20 / night thereafter for a long-term stay.
Transport: There is a budget for 2 people to go on a weekly push bike day trip to a nearby beach (US$5 per person).
Communications & Fees: Your budget includes a C$9000 Kolbi SIMcard and a 1 month 2GB Data Plan.
Food & Beverages: Your budget is just over C$20000 / US$35 per day. This is to eat all of your meals in Sodas. This includes the purchase of your own water (which is unlikely to be provided by the hotel).
Your COE is US$61 / day (105% of your total budget).
COST OF LIVING:
You are already over-budget and have nothing left to LIVE on.
PV DOES NOT make it into my Retirement Reviews. It is too expensive.
I couldn’t get into my usual lifestyle in PV … I couldn’t find anywhere nice on the beachfront to sit and relax at night over a couple of beers – not in my price range anyway. I couldn’t find many nice local restaurants to relax in whilst working either … I felt strangely ‘out of sorts’ … I was just ‘existing’ really. I won’t be back.