One question that we get a lot from friends and others planning travel is “how much should we budget for food?” Many people think of Costa Rica as a budget destination but our experience is that for sustenance you’ll spend at least as much there and often a bit more, as in the U.S., Canada or Europe.
So how much should you budget for food on your vacation? The short answer is roughly the same as what you budget for lodging.
That surprises most people, but it’s better to know in advance than be shocked after you get the bill.
If you’re an average traveler
- you’re staying about a week
- you’re spending about $900 – $1,500 per person in Costa Rica for transportation, lodging and tours (not including international airfare)
- and your average hotel or lodge costs $90-$180 per night double occupancy
Since you’re the average traveler the price estimates below are for average restaurants. Not the cheapest hole in the wall, nor the sunset view lobster bib place on the cliff.
Breakfast is often included and sometimes pretty hearty, but if not, it’s the cheapest meal of the day if you end going to a restaurant ($3 – $8).
At lunch you might want a chicken sandwich ($9), salad ($8), burger ($8) or personal pizza ($11) and a fresh fruit drink ($3).
At dinner grilled fish ($13), shrimp pasta ($16), steak ($12), or grilled chicken ($12). Split an appetizer ($10) and a desert ($5), add a couple of beers for him ($7) and a couple of glasses of wine for her ($15).
Throw in a couple of powerbars ($3 each), two gatorades ($3 each) and a bag of chips ($2) for snacks on the road or while you’re hiking.
Add it all up and it’s $48 to $69 per person. Tack on the 13% tax and 10% service and two people spending $90-$180 per night on a lodge will be spending about $118 to $170 for food each day.
Obviously at popular vacation destinations you expect restaurants to have high prices just as they do at tourist beaches, ski areas and amusement parks all over the world, but food prices have gotten crazy in Costa Rica even in supermarkets in backwater ranching towns.