June was a big travel month for us which meant lower than usual Costa Rica living expenses — Less than $900. (We were traveling in Mexico for almost the entire month, leaving on June 2nd and returning on June 30th. More about those expenses later.
Costa Rica Fixed Costs
But back at home in Costa Rica, as you would imagine, many categories totaled zero or next to nothing. Such were Groceries, Transportation, Meals Out, Other Household, Entertainment, and Miscellaneous.
A couple of categories were about the same. On the healthcare front, even though we were away for almost the entire month, we still had to pay our monthly Caja payment and still needed the same medications. Therefore our monthly healthcare spending was as normal.
And since our rent still needed to be paid, as well as the monitoring on our home security system, phone, and Wifi, our “Rent/Phone/Utilities” category was close to normal. We also paid the electric and water bills since they were for service in May. There are two reasons the total was a bit lower. We had wonderful house/pet sitters while we were away (thanks again Barb & Bill!) and they paid for any propane they used (for cooking and hot water) and for the cost of our housekeeper who comes four hours every week.
The only other expenses to note were pet food (under the “Pets”category) and a manicure and pedicure for Gloria in the “Personal Care”category.
Now on to our Mexico expenses…olé!
If you remember from our last two newsletters, our trip had three parts:
- Mexico City
We were invited by International Living to speak about our lives in Costa Rica at their Ultimate Conference again this year, which was held in Cancún at the JW Marriott. They paid for our airfare as well as hotel, food, and travel expenses for that part of the trip. The only negative was that the closest we got to the beach was looking at it from our room!
We flew into Mexico City, then continued on a connection to Cancún. After the conference, we flew back to Mexico City but delayed the leg back to San Jose, Costa Rica, until June 30th when we flew home. Because it was basically the same flight, our “delay” didn’t cost us any extra in airfare. So, the first five days of our Mexican adventure cost us $0. That’s always a good thing.
After arriving in Mexico City on Sunday afternoon, we checked in at our hotel in the historic district. We’re always looking for good, clean, inexpensive places to stay and this time we tried the Mexico City Hostel. The reviews we read sounded great, as was the location, just 150 meters from the Zócolo. And the price was right at 600 pesos per night for a private room with private bath. That came to $38.64 per night for three nights. As promised, it was clean and included breakfast each day.
We spend one day exploring the historic district and sampling the local foods. On Tuesday, we hired a driver to take us to two attractions outside the city. The first was the Dolores Olmedo Museum which houses the largest collection of artworks by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It is also home to a multitude of peacocks, peahens, and their chicks who roam the expansive grounds. Since we went on a Tuesday, admission was free instead of the normal 75 pesos (about $5 USD). For Frida Kahlo fans, this museum is a must.
Our driver waited until we were finished exploring the museum, then drove us to the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco. Xochimilco (pronounced, sochi-milko – in Aztec meaning ‘place of the flowers’) is a network of canals and man-made islands originally used by the Aztecs.
In pre-Hispanic Mexico , in the valley where Mexico City stands was a lake called Lago Texcoco, which now has long been drained. The Aztecs, on its edge, long before the Spanish came, dug a series of canals, whose mud they heaped on the earth around the canals or on anchored reeds atop the water. These plots of land, appeared like floating islands called chinampas – hence, their name ‘floating gardens’.” Source: gonomad.com
Admittedly, it’s a tourist attraction but I had never been. And yes, it was a bit kitschy, but we had a great time. We rented one of the gondolas (called a trajinera), had lunch on the water prepared by a floating comidor, and listened to the Mariachis floating by on neighboring gondolas. Families and other groups of revelers were also enjoying the day, but you have to see it to believe it:
Our costs for the day’s tours totaled $139.66:
- Private transportation by van: 1200 pesos ($81.36 USD)
- Boat rental: 500 pesos+40 peso tip ($36.61)
- Lunch on the boat: 320 pesos ($21.69)
A couple of tips to bring the costs down:
- Go with a larger group as the price of 500 pesos is the same, whether it’s 2 people or 20
- Bring a picnic lunch
The next day, it was time to continue on to Oaxaca where we would spend just under three weeks. We took an executive class, direct bus which cost 1346 pesos ($87.40 USD). They gave us a discount coupon for our return bus from Oaxaca to Mexico City, so our return tickets only cost 596 pesos ($39.01 USD).
We stayed at our home-away-from-home in Oaxaca, the Hotel Las Mariposas. It’s the third year in a row that we’ve stayed there and we love it.
It’s clean, relatively inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and in a great location. Since we were coming in the off-season and staying almost three weeks, were repeat guests and willing to pay in cash, we were able to negotiate a great nightly rate. We stayed in a suite, which gave us a refrigerator and cook-top, so we were able to make some meals there, most often breakfast and lunch.
We spent a lot of time exploring Oaxaca City by foot and by local bus, as well as visiting nearby towns using all kinds of transportation — taxi, colectivo, and even a mototaxi. Public transportation is very inexpensive in much of Mexico and Oaxaca is no exception. Colectivos are taxi’s the run a specific and regular route from outlying towns into Oaxaca City and back. The usually cost 12 pesos (about 80 cents) per person with a total of 6 people, including the driver, along for the ride so it’s a tight fit in the small sedans. They pick up and drop off riders along the route as well.
Mototaxis are often available within the outlying towns and are basically a motorcycle with a cart attached or built-in. Our per person cost for a mototaxi in the town of Zaachila was 15 pesos ($1).
Local buses are another bargain; most of the time we paid only 6 pesos (40 cents) per person. Regular taxis within the city of Oaxaca cost 40-50 pesos (about $2.70 to $3.30). Not including the round-trip first class buses Mexico City to Oaxaca, the rest of our ground transportation for 20 days in Oaxaca cost a total of about $108.00 USD.
Since we had a small kitchen, we did buy some groceries while in Oaxaca. All over town, you will find small grocery stores, some small and some larger, called Pitico. We were able to buy fresh fruit, yogurt, granola and bran cereals, and the all-important Microdyne to disinfect the fresh produce. Paul loves his morning smoothies and we bought fresh bananas, pineapple, and papaya which I cleaned, cubed and froze.
The rest of our meals were in restaurants and ran the gamut from smaller, family restaurants called comedors to fine dining restaurants — one of our favorites is Las Quince Letres where we enjoyed a four-course comida corrida for 90 pesos ($6.00) each. Comida corrida in Mexico is a meal of several courses at a fixed price eaten between about 1 and 4 p.m. The food is always fresh, homemade, and the entrees vary daily.
We had so many memorable meals in Oaxaca, there are too many to talk about. But one of our favorite things to do there is to enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants in the Zócolo, watching the people go by. It’s a party every day. Vendors selling jewelry, shawls, clothing, folk art, and more come by your table constantly but they are part of the fabric of this tourist town. We’ve even gotten to know one or two of them over the years.
Oaxaca is a great town for foodies and has something to offer for everyone. Here’s a quick look at some of the foods we ate while in Oaxaca:
During the 20 days we spent in Oaxaca, we spent about $45 for food in the grocery store and $334 for meals out.
Mexico Trip Spending Summary
There are a couple of other areas of note. The first is health care. While in Oaxaca, I ate or drank something that was contaminated with bacteria. After several days of not straying far from the bathroom, I went to see a doctor. He prescribed antibiotics (which I only wanted as a last resort), some Imodium, and an electrolytes drink. The doctor charged 400 pesos (about $28.00) and the medications, including those I took before seeing the doctor, cost about $32.00, for a total of $60.00 USD.
The other thing to mention is that when traveling for a month, we only bring enough clothes for 7-10 days. Public laundries are readily available and they are inexpensive. They charge by weight and the clothes come back clean and neatly folded. We had our laundry done about six times in all. Additionally, Paul had two shoeshines and had his watch repaired. The category of “laundry/repairs/shoeshines” came in at $36.40.
Our total spending for our Mexico trip was $2,100.60. Remember, we did not have to pay for our airfare. If we would have, it would have added $900 to the total, bringing it to $3,000.
As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months. If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:
- Our 2014 Cost of Living Summary
- Our 2013 Cost of Living Summary
- Our 2012 Cost of Living Summary
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Vacation the Retire for Less Way!