A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers Managua vs. San Jose for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Managua or San Jose?

Which city is more affordable and which is best for your travel style? If you're trying to figure out where to go next, comparing the travel costs between Managua and San Jose can help you decide which place is right for you.

Managua

Managua is the capital, and largest city in Nicaragua. The economy is generally centered around the trade of coffee, cotton, and other types of agriculture. It also is a textile capital for the area. Managua is also a very reasonably priced destination in Central America. Restaurants and hotels are quite affordable and you'll find all kinds of international cuisine around the city. Transportation is also incredibly affordable and you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised at the cost of intercity bus rides.

San Jose

San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica and is likely to be your first and last stop in a visit to the country. The city is situated in the Central Valley and is surrounded by beautiful mountains and valleys, making for a beautiful flight in. The city has an elevation of 1200 meters and sits on a plateau with a beautiful backdrop of lush green forest. Half of the people in Costa Rica reside in the country's capital city. You are likely to stay only a day or two, but there are a handful of things to do and see including museums and markets. You will also find many embassies, as well as the University of Costa Rica in San Jose.

Which city is cheaper, San Jose or Managua?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Managua is $45, while the average daily cost in San Jose is $60. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for Managua and San Jose in more detail.



Accommodation

Double occupancy rooms typically run around $36 in Managua For nicer amenities and a premiere location, you can expect to pay a bit more.

The prices for places to stay in San Jose can vary by date, location, and type. Generally, the average cost for accommodation per person is $32, while a typical double-occupancy hotel room for two people will cost around $64.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Managua $18
    San Jose $32
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Managua $36
    San Jose $64

Food

In Managua travelers spend around $15 a day on food. You can save money by choosing casual restaurants or food stalls, or you can spend plenty more by dining in nicer restaurants at every meal.

While meal prices in San Jose can vary, the average travelers spends about $11 per day on food. Based on the spending habits of previous travelers, when dining out, an average meal in San Jose should cost around $4.40 per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner. The price of food in sit-down restaurants in San Jose is often higher than fast food prices or street food prices.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Managua $15
    San Jose $11

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in San Jose

For San Jose, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Half-Day San Jose Evening Bus Tour with Dinner and Pickup: $66
  • Vip Evening Sightseeing Tour with Dinner: $66
  • San Jose Evening Tour with Dinner: $77
  • Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Lunch and Dinner: $160

Local Transportation

To get around in Managua, the average visitor spends $16 per day, per person. This includes the costs of taxi rides and private drivers as well as public transportation, which tends to be much more affordable.

To get around in San Jose, the average visitor spends $17 per day, per person. This includes the costs of taxi rides and private drivers as well as public transportation, which tends to be much more affordable.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Managua $16
    San Jose $17

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Managua

Also for Managua, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Transfer Managua to Granada: $52
  • San Juan Del Sur Transfer: $56
  • San Jorge Rivas Transfer: $47
  • Private Transfer in Nicaragua: $110
  • Private Transfer from and To Poneloya or Las Peñitas Beach- Leon, Nicaragua: $68
  • Private Transfer From Managua International Airport: $17
  • Private Airport Transfer: from Managua to Augusto C Sandino Int. Airport (MGA): $13
  • Private Airport Transfer: Augusto C Sandino Int. Airport (MGA) to Managua: $13
  • Popoyo Beach Transfer: $90
  • One-Way Private Transfer from Managua to San Juan del Sur: $146
  • One-Way Private Transfer from Managua to Granada: $83
  • Las Peñitas or Poneloya beach Transfer: $67

Typical Local Transportation prices in San Jose

Some typical examples of transportation costs in San Jose are as follows:


  • Taxi from SJO
    $20
  • Local Bus
    $2.21

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Jose

Also for San Jose, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Round Trip Transfer From San Jose Airport To Dreams Las Mareas Guanacaste: $779
  • Private roundtrip transfers from San Jose Intl Airport to Guanacaste Hotels: $700
  • Round trip transfer from San Jose Airport to La Fortuna/Arenal: $373
  • One Way Private transfer from San Jose Intl Airport to Guanacaste Hotels: $350
  • Private transfer from Corcovado Puntarenas to Hotels in San Jose or the Airport: $340
  • San José Airport (SJC) to San Francisco - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $321
  • Private Transfer - Juan Santa María International Airport to Uvita or Dominical: $320
  • Private Transfer from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, Limon: $299
  • Private Transfer San José to Arenal with stop in Poas & La Paz Waterfall: $297
  • Transfer TO or FROM SJO Airport to Samara Beach: $292
  • Private transfer from San José or SJO Airport to Liberia up to 5 passengers: $280
  • Private One Way Transfer from Manuel Antonio to Monteverde: $280

Is it cheaper to fly into Managua or San Jose?

Prices for flights to both San Jose and Managua change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Entertainment

In Managua, the costs for things to do, activities, admission tickets, and other sightseeing expenses are on average $13 per person, per day.

In San Jose, the costs for things to do, activities, admission tickets, and other sightseeing expenses are on average $14 per person, per day.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Managua $13
    San Jose $14

Tours and Activities in Managua

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Managua.

  • 3 full days tour at Granada, Masaya and Leon area from Managua: $271
  • 4-Days Tour in Colonial Nicaragua: $1,090
  • 5-Day Granada Adventure from Managua: $853
  • 7-Day Best of Nicaragua Experience from Managua: $914
  • 7-Day Volcano Adventure: $1,587
  • Amazing Masaya Volcano at Night "Private Tour": $54
  • Best of Nicaragua 7-Day Tour: Lakes, Islands and Volcanoes: $1,608
  • Boat ride + Colonial city tour at Granada+Catarina lookout: $68
  • Boat ride on lake Granada+Colonial sightseeing+Night tour at Masaya volcano: $68
  • Boat tour + Granada City +Masaya Volcano Night Tour: $68
  • Boat tour+Granada City and Catarina lookout: $68
  • Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding & Boat Tour: $145

Tours and Activities in San Jose

For San Jose, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • 1 Night in Tortuguero + Tour to the Tortuguero National Park: $555
  • 11-Day Tour from Monteverde Cloud Forest and Tortuguero, Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio National Parks: $1,693
  • 13 Days - Fly & Drive - Touring Costa Rica: $2,770
  • 3 in 1 Eco Tour Rain Forest Aerial Tram, River Cruise & Nature Walk Private Tour: $315
  • 3-Day Monteverde Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio Park Tour All Inclusive: $485
  • 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Tour from San Jose: $355
  • 3-Day Tour to Tortuguero National Park from San Jose: $708
  • 3-Days Eco Adventure Tortuguero National Park walking & Canoe Tour All Inclusive: $390
  • 4 Days Adventure in Costa Rica's Eco-tourism Destinations All Inclusive: $725
  • 4-Day Adventure in Tortuguero National Park: $465
  • 4-Day Arenal Volcano Monteverde and Manuel Antonio Park Tour All Inclusive: $570
  • 5-Hour Guided VIP City Bus Tour from San Jose: $66

Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In Managua, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $9.28.

Typically, people visiting San Jose spend on average $11 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Managua $9.28
    San Jose $11

Sample the Local Flavors in Managua

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Managua:

  • Private Flor de Caña Rum Distillery and León City: $165

Sample the Local Flavors in San Jose

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in San Jose:

  • San Jose Bar Hunt: Sweet San Jose Bar Crawl: $12


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Managua and San Jose, we can see that San Jose is more expensive. And not only is Managua much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Managua would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Managua and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in San Jose would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in San Jose than you might in Managua.

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Managua vs. San Jose Travel Comparison

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