I couldn’t believe it myself. I don’t think I have ever spent that little while on an island. I did wish for a moment or two that I wanted to spend more money, but I didn’t.
I thought to myself, let me see if I can survive on $4.50 on this island for one day and if I can, then it will only inspire travelers more that islands REALLY can be visited without it being too expensive!
Here’s where I went, how I did it, and how I did not starve…
Location: Taboga Island, 1 hour off of the mainland of Panama.
Time on Island: 10 hours
Money Spent while on Island: $4.50
How I Did it and What Did I Spend $4.50 On:
I was in Panama for a few days and I always look for ferries that may traveling to nearby islands. In luck, I knew that Taboga Island was nearby and it was the middle of the week, so it would not be hectic with getting on. I had my ticket and was ready to go.
I left at 7:30am for the ferry, arrived at 8:10am at the dock. The ferry left at 8:30am and was a 1 hour ride to Taboga. I had breakfast before I left – oatmeal that I had made in my hotel room and brought 2 water bottles with me filled up.
Arriving, I was feeling full and ready to go swimming! It was high tide though so instead, I spent time walking and taking in the sights before I set my beach towel down on the sand, avoiding the $15 charge for a beach chair. Used the restroom for 50 cents. Picnic tables nearby are free to sit on and eat at.
$0.50 and counting
A few hours go by, and I am getting a tan, reading, and start chatting with nearby travelers. One of them offer me a Balboa beer, I take it! We all go for a hike and return around 1pm. I still have 4.5 hours to go until the ferry home. At this point, I am so thankful I brought lunch with me and eat my sandwich. I get a lemonade to accompany that – $1.00
Tip- Bringing food with you, even for one meal or lunch can cut down a lot of costs depending on your island location!
$1.50 and counting
After eating, I walk through the village, up and down streets, photographing. I meet more travelers and locals that I chat with. I stop here and there to enjoy the sights. On my way back, I see that low tide is coming in and the ocean looks Caribbean-like. I grab an empanada – $2.00 along with a water bottle – $1.00 .
There is my $4.50 spent!
I enjoy that, go swimming in the delightful ocean and hey, if you’re swimming then it’s a free restroom 😉 Ferry back at 4:30pm, home by 6pm to catch dinner on the mainland.
I Could Have Spent More
Easily, if i did not bring lunch or water with me or was starving before I arrive at the ferry, I would have spent probably $5 for each meal, looking at the restaurant menus, not counting beverages. Total would have been maybe $20 depending on how much I would have wanted to hydrate and if I wanted to drink alcohol.
The problem is – there are zero ATM’s, banks, or credit card machines in Taboga!
There was no way for me to charge anything or to get more cash out. So yep, I only had $4.50 to spend as I needed to save $12 for my taxi ride home afterwards. Better not spending that money and knowing you will not get stuck at the ferry on your way home.
If you enjoy, or can get into, making your own food or bringing food with you, it is always the best way to save money and keep your budget low. Not drinking alcohol at every beach you visit is also a great thing to do and try it! You do not need to drink at every restaurant and it is quite nice being sober and remembering the entire moment.
Panama is a very budget friendly destination and so was Taboga. You can easily get by on $20 per day.
What is the lowest you have spent while on an island?