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Old 08-09-2011, 19:11   #1
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Provisioning Costs by Regions

I know there is a huge string on cruising for $500 a month but I have a question that I want to narrow down. This question is for those cruisers that have experience on both the east and west cruising areas of the caribbean. I anticipate a reduction in food costs once we head to Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica....etc., is this correct? What have your experiences been?
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Old 08-09-2011, 19:16   #2
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Re: provisioning costs by regions

have not been there since 1999 but bring as much meat from the states s you can. otherwise the open markets were very reasonable
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Old 08-09-2011, 19:53   #3
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Re: provisioning costs by regions

In all the regions you can find "1st World" grocery stores with 1st World prices. And then also medium level stores with a lot of local foodstuffs and can goods from all over the world with prices somewhat economical. And finally, little local shacks and shops with purely local foodstuffs where the prices are really cheap by our standards.
- - So I would one area is not better or worse than the other, it is more a problem of the "fancy" stores being too available and our habit of wanting the stuff we ate back in our home country rather than the local diet.
- - However, there are some islands/countries were the "local" stuff is top notch, tasty and you don't even think of going to the "gringo" stores. So your food costs plummet.
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Old 08-09-2011, 20:04   #4
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Re: provisioning costs by regions

We found Colombia about equal to American prices a year ago. Panama can be inexpenseive, but it's not cheap. I am in Costa Rica right now. Have been in Puntrenas, and now Golfito. Provision someplace else, and lots of it for anything. There is very little in the way of boat needs too. Today I priced a gln of bottom paint that was $575 U.S. $. The can was as light as some ordinary house paint........i2f
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Old 08-09-2011, 20:11   #5
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Re: provisioning costs by regions

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Originally Posted by osirissail View Post
In all the regions you can find "1st World" grocery stores with 1st World prices. And then also medium level stores with a lot of local foodstuffs and can goods from all over the world with prices somewhat economical. And finally, little local shacks and shops with purely local foodstuffs where the prices are really cheap by our standards.
- - So I would one area is not better or worse than the other, it is more a problem of the "fancy" stores being too available and our habit of wanting the stuff we ate back in our home country rather than the local diet.
- - However, there are some islands/countries were the "local" stuff is top notch, tasty and you don't even think of going to the "gringo" stores. So your food costs plummet.
Hi Jim, Nice to hear from you. I know food prices were cheaper in Trinidad and I assume as we get to countries that are more mainland we would see more of the same.
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Old 08-09-2011, 20:15   #6
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Re: provisioning costs by regions

We found it cheaper to eat on the street at the small steel Kioski restaraunts. Than it was to purchase food at the grocery. It was delicious, and plentiful too. One other thing is the meat in Panama is tough. We tried Price Smart in Panama City which looks like Costco, but no luck there either with meat........i2f
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Old 08-09-2011, 20:16   #7
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Re: provisioning costs by regions

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We found Colombia about equal to American prices a year ago. Panama can be inexpenseive, but it's not cheap. I am in Costa Rica right now. Have been in Puntrenas, and now Golfito. Provision someplace else, and lots of it for anything. There is very little in the way of boat needs too. Today I priced a gln of bottom paint that was $575 U.S. $. The can was as light as some ordinary house paint........i2f
OUCH, that is why we went to Trinidad for the bottom job.
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:06   #8
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

Since the thread is about "provisioning costs by region" - bottom paint and boat parts really doesn't have much relevance.
- - However, be it foodstuffs or boatstuffs, searching out where the locals get their "stuff" is difficult and can take some time - but you will find a whole different world of prices which are much lower than what is easily (relatively speaking) available to be sold to "yachties." The trick is finding the locations of the local stuff - that can take some significant time which you might not have available or might not feel like like taking the trouble.
- - Virtually anywhere in the world you will find the three different levels of pricing I described. How much you can save is directly related to the amount of effort and time you want to invest in finding the most economical sources.
- - That said, the most general superficial rule of thumb on provisioning costs is that the cheapest are the Spanish speaking/heritage countries and underdeveloped countries (any language). Then more expensive provisioning is found in English speaking countries. And the most expensive, relatively speaking, provisioning costs are in the French speaking countries.
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:17   #9
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

The most economical place to provision is the dominican Republic
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:22   #10
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

You should always shop at the local town produce market. Every town in every country has one.

To put it another way - eat native.
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:36   #11
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

Although it has been a while, my experience in the Caribbean mirrors that of the previous posts. Except for the Bahamas and to some degree the USVI most of the islands I visited in the West Indies the pricing was not too different for provisions.

Most larger towns and islands will have American style grocery stores which I found usually a good deal more expensive that US prices.

Then the local groceries with local products and imports from all over, mainly Asia and Europe, that were usually a bit less than the "American" markets.

Best prices I found were at the large local markets. Set up along the line of US flea markets with many vendors with small booths or stands selling mostly local produce. Found them in every med to large town and island I visited. Even then in a lot of places the price for the tourist was not the same as the price the locals paid but I learned a valuable lesson years ago when I was in Haiti.

We were constantly hounded by street vendors every time we left the boat. They would follow us all day and night, even waiting outside a restaurant while we ate to restart the chase as soon as we exited. Finally one of the more enterprising boys, seeing our predicament explained the deal. Pick one boy (he was about 12) and you become his tourists and the rest of the locals respect the deal and leave you in peace. Then for a small fee he does the shopping and errands, coming back with the goods at local prices. Even after paying his fees we saved a lot.

May not be the same everywhere but so far worked well the places I have been.
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Old 09-09-2011, 12:15   #12
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

We shopped in the local markets, modern markets, and street markets. I had a hard time watching the flies all over the meat on the street with no refridgetaion. The meat on the counter basically. For a wee bit more I didn't have to see that. Maybe the local store had flies in the back, but out of sight out of mind. I walked away from a pastry shop yesterday, because one tray was full of ants. Whose to say they didn't brush away the ants from the tray above it just before I walked in?

Veggies weren't much different in prices than the local stores when coming from the streets. Pinapples were about half price on the street, but that was the only real deal we found. We did enjoy a pinapple nearly daily.

The price of paint was an indication of what to expect. I know food was typed, but boats have other needs too.......i2f
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Old 09-09-2011, 13:24   #13
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

Eat native? Although tender when young, isn't that an endangered species?

Now available freeze dried, not just in tins!

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Old 09-09-2011, 16:31   #14
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

Hi Janice,

The prices for food in Columbia and Panama are a lot cheaper than in the Eastern Carib. Fruits and vegetables are almost free in comparison. Dry stores are about the same price as the US - which is cheap compared to the EC.

Meats are inexpensive, but you have to choose beef carefully. We find chicken and pork to be very good and inexpensive everywhere, but finding good quality beef is difficult.

Restaurant meals are very good deals. Particularly in Columbia (Santa Marta and Cartagena), where the restaurants are very good and the meals are plentiful and very cheap. You probably won't be eating out much in Panama because Colon is a dive and Panama City is on the Pacific.

Street foods are an absolute delight and you can buy stuff with the change in your pocket.

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Old 10-09-2011, 07:56   #15
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Re: Provisioning Costs by Regions

This is a great idea, but how did you pay the kid? Everytime he brought stuff back, at the beginning or the end of the stop? Trying to figure out how to make this work.

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We were constantly hounded by street vendors every time we left the boat. They would follow us all day and night, even waiting outside a restaurant while we ate to restart the chase as soon as we exited. Finally one of the more enterprising boys, seeing our predicament explained the deal. Pick one boy (he was about 12) and you become his tourists and the rest of the locals respect the deal and leave you in peace. Then for a small fee he does the shopping and errands, coming back with the goods at local prices. Even after paying his fees we saved a lot.

May not be the same everywhere but so far worked well the places I have been.
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