Every March I pack my suitcase and escape the final days of the freezing Canadian winter for something a little more enjoyable – a scuba diving getaway!
When I started scuba diving, I never expected that I would be able to fit an annual diving trip into my budget. In fact, I didn’t even log my first twenty or so dives, because I always thought they would be my last. First came home ownership, then came grad school, and then came saving for my upcoming sabbatical, and I always thought that scuba diving would be the first luxury to go.
And yet here I am, suitcase on my floor and t-shirts on the drying rack, getting ready to jet off to Roatan, Honduras for the fourth time. So, how can you plan your own cheap scuba diving trip?
Choose an Inexpensive Scuba Diving Destination
When you’re looking for a cheap scuba diving trip, look for a destination with inexpensive options for airport transfers, accommodation, food and entertainment. You can use a site like BudgetYourTrip.com to compare average costs across different destinations for budget, mid-range and luxury travelers. For example, a mid-range traveler in the Cayman Islands is likely to spend more than $250 USD per day before diving, while it’s possible to visit Cozumel, Mexico for less than half of that price.
Book Your Cheap Scuba Diving Trip Early
This year, I will be heading to Roatan, Honduras. At the time of my booking last autumn, my flight cost $1060 USD. Since then, I’ve been too lazy to turn off my Google Flights notifications for this route, and have seen prices climb to over $3000 (two weeks before departure) before dropping down to about $2200 (one week before departure). They never dropped below the price I paid in the autumn, which has me convinced that the cheapest tickets to tropical destinations can always be found far in advance.
Ask About a Dive Package Including Accommodation
Many dive shops work in partnership with local hotels and apartment rentals to provide inexpensive accommodation to their divers. Other dive shops even have their own cheap (or free!) accommodation. Last March I traveled to Utila and did my scuba diving with Altons, a highly-rated dive shop that has its own “rustic” dorm rooms right on the dock. It was awesome to roll straight out of bed onto the dive boat each morning, although by Day 7 I was missing hot water (and a mirror!). Since my accommodation was free with my dive package, it turned into one of the cheapest scuba diving trips I’ve ever taken!
Do All Your Dives With One Dive Shop
Almost all dive shops offer discounted dive package rates to divers who will commit to five, ten or fifteen dives. At the shop I’ll be diving with in Roatan, the discount for booking ten dives works out to about 25%. It’s fine if you want to try out different dive shops to find one that works for you, but keep in mind that this could come at a cost.
Skip the Expensive Diving Gear
For your first few dive trips, I recommend renting your equipment from the dive shop. Every good dive shop will have an excellent selection of well-maintained gear, including BCDs, regulators, wetsuits, masks and fins. You may even be able to rent a dive computer. This saves you the initial cost of buying all your gear yourself (which is likely to cost more than $1000) and it saves you from paying excess baggage fees on your flights. Lots of dive shops include rental gear in the cost of their dives, and even those who don’t may be flexible about the rental costs if you’re doing several days of diving with them.
Remember, It’s Not an Instagram Photo Shoot!
Never feel like you need to have the newest or coolest look to go scuba diving. If your old bathing suit still fits, and it’s comfortable, pack it! It will be hidden under your wetsuit before you know it. Thinking of investing in a dry bag? For the past five years I’ve just been using a reusable shopping bag that I got for free at a conference. You don’t need fancy water shoes either, as most boat captains prefer that divers go barefoot on board. The only thing I would recommend splurging on is reef-friendly sunscreen, so that you stay protected from the sun while you’re also protecting the planet.
Join a Single Scuba Divers Trip
With the motto “Our Hookups Are to Tanks”, SingleDivers.com makes it clear that it’s not actually a dating site… If you do fall in love on one of their scuba diving trips, it will probably be with a friendly clownfish! Single Divers organizes at least eighteen cheap scuba diving trips every year for divers who are single, or whose partner doesn’t dive. They focus on keeping costs low and never charge a singles supplement – instead, they help coordinate like-minded divers to share double rooms and negotiate great prices for both land-based and liveaboard diving trips.
Don’t Leave Home Without Scuba Diving Insurance
A cheap scuba diving trip can turn into an expensive, or even deadly, mistake, if you experience a medical complication and don’t have appropriate travel medical insurance. Seriously – imagine spending $1,500 on a one-week scuba diving trip, only to require a medical evacuation and subsequent treatment that clocked in at over $50,000 USD! Scuba diving accidents do happen, and I think you’d be crazy to take such a huge financial risk when World Nomads travel insurance covers a wide range of scuba-diving related accidents (read the policy for full details). I am currently insured by World Nomads, and while I haven’t had to make a claim yet (knock on wood!) I was happy with the online purchasing process and the comprehensive level of coverage for a very reasonable price.
Do you love scuba diving? Do you have any other tips for divers who want to plan their own cheap scuba diving trip? Share them below!