female scuba diver in shallow water

How Much Does Learning to Scuba Dive Cost?

So you’ve decided you want to become a diver. Probably one of the first questions that comes to mind is the cost associated with the hobby. 

After all, you’ve undoubtedly heard that scuba diving can be quite expensive.

And the truth is, it certainly can be; however, there are many ways people can enjoy diving on a budget. Still, to become a diver, you first have to attain a basic open water certification where you learn the basics. So how much does learning to scuba dive cost?

There is wide variability based on where you get your training as well as how you structure your open water checkout dives. However, many people will find that they are able to become certified for approximately $300.

In this article, we’ll discuss how the cost for learning to scuba dive may vary based on location and options. We’ll also discuss other things that might increase your initial cost for learning to scuba dive.

many scuba divers ascending under a boat

What Does Learning to Scuba Dive Involve?

Before discussing the costs, it is important that we are speaking the same language regarding what “learning to scuba dive” entails. Typically, learning to scuba dive involves attaining an open water certification.

Open water is the most basic level of certification for scuba divers. It entails learning the basics about concepts like how your body responds underwater, safety procedures, and how to use the equipment. 

You’ll also learn a bit about marine life, weather, and other factors that affect diving.

Essentially, you can consider learning to scuba dive as a rough introduction to most facets of diving and a thorough examination of equipment use and safety information. This is done through a course that will involve either classroom learning or, more typically, online self-paced learning.

After completing the course, you will have instruction. Your initial instruction will consist of learning to use the equipment in a hands-on setting and completing dives in a controlled environment, typically a swimming pool.

Once you have completed this portion, you will complete four dives known as “checkout dives,” where you will demonstrate the concepts that you have learned in open water. At that point, you will officially be certified to be a scuba diver. When we discuss open water certification, we are discussing this entire process.

2 scuba divers doing OK sign

What is the Range of Cost?

While $300 appears to be a standard cost for many areas, it can range dramatically depending upon where you complete your training. 

Many areas in the United States offer scuba diving at relatively cheap rates. In fact, I got my open water certification in Indianapolis for only $250.

The lowest you will probably find diving instruction is $200. You will occasionally come across open water certification for $99; however, there are some necessary questions and cautions you’ll want to consider for a deal of that nature (more on this later).

As far as the highest price, you can find open water certification for $600 and higher in some locations. Fortunately, these are harder to find and if you are finding these prices in your area, you may want to consider traveling elsewhere if possible. 

I have read blogs about certification costing up to $1,000 in places like London and Tokyo; however, the most expensive I was able to find was $750 in Tokyo.

Many people decide to learn to scuba dive while on vacation. After all, learning to dive in the beautiful waters of Aruba probably sounds much more enticing than in a chilly quarry in Ohio.

For people seeking out a destination experience to learn to scuba dive, you’re probably thinking it will cost much more than the average. However, you would be pleasantly surprised. In fact, if you are simply adding training to an existing vacation, you may find that the price is near the average cost.

In a cursory search of open water certification costs in popular diving locations, I found options in Egypt for $250 as well as options between $300 – $350 in Perth, Thailand, Honduras, Belize, Cozumel, and Vietnam.

However, there are places that are much pricier. A quick internet search found costs around $400 in Costa Rica and Indonesia, $450 in Cape Town and Aruba, and $600 in the Bahamas. So definitely do your research before making a decision on where to get certified.

Additionally, it is important to realize that prices can vary dramatically within an area. For example, when doing research for this blog, I found open water certification prices in Sydney ranging from $250 to $590. Prices typically won’t range that much in an area, but a difference of $100 seems to be pretty standard between dive operators.

2 scuba divers ascending

You Said Something About $99 Certification Classes?

Yes, I am sure that caught lots of people’s attention. There are some dive shops that will offer classes at a loss in hopes of getting more business and being able to sell more equipment. 

If this deal sounds too good to be true, know that it might be.

First, while most (though not all) prices listed for open water certification include all needed equipment, some operators will charge for air fills, rental equipment, and other things, which can make that $99 price tag go up quickly.

Additionally, it is important to consider the quality of the training. If a place is using training as a means to get new customers in the door, there is a possibility that class sizes will be large or not enough time will be spent to ensure learning. 

For a hobby that involves going into an environment where you cannot naturally breathe, learning is absolutely critical.

3 scuba divers on the edge of a boat

What Questions Should I Ask When Considering Training?

Obviously, everyone wants to get a good deal, so researching into the cost of scuba training is important. However, what people really want is a good value. 

These things don’t always go hand in hand. So while your first question might be the price, there are other things to consider.

First, you want to assess the quality of training. Reading reviews online and asking others about their experiences with a dive shop can help you assess the quality of their training and if it fits your needs. 

Do you want more one-on-one instruction at times or are you comfortable just watching and doing? Think about how you learn.

Ask if the price listed is all inclusive? Generally, a price includes the course, certification, pool training, pool and site fees, and checkout dives. In many cases, it also includes rental equipment. 

If it isn’t all inclusive, ask what the other costs will be.

a scuba diver swimming alongside a turtle

What Are Some Aspects that Might Increase the Cost?

There are a few things that may increase the cost. One common thing to consider is gear. Now, I am a full proponent of someone learning to scuba dive without purchasing any gear at all. It simply isn’t necessary.

However, many people prefer to purchase a basic setup of mask, snorkel, boots, and fins. Owning your own equipment does have advantages in terms of comfort and familiarity, especially for a mask. 

If you decide to do this, you’re probably looking at an extra $200. If you opt for only a mask (which I recommend as the first thing to buy), you can invest $50-$80.

Additionally, some people decide to do their course and pool training with their local dive shop and do their four checkout dives at a more exotic location. 

This will definitely increase the cost as you would essentially be paying the local rate for two 2-tank dives at your destination. This could add anywhere from an additional $150 – $450 to your cost depending on where you travel to.

3 scuba drivers learning in a pool

What If I’m Not Sure if I Want to Invest that Much Money?

This is a valid question as even $300 is a pretty significant amount of money to invest to learn how to do something. What if you get in the pool and become claustrophobic? What if you simply don’t enjoy the experience?

For people who are curious about scuba diving but don’t want to go all in without a taste, many dive shops offer Discover Scuba classes. 

These do not provide any certification, but give you an introduction to the equipment and get you in the water in a supervised environment.

You’ll also find a number of dive shops at vacation destinations that provide Discover Scuba classes, enabling you to dive in shallow water under instructor supervision. Costs for Discover Scuba seem to average about $60, although you can find them cheaper (my local shop is $40) and much higher (typically at vacation destinations).

For many people, this is an affordable way to discover if they like scuba diving.

a scuba diver going through and underwater cave

Final Thoughts

On average, scuba diving costs approximately $300 for a basic open water certification, which prepares you to dive safely at depths of up to 60 feet. Prices can range significantly from one area to another; however, even many destination places will offer certification near the $300 mark.

As with any investment, it is important to do research before buying regarding both the price and the quality. 

An effective open water certification course will leave you confident regarding procedures, safety practices, and equipment. For those on the fence, a Discover Scuba course may be a good first option. 

Mike Seals
Chief Crisp Eater at Guiness Brewey | + posts

Mike resides in landlocked Indiana but takes every opportunity to travel to warm waters for diving. When in his home state, he typically dives quarries. His favorite place to dive is the reef off of Ambergris Caye, Belize. When not diving, he works as a researcher, runs marathons, and spends time with his three kids.

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