If you see scuba lessons that cost only USD $99 US or even USD $199 — buyer beware. Typically, any beginner scuba course that costs less than USD $200:

  • Is a half-day scuba experience, not a certification
  • OR is for your in-water tuition only

Avoid getting fished in by a course price that’s too good to be true. Read on to learn what questions to ask when shopping for a scuba certification and how to get scuba certified when you have a limited budget.

two scuba divers in grand cayman looking at a turtle

Scuba Certification Pricing: What You Need to Know

There are three parts to a scuba certification regardless of the training agency.

  1. Knowledge development (typically an online course)
  2. Skill practice in a pool or pool-like environment (a.k.a. confined water)
  3. Four dives in a large body of water (a.k.a. open water)

If you find very cheap scuba lessons, be sure to ask, “What does the listed price include?” Oftentimes, a scuba certification course priced below USD $200 doesn’t include online training or any scuba gear.

For the PADI Open Water Diver course, you’ll need access to online training through PADI eLearning® or a personal copy of the PADI Open Water Diver Manual and an access code for the PADI Open Water Diver Video. Of the two options, PADI eLearning is more popular, especially if you plan to get certified on holiday. Though the online course costs more, you can complete the knowledge development portion of your course whenever, wherever you want. Compare this to spending time in a classroom when you’re paying for a hotel or other vacation rental.

The other thing that may not be included with very cheap scuba lessons is gear. Whether you rent, borrow or buy, every scuba student needs the following equipment:

  • Mask, fins and snorkel
  • A scuba unit (regulator, scuba cylinder, a BCD and either a dive computer or set of gauges)
  • In many locations, you’ll also need a wetsuit or a dry suit.

In some areas, you may need additional exposure protection, such as a hood, booties and gloves. 

How to Save Money on Your Scuba Certification

You can start your scuba certification online for FREE. Yes, it’s truly free. No credit card is required. Just click the button below.

If you can’t wait to take your first breaths underwater, you can also enroll in a PADI Discover Scuba® Diving (DSD) program. What you learn during your Discover Scuba experience gets you one step closer to a PADI Open Water Diver certification. You can think of the money you spend on your DSD as either a down payment on your scuba certification or an affordable way to find out if you like scuba diving or not.

Try Scuba Diving and Earn Credit Toward a Scuba Certification

Here’s how the DSD experience works. In a pool or pool-like environment, a PADI Professional will:

  • Help you put on scuba gear
  • Demonstrate basic scuba skills
  • Supervise as you take your first breaths underwater

You may also have the option to make an open water dive accompanied by your PADI Professional.

a diver manually inflates their BC while standing in a pool

The knowledge and experience you gain during your Discover Scuba Diving program may be credited toward a PADI Open Water Diver certification. Just be sure to:

  • Verify you’ve enrolled in a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience and not a “try dive.” These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.
  • When you sign up for your DSD, tell the dive shop you may want to earn credit toward a scuba certification

Other Ways to Save Money on Scuba Lessons

convert friends to divers

Is Scuba Diving Expensive?

When I got scuba certified back in the ‘aughts, my PADI certification cost approximately USD $400. I was unemployed, and I agonized over spending that kind of money (no surprise, I’m a Capricorn). The scuba certification course would take four full days, and I figured I could easily spend USD $100 a day on other activities.

Ultimately, it was USD $400 well spent. For one thing, a scuba certification is good for life.

It’s also:

  • An eco-friendly activity 
  • An accessible sport you can enjoy throughout your entire life 
  • A great way to meet new and interesting people

Also, and I’m not proud of this, I’ve easily spent four or more days and USD $400+ on surf lessons over the years, and I can’t surf. I can stand up for a few seconds at best.

But after four days and USD $400 spent on scuba lessons — I became a diver. After the course, I knew how to set up scuba gear, deal with common problems and I even saw a sea turtle!

A pie chart showing 71% ocean and 29% a ball of byuildings

Ready to find out what the other two-thirds of our ocean planet has to offer? Start your scuba training online – FREE or contact a PADI Dive Shop near you for information on scuba lessons or a Discover Scuba Diving experience.

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