In my opinions, despite their size, Ball Pythons (or Royal Constrictors) are great first snakes. I just got mine recently and he's amazing. They get between 3-6 feet, but are very docile and rarely strike/bite as long as they are handled properly. They are calm, and don't move around too much, which makes them great lap pets. Care is pretty easy, but with any snake, you're going to be putting a good amount of money into it for heating/humidity control, habitat, food, and accessories such as hides. Also consider vet bills! Snakes get ill too and need to see a vet in order to get better. The snake itself can range from 50 or less (for a regular) to thousands of dollars for fancy coloured morphs and patterns.
Ball pythons can be cheap to own, if you do things right. A lot of people assume these snakes need huge glass tanks or fancy set ups, when really, they need the opposite. Ball Pythons in the wild are ground dwelling snakes and simply sit and wait for their food to walk by them, they don't hunt, so they don't require a lot of space. A ball python that is kept in a big glass tank, will often be stressed out and stop feeding. In my opinion, they do best in dark small spaces. Modified Sterilite bins make amazing homes for ball pythons! You can find examples online, and you can get them for cheap, and upgrade sizes as your snake grows! People think its cruel to keep snakes in bins/tubs, but a snake (especially these picky eaters!) will only eat if their environment is perfect, so as long as your snake is eating routinely and not refusing meals, you know you are doing things right.
Lights are not necessary for ball pythons, so long as they are in a room which allows some sunlight to produce a day/night cycle for them. An under tank heater (UTH), heat cable, or heat tape works just fine. Half the cage should be the "cold spot", which should be between 80-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and half the cage should be the "warm side" or "basking spot" which should maintain 90-93 degrees, and no greater than 95. I think the cable I got for my 15quart tub cost me around $12. Humidity should be between 50-60%, and higher during shed.
Hides can be anything small enough to just fit the snake, and hug it on all sides so it feels secure. I use empty margarine tubs, etc. Anything works, so long as it doesn't get moldy. You also need a water bowl big enough for the snake to soak in. Aside from a food supply and vet care, I think that's about it. Pretty simple care. :)
Yes, they are great escape artists. You need a locking lid, or some way to secure it very tightly.
Full grown ball pythons have been known to push bricks of the lid of their cage and still get out.
New ball python owner :)