Pocket change, big spends and backpack ingredients

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

This entry I plan to update as I go. I figured some people, planning a similar trip, may be interested in my budget and how much I actually spend. Throw in the long promised packing list as well.

Before I left Seattle I set a budget of about US $50 per day. That's US $18.250 for 365 days. The amount is supposed to cover daily costs like; a place to stay, food, drinks, ground transport, Internet/phone costs etc. Larger costs like flights and adventure excursions (i.e. diving courses, longer trekking trips etc.) is covered by a separate budget (I don't have a limit set for this budget, but it definitively got a limit.) Some people may find US $50 a day extremely high for a backpacker budget, it's probably more than the double from what many backpackers on a tighter budget spend in some of the same countries. I don't expect to spend US $50 a day in all the countries I plan to visit. In some countries I'll definitively spend less, while in others possible a bit more. We'll have to see. Also I am not out to prove myself. I have done the US $1 a day dormitories, the great chicken bus experience, the breakfast/lunch/dinner street vendor food stalls etc. I know I can survive on a minimal budget if I want to, but since I now feel I can afford this budget and also want the flexibility to be able to splurge now and then, I decided on a relatively high daily budget. Don't put too much into it.

Big spends:
- Flight Seattle - Guatemala City, USA/Guatemala; US $320
- PADI Advanced Open Water course + 3 fun dives - Utila, Honduras; US $229
- Return flight Managua - Corn Islands, Nicaragua; US $110
- 2 fun dives, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua; US $78
- Flight Panama City - Cartagena, Panama/Colombia; US $198
- Flight Cartagena - Cali, Colombia; US $119
- Flight Cali - Bogota, Colombia; US $54
- Flight Bogota - Leticia, Colombia; US $120
- 10 day all inclusive trip to Angel Falls, Gran Sabana and Roraima, Venezuela; US $872 (ouch, that hurt)
- Flight Boa Vista - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; US $268
- Flight Rio de Janeiro - Campo Grande, Brazil; US $122
- Flight Posadas - Ushuaia, Argentina; US $198
- Flight El Calafate - Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina; US $58
- Two weeks Spanish course in Mendoza, Argentina; US $197
- Return flight Mendoza - Easter Island, Argentina/Chile; US $664
- 8 day all inclusive trip to Manu National Park, Peru; US $600
- Flight Cuzco - Lima, Peru; US $82
- Flight Quito - Guayaquil, Ecuador; US $63
- Return flight Guayaquil - Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; US $300
- Return boat San Cristobal - Santa Cruz (Galapagos Islands), Ecuador; US $60
- Galapagos Islands National Park fee, Ecuador; US $100
- 8 day all inclusive cruise around Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; US $650
- 2 fun dives, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; US $115
- Flight Medellin - Cartagena, Colombia; US $119
- Flight Cartagena - Caracas, Colombia/Venezuela; US $340 (ouch!)
- 3 day all inclusive trip to Angel Falls and Canaima National Park, Venezuela; US $358
- Flight Boa Vista - Salvador da Bahia, Brazil; US $417
- Flight Buenos Aires - Barcelona, Argentina/Spain; US $835
- Flight Barcelona - Oslo, Spain/Norway; US $225

Total Big spends; US $7871 (surely a bit more than planned).

Daily costs:
US $981 divided by 25 days = US $39 per day

Guatemala is one of the cheaper places in "the Americas", but I still managed to spend about US $39 per day. Mainly because I splurged on a couple of nice expensive places to stay for a few days, and also because I probably had more than my share of drinks.

US $320 divided by 11 days = US $29 per day

US $600 divided by 17 days = US $35 per day

Costa Rica:
US $1243 divided by 25 days = US $50 per day

US $967 divided by 20 days = US $48 per day

Parts of Panama is expensive, similar in price to Costa Rica in fact. Since I also spent Christmas and New Year in Panama, the parties and nicer places I stayed in definitively added a big amount to my total overall costs.

US $2102 divided by 51 days = US $41 per day

US $227 divided by 16 days = US $14 per day

Venezuela is cheap, for example you can buy a beer for about 40 Cents. But it is not as cheap as the above shows, since I spent most of my time in Venezuela on a 10 day all inclusive trip (see Big spends). So the US $227 I managed to spend besides that, was mainly on tipping guides and porters, food, accommodation and a big party after the 6 day Roraima trek.

US $3495 divided by 60 days = US $58 per day

It's possible to live quite cheap in Brazil. But it is also possible to spend a lot of money here. In general it is one of the most expensive countries in Latin America. I managed to spend about US $58 per day. Mainly due to a lot of parties and expensive meals. That I rented an apartment right on Copacabana beach, and also had a friend as well as my brother visiting from Norway, probably helped me blow the budget. Call it luxury backpacking.

US $250 divided by 8 days = US $31 per day

Paraguay is cheap, extremely cheap. Probably the cheapest country I have been to so far on the whole trip. At least it felt like it. You should work hard to spend US $31 per day in Paraguay, but then you know I've become an expert.

US $637 divided by 13 days = US $51 per day

US $5307 divided by 108 days = US $49 per day

A life in luxury. I'm amazed it's possible!!

US $1390 divided by 29 days = US $48 per day

Chile is pretty expensive. Only US $48 per day, I must have missed something ;-)

US $841 divided by 27 days = US $31 per day

Bolivia is dirt cheap, but all the partying in Sucre and La Paz got me up to US $31 per day.

US $1649 divided by 36 days = US $46 per day

Peru is quite expensive, especially the Cuzco area and also partly Lima. However, how I managed to spend US $46 per day, considering I also stayed eight days in Manu National Park, is beyond me.

US $710 divided by 21 days = US $34 per day

Latin America in total:
Total Daily costs; US $20.719 divided by 467 days = US $44 per day

Total Daily costs (including Big spends); US $20.719 + US $7871 = US $28.590 divided by 467 days = US $61 per day

So I managed to stay below my daily budget as I spent about US $44 per day, but blew a bit more on Big spends than first planned. All in all it's not too bad, but I realize it's probably much higher than a normal shoestring backpacker budget. A true shoestringer could probably live about 10 years on this amount ;-) At least if you add all the money I spent on Mojitos etc. that I probably forgot to write down. Guess you can add about US $10.000 to the above ;-) However, I have to add that I had the money, this trip was not about traveling as long as possible on a minimal budget. I wanted to be able to take a flight if I was tired of buses. I wanted to go to all the places in my dreams, not thinking about the costs. I wanted to splurge now and then, as well as go out partying up to several days a week. In addition, I didn't stay in many dorms and often had my own room with a private bathroom. Finally, I didn't make a single meal on this trip, as I'm a lazy bugger who can't cook (well, maybe I made a sandwich or two ;-).

Packing list:
I bought a 50 liters (that's about 3000 cu. in.) Eagle Creek backpack with a matching 15 liter daypack (900 cu. in.). I have used everything I brought and haven't missed any particular items. Good planning, aye! Note that this list has been updated during my travels as I have added a few clothing items.

- 1 rain/wind jacket
- 1 fleece
- 2 sweaters
- 3 pants (1 regular, 1 convertible and 1 jeans)
- 2 shorts
- 6 t-shirts
- 6 underwear
- 6 pairs of socks
- 1 travel towel
- 1 pair of shoes (comfortable hiking type shoes)
- 1 pair of Flip Flops
- toiletries, including anti-malaria tablets (doxycycline) for a year
- Digital Camera and USB cable
- CD's for burning pictures, CD markers
- MP3 Player
- cheap sunglasses
- Leatherman knife
- Maglite flashlight
- alarm clock
- 20Q (electronic gadget to play 20 questions)
- 1 journal
- 1 Central America guide book (Rough Guide)
- 2 reading books
- 2 Spanish dictionaries and phrase books
- 2 small padlocks
- money belt
- documents (passport, credit cards etc.)
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tinker on

Well that will need an update for a start
Only kidding!
But I cycled with Down hill maddness too and the t-shirt fell appart in about a week! Great bike ride though!

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