One year of travel: Our expenses

Posted on 03. May, 2011 by in Central America, Europe, Germany, Italy, Travel Tips, USA

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We have on been on the road for one year, and want to share our expenses as a follow up to our first 6 months of travel, which we posted here. Read on for a total sum of every single penny we spent between 30 April 2010 and 30 April 2011.  We decided to provide our spending summary for two reasons. Firstly, we would like to compare with other long-term travelers and see if we are in the same range of spending. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we would like to show our readers who don’t travel long-term just how affordable and realistic this experience really is.

Note: Expenses are stated in both USD and GBP since we both earn money in GBP, but did most of our spending comparing various currencies to US Dollars.

In Total – How much did we spend?

Per Couple $28,483.55 £18,181.51



Per Person $14,241.77 £9,090.75

Average expenses: Per Month

Per Couple
$2,373.63
£1,515.13



Per Person $1,186.81
£757.56

Our expenses include all every flight we took, our pricey Corn Islands vacation, every hostel / hotel / motel / apartment that we slept in, every bus / boat / tuktuk / taxi / train we took, every car we rented, every meal we ate, every beer we drank, various medications, every donation we gave, plus everything else we spent our money on.

Latin America vs Europe and North America

We spent two thirds of the time (8 months) in Mexico and Central America, and one third (4 months, 2.5 / 1.5) in the US and Europe, but over half of our expenses come from our time in Europe/US: $13,232.24 / £8494.41!  Had we traveled only in Latin America, we would have probably spent a lot less.

We have to admit that this budget was a bit higher than we expected, but we never really tried to keep our expenses down. Unlike other travelers, we are technically digital nomads and earn money as we go, so we never have to worry (knock on wood) about scraping the bottom of the money barrel. We rented cars in the U.S. and Europe (not cheap!) we ate out a lot, we didn’t always stay in the cheapest hostels, and we recently booked a rather expensive flight to Europe.

Jess backpacking through the jungleHousesits save money
Thanks to the various housesits during this past year, we saved more than 10 weeks accommodation. This free lodging helped us cut down this part of our budget!

Average Daily Expense: Per Country

This is our average daily spend breakdown per country – both for us as a couple and what that averages out to per person.

U.S.A. Per Couple $90.00 £60.00
Per Person $45.00 £30.00
Mexico Per Couple $41.16 £26.91
Per Person $20.58 £13.45
Belize Per Couple $108.00 £68.20
Per Person $54.00 £34.10
Guatemala Per Couple $46.24 £29.25
Per Person $23.12 £14.62
El Salvador Per Couple $48.10 £29.58
Per Person $24.05 £14.79
Honduras Per Couple $57.36 £36.87
Per Person $28.68 £18.43
Nicaragua Per Couple $63.63 £40.35
Per Person $31.81 £20.17
Costa Rica Per Couple $53.24 £32.97
Per Person $26.62 £16.49
Panama Per Couple $71.42 £43.92
Per Person $35.71 £21.96
Germany Per Couple $52.82 £33.45
Per Person $27.41 £16.73
Italy Per Couple $113.62 £68.83
Per Person $56.81 £34.42

A few notes on these daily averages:

1. Belize was so high because the amazing tours available- snorkeling and caving – are quite costly, but very worth it. Food and hotels can be very cheap if you do your research.
2. Nicaragua was only so expensive because of our trip to the Corn Islands. Without that, our time there would have been dirt cheap.
3. Honduras would have been cheaper, but we were there over Christmas and New Years, so we had lots of justifications for splurging.
4. Costa Rica is really not as expensive as everyone thinks!
5. Renting a car in Italy makes it expensive – the car ($35 a day at the cheapest rate), the gas (avg. of $9 per gallon!) and the tolls on the Autostrada (roughly $6.50 for a 45 minute drive, $35 for a three hour drive from Milan to Lucca).

Fiat 500 Rental Car Italy

Have you traveled long-term? How did our budget compare to yours? Have you ever considered travelling long-term but thought you don’t have the budget? Did our budget help push you in the direction of long-term travel? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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22 Responses to “One year of travel: Our expenses”

  1. Erin

    03. May, 2011

    We spent a very similar amount in our first year, which is probably bad as we were in South America the whole time. Brazil was as expensive as Europe though, and Argentina and Colombia aren’t cheap either.

    Plus we find that as digital nomads we don’t want to rough it as much now – we need a comfortable place to work, and this is our life now, not just a trip for 6 or 12 months.

    I think you did really well considering the big chunk of time in the US.
    Erin recently posted..April Update- Horses and Disney World

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    • jess

      08. May, 2011

      Hey guys – Interesting! South America can be pretty expensive though from what we hear/read from everyone. And we can totally second the need for comfortable work space as a digital nomad. We worked from a tiny lobby on wicker chairs in Panama City and had to laugh at your awesome short film of how sad the actual workspace of a digital nomad is sometimes. Hilarious video, and so true!!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Ayngelina

    03. May, 2011

    Sounds about right to me, I was averaging 1000/month but I think it’s a bit easier to skimp on accommodations if you are alone.
    Ayngelina recently posted..The carnal seduction of Argentina

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    • jess

      08. May, 2011

      If you sleep a lot in dorms, you can travel on your own for cheap as chips, but we also feel like we saved money traveling as a couple because we were able to stay in private rooms for maybe $1 or $2 more than two dorm beds often would have cost. $1000 a month is really good, especially in South America! Well done!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Jaime

    03. May, 2011

    Wow that is very good! I wish more people would see that you spend so much less on the road then you do at home. Damn y’all did good in Guatemala… Im averaging $30 (its good but I want it to be lower).
    Jaime recently posted..Diary of a “Transportation Day”…

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    • jess

      08. May, 2011

      Hey Jaime! We wish too that people can see just how affordable it can all be. We actually spent a lot of money in Guatemala, at least we thought…agree with you that Nicaragua was the cheapest Central American country overall.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Anne

    04. May, 2011

    Wow, very well-documented expenses! Yes, good thing you were earning while travelling. And no matter how much you spent, if you truly enjoyed the experience – scrimping here, luxury there – then, no regrets. Happy anniversary!

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      08. May, 2011

      Hey Anne, thanks for stopping by. And yes, we did definitely splurge from time to time…and we definitely have no regrets about starting this amazing phase in our lives!!!

      Reply to this comment
  5. Sabrina

    05. May, 2011

    That’s such an interesting spending summary. And it really doesn’t sound like that much at all considering it includes all the flights and other transportations which can add up so quickly! I wish more people knew that it really isn’t that expensive to travel I am surprised how low you daily costs in Germany where… did you stay with family/friends a lot?
    Sabrina recently posted..Cinco De Mayo in Texas

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    • jess

      08. May, 2011

      Hi Sabrina – exactly. Part of the reason we wanted to share our budget was to be completely open and say, hey, if you want to make a change and go travelling, even for three or six months, it is totally do-able. You’re right about our German part of the budget – we went back to Germany because we got a house-sit in the Alps, so we didn’t pay any accommodation for the nearly five weeks we were there!!!

      Reply to this comment
  6. Laura

    06. May, 2011

    I love that you posted this! I kept track of all my expenses and haven’t posted them…. I still hope to do it though :)

    Reply to this comment
    • jess

      08. May, 2011

      Hi Laura, thanks! We (and by ‘we’ I mean Dani) keep meticulous track of all our spendings. It’s fascinating the things we blow our money on!!! But also how much money we save by eating locally and taking local transport. Well, in Central America at least. Europe is a totally different story!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Adam

    17. May, 2011

    I didn’t realize we started abroad at about the same time! It’s impressive you kept such good track of your expenses all year. I don’t actually know how much I spent in one year (which I reached last week), but I think it’s about what you spent.
    Adam recently posted..VIDEO- Tubing in Vang Vieng- Laos

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    • Dani

      18. May, 2011

      Congratulations back to your own 1-year travel anniversary!! We thought you had started much earlier than we did! Keeping track of every single penny we spent was an interesting experiment. Even though we do not try to stay within a budget (we should, though!) we will continue to write down our expenses… with all the different bank accounts we use, our excel spreadsheet is the best way to keep track of how much money we spend.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Jade - OurOyster.com

    05. Feb, 2012

    This is a GREAT resource! Thanks for that!
    Jade – OurOyster.com recently posted..5 Reasons To Discover Laos

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    • Dani

      06. Feb, 2012

      You’re very welcome! We’ll be publishing the expenses of our 2nd year on the road in three months – can’t believe it’s been so long already!

      Reply to this comment
  9. My time in Latin America was a bit cheaper, but mainly because I was on a mission to “rough it” for the first several months :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Planking: An Aussie Photo Tradition

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    • Dani

      06. Feb, 2012

      We could’ve done it cheaper, but we just didn’t want to :) We just love to splurge on expensive coffee, private rooms and the occasional pizza ;-) We’d like to pick your brains for Buenos Aires though – what would you say is a realistic monthly budget? I hope our plans to spend three months there this winter will work out!

      Reply to this comment
  10. Carol

    15. Mar, 2012

    I just found this, great record keeping, thumbs up for being so organized! This is great and an inspiration :-) It is our dream to travel long-term (i.e. 3-6-12 months). So good to know that it’s do-able. Are we kind of stuck right now with real estate and mortgages, but hope to get out there sooner than later! Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Wow, this makes me realize how different it is to constantly vs have a home base. Congrats on your year!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..EASY ECOTOURISM: 10 Simple Steps To More Sustainable Travel

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      18. Apr, 2012

      Thanks Mary – we’re actually approaching two years on the road this month :) The difference in travel costs as a full-time traveler is huge – we spent much less money traveling constantly than we did when we had our home base in London.

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