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October 30th marked our 6-month travel anniversary, and while we’re sharing our Travel Tops and Flops and reflection on ‘200 Days on the Road’ on our 200-days travel anniversary on 15 November, the six-month marker seemed the right time to take a look at our expenses so far – including how much we have spent, where the money went, and what our average per day spend has been in each country. Luckily, Dani keeps a very exact expenses sheet calculating our outgoings to the last centavo, with up-to-date exchange rates telling us each day just how much every hotel room, bus ride, and ice cream cone costs in British Pounds (the currency we earn), US Dollars and the local currency.
Please note: Our daily spendings are meant to be used as a guide for future travelers, or as a comparison for those of you currently on the road. However, as we work while we travel, we are not stuck to a fixed budget which we will one day deplete. We might spend a little bit more than the average backpacker, but we are guessing that our expenses are quite average for digital nomads in Latin America.
Expenses in the U.S.
When we left London for Las Vegas on 30 April, we had no idea how expensive the U.S. would be. Even with the strong British Pound lining our pockets, the U.S. was much pricier than we thought.
By far our most expensive country so far, we spent a mind-boggling $8,333.00 /£5,530.60 in those 70 days. Major expenses within this figure include both our flights from London to Las Vegas and L.A. to Mexico, plus an Enterprise rental car which we had for two months. Excluding these numbers, our actual daily spend was $4,628/£3,071.60, or roughly $1,356/£900 per person per month.
Transportation: Our trusty Chevy Aveo rental ran us $1700 / £1,128 (including optional $560 insurance), which averaged out to $28.33 / £18.80 per day. At first glance (and second, and third) it might seem a luxury, but without the car, we could never have explored the South West, or drive the classic Pacific Coast Highway from L.A. to San Francisco as well as from San Diego to Tucson, making this a totally necessary expense. We drove 5200 miles, and of course the cost of gas and parking fees also added up to be quite expensive.
Accommodation: During the times we were not reviewing hotels or doing long-term housesits, we paid a higher price for accommodation than we originally expected, as many places that we visited did not have hostels. Dusty roadside motels were cheap ($29 – $39 / £18 – 25), while city center digs ran us upwards of $69. We paid a ridiculous $119 for a tent cabin (!) in Big Sur, and a last minute Holiday Inn Express was $109 in the three-hotel, no-vacancy town of Chinle where we holed up for the night during our visit to Canyon de Chelly in northern Arizona.
Average accommodation per night based on two sharing: $45/£29.
Tip: Accommodation costs might be higher in the US than in Latin America, but there are also incredible deals to be found online which are much harder to come by in the less deal-savvy neighbors to the south. Websites such as booking.com or lastminute.com allowed us to score excellent rates on hotels than just showing up ever did. On a few rare occasions we were able to negotiate a better rate on site.
Food: The occasional treat aside, our restaurant choices were of the roadside variety, cheap diners, fast food and the like. The average meal at a cheap diner cost around $25 for both of us. While house-sitting we were able to shop at the grocery store, spending an average of $100 per week during our two house sits.
Regardless of the relatively high costs of exploring the southwestern United States, we managed to do both Los Angeles and San Francisco on a shoestring and kept our spending lower by including house-sits and visiting friends.
Average per day per person: $45/£30 (including car).
Our spending dropped significantly once we crossed the border into Mexico – in total we spent $3622.26/£2367.78 in 88 days.
Accommodation: In Mexico, we stayed in mix of hostels and budget hotels. The cheapest accommodation cost $12/£8 for both of us at one of our favorite places– La Candelaria in Valladolid. The most expensive room at Posada Ziga in Mazunte was $35 /£23.
Food: Our meals in Mexico cost around $12/£8 for dinner for two, and breakfast for about $10.50/£6.90 for two people. As anyone who reads us often will know, however, inexpensive (and delicious!) street food was our main meal of choice and we rarely ate in restaurants.
Culture: Mexico is teeming with cultural options and we visited everything from museums to galleries to both Maya and Aztec ruins. The ruins all have a set price of 51 Pesos, or $3.95/£2.55 per person, with one exception: Chichen Itza, which costs around $14/£9 per person.
Transportation: Long haul bus travel in Mexico is much nicer, but also much more expensive than in Central America. You travel in relative style, but you pay for it. The most expensive overnight bus rides tend to cost around $31/£21 per person. The cheapest long-haul trips cost us each $8.50/£5. On average we paid $10/ £6.70 per person.
Average total cost in Mexico per person per day: $20.58/£13.45
We already knew through the grapevine that Belize was going to be more expensive than the rest of Central America (Lonely Planet suggests US$40 – $60 per day), but we were still surprised that costs were as high as they are for such a sparsely populated and economically struggling country like Belize (read our tips for Belize on a shoestring here).
Accommodation: We stayed in fairly basic accommodation in Belize, no bells or whistles, but always private rooms.
The average cost was US$22.50/£14.20 for a double en-suite room.
Transportation: This is one low cost area for travelers in Belize. Chicken buses, which appear to be held together by masking tape and a lot of luck, cost next to nothing for long distance travel in Belize. A two hour bus ride from Belize City to San Ignacio, nearly completely cross country, costs only $3.50/£2.21 per person. Speed boats between the Cayes in the Caribbean costs about $10/£6.32 to go between them, and golf cart rental on Ambergris Caye costs around $35/£22.10 per day.
Food: Meals in a restaurant both on the Cayes and in San Ignacio cost around $20/£12.60 for two, including a beer or two here and there. Belize is not that big on street food, so sitting down and ordering is a must for your main meals of the day.
Adventure: We took advantage many of the adventurous activities available to visitors in Belize. Snorkeling with Harry and Steve (recommended, just ask around) on Caye Caulker cost US$40/£25.25 each for a full day, or US$20/£12.63. The ATM cave tour was $65 each (discounted). All of our fun over 11 days totals $348/£200.
Average Cost Per Person Per Day: $54/£34.10
Crossing the border into Guatemala after our expensive stay in Belize felt good, and our expenses have been much less here.
Accommodation: On average, we spend $18.43/£11.65 per night for a double room including breakfast. Dorms are cheaper for single travelers, but for anyone traveling with a partner, private rooms only run about Q10 or $1.25 more.
Transportation: Take a chicken bus, and this will be your cheapest expense in Guatemala. Long-distance bus travel by chicken bus costs around $4.00/£2.55 per person – the more comfortable 1st and 2nd class coaches are considerably more expensive – the overnight bus we took from Flores to Antigua was $29.50/£19.50 per person.
Food: You can eat like a king in Guatemala and easily stay on budget. A decent meal for two in a restaurant costs around $10/£6.60, though in Antigua, depending on the restaurant, this average can more than double.
Tikal: The highest expense in Guatemala was our trip to Tikal, which was around $66/£42.00 for both of us. This does not include accommodation in Flores, but does include the shuttle service to Tikal, the guide and entry fees.
Total Budget at 6 months
In total, we spent around US$14,720/£9,646 for the two of us in 6 months, which includes all flights and public transportation, and more than two months in the U.S. We hope our next budget post in 6 months will be much less, with no major flights, hopefully a few more house-sits, and lower expenses in South America than we had for the first 70 days in the United States.
Total cost per person for 6 months: US$7,360/£4,823.00
We showed you ours… now you show us yours! We would love to hear about your budgets and expenses in the comments below to see how our spending compares with that of backpackers and digital nomads. If you have tips on great deals, cheap but quality accommodation in the US, Mexico, Central America or South America, or other ways to save money, please do share as well!