budget: £30 GBP / $45 USD per day
total budget: £930 / $1350
total spent: £1323 / $2004
avg. daily spend : £42.7 / $64.6
all costs are for two people
days on budget: 3%
days under budget: 55%
days over budget: 42%
It had to come sometime. After a streak of eight months under budget, it all came crashing down somewhere between Panama and Colombia. The silver-lining being that, although we were a whopping £393 over budget, things could easily have been much much worse.
From the inception of this trip, we knew that crossing between the two countries was going to be a big expense. Due to safety concerns, the overland route just simply isn't viable. This means that most people take the $550USD boat to Cartagena via the San Blas islands.
We considered this option for a few weeks but, after much research, eventually settled on the cheaper combination of plane and speedboat, missing out on the San Blas but saving half what it would have cost. This option - plus 3 nights accommodation, food and onward travel to Cartagena - cost $556USD for both of us. A huge comparative saving, but still a big chunk of our $1350 joint monthly budget.
Arriving in Capurgana and Cartagena right in the middle of Colombian holiday season meant there were literally only a handful of rooms available in both places, with every hostel adding at least 25% to their usual prices. We mostly kept to our budget in both places but, because of the inflated accommodation costs, couldn't save as much as we had hoped.
A few days of trekking and free to visit nature in wonderful Minca saw a welcome return to under budget days.
The final big reason for being so over was our decision to venture to Cabo de la Vela and Puntas Gallinas - remote indigenous communities at the most northern point in South America. Although we knew it would push our funds, this was an adventure we had set out hearts on. Whilst accommodation (hammocks on the beach) and restaurants (lots of fresh fish) were cheap, getting there and taking an overnight tour to Gallinas (the only option) were major expenses.
So, what did we learn from this?
Budget travel is easy when you have a variety of options available - all our previous border crossings have been overland, and cheap to reach. This simply wasn't possible in month 10. We did save a lot of money by finding an alternative route, but it still cost a lot.
We also learned that sometimes the budget just has to be put to one side if there is a trip you really want to do. It may mean a few sacrifices later on in the month, but the memories you'll make will be priceless in the long run.
£445 / $674
Colombian holiday season plus a few nights in expensive Panama City meant cheap options were scarce.
£441 / $669
Most expensive: Flight from Panama City to Puerto Obaldia at £143/$218
The biggest reason we were over-budget! A plane within Panama and a couple of unusually expensive bus trips between Colombian cities were the big hitters. Also factored in are the excess luggage charges we had to pay for each of these (totalling about $50), something that's never happened before.
£129 / $196
We ate out more than usual this month, sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity. In Cabo de la Vela and Minca we had no kitchen facilities, so dined out all the time, whilst in Cartagena and Panama City we succumbed to take-away pizza cravings.
We probably could have spent less.
eating out: 9.8%
£64 / $97
Finally, somewhere that we actually managed to reduce costs! We had a few big nights out in Cartagena and Medellin, but drinking was reasonable throughout the month!
Without doing the maths, we knew we were way over budget so tried to make savings wherever possible - this meant cheap meals in the hostel and far too many bags of pasta to be healthy.
£103 / $156
Most expensive: An overnight tour to Puntas Gallinas, including accommodation and transport, cost $150,000 COP each.
We had a pretty active month. In Minca and Capurgana, we did a lot of hiking, in Cartagena a lot of wandering the streets with a camera and, in Cabo de la Vela, a bit of beach and desert time.
£20 / $30
Cartagena's luxury palleta store. No more needs to said.
sweets & treats: 1.5%
£15 / $23
Considering Emily's parents delivered a sack of toiletries, we're not entirely sure what this was..
Nothing needed this month!
£1 / $1.5
Despite being an expensive border crossing in terms of transport, thankfully there are no extra entry/exit charges. The cost here was for printing some extra copies of our passports, which were required upon leaving Panama.