a life of cheap travel - how much did we spend in a year?

When we started this two-year trip, there was one number in mind.

Not how many countries we would visit. Not how much traffic we could get on this site. Not even the number of selfies we'd probably take. 

Nope. It was 15.

In order to travel for as long as we wanted in Latin America, we would have to stick to a budget of £15 each per day. $25 if you speak American.

So, that's £30 between us to cover everything whilst we're on the road.

Did we manage it in our first 365 days? 

Hell yes we did!!!

our year in numbers

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You may think that travelling together and counting every penny on our way from Mexico to Colombia may have resulted in us missing out on a lot of adventures?

Well, for those in doubt, here's a little glimpse of what we've done in the last twelve months.

We've climbed up, camped on and boarded down volcanoes, sometimes swimming and kayaking inside their crater-lakes. We've lived barefoot by beaches for weeks at a time, living on a diet of just-caught seafood and drinking straight from freshly picked coconuts. We've learned how to surf and how to speak Spanish. We woke up atop the highest peak in Central America to watch the sunrise. We've made our home in so many cities, from decaying colonial masterpieces to a resurgent Latino metropolis alongside some that are listed amongst the most dangerous in the world. We've sipped the best coffee on the planet in plazas populated by cowboys and their horses. We've tasted fruits we had never heard of and discovered that we really do love proper tacos and chipotle. We've cycled along Mexican highways, through jungles and along the Costa Rican coastline. We risked our necks dirt-biking off-road around a Nicaraguan island following a landslide. We spent 31 hours on a cramped cargo ship just so we could reach a Caribbean island paradise. We've slept in hammocks under the stars and in tree-house shacks. Andrew saw monkeys in the wild for the first, second and third time in his life. We snorkelled with sharks, sting/manta and eagle-rays and rediscovered the beauty of horse-riding. We've made some great friends – locals, travellers and other bloggers. We've travelled on every size, shape, style and age of bus known to man, crossed borders by both foot and sea whilst trying to better understand an oft misunderstood part of the world. We have had that perfect cold beer whilst watching the perfect sunset after a perfect day of adventures more times than we can remember. We've seen a place where the desert meets the sea and it feels like you're at the end of the world. We've drunk rum with Belizeans, Nicaraguans and everyone in between; and learnt that we will always lose. We have fallen in – and out – of love with more towns and cities than a lot of people have visited, with 1000s of pictures to prove it (just a have a look around the site to see for yourself!)

We've travelled. We've lived. We've recorded every penny spent.

It's not always been easy, we've had more than a few bumps along the way, but bloody hell it's been a great year.

And you know what? We get to do it all over again.

Here's to the next twelve of months of budget backpacking along dusty roads.


the budget breakdown

total spent: £3881 GBP / $6132 USD

Looks like all those hours spent wandering the streets in search of the cheapest double bed and having toilets without toilet seats, beds without sheets and showers without shower curtains paid off. We have found some little gems along the way though. Colombia almost certainly proved to be the toughest place to locate budget accommodation, but months in Central America meant that it all balanced out in the end.

accommodation: 36%

budget travel tip: If you're arriving somewhere in the daytime during low season, then don't bother with a reservation. Good and cheap accommodation will be available if you spend some time wandering around the street. And you might even get a deal for longer stays!

£1577.4 / $2492

Our disregard for comfort. speed, and sometimes safety (seriously, 'crazy' seems to be a prerequisite for some bus drivers) meant that despite travelling across nine countries - almost entirely by land - transport represented a mere 15% of our budget.

transport: 15%

budget travel tip: We have only taken one shuttle bus on this trip. Avoid them too and use public transport. Although some journeys may be less comfortable and take longer, you'll save a lot of money.

£1378 / $2177

As tempting as it sometimes has been, we really haven't dined out much - and when we have it's usually been cheap and cheerful. In fact, we probably haven't had more than 15% of our meals out. 

And yet, despite this, we still spent almost the same in restaurants as we have in our own kitchen. Makes you think, doesn't it?

eating out: 13%

budget travel tip: We were shocked that our total for eating out came to so much when we felt like we had been really disciplined. However, eating new and different things is one of the best parts of travelling, so you can't not do it. Just try to make it count.

£1289.5 / $2037.5

Although we haven't spent much time in restaurants, this isn't to say we've eaten badly. Knowing that we would have gotten fat and miserable on a diet of instant noodles and spaghetti, we made an effort to stay in hostels with good kitchens, buy lots of fresh fruit and veggies and get creative.

Carrying a box of essential herbs and spices etc has proved indispensable! 

groceries: 12%

budget travel tip: Work out five good, tasty, healthy and relatively cheap meals which you can cook anywhere. 

£987 / $1559.5

Really, genuinely - bugger. Whilst we don't go on big benders that often (well, not as often as when we were living in the UK), we are definitely guilty of beer o'clock-itis. Beautiful sunset, hot day at the beach, returned to the hostel after a busy day hiking, making new friends, or you know, it's a Tuesday - you can always find an excuse for a cold one. Or two. Yeah, we know, we must do better next year.

alcohol: 9%

budget travel tip: If you're going to be in one place for a decent amount of time, buy a bottle of spirit and your own mixers. Drink it on the beach or at your hostel with friends instead of paying inflated prices in gringo bars.

£726.2 / $1147

Yeah, this doesn't actually seem that much. However, true to our budget-backpacker ethos, when we've been able, we've done all activities on the cheap, without the use of guides and almost exclusively with public transport.

Naturally, some require specialist equipment and would be dangerous to undertake by ourselves - and we have had a number of tours comped - however, we definitely haven't missed out!

activities: 6.5%

budget travel tip: If you spend thirty minutes researching most activities on-line, you'll almost always find somebody who has done it on their own, for much less money than a tour and has shared their knowledge - like us!

£487 / $769.5

Considering the number of months spent in climates screaming out for ice-creams and cold drinks, plus Andrew's obsession with anything containing sugar and gelatine, and the inevitable junk-food cravings after a night out, it's amazing that this wan't higher!

sweets & treats: 4.5%

budget travel tip: Everybody needs to indulge in a few sweets and treats, just try and source local brands over those you get at home. They're often a fraction of the price and just as tasty!

£221 / $349

Toiletries have not been cheap, and despite a delivery of goodies from visiting parents and months of less that perfect grooming from both of us, there is only so long you can go without deodorant and shampoo. Sun-screen in particular has cost us an arm and a leg, and as an item that is essential for every fair-skinned gringo, we had absolutely no choice but to cave.

toiletries: 2%

budget travel tip: When you think your toothpaste, shampoo, sun-screen or fancy moisturiser is done - cut it open, you'll be amazed how much is left inside. 

£33.2 / $52.4

We're actually really proud to have spent so little on clothing! Granted, there are very few items left in our bags that could be considered in tip-top condition but we have definitely proved to ourselves that you don't have to leave on a trip with a bag full of new clothing every time.

clothes: 0.3%

budget travel tip: A lot of discarded clothing from the US makes it to Latin American shops and markets. It's cheap and good quality, so you don't really need to buy new items.

£148 / $234

Out of the nine countries we visited, there were five that we went in and out of more than once. When some of these have really quite ridiculously exit fees (here's looking at you Mexico!), the costs can really mount up!

crossing borders: 1.5%

budget travel tip: Try and cross borders by yourself and with cheap local transport. It may seem daunting at first, but there's always plenty of info out there if you know where to find it. (wink, wink - we happen to have a few guides here...)


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A life of cheap travel - how much did we spend in a year?

want to see some of the highlights from the year? check these out!