budget: £30 GBP / $46.5 USD per day
total budget: £930 / $1448
total spent: £1198 / $1864
avg. daily spend : £38.6 / $60
all costs are for two people in $USD and £GBP. Conversions correct at time of publication.
days on budget: 0%
days under budget: 52%
days over budget: 48%
where were we?
Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Nazca, Ica, Huacachina, Paracas (Peru), Arica (Chile)
July 6th to August 5th, or month sixteen of our two year trip around Latin America, will forever be known as the 'budget clusterf*ck month'.
Everything that can and could happen whilst on the road to make your best laid budget plans go awry, happened. Both our birthdays, two friends coming over from the UK, a visit to Machu Picchu where top dollar is charged everywhere, medical attention and an insurance claim because Emily got bitten by a dog, southern Peru taking every opportunity to be over-priced, a national holiday meaning accommodation prices were jacked up by 40% and beyond for a week and, to top it off, a 30-hour long travel session to cross the border into Chile.
If only one or a couple of these things occur, our £930 per month budget can usually sustain the hit. However, this was a perfect storm resulting in an overspend of £268 / $417.
Don't get us wrong, it was still a great month seeing some of the most iconic sights in the world and making some incredible memories. However, the south of Peru (where you find most tourists, particularly those on a short vacation to the country) left these two budget backpackers with a bitter taste in our mouths (and not just from bad ceviche!). Here's the breakdown...
total: £375 / $584 / 1886s (Peruvian soles)
Aside from a week in Arequipa where we found a decent but basic hostel for 50 soles a night, the rest of the month saw us paying an inflated price for reasons good and bad. The good? With friends over for 10 days and both of our birthdays, we upgraded to better hostels. The bad? With Peruvian Independence Day (July 28th) resulting in lots of locals taking a week of holidays, accommodation was scarce and prices took a big jump, some by as much as 70%.
total: £114 / $177 / 573s
To get to the town next to Machu PIcchu, you are restricted to a horrendously overpriced tourist train, a variety of buses followed by a 2 hour walk or, you can do it like us, and walk 30 kms alongside the rail tracks to save a bit of cash. If we had taken the most popular route with the train, our monthly transport costs would be double.
Peru is a big ass country to get around and so frequent bouts of 12+ hours on a night bus are a necessary evil. Thankfully, the quality of these is usually quite high and the price just about affordable (around 70-90 soles for 12 hours depending on which company you pick).
total: £189 / $294 / 949s
An awful lot of hostels in the south of Peru lack kitchen facilities which, as you know, are our biggest way of saving money. When our friends visited, we ate out for every meal aside from the mediocre free breakfasts of jam and bread in the hostel. In Paracas, great seafood was available but at much higher prices than we experienced in Ecuador, so we couldn't really splurge.
We and our waistlines were relieved to have a fantastic kitchen waiting for us on our first night in Chile to gorge on healthy, home-cooked food. When eating out is your only option and isn't cheap, it really stops being enjoyable.
eating out: 15.8%
total: £112.5 / $175 / 565s
Not much is it? As we mentioned above, the lack of kitchens in Peruvian hostels meant that we were able to cook almost no food ourselves - which meant that at least on our budget-busting month we saved money on groceries!
total: £107 / $155 / 536s
Pisco sours? Check. Birthday cocktails? Check. Birthday bottles of wine? Check. Birthday bottle of gin? Check. Taking advantage of litre bottles of excellent Cusqueña beer? Check.
total: £128 / $199 / 644s
We always knew Machu Picchu was going to be tough on the budget, but we had no idea about the cottage industry surrounding it.
Entrance is around £30/$46, which we can tolerate because it's one of the most sought after destinations in the world. However, as mentioned above, the train to reach it the nearest town is extortionate and, unless you choose a 5 a.m. hike in the dark to the entrance, then you have no option but to pay $12 for a 20-minute bus. ONE-WAY! This is INSANE. And, after all this, you still have to pay to take a piss in the toilets there!
We would tolerate it if it looked like this money was filtering down to the surrounding community but, on the face of things at least, this really isn't the case (we'll post more on this separately.) In short, Southern Peru is very popular with all sorts of tourists and it knows it and charges commensurately.
We also did some trekking around the Sacred Valley on the cheap, some free walking tours, one or two excellent museums and worked with companies so we could experience the Nazca Lines and sandboarding in Huacachina.
total: £60 / $94 / 303s
Hangovers and not having a kitchen unfortunately make us both crave doritos, fizzy drinks and junk to cure us / fill our bellies.
sweets & treats: 5%
total: £22.5 / $35 / 113s
We received a very welcome rescue package of toiletries from our friends so these costs consist pretty much of laundry scattered throughout the month. As with kitchens, most of the hostels we stayed in didn't have any facilities in which to do our own laundry.
total: £0 / $0 / 0s
Despite both craving some changes in our wardrobe, everything we packed so long ago is just about holding up.
total: £0 / $0 / 0s
Although it was a very long travel session involving several buses and a taxi, there were no entry or exit fees for both Peru and Chile for us Brits. We also took the opportunity (along with every Chilean) to stock up on cheaper items on the Peru side before crossing over.
crossing borders: 0%
total: £90 / $139 / 450s (we hope!)
And so, the final lightning bolt in this month's perfect storm of budget busters, Emily got bitten by a dog. The result was three puncture wounds and a lot of blood. Thankfully, because we're not bloody idiots or hippies, we got the required vaccinations before we left which gave us a 72-hour window to get the required post-bite rabies booster.
This was very lucky as the nearest town to have it was over 24 hours of very expensive travel away. We've submitted a claim and, fingers crossed, the only cost we will incur will be our excess of £90.
And, in case you're wondering, Emily's fine!