That comes to $42.16 per day or $21.13 per person per day. So we were again over our $15 per person per day budget, but this is because we splurged on a lot more activities than normal when Steve was here, and we bought one super-expensive bus ticket.
Transportation was our biggest expense, but this includes the $70 we spent for a cross-border bus from Nicaragua, through Honduras, and into El Salvador at the end of our time. Take that away and the number would be lower. Local “chicken buses” are really cheap in Nicaragua, around $2 per hour of travel.
Activities were the second-most-expensive category, which is rare for us. But we had a friend traveling with us and wanted to show him lots of adventures. So this included volcano boarding, surfing, and ziplining! All really fun and really worth it!
Lodging was next to nothing again. We only paid for a hostel one night with all the review-writing opportunities we were offered!
Nicaragua’s currency is the Cordoba. $1=23 Cordobas.
Hola chicos!!!! I just realized that although I wrote this awhile ago, I never posted it! Better late than never though! Here are the stats for Panamá!
Days in Panamá: 10
Money Spent: $286.88
That means we spent $28.66 per day, or roughly $14.33 per person per day. So we were just barely under our target budget of $15 per person per day. I’m very proud of us forfinallybeing on budget again after going over in the last few countries. Rock on!!!!
A side note: I didn’t count our passage on Fritz the Cat here, as I consider that to be between countries and it was so expensive it would totally throw the whole skew off.
As you can see, our spending only fell into a few categories in Panamá. Despite how small the country is, buses are not cheap in Panamá. They seem to run about $2+ per hour of travel.
Food is also more expensive than in South America. The cheapest meal we ever had was a $1.50 plate of rice and beans in Las Tablas. In Panamá City and Bocas del Toro, you can expect to pay at least $3.50 for a decent plate of Panamanian food. We did have hostels with kitchens most of the time so we tried to buy groceries and cook a lot to keep costs down.
We didn’t pay for a single place to stay in Panamá! That’s right, our Lodging cost was absolutely ZERO! Yeah hostel reviews and Couchsurfing!
FYI, Panamá’s currency is the US dollar, although instead of just calling them “dolares”, they are also called “Balboas.”
While on the road for extended periods of time, it’s more important than ever to make consistently good economic decisions in order to keep your trip going as long as possible. Here are 10 tips for cheaper travel while Backpacking South America.
10 Tips For Cheaper Travel While Backpacking South America
1: Try to find hostels with kitchens and cook at least one meal per day. Sometimes cooking doesn’t save you a whole lot over what you can find for cheap on the streets, but there is a small difference, and it’s usually healthier than the cheapest street food!
2: If you do eat out, try to make it at lunch time. You can usually find “almuerzos” or set lunches that are the cheapest and largest portions. Prices generally go up for dinner time. Also, places with gringo food are ALWAYS more expensive and usually unsatisfying (just never as good as the “real thing” back home)!
3: Stay at hostels that aren’t in the guidebook. Most of the time these places are just as nice as the ones that everyone else is staying in. However, lots of times these spots will do a bit of bargaining as soon as you say something about the price being too high. Tell them that you are “going to look at other places and might come back later” and see how low they will go.
4: Never get in a taxi until the driver tells you the price. We have made this mistake too many times. A simple “Cuanto cuesta?” in advance will save you tons when it’s all added up. Also, always ask a local how much it should cost before even flagging down a cab and then don’t settle until you get the right price.
5: If you have a tent, use it. Camping is super cheap if you can find the places to do it. Look around, sometimes you can find campgrounds with kitchens and everything.
6: Steer clear of international buses. It’s almost always cheaper to take the domestic bus to the border town, taxi across, then pick up another bus on the other side.
7: Wash your clothes in the sink. Laundry services are cheap but they add up over time. Lots of hostels have signs telling you that it’s not allowed but just be sneaky. Wear your jeans in the shower and scrub them there.
8: Drink water and boil it yourself when you get the chance. Soda and beer are expensive. Bring a water bottle on your trip and boil the water in your hostel’s kitchen.
9: Volunteer, especially if you are staying one place for an extended period (over 1 week). There are thousands of volunteering opportunities throughout the continent. Some are completely free, some cost a little. Find something that you enjoy and help people out while getting some help yourself.
10: Couchsurfing is amazing and if you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out. It’s all over the world and we have never had a bad experience. Even if you don’t need a place to crash, check it out for locals that can show you around new cities.
Enjoy this post about cheaper travel while backpacking South America? Check out ourarchives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram@laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.
This post is about the Lima barrio of Miraflores, which literally means “Look! Flowers” in Spanish. Miraflores does have many parks full of beautiful blooms, and is the most upscale, cosmopolitan neighborhood in Lima. It’s where all the classiest hotels and restaurants are located. Wandering through Miraflores almost gave us reverse culture shock because of how similar to the U.S.A. it seemed. While not cheap, it is a beautiful area with great shopping and great food. It’s definitely one of the places that people who stereotype Peru as entirely rural, old-fashioned, and impoverished need to see.
We spent a total of about $1441 in our 34 days in Bolivia. That breaks down to $42.38 per day, or $21.19 per person per day.
A little bit over our budget of $15 per person per day, and there are two big reasons for that:
1. $135 per person visas to enter Bolivia
2. The Southwest Circuit tour totaled $206 apiece with the tour price, national park entrance fees, and tips.
We were kind of surprised to realize that we were over budget by this much, because actually, most things Bolivia are REALLY cheap. If you subtract the visa fees, however, we would have been almost exactly on our budget of $15 per person day. That’s pretty good considering the tour to the salt flats was so expensive. We also stayed on the move the whole time we were in Bolivia, not stopping anywhere to volunteer. This is the first country where we didn’t spend a significant chunk of time in one spot volunteering so the fact that we stayed only a little over budget is pretty good.
Some more notes:
The $135 visas made up a whole 19% of our spending. It’s worth noting that the U.S.A. is the only country we know of whose citizens have to pay for a visa to enter Bolivia. The visa is good for 90 total days with unlimited reentry for five years. (So we need to come back to Bolivia for 60 more days to really get our money’s worth!) The reason we have to pay so much is that Bolivia decided to charge us the same high amount we charge Bolivians to visit the U.S.A. Although it sucks, we agree that it’s a fair policy. So thank you, U.S. government, for costing us money with your awesome foreign policy!
We saw almost all of Bolivia and our bus and boat costs were only equal to our visa fees.
Food is super cheap in Bolivia so we ate a lot! In Perú we probably ate half of our meals for free while volunteering, but despite paying for all of our food in Bolivia we only spent 3% more of our budget on it than we did in Perú.
We stayed in free hostels only three times (total of seven nights), spent five nights in buses, three nights on the boat, and payed for cheapies the rest of the time. Still only 10% of our spending.
Also, $1=6.8 Bolivianos. This country has to charge me a visa AND make me do math? Dividing by 7 in my head every time I wanted to figure out the price of something was not so fun.
Basically, Bolivia is super cheap, especially if you’re NOT from the U.S.A. and don’t have to pay for a visa!
After finally getting off La Pinta and setting foot back on dry land, we found ourselves in basically the middle of nowhere. We were happy that River boat hitchhiking in Bolivia was done. It was a tiny port with a few rundown boats parked and a few thatch shacks at the end of a dirt road. Truly the back of beyond, like someplace out of Heart of Darkness or “Apocalypse Now”. We knew it might be a long wait for a ride into Trinidad, so we sat down at a cafe and ordered “almuerzos”–hot noodle soup followed by a plate of rice, spaghetti, potatoes, and beef. The heat was oppressive and we were pouring sweat even sitting in the shade. Thankfully, while we were eating, a dusty, falling-apart taxi pulled up chock full of supplies. While the driver unloaded his deliveries, we finished our lunch and afterwards waited a few minutes for more people to fill the car. With four locals in the backseat, the driver, and Zach and I sharing the front passenger seat, we bounced off along the bumpy track towards Trinidad. The short trip included a river crossing on a very rickety wooden ferry, and passed through several more tiny port villages.
Finally we reached Trinidad, a small city which is capital of Bolivia’s jungly Beni province. Trinidad is known for it’s many motorcycles; everyone seems to have one and there are hardly any cars. The motorcycles zip around the streets like mad, ignoring traffic laws and narrowly missing accidents at every turn. It’s a miracle we didn’t get run over! Tourists can also rent motorcycles. If that’s your idea of fun, go for it. To me it sounds like inevitable road rash, if not worse.
Finding an acceptable hostel took awhile, but we eventually stumbled into Alojamiento Carmen, a decent place with fans and shared bathrooms, the highlight being the cable TV with a plethora of English channels. They had the Latin American versions of TLC, WB, and FOX, so we spent a lot of time in the room watching random things like “No Reservations” (love Anthony Bourdain), “Ace of Cakes”, “Friends”, “Two and a Half Men”, “Grey’s Anatomy” (My guilty pleasure…but what is GOING ON there? I’ve missed so much!), and the worst one ever, “Man vs. Food.” Normally I get so disgusted watching Adam stuff his face and get fatter every episode, but try watching it in Bolivia and just see how horribly HUNGRY and JEALOUS you get!
Okay, that was a major TV tangent. But really, it ended up being good that we had so many channels because there’s not much else to do in Trinidad! The city is so hot and humid that you start sweating after walking only one block. There are also a lot of mosquitoes out at night. Suffice it to say, after only a few hours of wandering the streets, we were bored.
That night we had a bit of an existential crisis. We had planned to stay for a couple nights in Trinidad, find another boat, and continue down the Rio Mamoré to Guayaramerin, on the Brazilian border. There were two major reasons we had decided to do this: 1. Getting off the Gringo Trail and 2. It’s cheap! What we finally admitted to ourselves this night in Trini was that despite our best-laid plans, we were bored. We had been a bit bored, in fact, ever since realizing how behind on our budget we were, and cutting back on all activities and extras to try to make up for it. What ensued was a long discussion about our priorities and how to make this the best possible experience. We came to two conclusions: 1. We don’t want to go into debt on this trip. (Debt-free is the way to be!) 2. If we’re not having fun then we need to change something. Therefore, a hard decision was made. We conceded to the possibility of returning home earlier (in June rather than July). Nothing is official (we still don’t have a return ticket), but doing this would definitely ease the financial strain and allow us to enjoy the time we have left a lot more. We’d rather say we had an AMAZING TIME for 7 months than that we toughed it out on very little money for 8 months. (Although, of course, if anyone wants to send us some $$, we won’t say no, lol.) So in the interest of making it back to the states faster and ditching the heat, mosquitoes, and boat boredom, we changed our plan (again) and decided that Brazil can wait for another trip. “Let’s get out of this sweaty town, back to the mountains and Perú!” we said. Arequipa, Perú, was the next place we were really excited for, and we desperately needed some excitement. If only we knew how impossible it would be get back on the grid…
Please read the beginning of our River boat Hitchhiking in the Bolivian Amazon Aventura!