Tag Archives: money

Indonesia Budget & Other Numbers

My wallet was looking forward to getting to Asia, as everyone had told me it was even cheaper than Latin America. And, I didn’t do too badly – food & drink were the cheapest since Bolivia, and accommodation was the cheapest yet. Or rather I should say, I didn’t do too badly as long as I stayed on the ground. Because my (inevitable) overspend was down to two things: one was flying between islands, and the other was the nine dives I did. One was pretty essential (ferry timetables aren’t always that helpful) and the other I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

The other big expense was that I treated myself to a brand new pair of (real, not fake) boardshorts to replaces the ones I bought in Miami and which are already a bit frayed from daily wear. They were particularly nice, if I do say myself. So nice in fact, that after just three hours of wear I hung them out to dry, from where they were promptly nicked while I popped out for a drink. At over $20 an hour of use, it was one more big expense I could have done without.

It’s looking more and more likely now that I’m going to overshoot on budget for the year – although it’s still only marginally. Here’s how the daily averages looked:
Transport: $10.66
Accommodation: $5.56
Activities: $14.88
Misc & purchases: $5.39
Food & drink: $18.44
Total: $54.94

In the seven months of travelling before Indonesia, I’d met a grand total of one Swede. That all change in Indonesia – the place is FULL of them. In fact, the 23 Swedes I met is the biggest concentration of people from one country since the 21 Americans I met in Guatemala. Bizarre. The total is enough to shoot them straight up into joint eighth place in the list of where people I’ve met are from, alongside the Dutch, who were nearly as ubiquitous in the country. The only new country added to this list in Indonesia was Hungary.

UK: 20
Netherlands: 15
Australians: 14
Indonesia: 13
Germany: 8
USA: 8
Canada: 5
Finland: 4
France: 4
Switzerland: 4
Belgium: 3
Spain: 3
Saudi Arabia: 1
Brazil: 1
Hungary: 1
Portugal: 1
Austria: 1
Mexico: 1

And finally onto those other numbers. Being in the world’s largest archipelago was enough to see my island total shoot up. There’s also a new entry on the modes of transport front – after only being on a moped once in my entire life, they became quite a regular feature in Indonesia.
Beds: 21 (including one on a boat and one in a tent)
Cash withdrawals: 16
Phone calls: 10
Postcards: 2
Laundry: 5
Islands: 16
Dives: 11
Beaches: 8
Volcanoes: 3
Museums: 1
Buses: 16
Taxis: 14
Boats: 14
Mopeds: 15
Flights: 3
Kayaks: 1
Jeeps: 1
Cars: 2
Tuk Tuks / Bejaks: 4

Peru: Budget & Other Numbers

I spent nearly six weeks in Peru, and right up to the day I arrived in Cusco, nearly five weeks in, it was on course to be my cheapest country yet. So what went wrong? Well, firstly, Cusco is quite expensive compared to other Peruvian cities, thanks to its popularity. Secondly, I was travelli ng with a friend on holiday from home, which always pushes costs up, as we had quite a different idea of what constitutes ‘cheap’. Finally, was the fact that I’d completely forgotten I hadn’t paid yet for a big chunk of the cost of the Inca Trail (turns out before I left I’d just paid a deposit. Whoops).

So in the end, I finished up over budget yet again. Not by loads, but still enough to be slightly annoying. Oh well, it was such good fun I can hardly complain.

So where did the overspend come from? Well, on the plus side, my spend on miscellaneous stuff (internet, laundry, stamps, purchases and so on) was the lowest yet. Transport and Food & drink were the second lowest (after Guatemala), and accommodation costs were significantly lower than in Mexico & Colombia. However those figures are slightly misleading, as 17 of my 40 days in Peru were spent on multiday hikes, where there we no food or accommodation costs. Take that into account, and my real daily accomodation cost would nearly double (although would still be cheaper than Mexico), and my food and drink costs would shoot up to being easily the most expensive I’ve had in Latin America. Need to watch those nice restaurants going forward.

Biggest single item by far was the cost of activities – because in Peru I did way more organised trips than before – 4 big hikes, a boat trip to the Islas Ballestas, sandboarding, flying over the Nazca lines, and visiting the floating islands. At over $24 a day, that’s nearly half my daily budget on its own. But I’m not going to compain – it was all worth it, and I suspect that I’ll be unlikley to do anywhere near as much of that sort of thing in any other country.

So on to the numbers themselves:
Transport: $4.49
Accommodation: $4.98
Activities: $24.12
Miscellaneous: $0.82
Food & Drink: $19.92
Total: $54.32

And of course, here’s how the rest of Peru shaped up in numbers terms:
Days: 40
Days hiking: 20
Days over 4000m: 12
Days over 5000m: 2
Nights in tents: 14
Nights on buses: 4
Nights in beds: 22
Buses: 16
Taxis: 18
Flights: 1
Boats: 3
Dune buggies: 1
Sandboards: 1
Sand dunes boarded down: 7
Churches: 6
Canyons: 1
Condors seen: Dozens
Hot Springs: 2
Laundry: 5
Postcards: 2
Phone calls: 5
Cash withdrawals: 16
Islands: 5
Museums: 2
Alpacas eaten: several
Guinea pigs eaten: none

and finally, the usual round up of people I hiked and had Pisco Sours with. Only new entry this time is for the Ukraine. Other than that, it’s the usual suspects at the top.
UK: 20
USA: 16
Germany: 13
Israel: 11
Peru: 8
Australia: 7
Ireland: 5
Switzerland: 4
Canada: 3
France: 3
Spain: 2
Ukraine: 1
Netherlands: 1
Brazil: 1
New Zealand: 1
Italy: 1
In terms of how that affects the overall ranking, the Brits are getting ever closer to overhauling the Americans at the top of the list, and since I’ve been in South America, the Germans, Israelis & Australians have gone up a fair bit, at the expense of Swiss & Canadians.

Guatemala: Budget & Other Numbers

After narrowly scraping in under budget in Mexico, I was expecting Guatemala to be a hell of a lot cheaper.

In many ways it was – thanks to cheap chicken buses and short distances, I spent less than a fifth of what I had in Mexico on transport; similarly I was pleased to find that accommodation was much cheaper too.



Despite that, I still ended up far closer to my limit than I’d hoped, which is something I should have foreseen, for one main reason: my Spanish lessons. Coming in at $400 for two weeks, it accounted for 41% of my total spend and bumped my daily average up by nearly $20 per day. It was all worth it though, as it was the most fun I had in the country, and already it’s really helped me with my communication ever since.

The other surprise factor which is bound to affect any true Brit’s spending is the fact that beer is twice the price of that in Mexico. Now Gallo (the standard lager) and Moza (the delicious dark one) are good enough, but not really worth twice the price. Apparently the reason it’s so expensive is that the rich who dominate Guatemalan politics have ensured that income tax rates are among the lowest in the Americas, meaning the shortfall has to be made up with consumption taxes, which certainly hit the tourist harder.

Still, more expensive than I’d expected it may have been, but at least I still came in cheaper than Mexico. Total daily spend was $44.53, broken down as follows:
Transport – $2.38
Accommodation – $2.74
Activities (including the Spanish lessons and volcano hikes) – $19.46
Internet, laundry & postage – $1.64
Food & drink – $18.31

Other Numbers
Weird local gods paid homage to – 1
Hours of Spanish lessons – 40
Earthquakes felt – 1
Earthquakes slept through – 2
Active volcanoes climbed – 1
Buses – 13
Boat – 3
Cars – 2
Churches – 2
Beaches – 1
Beds – 6
Hot Springs – 1
Laundry – 3
Postcards – 2
Phone calls – 1
Cash withdrawals – 7
Museums – 1
Pyramids – 2
Tuktuks – 4
Kayaks – 1

People I studied & Salsa-ed with
Americans – 23
Canadians – 6
Guatemalans – 6
Brits – 3
Swiss – 3
Australians – 3 (at last)
French – 2
Belgians – 2
Mexicans – 1
Irish – 1
Germans -1
Kiwis – 1
Swedes – 1
South Africans – 1

Next stop: Honduras. And diving. Which is expensive.

Mexico: Budget & Other Numbers

I’m rubbish with money. Really rubbish. For years I was stupidly in debt, a situation that wasn’t helped by firmly sticking my head in the sand when it came to dealing with any financial matters – for example, I never used to even look at bank statements. When I phoned my bank and the machine insisted on reading out my balance before letting me speak to someone, I used to hold the phone away from my ear because I knew the numbers would be too depressing. I had no control over my spending, to the extent that one month I’d spent my entire salary three weeks before pay day and ended up living off scraps from the back of the cupboard. Over the years I finally managed to haul myself out of debt and save enough for this trip, but if I’m honest with myself it wasn’t really because I managed to get a firm grip on my spending, but because I worked my arse off to earn more money which was what basically made all the difference.

So when it came to planning my trip, the think that worried me most was not getting mugged, or getting ill, or dying in a bus crash caused by crazy central american bus drivers (turns out that was what I probably should have been worried about). I certainly didn’t anticipate needing to worry about getting caught up in the outbreak of a pandemic in my first country or in a potential coup in my second (more on that in a future post). No, my major worry was staying within my budget of $50 per day for the year.

Now that the first country is out of the way, how did I do? Well, the good news is that I managed to stay within budget – by all of 96 cents. Considering my normal spending habits, that’s definitely something I’m pleased about. In fact, it could have been a fair bit lower. Firstly, transport costs really bumped the total up. I knew Mexico was big, but didn’t really appreciate quite how huge it is. In particular, my decision to go massively out of the way to head right to the north of the country to visit the Copper Canyon (and then all the way back nearly to where I came from) added a huge amount to my transport costs. Also, the swine flu outbreak necessitated an unplanned internal flight to avoid Mexico City. Together, these two things made up nearly $8 out of that $49. Furthermore, I also overspent a fair bit in my first few days in Mexico City & Queretaro while I acclimatised to my new spending regime and got a feel for what was cheap and what was expensive – for example the hostels I thought were cheap in my first two stops ended up being around double what I ended up paying everywhere else. I also spent a lot more on food and drink in the three weeks I was travelling with friends from home than I did when I was just hanging out with other backpackers. I also found it interesting to note that the mere act of recording my spending has helped me spend less as I have a much better feel for where all the money is going and what’s expensive and what’s not.

The bad news is that, even though I knew Mexico would be one of the more expensive countries I visit (as it’s one of the richer ones), it certainly won’t be as expensive as the 5 or so weeks in total I plan to spend in the USA, Australia & New Zealand. Easter Island will be very expensive too. So the average of all the other countries needs to work out a fair bit cheaper than $50 to account for them. Hopefully I can make that up over the rest of my time in Latin America (luckily that seems to be the case in Guatemala so far).

But ultimately I’m not going to let it worry me too much – as well as my budget I have other savings that can act as a cushion if I do overspend, and I’m not going to let money worries spoil the enjoyment of this trip of a lifetime. Plus I need to remind myself anyway that the point is not to do this as cheaply as possible, but to the budget of $50 a day, and so far I’m safely within that.

Right, preamble out of the way, the geek in me will now delight in spelling out exactly where the money went and a few other numbers as well.

Average daily spend:
Total – $49
Transport – $11
Accommodation – $11
Food & Drink – $24
Museums, courses & excursions – $2
Other (e.g. laundry, internet, postage) – $1

Most expensive transport:
Bus from Zacatecas to Chihuahua: $49
Copper Canyon train: $28
Flight to Puebla: $115

Most & least expensive accommodation:
Oaxaca hotel: $23 per person
Creel hostel: $7 (including two two-course meals – best bargain of the holiday)

Most expensive touristy thing:
Bus tour to Divisadero: $15 (but boy was it worth it)

Some other numbers:
Buses caught 40
Taxis taken 22
Flights 2
Boat trips 2
Car rides 7
Bike rides 1
Churches 19
Beaches 4
Beds slept in 19
Canyons seen 2
Thermal baths swam in 3
Laundry done 6
Postcards sent 2
Phone calls made 5
Cash withdrawals 11
Islands visited 1
Museums visited 14
Pyramids climbed 6
Runs along the beach 2
Flu pandemics survived 1
Injuries & ailments: 4 (scraping my arm tripping over a pavement on day one, gashing my back on a jagged rock after overbalancing while crouching down to take a photo of an old VW Beetle, a bout of the trots brought on by a dodgy taco – thank god for Cipro – and a big allergic reaction to Mexican soap, also on day one, which was particularly troublesome considering the official advice for avoiding swine flu involved washing your hands regularly).
Items lost 2 (shower gel & one padlock)

People I’ve shared a beer with:
Mexicans 20
Americans 12
Brits 7
Swiss 4
French 3
Italian 3
Czech 2
Kiwi 2
German 2
Canadian 1
Irish 1
Israeli 1
Spanish 1
Aussies 0 (remarkably)

So there we have it. Not a bad start financially, but must try harder. That’s it for my first country, Mexico. Thanks to everyone who has visited, subscribed and commented, it makes the effort all worthwhile and it’s nice to know people are interested enough in what I have to say to keep reading. Next stop: Guatemala (although I’m now behind enough that I’m already in Honduras before I’ve even posted anything about Guatemala. Whoops)

In case you missed any, you can find all my Mexican photos here and read all my posts from the country here.

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