Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Financial Recap after more than Four Months on the Road in Central America

Yesterday I flew from Panama City in Central America to start my journey through South America in Medellin, Colombia. On January 11, I passed the four month mark since I left the United States to start this adventure. I began the trip in central Mexico and spent three weeks in the region before flying to Guatemala City. I have now traveled overland through all seven countries in Central America: Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. It's truly hard to believe I have already been gone for almost 19 weeks and that I have covered that much ground. As always, the time is flying by!
fireworks mexico city independence day
A few days into my trip I celebrated Independence Day in Mexico City.
I just checked to see when I published my last blog post and it has been over one month already. My intention was to write more frequently, but I have continued to be on the go a lot and have had less energy and/or time to record my thoughts in writing. Even when I have tried to slow down a bit I inevitably find something else to do or end up making new friends and then spend more time exploring or socializing and less time resting or writing. Such is the nature of backpacker-style spontaneous travel and life in hostels!
New friends, fun times in Granada, Nicaragua
The wonderful thing about traveling the world is, just when I think I've seen it all or experienced every type of situation (good or bad) that's possible, I continue to be amazed by the diversity of landscapes and cultures along with the challenges and joys of life as a vagabond. This is also why I prefer taking the road less traveled, as there are even more opportunities to learn and grow and hopefully have a positive impact on the people and places I encounter.
I volunteered by teaching English at a local school in Juayua, El Salvador.
In one month I will take a vacation from this sometimes intense pace and type of travel when I meet Greg, my mom and my stepdad in Buenos Aires for our two-week sailing around the southern tip of South America. I am looking forward to the leisurely and relatively luxurious life aboard a cruise ship!
This is a boat like the one I took from Punta Gorda, Belize to Livingston, Guatemala.
In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in the breakdown of my expenses so far, as one of the questions I get the most is "How can you afford to travel long-term?" While there are times I could have saved even more money, I managed to stay pretty close to my $30 per day budget in spite of getting sick several times (which necessitated a private room and/or medication) and splurging on some places that I really wanted to visit (i.e. Mayan ruins, remote national parks, breweries). I have no regrets other than I would have loved to spend even more time in some countries and to have traveled at a more leisurely pace and found more time to write. Still, when you look at my average cost per month ($37 per day multiplied by 30 = $1,110) and compare that to your daily cost of living wherever you might reside, but particularly if you live in North America or Europe; then life on the road is still cheaper than life at home. And, if you have a way to earn money while you're traveling, then you have even more opportunities!
A money changer "shows me the money" at the border for Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Mexico
Total nights: 20 (all in hostel dorms)
Lodging expense: $227
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $213
Food and drink (groceries): $101
Sightseeing: $71
Transportation (not including flight from U.S.): $286
Miscellaneous (e.g. laundry or a haircut): $8
Total expense: $906
Average cost per day: $45
Notes: I drank a lot of craft beer (and tequila) in Mexico!

Guatemala
Total nights: 48 (33 in family homes, 12 in shared rooms with Corey, 6 in hostel dorms)
Lodging expense: $465
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $255
Food and drink (groceries): $168
Sightseeing: $70
Transportation: $180
Miscellaneous: $93
Total expense: $1231
Average cost per day: $26
Notes: I paid a rental fee for the month in the house in Linda Vista and I spent more money on transportation because I took tourist shuttles as opposed to local buses on the long distance rides with Corey. I also got sick once and paid for expensive antibiotics from the pharmacy (included in Miscellaneous). I also should mention that I did not drink a drop of alcohol for the entire month of October, so that helped a bit with the food and beverage expense.

Belize
Total nights: 6 (3 in private rooms, 3 in hostel dorms)
Lodging expense: $126
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $41
Food and drink (groceries): $21
Sightseeing: $105
Transportation: $98
Miscellaneous: $28
Total expense: $419
Average cost per day: $70
Notes: I knew Belize would be expensive even though I skipped the cayes, that's why I kept my time in country short. Hostel dorms were not available in some places and/or were the same price as a private room. My day trip to the Caracol Mayan ruins cost $95 (included in sightseeing). The Belizean exit fee stamp cost $20.

Honduras
Total nights: 16 (14 in family home; 2 in hostel dorm)
Lodging expense: $215
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $30
Food and drink (groceries): $33
Sightseeing: $15
Transportation: $67
Miscellaneous: $264
Total expense: $624
Average cost per day: $39
Notes: My food cost is lower because my lodging with a family in Copan included three meals a day. The Miscellaneous expense is higher because I paid for 32 hours of one-on-one Spanish instruction at Copan Spanish School. Still, a very budget-friendly country!

El Salvador
Total nights: 13 (all in hostel dorms)
Lodging expense: $154
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $44
Food and drink (groceries): $76
Sightseeing: $15
Transportation: $36
Miscellaneous: $9
Total expense: $334
Average cost per day: $26
Notes: Another very budget-friendly country!

Nicaragua
Total nights: 12 (6 in hostel dorms; 6 in private rooms)
Lodging expense: $160
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $44
Food and drink (groceries): $38
Sightseeing: $180
Transportation: $48
Miscellaneous: $28
Total expense: $498
Average cost per day: $41
Notes: I had bronchitis and a respiratory infection for almost a week and was coughing a lot during the night so I didn't want to stay in a dorm and make everyone else sick. Thus the higher lodging expense (but a private room was still on $15/night on average). I had to splurge a bit on sightseeing because tourism is very low right now in Nicaragua due to the recent political protests and violence. As a result, the typical group tours are not being offered so the only option is a private tour. I did this both for a full day and a half day around Granada as well as a full day on Ometepe.

Costa Rica
Total nights: 8 (all in hostel dorms)
Lodging expense: $93
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $40
Food and drink (groceries): $57
Sightseeing: $90
Transportation: $68
Miscellaneous: $14
Total expense: $362
Average cost per day: $45
Notes: I have previously traveled around Costa Rica and have already visited many of the top sights like Monteverde, Arenal, and the Nicoya Peninsula. Knowing that it would be another expensive country, I focused on the one place I really wanted to go: the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park. The sightseeing cost reflects my day trip into the park, which must be visited on a guided tour.

Panama
Total nights: 6
Lodging expense: $78 (all in hostel dorms)
Food and drink (restaurants & bars): $118
Food and drink (groceries): $7
Sightseeing: $39
Transportation (not including flight to Colombia): $61
Miscellaneous: $3
Total expense: $306
Average cost per day: $51
Notes: I also knew Panama would be more expensive than other countries in Central America so I did not plan for much time in country. Also, the hostels I stayed in had kitchens but they were not really suitable for cooking, so I had to spend a bit more money eating out.

Total expenses for 129 nights in Central America (including flying standby from the U.S.): $4783
Average cost per day: $37

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