Indonesia - budget reflection

This is embarrassing. It has been exactly 2 months since we left Indonesia and I am finally writing the budget reflection. I could pile up the excuses, but I wont. We enjoyed our last month of travel the way we supposed to; to recharge our batteries for the busy London life ahead.

Imagine the prettiest European hilly landscape and then sprinkle it with velvety red grass. The stories of the tribal life in villages scattered with thatched roof huts and white hair on dark faces, lightened with wide rusty-brown betelnut smiles. If anthropology is not your thing, then close your eyes imagining swinging in a hammock with a view of white sand under crystal clear water and no one around. The pictures of 'Finding Nemo' in front of your eyes or searching for turtles chowing on the colorful coral.

No? I did not catch you yet? Maybe you are not an animal enthusiast, but you see yourself on a beach surrounded with livelier evenings than just a simple reading of a book? Do you fancy spending time catching waves, and enjoying western pleasures in the evening? That is there as well! Indonesia has something for anyone and we tried a lot of it, but still so much more to see in this lovely country.

Our time was split between the Papua region and Bali/Lombok with a short stop in Sulawesi. It was magical-apart from Kuta in Bali. In total, we spent 47 days in the country spending on a midrange budget. We negotiated down some prices in order to stay longer, avoided guides where necessary and ate some pretty good food. We haven't done many payable activities, but the ones we did, we organized ourselves. We were very lucky to be treated to a week of surf camp by Tan's brother and his family. It was a great experience, which took us to find and explore a lot of nice beach corners. We also crashed a honeymoon of our friends, whose wedding we unfortunately missed. Do not worry, they already sorted their honeymoon business before the actual honeymoon. So I hope we were not too much in their way.

Apart from surfing, we did some trekking, snorkeling and attended a cooking class. It seems like not many things, but each activity took multiple days. Ok. Apart from the last activity.

So for the 47 days we spent in Indonesia we did not really have an estimated budget, as Indonesia was not on our list. I estimated a budget a couple of months before and I guess I already have quite a good sense of our expenditures. Our estimated budget for Indonesia was 17.50 GBP per person per day, knowing that we do won't have many costs for the surf camp.
 

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 855.00 GBP

Actual cost:  796.47 GBP

Off budget: + 58.53 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 17.50 GBP (+ visa of 32.50 GBP each for the whole stay)  MIXED BUDGET

Actual cost: 16.95 GBP (includes visa cost) MIXED BUDGET

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

Thailand - budget reflection

Sitting at the gates in Denpansar's airport (Indonesia), I was ready to write a budget blog post but our computer had a different idea. It locked us out, with a safety encryption feature BitLocker, even though we never set it up. What was our Windows account password? How to recover the account without a working US number? Why does HP not want to help? Why is Windows recover account feature so lengthy and complicated? Seriously! We had to wait for a MONTH before we could recover our Microsoft account and get the BitLocker key, which was needed to get this laptop fully functional again? This means, a whole month without a computer? And all this happened at the worst time of our travel. We were heading to a remote areas for weeks, where we planned to catch up on writing. So, Thailand budget spreadsheet was ready, but our computer decided to go on a strike or better to say-on a vacation.

Now we are back with a working computer(!) so we can finally look into those numbers for Thailand where we spent 29 days. Our adventure through Thailand was in a proper Thailand appropriate travel way; touristy trip in the high season, seasoned with friends, and as a result a few alcohol infused nights (ok, there were days too). We plunged into the country at a perfect time to catch their new year celebrations or better to say water-war-zone in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. We then joined our friends on a tour in Chiang Mai that took us to a temple, viewpoint, and a human zoo/museum (a place where you go to see people). There are discussions about how ethical such place is, but at least these people are not chained, and in small enclosures outside of their natural habitat!?! Hint, hint!! We then returned to Bangkok for some extra activities, such as comic con, cinema, floating market, and then on to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. We managed to save quite a bit by doing our own independent snorkeling, instead of doing organized trips. And we would not want to have it any other way.

Due to unbearable constant heat, we opted for private AC rooms, some in hostels some in hotels and guesthouses. We did however save on a night of accommodation, by crashing in a hotel room our friends booked with their reward points. Luxury!!

Regarding transport we varied between long distance night train rides, short intercity buses, boats, private taxi, and renting a motorcycle on a few occasions (Chiang Mai & Koh Phangan). We tended to avoid long distance bus rides, as we just wanted a bit more comfort. To save some extra on Koh Tao island, we opted for hiking to the beaches, which kept us fitter, more entertained, and it does not hurt to try to save money.

We managed to save on food, as we tried to eat street food in most places, getting fresh fruit, and using 7/11 for our healthier breakfast joint. I know, shocking! 7/11 and healthy breakfast sounds so wrong together. But they had super tasty plain yoghurt with some hard-boiled eggs and a banana. It was yummy and very much needed after the piles of sugar in their pad thai's and curries.

Our estimated budget for Thailand was 22.00 GBP per person per day with a hope of trying to not veer to much from it. And surprisingly we managed to be under it, including our cost of shipping trekking gear to Europe and loss of a plane ticket between Bangkok and Chiang Rai (which we did not use). Happy, happy!
 

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa (no visa needed)

Estimated total cost: 704.00 GBP

Actual cost:  660.54 GBP

Off budget: + 43.46 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 22.00 GBP (no visa needed) MIXED BUDGET

Actual cost: 20.64 GBP MIDRANGE BUDGET

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

India - budget reflection

People say visiting India is not for every stomach and I think I have to agree with that. I probably would not recommend it to most people, but we are for sure coming back… just probably not to the Rajastan region. Do not take me wrong, Rajastan is all you would expect from India. It was just too tout-y or better to say tourism has drained some of the charm from it. You might still find women in amazing colorful saris, rich flavours of food, and the biggest contrast to say Europe or US; we were just hoping to feel the charm the way we experienced it in Tamil-Nadu and Kerala regions. We loved the south and will definitely return, at some point in our lives, after we explore some of the other beautiful regions of India (this country is HUGE).

Overall India was amazing and we had some of the best experiences on our travels. It is pretty, yet still dirty. It is polluted, yet still you find regions actively banning plastic bags. It is full of contradictions - apart from food. Food in India is amazing and has no contradictions whatsoever.

In India staying on the budget proved easy even with all the activities we incorporated in our visit. We did four game drives (safaris), two cooking classes, went to our first ever Kabaddi game, learned how to dance Bhangra for maybe our future career in Bolywood movies, and like everyone else tested our bodies at two yoga studios. On top of that we celebrated Tans birthday in a fancy restaurant, visited Taj Mahal, the Golden temple and few smaller attractions. As usual our itinerary was more filled with experiences and eating, than with the number of must see sights such as the thousands of temples. This is just the way we do it and love it.

In India we spent in total 56 days and needed to do our visa run to Nepal half way through, which made us pay visa costs twice as we used an E-visa type. Our accommodation was varied, from a very rustic fan room, to a nice hotel chains with AC (no it was not Taj group, but a more affordable probably 3-star range hotels). In the southern regions we used local non AC and AC buses with one overnight train, whilst in the northern regions we stuck to train travel in various price ranges (first class sleeper, to 5 hours-standing with no room to bend your knees and an elbow-in-your-back general seating). We ate out ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME as the food was so good we could not resist; we did so in local Dhaba places or restaurants, and tried few street snacks to keep us full in between meals. We were also constantly fed by our friends in Chandigarh, before they took us out for a night or two out at their favorite spots. It was a great way to discuss about their lives in India and ask questions about their culture. We are always very grateful for such insights.

Our estimated budget for India was 14.00 GBP per person per day as a mixed budget, which was also appropriate knowing that we did splurge at least during half of our India stay. We managed to be under that, so again the financial fairy is happy.

As you will see below, we included all the activities in the total. We thought that as we skipped temples and other usual activities on a traveler's to do list in India this cost should be included (as to replace the cost we might encounter for entrances). Overall safari and cooking classes were extremely affordable, and the Bollywood dance class cost could be a replacement for the yoga retreat that most travelers would sign themselves up for.

 

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa & Tan's Birthday present

Estimated total cost: 864.00 GBP

Actual cost:  840.49 GBP

Off budget: + 23.51 GBP

 

COST PER DAY (per person)

Time in India excluding Tan’s birthday present

Estimated per day: 14.00 GBP (+ visa of 26.00 GBP each)  MIXED BUDGET

Actual cost: 13.71 GBP (includes visa cost) MIXED BUDGET

Excluded activities from cost

Birthday: 145.00 GBP 

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

Nepal - budget reflection

Where to go between our visits to India, this was our question. We were lingering between Nepal and Sri Lanka, in the end we choose Nepal. We had a bit more interest in visiting Nepal, so when we found a cheaper flight deal we bought them.

The mountainous country was inviting us to explore it. As we were not physically fit enough to conquer the Everest base camp and we were almost sure our knees and my old ankle injury wont hold the hike to Annapurna base camp, we opted for a shorter hike.

Originally I was prepared to do a two day hike, as to not push my ankle too far, but I did welcome Tan to do a longer trek without me. I would station myself in a room by the lake, like a hermit cuddled in a hole, to do my next writing assignment for a writing course and write a story or two for a book. Somehow this plan was put aside when our friends told us about the Poon Hill trek. It sounded like a trek that would not be as strenuous on our joints and we would not be too far from medical attention if needed. So we bought ourselves knee braces, hiking poles, and some extra pain relief pills in case we needed it, and then we went.

To make sure we are on budget we sorted our individual hiker permits, as we decided we are not taking a guide nor a porter. It just was not needed for such simple circuit (Gorepani-Poon Hill-Ghandruk) and we were able to leave our main bags in a guest house in Pokhara. We tried our best to have an early start on a daily basis so we opted out of having breakfasts in tea houses, instead we brought tea bags, cookies, PB, and energy bars to start our day with. Our early start gave us an early arrival to each of the villages, which meant we had more room & time to bargain. We slept for free, as long as we ate two warm meals at the guesthouses, and these were exactly the deals we were happy with.

As we spent 17 days in Nepal, we had to take a 30 day visa on arrival. The hike took us 5 days as Tan got a 12 hour vomit eruption that exhausted him. So we stayed put for a day. The rest of the time was, spent in Pokhara and Kathmandu area. We visited few attractions in and around, that required small entrance fee, and the rest was spent on food. Accommodation was mostly a basic double room, which needed some hard bargaining in Kathmandu which included a free drop off at the airport on the last day. We mostly used public transport and only took a taxi from the airport and on the first and last day of the hike. On first day of the hike, we took a taxi to the bus stand and the last day we took a discounted taxi from Naya Pol to Pokhara for barely any more than the cost of the bus. Our driver really wanted to get back home early.

Our estimated budget for Nepal was 16.00 GBP per person per day as a mixed budget. In reality I do believe we were on a mixed budget as we were eating in slightly better restaurants and had regular chocolate and alcohol treats. In our daily cost we included the permits and gear (poles, gloves, socks, knee braces, etc.) even though in the past we would mark such costs as extra/luxurious activity out of the main budget. But as most people go to Nepal for at least one hike and it does not add too much to the budget, we decided to keep it in our daily cost.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 402.00 GBP

Actual cost:  262.11 GBP

Off budget: + 139.89 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 16.00 GBP (+ visa of 26.00 GBP each)  MIXED BUDGET

Actual cost: 14.56 GBP (includes visa cost) MIXED BUDGET


 

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

Laos - budget reflection

Wow! This is all I can say. It 'wowed' me with its enchanting pristine nature and the friendliest people we met on this South East Asian part of our journey so far. I knew I wanted us to go north to do some trekking to show to Tan the amazing panorama and for me to indulge in culture by visiting hill tribes. This is the most unspoiled piece of land we've seen so far, with some exceptions in Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. We simply loved it. And for a country to have such a strong positive impression on us, even though in these three weeks we got runny-tummy four times combined, can give you a picture that it really had to be something special to us.

The first week we spent on 4000 islands trying to get better after our first hit of runny-tummy that followed us from Siem Reap. After that we rushed towards the north of the country. The rest of our time we tried to make sure to indulge in everything we could in such a short time.

It was high season and all the prices went up. On top of that I needed a bit more luxurious accommodation for my recovering days and that itself of course added some to our costs. I say luxurious, but in our case that meant upper middle range with private and very clean bathroom. You probably noticed in the past year that we do not budget accommodation as much anymore. No more hostels and mostly always a private bathroom. Maybe it is us getting older or maybe just our desire to exercise in peace. We are trying to keep fit (more accurate: trying not to get fatTER) and to do so, we like our space where no one is staring at us. We need to focus says our video coach.

We spent 26 days in Laos staying in guesthouses, eating local food (with exception of our weekly pizza date) or not eating food when sick. We saved some money by taking free bikes in Phonsavanh to the Plain Of Jars instead of going on a tour. To be honest I believe this was way better as we both had a feeling we would be disappointed by the sight if we would be just simply driven there. In Luang Prabang we joined a group to take us to the waterfalls and if I think back on it, I would love to do it on our own as a full day adventure. But at that time and place with my runny tummy, taking a shared ride was a good idea. In Nong Khiaw we decided to do a two day trek, which for me was a highlight of Laos. Such multiday treks we consider under extra cost just as we do with safaris so we excluded it in daily calculation (but kept it in our total spent sum). If we would manage to form a bigger group (4-8 people instead of 2), we probably would not exclude this cost from daily average.

Our estimated budget for Laos was 8.00 GBP per person per day and yes we know we know we underestimated the prices. But that is what we calculated quite few years back while still in prep mode for this two year travel saga, so this is what we are dealing with. Although Laos became quite expensive, I think the cost would be a tiny bit lower if we would visit it outside of high season (on average we noticed the prices were 30% higher than in low season). But we are happy with our end budget result even though it is over our estimate.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 232.14 GBP

Actual cost:  419.07 GBP

Off budget: - 186.93 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person) excluding trekking

Estimated per day: 8.00 GBP (+ visa of 24.14 GBP for the whole stay; Tan's visa was $5 more and we unknowingly bribed an offical $5)  BUDGET

Actual cost: 15.05 GBP (includes visa cost) MIDRANGE

 

COST PER DAY (per person) whilst trekking

Estimated per day: 00.00 GBP (we were not planning this activity)

Actual cost: 28.88 GBP

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)





Cambodia - budget reflection

I believe I was expecting too much from Cambodia; I was expecting to have my mind blown. Not by UXOs of course, but I expected only superlatives. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but it was not ALL THAT I was hoping for. It could have been the food, as we noticed countries have a deeper impact on us if the food is good. The first week we spent in the crab capital and unfortunately a portion of crab was a bit too pricey for us (although it was still pretty damn cheap). For this reason we had difficulties to find something that was not supper processed fried 'meat' balls. With some effort we did end up finding a decent place to eat.

We did not indulge on the famous islands as the high season just started and accommodation prices spiked up to 50$ per night, which meant we had to skip that too. But we did enjoy the many motorbike rentals we took to explore small local villages in plenty on different areas in Cambodia.

For tours, we tried to be a bit creative instead of just agreeing to take a prearranged tours. Too many times in the past the tours were not what we wanted regarding the itinerary. The tours would rush through the main activity or sight, just to end up in yet another souvenir shop for hour or more is not our thing. For this reason we drove ourselves to the Irrawaddy dolphin bay so on our way we were able to explore nearby villages. Once we got there we tried to lower our boat price to join some Austrians that got there with tuk tuk. As they were not keen on having two people joining in their guide helped us getting our own private boat for the same price as for a group boat. We loved it. Saving money and being on our own, was more than we hoped for. In Siem Reap we met another couple from Canada, with whom we decided to share our tuk tuk, halving our price. It turned up to be a good idea as they had similar requests as us (doing the drive around Angkor in an opposite way than usual).

On the other hand we were splurging every time we saw our friends we met in Vietnam (who were traveling in the same direction). Going for drinks, celebrating new years, having more drinks and some food. But it was fun and it was worth every penny.

In total we spent 23 days in Cambodia days and a bit more money than we planned. We travelled on mixed and midrange budgets which is what we were estimating anyway.

Our estimated budget was 14.00 GBP per person per day and if we would not be splurging around Christmas and New Years I believe we could get it on the spot.

 

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 345.80 GBP

Actual cost:  394.40 GBP

Off budget: - 48.60 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 14.00 GBP (+ visa 23.80 GBP per person for the whole stay) MIXED BUDGET

Actual cost: 17.15 GBP (includes visa cost) MIXED BUDGET

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)



Vietnam - budget reflection

Foodie paradise, Vietnam. We ate and we ate and we ate and then we ate some more. Almost everyday we managed to find new street food or a new dish at the restaurant. This place inspired us for the future cooking projects for when we settle. And to make sure it was a strong cooking boost, we decided to take a cooking class in Hoi An, which was our main activity, apart from eating. Vegetarian options were found everywhere and one of our favorites was vegetarian cau lau in Hoi An and vegetarian hot pot in Cai Be. There were some good pho places (non vegetarian) around as well. Now writing this in Cambodia, I am still dreaming about our lady on the street making rice paper pancakes from Da Lat. The vision we had for our Vietnam stay succeeded; we devoured our way through the central and south of Vietnam. The only non exciting food place was surprisingly Can Tho, I say surprisingly as it is there where the floating markets are filled with fresh produce. Instead of using these fresh ingredients in their local food, we only found street food in the form of fried processed meats. So when we found a good duck hot pot in a nearby restaurant we stuffed our faces with it.

Ok. Let's get on topic. It is all about money.

In Vietnam we spent 21 days and yes we went over our estimated budget. We were thinking about what kind of budget we though we travelled in, and came to a conclusion that it was not a mid-range, nor the budget one; it was a mix of both. This means that us going over our estimate was not due to us unable to meet it, it was us uping the travel style every now or then. We rented a motorbike for a day, took boats to two floating markets and immersed ourselves in the culture by learning how to cook. Apart from those activities, we walked and ate, whilst staying in a private rooms that usually had AC. We traveled with public transport, such as minibuses, buses and trains.

Our estimation for the Vietnamese budget was 10.00 GBP per person per day in case we would travel budget all through our stay. Instead of trying to meet our budget, we preferred a bit of A/C luxury. We still did pretty good job, at least money wise.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 240.60 GBP

Actual cost:  293.44 GBP

Off budget: - 52.84 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 10.00 GBP (+ visa of 30.60 GBP each) BUDGET

Actual cost: 13.97 GBP (includes visa cost) MIXED BUDGET

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

Hong Kong - budget reflection

This is the place. A place I longed to show to Tan, and hoped he would see it the way I do-at least enough for him wanting to come back for a future pit stop when passing by. I knew this is the place he might hate, just like I hated it the first time I came here in 2007. Unable to breathe in this high humidity, pollution thick as a fog, tiny portion sizes at the pizza chains, and dirty streets full of vendors trying to get you buy their goods. But back then I was already caught in a trap as I knew that in a good week I would be stuck here again, with my plane ticket going through this place. I was dreading the end of the trip when this stop will happen again, but something changed. A place caught me under it’s spell and I’ve been coming back ever since, well at least for the next three years. My last trip, the fifth, was in early 2010, just before I met Tan, and was waiting until this moment to come back with him.

I had my plan to make it a good experience, so I decided we will splurge a little bit by staying away from Chungking mansions. I wanted to avoid anything that could stain this trip, although I did not plan a lot. We needed to go to see the Symphony of lights, eat duck, get to my once favorite local eatery, to go to the Space museum with its’ Omnimax experience, and if we are lucky we might even find the lion dance show. So nothing big, just simple things I love. Unfortunately Hong Kong had different plans for us. My must-do Space museum just got closed down due to renovation and my favorite local eatery did not have my dish on their menu anymore. I was overhyping these two experiences and ended up not being able to deliver. Now I think back on this trip, I think this was a good thing, as it forced us to explore more, instead of being stuck with these known favorites.

We explored the markets, tried many street foods, checked The Peak which seems to have become a must-do attraction in the past few years. The Peak now has an hours long line, for something I was not impressed with even when it was empty in 2007 (Tip: take the bus, not the Tram!). We explored the midlevel escalators and the park, and even did a half day do it yourself trip to the Tian Tan Buddha on the Lantau island. We ate cheaply but good and even treated ourselves with dim sum in one of the branches of the world known ‘cheapest Michelin star restaurant’. Hong Kong did treat us well, despite Space museum letdown. At least it gives us excuse to come back, again.

Hong Kong is a city, and although I love it, it is a place where 2-5 days at the time are more than enough. Our stay was 5 days long, the maximum and considering we were in somewhat good accommodation with a great location, our budget did great. We estimated we would travel on the budget, but we think that our travel style was up-ed yet again to midrange budget. 

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa (no visa needed)

Estimated total cost: 165.00 GBP

Actual cost:  207.17 GBP

Off budget: - 42.17 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 33.00 GBP (no visa needed) BUDGET

Actual cost: 41.43 GBP (includes visa cost) MIDRANGE BUDGET

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

THE ROUTE (GOOGLEMYMAPS)

USA - budget reflection

We finally did it, the road trip Tan was so looking forward to. He has been antsy to show me more of the US as I’ve only visited Seattle, WA and the Portland, OR areas. Or as people usually say; the most European looking part of US. He was not only excited to show me the awesomeness of national parks, he was excited to be able to explore some of the areas where he has never been before, and of course to show me places where he grew up.

So road trip it was. We were planning to rent a car, but Tan’s parents offered us to lend us their awesome hybrid as a late Christmas present. We immediately got a smile on our faces; no rental cost and saving some on petrol.

The loop we did was pretty impressive for the time we had. I am only allowed to be in the US for 90 days and we wanted to spend some time with his family. We also tried to meet as many of our friends, and of course Tan’s friends as well. From Belize to Seattle we did a bit of a jump to Miami, for few hours to see one of our friends, then to Tampa to spend a few days with some other friends, and Dallas to spend a week with Tan’s grandma. After arriving in Seattle, we spent a week trying to gather all the camping equipment, which was gathering dust in Tan’s parents basement. Everything that we did not have, Tan’s outdoorsy brother and friends lent us. Which meant again another cost disappeared. We borrowed a tent, sleeping pads and bags, stove, hatchet, bear mace and few other things like a cooler and an awesome thick wool jacket that was warming me up. I made us our little cooking kit, including a herbs and spices kit in a pill dispenser which helped us in making yummy dishes.

We spent 86 days in US, leaving four days in case of an emergency visit that could arise, although we hope we do not need to use that at all. On the actual road trip we spent 43 days and we covered a lot. Actually we managed to get back earlier than anticipated. We did not want to miss the 1st birthday of our youngest nephew (first on Tan’s side of family).

Accommodation: When possible we tried to stay with family and friends, and when this was not an option we camped. We tried to use basic camps: some with awesome toilet facilities, some with long drop toilets. We were on a search for a cheap accommodation even if that meant having Wet Wipe or bucket showers for a week. You can understand why we might ask to use the shower as soon as we got to family/friends places.

As the gas prices were extremely low during our road trip (PERFECT TIMING the cheapest petrol was 1.82 USD per gallon!!), the campgrounds were full in some of the National parks. Here we were lucky to find some great people helping scouting for any possible spot, great girls offering to share their campsite, and us asking random strangers at night to let us share the cost of their campsite in return for us pitching our tent next to theirs. We only spent 1 night in a hotel, and that happened to be in Vegas. US is camp friendly country. Unlike in Europe, you can find awesome free campsites with bison hanging out just outside the tent, or a coyote waking you up in the morning whilst they are in a search for prairie dogs.

Food: We made most meals on our awesome tiny camp stove. From mini pizzas, curries, cous cous salads, oatmeal with almond milk and freeze dried berries. We ate very good and for campers food, very healthy as well. Lunches were usually some snacks, like hummus, olives, cheeses, pitta, spicy nuts and many others. We stopped the car, used our foldable cutting sheet, and cut some green apples to dip into peanut butter. Yumm. When visiting our friends and family we ate junk or a bit less budget friendly meals. But, at the end of the day we had to try some local dishes.

For activities we bought an annual pass to National parks, which paid for itself after a week of our road trip. Tan also received late present for his 30th birthday to attend an event at the Grand Ole Opry, which was experience in itself. After our road trip we spent some nights spending time at open mics, comedy shows, the cinema and some other fun things that did not cost much.

Our estimated budget for USA was 47.00 GBP per person per day thinking we might need to rent a car. But us, happy bunnies, spent an awesome little amount. The only things that are not included in this budget are our presents to family and friends for their wedding, birthdays and early Christmas presents. We also bought travel gear for our next leg of the trip as our old gear was pretty beat up (Tan managed to rip up my backpack) and it was time for us to update it. And, the US is cheaper than anywhere else for such things.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa (my ESTA)

Estimated total cost: 4,102.73 GBP

Actual cost:  1,567.36 GBP

Off budget: + 2,535.38 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 47.00 GBP (+ ESTA of 9.45 GBP for the whole stay for me only) BUDGET

Actual cost: 18.28 GBP (includes ESTA cost) BUDGET

 

Our epic US road trip (map done on googlemymaps)

Our epic US road trip (map done on googlemymaps)

Belize - budget reflection

I know it took me ages to write this post, but believe me, we were very busy in the US. You might think we had so much free time because we travel long term, but the truth is there is always so many things to do, so many projects to finish or start.

We were looking forward to visiting Belize, especially experiencing the marine life. We planned to go snorkeling at least twice which resulted in us amending our travel budget. As we were pressed with time, we only wanted to do maritime adventures and skip the cultural ones. At the end of the day we should leave something to come back to, right? This leaves some experiences for our trip back when we are older and our wallets are a bit fatter.

Most of our time was spent in Placencia, a little quiet place in southern Belize. You might not agree with our description ‘quiet’, as it is very well equipped for tourism. We were there in low season when there were barely any tourists, but there were a few retired expats on a walking path. The downside of the low season is, well, the beach. It was covered with smelly algae, whose smell protruded to our accommodation by the mid day. But it did not bother us that much as we did like to see the village life when there is no tourism driving it. However there was a beach that was good enough to swim without wading through algae and where we managed to see few dolphins swim past us.

The second part of Belize we spent on Caye Caulker, the traveller’s mecca. Our accommodation was pretty basic, but we did have a tiny porch on the second floor. We enjoyed the walks and a swim, but even here the beaches were getting some of the algae. I guess it was that time of the year. But nevertheless we enjoyed our time in both places, even while being sick. I got a cold and some digestive problems, which did make my experience of snorkeling a bit stressful.
At the end we managed to go on only one snorkeling trip, as in Placencia weather was not on our side, which resulted in us only taking a trip at Caye Caulker. It was amazing to see the giant manatee staring at me floating in the water.

Our time in Belize was only 15 days long and we did save some money by staying put in Placencia for a while. Lydia, the owner, gave us a discount for keep extending our stay. This accommodation had everything we needed; a nice small room, a porch, clean bathroom and a tiny kitchen with a blender. This helped us save money by buying fruits on the small market stall to make smoothies, and making simple salads with veggies. It was too hot to eat hot food.
Our estimated budget for Belize was 13.00 GBP per person per day for the low budget. After reevaluating the style of our accommodation and noting that at Caye Caulker we ate out every meal, we would say we were instead travelling on a mixed budget. Our style was bumped up, so we do not feel bad to be over our estimate. We also bought a one time use waterproof camera to get a glimpse of water adventures (did not turn out that great).

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 195.00 GBP

Actual cost:  320.33 GBP

Off budget: + 125.33 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 13.00 GBP (no visa needed) BUDGET

Actual cost: 21.36 GBP (no visa needed) MIXED BUDGET

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Guatemala - budget reflection

A place where I wish we could have stayed longer. I imagined it a paradise for my never satisfied crave for indigenous people. Oh I wish I could visit and learn more about them, but un/fortunately we will have to come back to do that. This time canoeing on Rio Dulce, walking around Flores and exploring one of better ruin sites, Tikal, will have to do.

As we had difficulties of finding a place with a shared kitchen, we were again indulging ourselves at gringo hangouts or restaurants instead of cooking. In Flores we did happen to have a basic kitchen that gave us the opportunity to make some salads, grilled cheese and other simple dinners. As far as activities; we choose to take a boat transfer that is also considered as a tour of Rio Dulce, stayed in accommodation with free use of dugout canoes and took the usual tour to Tikal through our accommodation (not the best decision of their operating partner).

We only stayed 6 days for which we estimated to spend 20.00 GBP per person. Not a bad estimate.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person (no visa needed)

Estimated total cost: 120.00 GBP

Actual cost:  125.44 GBP

Off budget: - 5.44 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 20.00 GBP MIDRANGE BUDGET

Actual cost: 20.91 GBP MIDRANGE BUDGET

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

 

Honduras - budget reflection

Shame on us, for not exploring Honduras the way it should be explored. There were two reasons for not doing so and we kind of feel ashamed about the first one. We got a bit scared by everyone telling us how unsafe it is. We usually do not really listen to those, but for some reason this one got to both of us. But then again even if we would be a bit more courageous, we still would not be able to stay longer than we did as we are now a bit pressed by time to catch our flight in Belize.

Sorry Honduras for listening to all the media bombarded people even though we learned by now that the world is not all so dangerous.

Honduras only received short trip from us, going to La Guama and to Naranjo at the Yojoa lake and then Omoa by the Caribbean coast. It was short, but sweet and expensive. The last one was purely for our laziness of not venturing to local eateries that much. We ate at our accommodation. The first couple of nights were at gringo hangout and in Omoa we took aircon. So saying that we were budgeting would be farfetched.

We only had 5 days for which we planned to spend 9.00 GBP per person per night. As mentioned we decided to live it up for a bit, which resulted in this shocking result.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 51.19 GBP (entry fee per person 6.19 GBP) (on a budget)

Actual cost:  94.15 GBP (on a midrange)

Off budget: - 42.97 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 9.00 GBP (+ entry fee of 6.19 GBP) BUDGET

Actual cost: 18.83 GBP (includes entry fee) MIDRANGE BUDGET

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Nicaragua - budget reflection

We stopped in the Corn Islands for a while and it was a much needed stop. Yes, we basically skipped Nicaragua as we only stayed in few other places that served more or less as a transit points. But, you know what-we do not care, as we do not have any regrets. Ok, there is one regret, we took the boat from the mainland. So, as soon as we landed we decided to book the flight for the way back. No explanation needed, believe me. Even my mum told me to stop explaining the boat horror as she was about to empty her stomach just by hearing it.

In Nicaragua we spent 14 days, as mentioned mostly on Big and Small Corn islands. We were on a budget as the islands are equipped for tourism. We were aware of that, so we choose accommodation with cheaper meals when we had to eat out (mostly Big Corn) and the one with a shared kitchen (Small Corn) to make our own meals. We probably saved some money due to my food poisoning as I lost my appetite for few days, but that is another story. Although on a budget, we only stayed in dorms for one night and double room for the rest which was kind of nice.

Our estimated budget for Nicaragua was 16.00 GBP per person per day and we got pretty close to it. I am much happier about that.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 231.68 GBP (entry fee per person 7.68 GBP)

Actual cost:  229.93 GBP

Off budget: + 1.57 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 16.00 GBP (+ entry fee of 7.68 GBP) BUDGET

Actual cost: 16.42 GBP (includes entry fee) BUDGET

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Costa Rica - budget reflection

Costa Rica is a paradise to which we must return in the future. A place where you can enjoy as an adult and a place where your children can learn about wild animals in plenty of good sanctuaries that are reintroducing animals back in to the wild. We wish we would have had a bigger amount of our budget on the side for Costa Rica and of course more time. At least we have something to come back to and now with insider connections to a family with which we bonded.

We wanted to focus on wildlife, which we did, and in short 8 days we managed to do three animal connected activities: Jaguar Center, Tortuguero and Zooave. First and last are great places, where animals saved from illegal pet trade or injured creatures in rehabilitation are being taken care of until their release. They do a good job and we believe many countries should follow their lead. Animals that unfortunately cannot be released due to medical or safety reasons are there to teach us about the wildlife. Whilst Totuguero was Tans desire to see turtle in the wild, laying eggs.

Ok. Enough of the off topic monologue, let’s go back to the budget.

As we did a lot of activities in such a small time frame and had private rooms, we considered our budget being mixed. But the below daily estimate, would not be able to reach without our friend, who offered us a place in their home. We saved on 3 nights of accommodation and got insight in her life in Costa Rica and gave us the opportunity to deepen our friendship.

Comparing with Panama, we did much better although still not our desired goal.

 COST PER STAY

Sum per person (no visa required)

Estimated total cost: 152.00 GBP

Actual cost:  182.68 GBP

Off budget: - 30.68 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 19.00 GBP (no visa required) BUDGET

Actual cost: 22.84 GBP MIDRANGE BUDGET

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Panama - budget reflection

Woooah! This is an expensive country. We were very wrong with our travel estimation and it seems like it never ends. We are off our budget for months which means money is dwindling as fast as ice melts in the tropics. We knew we might be off in some countries due to time (our estimation was made a year or two ago), but having such a bad budget streak was not our expectation.

As we are mixing slow and quick travel, we were planning to stay in Central America for a short period of time; in a quick travel category. After Panama, it seems like this was a good decision, at least money wise.

We spent our time in two destinations; Panama City and Bocas Del Toro as we only wanted to stay here for a week. After seeing the budget disaster, you will see why we left even a day earlier than expected. In Panama City we stayed in a hostel and cooked only one meal in the shared kitchen as groceries were just as expensive as eating out. We used local buses if walking was not possible or just too long. Regarding activities we managed to do two things we wanted; seeing Panama Canal and do the chocolate plantation tour with the Ngobe tribe. As it was our wedding anniversary, we also splurged (although the price was reasonable) on an island boat tour with one snorkeling stop included.

Our Panama trip was shortened by a day at our choice. The estimation was GBP 15.00 per person per day and we went over for almost a double. Nevertheless, we (at least I) enjoyed the chocolate plantation. Who could say they had a horrible time if there was presence of chocolate?

COST PER STAY

Sum per person (no visa required)

Estimated total cost: 90.00 GBP

Actual cost:  160.85 GBP

Off budget: - 70.85 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 15.00 GBP (no visa required) BUDGET

Actual cost: 26.81 GBP BUDGET

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Colombia - budget reflection

The most colorful and warm place in South America was the perfect spot for my birthday. Latin rhythms combined with African ones were inviting us to dance. And we did dance by going to Salsa school to learn some classic salsa and upbeat reggaeton. You might not enjoy the lyrics, but the beats and movements in this dance style are great fun and exercise.

Then there is the food. Of all South American typical ‘almuerzo’ (lunch) places, Colombia had the best. Fish or chicken with a side of plantain and coconut rice were mouthwatering. For a non bean lover, I ate surprisingly big amounts of beans and lentils, there is something about the way they make it that I was unable to say no, and instead I was asking for more. And not to forget the fruits; especially sugar mango which I am still dreaming about.

Our time in Colombia was amazing; everything from learning different dances, food, colorful colonial houses, islands, and even helping at a coffee plantation and with a family in the jungle was unforgettable. For us, Colombia was probably the most memorable place in South America.

In Colombia we stayed for 40 days and they flew by like minutes. We were staying in guesthouses, small local hotels, AirBnBs and in a tent when we were hosted by Slovenian-Colombian family through HelpX. The last helped us to lower our daily costs and to get the insight of a family life in the jungle. Our meals were both; home cooked and eaten in restaurants. In Colombia it was easy to eat healthy as the cost of healthier meal was barely higher than the rest. During our stay we did most things we wanted to do; hikes, experiences, gaining new knowledge and definitely were not holding back or not hesitant about any of it.

Our estimated budget for Colombia was 15.00 GBP per person per day and I think we did pretty good job in exploring the country and experiencing different things without breaking the bank.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person (no visa required)

Estimated total cost: 600.00 GBP

Actual cost:  716.76 GBP (INCLUDES birthday present)

Off budget: - 116.76 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 15.00 GBP BUDGET

Actual cost: 16.15 GBP (EXCLUDES birthday present) MIXED BUDGET

Excluded activities from cost (per person)

Salsa & Reggaeton classes: 95.71 GBP

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Ecuador - budget reflection

We only had 2 weeks available as we planned to be somewhere specific for my (Lu) birthday, so we took Ecuador more like a pit stop or just a country on the road to Colombia. We will definitely consider coming back in the future to explore Ecuador in more detail.

Our Ecuador stay was focused on seeing friends that we met in Zambia and dealing with Tan’s health. This meant not much exploring as we had to schedule appointments with Tan’s doctor to get rid of Salmonella. Due to that and to take in the joy of seeing friends we ate in more established eateries. Also we lived the high life, thanks to the courtesy of our friends loaning their accommodation. And although I had bit of difficulties with the thought of someone spoiling us we took the opportunity and are extremely grateful for it. Living in a penthouse in Quito and enjoying it the way our friends do was fun. I am not going to lie about it; it was awesome and great considering Tan’s health situation.

We spent 10 days in Ecuador staying in an AirBnB accommodation and as mentioned in a penthouse. The second was a courtesy of our friends. The places we stayed were Guayaquil and Quito; in the first we mostly cooked ourselves in the second we had a mixture of home cooked meals and restaurants. Most of our time was spent on two activities; friends and doctors, so we only really experienced chocolate truffle making and the equator line. We were happy with the amount of things we did and saw. Of course we would prefer exploring it in more detail, but when there is a time constraint there is only so much you can do.

Our estimated budget for Ecuador was 9.00 GBP per person per day, which we were not able to meet. This excludes doctor bills and medication. Living high life and spending approx. 31 GBP per day between us, is a success by our standards.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person INCLUDING doctor bills and medication (no visa required)

Estimated total cost: 90.00 GBP

Actual cost:  198.15 GBP

Off budget: - 108.15 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 9.00 GBP BUDGET

Actual cost: 15.69 GBP ( EXCLUDING doctor bills and medication) MIXED BUDGET

Excluded activities from cost (Total)

Doctor bills & Medication: 82.56 GBP

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Peru - budget reflection

Such a great country and despite getting some less pleasant service it still stays at the top of our list. We loved it.

I was worried, that our travel calculations were way off for Peru and we will spend way over our budget. But, I was pleasantly surprised. The idea was to spend half of the time in Peru on a very tight budget and the other half on midrange. Instead we were on a midrange the whole time and still got under our daily estimate.

We spent 34 days in Peru plus 4 days in the Amazon stayed in private rooms at all times, took a great amount of taxis, ate out almost all the time (even few pricier restaurants) and were not worried about expenses. Due to frequency of tragic bus accidents the buses we took were on the high end. Most commonly we saved on activities, as we found plenty of cheaper alternative ways to do them; such as walking instead of taking the train to Machu Picchu.

As activities connected with wildlife are important to us, we visited the Amazon rainforest. We did not skimp on getting the cheapest tour operator; rather we choose a good one (one of the most eco friendly lodges on Tambopata river) and decided to do a shorter stay in the jungle. Quality is more important to us than quantity, at least at wildlife activities.

Our estimated budget for Peru was 20.50 GBP per person per day and it proved to be very easy staying under it.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 1203.00 GBP

Actual cost:  1244.00 GBP

Off budget: - 41.00 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person) excluding Amazon

Estimated per day: 20.50 GBP (no visas needed) MIXED BUDGET

Actual cost: 18.26 GBP MIDRANGE BUDGET

COST PER DAY (per person) whilst in the Amazon (including the flight to Puerto Maldonado)

Estimated per day: 126.70 GBP

Actual cost: 155.75 GBP

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Bolivia - budget reflection

This was South America how we pictured it. From the moment we stepped into Bolivia we fell in love with it, even though we were stuck at the border for 4 hours. Everything about it was charming and made us feel like we again are travelling in our style. Travel that keeps us entertained by challenges and interactions we experience whilst immersing ourselves in their lives. It was the perfect spot to stop and take it all in and instead of rushing in and out.

 We were aware Bolivia was cheap; hence we decided to take much needed Spanish course, which was actually surprisingly productive due to our lovely teacher Shirley at Open Spanish. The course was probably the single most expensive thing we did, and as it is an investment for our future employment, I decided to keep this cost separately from daily budget.

As it was Tan’s birthday I kept the Mountain biking on Death Road and zip lining across its valley separately as well. If it was not this special occasion of Tan reaching his 30s, we almost certainly would not join this activity.  

We spent 38 days in Bolivia staying in private rooms, which we booked directly over the phone or on the spot, through Airbnb and Booking.com. We only stayed in a hostel dorm for one night in Uyuni. If there was any place to not feel guilty spending more than expected it was here, so we indulged in eating out, went a bit health crazy (especially quinoa products and avocados) with our grocery shopping, going out for drinks/cakes/cinema with friends and playing squalleyball. There is so much to do and it was hard to leave.

Now let’s check the numbers. Our estimated budget (mix between midrange and budget) for Bolivia was 10.50 GBP per person per day, but as I mentioned we ended up going for midrange budget which we estimated to 15.00 GBP per person per day.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa & Spanish School & Birthday present

Estimated total cost: 426.49 GBP

Actual cost:  785.38 GBP

Off budget: - 358.89 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Time in Bolivia excluding Spanish Course and Tan’s birthday present

Estimated per day: 10.50 GBP (+ visa of 54.99 GBP for the whole stay for Tan; 2x30days + photocopies) MIXED BUDGET

Actual cost: 14.97 GBP (includes visa cost) MIDRANGE BUDGET

Excluded activities from cost (per person)

Spanish School & Birthday: 216.38 GBP

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)

Brazil - budget reflection

Brazil was amazing-Why? Think about spending time with a local family, the colorful carnival with your best friend joining you on your trip, beaches, exotic fruit on the daily menu, and more.

We did not travel midrange as we expected because standard in Brazil was great, with really clean hostels. The cost per day was lower even although I included our 3 carnival parade tickets, did some snorkeling, boat tour, some cliché photos of Cristo Redendor, and indulging ourselves with daily açai. Our behavior was more touristy than usual. At the end of the day it was my best friend’s first long haul travel; well she did not have the choice as she got Sao Paolo carnival ticket as a late birthday present from us. I know I was a bit tricky, but I wanted to share my world of travelling with her, even if only for 2 weeks.

We spent few days with a friends’ family who lives in Sao Paolo, with whom we learned quite a lot (like how to make caipirinha) and immersed ourselves into their culture and cuisine. It was a great experience for which we are very grateful.

In Brazil we spent 30 full days and did a mix of dorms (4 or 6 beds), apartments, private rooms and home stays.  We mostly cooked ourselves, apart from few ginormous lunches with the family and couple of cheap meals out where there was no kitchen available.  

Our estimated budget for Brazil was meant to be in midrange class of 52.00 GBP per person per day. This estimate was decided due to timing of our Brazil adventure (carnival), but to be under the estimate it was not hard at all.

COST PER STAY

Sum per person including visa

Estimated total cost: 1616.00 GBP

Actual cost:  1051.78 GBP

Off budget: + 564.22 GBP

COST PER DAY (per person)

Estimated per day: 52.00 GBP (+ visa of 56.00 GBP for the whole stay for Tan only) MIDRANGE BUDGET

Actual cost: 33.93 GBP (includes visa cost) MIXED BUDGET

The route (googlemymaps)

The route (googlemymaps)