Budget Planning

You can do this trip in 125 days, for 17,841 miles, through 16 countries, with a budget of $9,669.55 (Staying in hostels, gas, cost of living, shipping, and 3 sets of tires). Cost doesn’t include border fees, tolls, bribes, deviating from the straight path, basic maintenance, or unexpected issues. Cost could be a lot less if camping and spending more time outside of the expensive countries.


idea-1The most intimidating and restricting part of this trip is budget. Straightforward, my 27,000 miles+ South America trip cost me approximately ~$15,000 USD (including motorcycle and gear). It could have cost more, or less, with different choices, but these were learned a little later in the game and I did enjoy some fun extra activities. Saving money up to the point of embarking on this epic trip is different for each person. For me it involved selling everything I owned, others it was years of meticulous saving. The most expensive and unavoidable portion of this trip will be gas and shipping. Hostels and food can add up, so plan wisely. There are other things, however, that you can do to save or earn money. Below are some notes that will help you determine your budget, save money during the trip, and even earn money while traveling.

Avoid Transaction Fees
Fuel Cost Per Country
Hostel Cost Per Country
Shipping Costs
Expected Maintenance
Earning Money While Traveling
Saving Money While Traveling

Budget Considerations

As of 2/8/2017

Avoid Transaction Fees

Research what your current debit and credit card policy is when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Some will charge you exchange rate fees and additional fees for using a credit card abroad. ATM fees also add up rather quickly, with some charging up to $10 per transaction, which is limited to $100. Most travelers, myself included, utilize a free Charles Schwab brokerage account which also doubles as a checking account. Charles Schwab refunds all ATM fees worldwide and has strong monitoring while abroad.

Top

Fuel cost per country*

Below you will find each country through the typical PanAmerican path (Alaska to Ushuia to Buenos Aries) with the cost per gallon and minimal miles required to cross from one end of the country to the other. This is an average across the shortest distance possible, actual cost is expected to be much higher. Total cost per country is based on 38 miles per gallon (KLR 650). Using this path it is an expected distance of 17,841 miles with a fuel cost of $1,579.55.

  • United States
    • $2.55 per gallon
    • Ankorage, Alaska >> Canadian Border (Beaver Creek): 407 miles
    • Canadian Border (Vancouver) >> Mexican Border (El Paso): 2,906 miles
    • Total Cost**: $167.96 USD
  • Canada
    • $3.51 per gallon
    • Alaskan border (Beaver Creek) >> Washington border (Vancouver): 1,836 miles
    • Total Cost**: $169.58
  • Mexico
    • $3.26 per gallon
    • US Border (El Paso) >> Belize Border (Chetumal): 1,952 miles
    • Total Cost: $167.46
  • Belize
    • $5.01 per gallon
    • Mexico Border (Chetumal) >> Guatemala Border (San Ignacio): 162 miles
    • Total Cost**: $21.35
  • Guatemala
    • $3.11 per gallon
    • Belize Border (San Ignacio) >> El Salvador Border via Antigua (Escuintla): 460 miles
    • Total Cost**: $37.64
  • El Salvador
    • $3.12 per gallon
    • Guatemala Border (Escuintla) >> Honduras Border (Pasaquina): 225 miles
    • Total Cost**: $18.47
  • Honduras
    • $3.83 per gallon
    • El Salvador Border (Pasaquina) >> Nicaragua Border (Somotillo): 82 miles
    • Total Cost: $8.26
  • Nicaragua
    • $3.54 per gallon
    • Honduras Border (Somotillo) >> Costa Rica Border (Sapoa): 203 miles
    • Total Cost**: $18.91
  • Costa Rica
    • $4.13 per gallon
    • Nicaragua Border (Sapoa) >> Panama Border (Aserrio): 324 miles
    • Total Cost**: $35.21
  • Panama
    • $2.90 per gallon
    • Costa Rica Border (Aserrio) >> Colon, Panama (Port to Colombia): 339 miles
    • Total Cost**: $25.87
  • Colombia
    • $2.78 per gallon
    • Cartagena (Shipping Port) >> Ecuador Border (Ipiales): 953 miles
    • Total Cost**: $69.71
  • Ecuador
    • $1.48 per gallon
    • Colombia Border (Ipiales) >> Peru Border (Macara): 595 miles
    • Total Cost**: $23.17
  • Peru
    • $3.83 per gallon
    • Ecuador Border (Macara) >> Bolivia Border via Cusco (Lake Titicaca): 1,714 miles
    • Total Cost**: $172.75
  • Bolivia
    • $1.98 per gallon
    • Peru Border (Lake Titicaca) >> Chile Border via Uyuni (Ollague): 524 miles
    • Total Cost**: $27.30
  • Chile
    • $4.57 per gallon
    • Bolivia Border (Ollague) >> Argentina Border via Santiago (Bariloche): 1,724 miles
    • Total Cost**: $207.33
  • Argentina
    • $4.52 per gallon
    • Chile Border (Bariloche) >> Ushuaia, Argentina via El Calafate: 1,511 miles
    • Ushuaia >> Beunos Aries: 1,924 miles
    • Total Cost**: $408.58

*Fuel averages used from http://www.globalpetrolprices.com/gasoline_prices/ as of February 2017
**Based on 38 miles per gallon.
Top

Hostel and daily cost of living per country

Staying in hostels can bring you both good and bad experiences. Some will have no working AC and cold showers, while others will be complete paradise. It is a gamble, but sometimes it is worth having a bed to relax in. Beware, though, that hostel costs add up over time and can really damage your budget. Camp as much as you can to be budget conscious, especially in the high hostel cost countries. The below hostel rates are based on one person using a dorm and cost of living considers cheap food / cooking and minor tourist activities. For a private room, double the hostel cost. Total cost is figured from only driving 150 miles per day, with a minimum of two nights in a country. Given the mileage prediction of each country previously, the final total comes to $4,790 for 125 days.

  • United States
    • Hostel Cost*: $25
    • Cost of Living*: $40
    • Total Cost**: $1,430 (22 days)
  • Canada
    • Hostel Cost*: $25
    • Cost of Living*: $35
    • Total Cost**: $720 (12 days)
  • Mexico
    • Hostel Cost*: $8
    • Cost of Living*: $15
    • Total Cost**: $299 (13 days)
  • Belize
    • Hostel Cost*: $14
    • Cost of Living*: $15
    • Total Cost**: $58 (2 days)
  • Guatemala
    • Hostel Cost*: $13
    • Cost of Living*: $14
    • Total Cost**: $81 (3 days)
  • El Salvador
    • Hostel Cost*: $9
    • Cost of Living*: $10
    • Total Cost**: $38 (2 days)
  • Honduras
    • Hostel Cost*: $10
    • Cost of Living*: $12
    • Total Cost**: $44 (2 days)
  • Nicaragua
    • Hostel Cost*: $11
    • Cost of Living*: $16
    • Total Cost**: $54 (2 days)
  • Costa Rica
    • Hostel Cost*: $14
    • Cost of Living*: $18
    • Total Cost**: $96 (3 days)
  • Panama
    • Hostel Cost*: $14
    • Cost of Living*: $18
    • Total Cost**: $96 (3 days)
  • Colombia
    • Hostel Cost*: $9
    • Cost of Living*: $12
    • Total Cost**: $126 (6 days)
  • Ecuador
    • Hostel Cost*: $8
    • Cost of Living*: $11
    • Total Cost**: $76 (4 days)
  • Peru
    • Hostel Cost*: $8
    • Cost of Living*: $9
    • Total Cost**: $204 (12 days)
  • Bolivia
    • Hostel Cost*: $8
    • Cost of Living*: $9
    • Total Cost**: $68 (4 days)
  • Chile
    • Hostel Cost*: $15
    • Cost of Living*: $25
    • Total Cost**: $480 (12 days)
  • Argentina
    • Hostel Cost*: $15
    • Cost of Living*: $25
    • Total Cost**: $920 (23 days)

*Estimates based on data from Lonely Planet and personal experience
**Total cost is based on driving 150 miles a day, from the 17,841 calculated for the most direct path. Two day minimum calculation per country.
Top

Shipping costs

Depending on your path, you could be looking at shipping 2-3 times (to the US, across the Darien Gap, and back home). Shipping is always a large cost and if done wrong you could face frustration and extra fees. It is always best to shop around and request quotes well in advance. I provide more detail and recommendations here, but the average cost is $1,300 to ship across the Darien Gap and around $1,500 to transport back to the US from Buenos Aires. So consider shipping costs when planning your budget.

Top

Expected maintenance

Oil changes, new tires, and milestone maintenance will add up. Typically a pair of tires will last you for 7,000 miles (front longer), so you can expect to at least go through 3 sets of tires. Depending on your location, tire availability could be difficult or expensive, so plan ahead of time. I have found a pair of good Continental tires for $150 on this trip, so consider ~$500 for tire costs. Oil changes are very volatile in cost. I have paid as high as $20 per liter and as low as $3. Shop the prices as you travel, possibly extending a little further beyond your change window if needed.

Overall, be aware of your current mileage on the motorcycle and what expected costs will incur over a 17,000+ mile trip. Just don’t forget about unexpected costs either (I needed a new battery, fork seals, front rim, and much more with hard riding).

Top

Earning money while traveling

WorkAway.com: While I personally have no experience in this, a lot of travelers utilize Work Away International to gain international work expereience, learn the culture, and make money while traveling. There are requirements and expectations set, as well as a membership fee, but with proper utilization the journey can continue.

Hostel Work: If you hit a hard spot or just want to relax in one area ask around at the local hostels if they are looking for workers. It helps if you are bilingual, but they generally will take an English speaker as most tourists speak English. Sometimes the pay is free accommodation and roughly enough for food and a little more, but it gives you time to work on other projects or just recover with a sense of work purpose and extra cash.

Fiverr.com: Have a special skill that you can do online or remotely? Fiverr and other similar websites connect users to request and sell online services. Users post a request that starts at $5, but more advanced requests will cost more. Give the website a search to understand what skills the Internet is demanding.

Article / Blog Writing: This can be hard to break into, but over time you can gain a large amount of followers that can bring you advertisement revenue. Or outsource your writing ability and experiences to a travel or motorcycle website / magazine.

Top

Saving money while traveling

Camping: After looking at the average budget costs above, it is obvious that less time spent in a hostel or expensive country will greatly improve your budget. Camping supplies can be expensive upfront, but they will pay for themselves fairly quickly after a month or so of camping rather than staying in a hostel. After they pay for themselves, you are then truly have free nights in beautiful locations throughout the world in nature. Use iOverlander to help find free campsites.

Food and Drinks: While generally it is always cheaper to cook for yourself, in some areas it might be more cost effective to eat out rather than cook for yourself. For example, in Peru cooking for yourself would cost about $6 a meal but for $3 you could have the ‘menu of the day’ which is typically soup, rice, meat, salad, and a drink. So be aware of restaurant costs vs groceries. If you are looking for a drink, always try to drink the cheap local product. Imports can be pretty expensive and add up rather quickly.

Couch Surfing: Reach out and do some Couch Surfing. Not only does this save you money, but it exposes you to the local culture and gives you some wonderful experiences.

Avoid Money Changers: If you are using a debit card that refunds any fees, use ATM’s to get local currency. To manage currency properly, don’t withdraw a large amount at a time. If you are about to exit a country, try to spend the last of the money on filling up gas. Money changers can be haggled with for a better rate, but be aware that some have manipulated calculators that provide a false exchange rate. Do the math yourself.

Top