Wind and Whim’s 2021 Full-Time Travel Costs: Hungary

Are you wondering how much it costs to travel the world full-time? Then you are in luck. It’s that time of year when I summarize and share our full-time travel costs for the previous year.

Because of the pandemic, we spent all of 2021 in Hungary. Even though our 2021 costs are not representative of our usual travel costs, I decided to share them in the interest of continuity, just as I did for 2020.

A Little Background

My husband Steve and I are from Jacksonville, Florida. We are retired and travel full-time. We began in 2018. You can see a list of the cities and countries we have visited here. Before the pandemic, we would usually spend four weeks in each location.

How Did We End Up in Hungary?

We began 2020 with a ski trip to Bansko, Bulgaria. Not only was the skiing disappointing, but instead of staying one month, we were there for nine weeks while Steve recovered from a serious skiing accident. You can read about that experience in “Hospitalized in Bulgaria.”

You may also enjoy “Bansko, Bulgaria: Not the Trip We’d Hoped For” and “The Pros and Cons of Skiing in Bansko, Bulgaria.”

Steve was able to travel by mid-March. The pandemic was in its early stages, and we had to decide whether to stay in Europe or return to the U.S. We decided to stay in Europe since the long trip back to the U.S. would have been difficult for Steve. We headed to Budapest, the next destination on our itinerary. We’ve been here ever since.

SSDY (Same Stuff, Different Year)

By the end of 2020, we were hoping the pandemic would end in the early part of 2021, and we could all return to normal. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way. As the pandemic held tight, we renewed our residence permits for another year. This allows us to stay in Hungary until July 2022.

Hungary shut down all but essential services from November 2020 through April 2021. Being locked down for the first four months of 2021 meant lower food, transportation, and activity costs. Once the country opened up and we were vaccinated, we made up for lost time by exploring Hungary.

Are We Glad We Stayed in Europe?

As we wait for the world to open, I often think about our decision to stay in Budapest instead of returning to the U.S. at the start of the pandemic. Both Steve and I have repeatedly said that if we are going to be “stuck,” it’s a great place to be stuck.

In Budapest we can live less expensively than in the U.S. and don’t need a car. If we had returned to Jacksonville, we would have had to rent a car and probably would have ended up buying one when it became apparent we would be staying a while. And when it is time to resume our travels, we are already where we want to be. No Transatlantic flights required.

Four-photo collage of Budapest sites

It’s easy to fall in love with this beautiful city on the Danube (clockwise from upper left: the Chain Bridge, Fishermans Bastion, Vaci Street, Szechenyi Baths)

As hard as this pandemic has been on everyone, I think Steve and I will look back to our time in Budapest fondly.

Here are some posts about this beautiful city:
“The Beauty of Budapest in 50 Photos”
“The Funky Side of Budapest”
“20 Quick and Cool Things to See and Do in Budapest”
“Budapest’s Marvelous Margaret Island”

So let’s get to it. What did we budget, and what did we spend?

Money Stuff

Our 2021 Costs by Category

Here it is: we budgeted $47,900 for travel and spent $42,300. Our cost per day was $116.

CategoryCostBudgetOver (Under) Budget
Lodging$18,700$16,800
$1,900
Food$13,000$14,400($1,400)
Insurance$3,200$2,700$500
Transportation
$2,900$6,000($3,100)
Activities$1,000$5,500($4,500)
Visas$9000$900
Medical$700$1,200($500)
Office Related$600$300$300
Telephone$500
$500
0
Website$500$300$200
Other$300$200$100
Total$42,300$47,900
($5,600)

Don’t let these numbers scare you. Our style of travel is higher than backpacker level and lower than luxury level. I would classify it as three-star. If you are considering full-time or long-term travel, you can do it for much less. There are tools and posts that can give you more insight into the cost of travel in the Ways to Travel for Less section.

A Few Notes About This Data

* all costs are in U.S. dollars
* all costs are for two people
* it only includes expenses directly related to travel

The following items are not included:
* stateside medical insurance
* routine prescriptions
* base cost of our AT&T cell phone plan
* storage of our possessions in the U.S.
* clothing (unless purchased for a specific reason like ski wear)

Budget Variances

Where We Were Over Budget

Lodging – by $1,900. We were able to stay under our $1,400 per month budget for our accommodations in Budapest. We ate up that savings and then some by spending $2,900 on hotel stays during our side trips (more on that below) and $1,400 for a place for our daughters to stay while visiting us for two weeks since the four of us would have been crowded in our apartment.

Elegant living room in Budapest

The living room of our daughters’ Airbnb

Insurance – by $500. This includes any insurance we purchase related to travel.

There are two items in this category: our annual evacuation policy from Medjet and travel health insurance from SafetyWing.

The Medjet policy costs us $1,100 per year.

We added SafetyWing Nomad Insurance for Steve in 2021 since he had turned 65 and had to go on Medicare. That meant that he no longer had coverage outside of the U.S. as he did with his Florida Blue policy. A condition of our residence permits is that we have medical insurance that will cover us in Hungary.

Our budget was $1,600 for this. The total cost was $2,100 because we added a policy for me at the end of 2021 in anticipation of losing my Florida Blue coverage since I am turning 65 early in 2022.

The good news is if you are younger than us, you will pay less for SafetyWing. Coverage for people under forty is only $42 for four weeks as of this writing.

You can learn more about the ins and outs of medical care while traveling in “Medical Care on the Road.”

Visas – by $900. We did not budget for this. When we applied for our first residence permit in 2020, we did it ourselves. It was stressful and required three trips to the government office, where we sat for hours and hours. This time we hired a firm to expedite the process. We used nVisa and were very happy with them. We were in and out of the office within an hour. Were we happy spending an unplanned $900? No. But in this case, it was worth it to save our sanity.

Office Related Items– by $300. $150 was for a printer for our daughter so she can scan mail for us. $90 was for the mailing of items like new credit cards. The remaining $60 was for miscellaneous copies, photos, and supplies.

Website – by $200. I have added two tools that are helpful while working on this website. They were not budgeted but are worth the additional expense. They are the premium version of Grammarly, which catches all sorts of errors and makes helpful suggestions ($140 per year), and the premium version of Rank Math Pro for SEO guidance ($59 per year). Both of these have a free version.

Other – over by $100. This includes things like currency exchange charges and laundry. Both are items we avoid whenever possible.

Where We Were Under Budget

Food – under by $1,400 since we ate at home for the first half of the year.

Transportation – under by $3,100. Being unable to travel the first half of the year saved us tons. The $2,900 spent on transportation includes $1,800 for our daughters’ round trip flights from Orlando, $1,000 on bus, train, and metro tickets and $100 for lounge access when our daughters’ flight was delayed twelve hours.

Activities – under by $4,500. Again, because of the lockdown.

Medical – under budget by $500. This is the hardest category to budget. We estimated costs of $1,200.

Our actual costs were $1,600:
$1,300 on annual medical plans for both of us with FirstMed, a private health care provider with English-speaking staff and $300 for Covid testing for our daughters’ visit.

These were offset by reimbursements of $900 from Florida Blue for some of our 2020 overseas expenses, resulting in a net expense of $700.

The FirstMed plan covers primary and specialty visits, annual exams including a dental exam and an eye exam, and some vaccines. When it became apparent we would be here long-term, it made sense to get the plan. It is definitely less costly than paying for each visit.

If you need medical care in Budapest, we recommend FirstMed. They offer all their services in one location. Our doctors have been excellent, and communication has been flawless.

Side Trips And A Family Visit

Side trips can be a lot of fun, especially after you’ve been cooped up. But they can be budget busters, too.

This table shows our daily cost while in Budapest, on side trips to five Hungarian towns, and during our daughters’ visit:

LocationTotal CostDaysCost per Day
Budapest$31,700329$96
Aquaworld Resort$1,7009$189
Hévíz$5002$250
Veszprém and Székesfehérvár$1,1005$220
Eger and Lillafüred$1,6006$267
Daughters’ Visit$5,70014$407
Totals$42,300365$116
Budget$47,900365$131

As you can see, we spent more than twice as much per day on side trips than we did while in Budapest.

These trips put us over budget for lodging since we were paying rent in Budapest and also paying for hotel stays. We also chose more luxurious hotel rooms than we usually do.

Once we were vaccinated, we quickly discovered a love of the thermal baths prevalent in Hungary. We visited Aquaworld Resort Budapest in July and enjoyed it so much we went back three more times. You can read about our first visit in “3 Carefree Days at Aquaworld Budapest.” Every subsequent visit has been just as enjoyable.

We also took side trips to several Hungarian towns where we enjoyed sightseeing, more thermal baths, luxurious lodgings, and fantastic food. You can read about one of those trips in “Eger and Egerszalók: A Great Hungarian Getaway.”

We loved exploring Bory Castle, an art-filled private home turned museum in Székesfehérvár.

Bory Castle in Székesfehérvár, Hungary

Bory Castle in Székesfehérvár, Hungary

In December, we had the pleasure of spending two weeks with our daughters, Stephanie and Laura. We hadn’t seen them in two years, so every moment together was special.

Our time with our daughters included a two-night stay at Aquaworld, a visit to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, and a lot of good food. The dining highlight was an Advent brunch at Lang Bistro and Grill in the Budapest Hilton Hotel.

People in the Szechenyi Baths

Steve and our daughter, Stephanie, in the Szechenyi Baths on a winter day

Comparison to Previous Years

Here is a look back on our expenses since we started traveling full-time in 2018.

YearAnnualized CostDays in YearCost per Day
2018$58,400365$160
2019$52,900365$145
2020$41,700366$114
2021$42,300365$116

We spent the most per day in 2018 because of a 15-day cruise and a pricey three-day trip to London for four people. Our inexperience led to some costly choices as well.

I feel that the $145 we spent per day for 2019 is the most representative of what we should expect when we are not in a pandemic.

2020 and 2021 daily costs were low at $114 and $116, respectively. As hard as shut-downs and pandemics are, there is no denying they are kind to the wallet.

Click here for more information on our 2018, 2019, and 2020 travel costs.

How We Travel

Lodging – We rely on Airbnb to provide us with temporary homes at affordable prices. After a few less-than-lovely accommodations in 2018, we upped our lodging budget from $1,000 per month to $1,400 per month. You can read about our rough start with Airbnb and how we learned to find wonderful accommodations in “5 Tips for Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals.”

We stayed in two apartments in 2021. Both were clean, comfortable, and stylish. Both had a kitchen, two bedrooms, a dishwasher, and a clothes washer.

The first was an Airbnb that we renewed monthly. For less than $1,000 per month, we had a living room, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms, and one and a half baths. It also had more storage space than any apartment we have ever stayed in.

Large, sunny living room in apartment

The living room of our first apartment of 2021. Every room was spacious.

We had to move in the spring because we needed a long-term rental in order to get residence permits. We moved smack dab into the center of the city. This apartment costs a bit more because of its desirable locations but is still under our $1,400 per month budget.

Eclectic living room

Our home until July 2022.

And you can’t beat the views from our 8th-floor windows.

Sunset view and daytime view over Budapest

We love our sunset and city views

You can see that you get a lot of bang for your buck in Budapest. Of course, you can spend less and still get a clean, comfortable, and safe place to stay.

Food – I’ll be frank, we eat well. Once we were free to visit restaurants, we ate about a quarter of our lunches and dinners out.

Collage of four restaurant dishes in Budapest

Clockwise from upper left: recovery breakfast at Circusz, fajitas at Tereza, appetizer at Okay Italia, and stuffed cabbage at Kiskakukk

Transportation – We take advantage of public transportation whenever we can. In four years of travel, we have only needed to rent a car outside of the U.S. for two weeks. We have found it easy to get around without a car, especially in Europe.

Insurance – The only travel-related insurance we always have is evacuation insurance from Medjet. Getting other insurance depends on the specific situation, such as when it is required to get a visa.

Ways to Travel for Less

There are many ways to travel for less than we do and still have an amazing trip.

Cut accommodation costs – Airbnb is a good option. Even more economical options include housesitting, hostels, and staying with friends and relatives. Couchsurfing is often mentioned when discussing budget travel, but the leading player, Couchsurfing.com, is going through some growing pains. You can read about that here.

Travel slowly – This keeps the transportation costs down and allows you to take advantage of discounts on Airbnb for long-term stays. It also gives you a chance to immerse yourself in a place.

Use public transportation whenever possible – It isn’t glamorous and can sometimes be uncomfortably crowded, but in many places, it is a quick, convenient, and inexpensive way to get around.

Visit less expensive places – The two links below can help you find the places that will help stretch your dollar (or euro, or peso, or whatever). If you don’t want to do all-budget travel, you can balance expensive places like France and the Galapagos Islands with less costly places like Romania and Croatia, as we have.

Plan side trips wisely – You can limit the number of side trips you take, consider day trips when possible, or tack a short trip on the end of a longer one to avoid paying lodging costs at two places at once.

Budgeting Resources

Here is a website that can show you what you can expect to spend while visiting various countries and cities. Budget Your Trip lets you choose your destination, trip duration, and travel style.

My Funky Travel has a detailed post titled “Backpacking Costs in Different Countries.” It lists countries from the cheapest to the most expensive, and many countries have more detailed information available.

So What Does It Cost to Travel Full-Time for One Year?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. To complicate matters, travelers now have to deal with Covid testing and the possibility of a quarantine. And I would caution that having medical coverage while traveling is important, particularly for those who can’t afford to pay out of pocket.

Here are two blog posts in which travelers share their full-time travel costs:

Earth Trekkers discusses their costs for their 13-month trip in “How Much Does It Cost to Travel Around the World?”

Shannon at A Little Adrift did an impressive job of detailing her costs for full-time travel in “How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World for a Year? (2022 ).”

Here is an excerpt from her post:

“Generally, $20,000 is the baseline cost for a trip around the world for one person for one year. This estimation falls in line with popular recommendations that budget travelers can spend an average of $50 a day on the road, and allows additional budget for flights and vaccines.”


So there you have it. Could you do it for less? Probably. It all depends on how you plan and what you are willing to sacrifice.

There are some far-out suggestions on how to save money while traveling, such as sneaking into hostels (NO!) and eating other people’s leftovers (EEW!). It also means there isn’t as much room for errors and unexpected problems.

What’s In Store for Us in 2022?

Life seems to be slowly returning to normal. Like everyone else, we are anxious to get moving again. Once our lease is up in July, we hope to resume our original travel routine of spending four weeks in each location. Where will that be? We have no idea.

Until then, we will take side trips while keeping a home base in Budapest. One possibility is a trip to Vienna, which is just two and a half hours away by train. Another possibility is Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It is also two and a half hours away by train. There are several more towns in Hungary to explore, too.

Until Next Time

I hope that this has been helpful. If you have any questions about full-time travel costs or what it’s like to travel full-time, please don’t hesitate to ask.

If you are a frequent or full-time traveler, Steve and I would love to hear how the pandemic has affected your travel plans and your travel expenses.

Stay safe and healthy,
Linda

Featured image by FotoEmotions on Pixabay.com

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Wind and Whim’s 2020 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe

What can I say about the year we just had? No words can adequately express the sorrow of the almost two million lives lost, the lingering health impacts suffered by the long haulers, and the economic and mental costs COVID-19 has wrought.

I will not complain about having to hunker down in Hungary for 9 1/2 months out of the year. Steve and I are fortunate on so many fronts. We are retired, so there was no worry about how to work safely and effectively. We managed to remain healthy, even though it meant much more isolation than we would have liked. Our daughters are adults, so there were no issues with schooling. And we spent our time in Budapest, which is beautiful and affordable.

The Chain Bridge and Pest from the Buda side
The iconic Chain Bridge and the Pest side of Budapest

Even though 2020 is not representative of our usual travel costs, I decided to share them in the interest of continuity.

Man Plans, God Laughs

Ironically, our third year of travel was the first one in which we made an itinerary. We prefer to wing it (hence the name of this blog) but hoped to have our daughters visit us during the year. Therefore, we laid out where we would go so they could choose their destinations and make plans. We all know how that turned out.

After starting the year with a ski trip to Bansko, Bulgaria, we planned to go to Ukraine (including a dark tourism trip to the Chernobyl site), Budapest, Krakow, Prague, the U.K. (including a ten-day walk through Yorkshire and the Lake District), Italy, and a two-week cruise back to the U.S.

Instead, we spent nine weeks in Bansko as Steve recovered from his skiing accident. Then we headed to Budapest, Hungary, as the country and many others went into lockdown. We ended up staying for the entire year.

The Budget

Our budget has two parts:

* a simple three-item budget for every four weeks of travel
* an annual budget for items that span the year, like evacuation insurance

In the past, we scheduled most of our stops in four-week intervals. Our four-week budget is designed to be simple and breaks down like this:

ItemBudget
Lodging$1,500
Food$1,300
Transportation
& Activities
$1,000
Total$3,800

We spent 356 days away from Jacksonville in 2020. That means our four-week budget translates to $48,600 for travel in 2020 (the four-week budget of $3,800 divided by 28 days in four weeks times 356 travel days).

In addition, we have general costs that cover us all year. This includes:

* evacuation insurance through MedJet
* a virtual mailbox service with Traveling Mailbox
* a VPN service through ExpressVPN
* international drivers’ licenses
* travel supplies

The budget for general costs was $2,600.

This makes the total budget for 2020 $51,200.

You may wonder why there are only three categories in the four-week budget. While we incur costs for other items like SIM cards, medical care, or kitchen tools, the amounts tend to be small and hard to predict. We try to stay under the budget for the three categories, which leaves funds to cover the smaller expenses.

You may also wonder why I do not include our expenses when we return to our home city of Jacksonville, Florida. This is because what we spend in Jacksonville isn’t indicative of what a traveler would spend. While we are back in Jacksonville, we are Mom and Dad, not world travelers.

So What Were Our 2020 Travel Cost?

Here are our costs by category:

CategoryCost
Lodging$16,700
Food$12,800
Medical$4,500
Activities$2,300
Transportation$2,000
Telephone$700
Office Related$600
Supplies$400
Other$700
Total$40,700

As you can see, we spent $40,700 traveling this year.

Here is the detail of our actual and budgeted costs and the variances by location:

Location
Actual Cost
BudgetOver (Under) Budget
Bansko, Bulgaria$10,500$8,600

$1,900

Budapest, Hungary$27,800$40,000($12,200)
General Costs$2,400$2,600($200)
Totals$40,700$51,200($10,500)


Travel days358358358
Cost per day$114$143$29

Our budget allows for spending of $143 per day. We spent only $114 per day.

A few notes about this data:

* all costs are in U.S. dollars
* all costs are for two people
* it only includes expenses directly related to travel

The following items are not included:
* stateside medical insurance
* visits to doctors in the U.S.
* prescriptions purchased in the U.S.
* base cost of our AT&T cell phone plan
* storage of our possessions in the U.S.
* clothing (unless purchased for a specific reason like ski wear)

Notes On Budget Variances
We were over budget in:

Bansko, Bulgaria – We were over budget by $2,000 in Bansko. These costs are related to Steve’s skiing accident:
* medical expenses not covered by insurance $500
* non-refundable Kyiv, Ukraine expenses $900
* taxis to and from hospital $200
* daily charge for AT&T SIM card usage $100
* ski supplies $200

A mountain peak seen from a city street
A peak of the Pirin Mountains in Bansko that is used for skiing

We were under budget in:

Budapest, Hungary – we were under budget by an astounding $12,000 for the 9 1/2 months we spent in Budapest in 2020.

We saved $3,000 on accommodations. You can get some great deals when there is little demand.

We saved $4,000 on food. We did not find the food prices in Budapest to be a bargain, but the fact that restaurants were closed for half of the time we were here kept more $$$ in our pockets.

We saved an incredible $9,000 on transportation and activity costs. We usually move to a new city every four weeks. Because we remained in one city for so long and museums and attractions, like restaurants, were closed for half the time, we saw huge savings.

Some of the money we saved was spent on medical costs to the tune of $3,000.

* $1,500 of this for prescriptions filled here
* $1,200 for private medical insurance for one year at FirstMed.

We purchased medical insurance when it became obvious that we would be here a while. For $50 per month per person, it gives us numerous medical services at no extra cost.

Our Budapest costs include two side trips: the first to Szentendre and Visegrád for two nights and the second to Balatonfüred for three nights. The cost for these two trips totaled $1,000.

Sun reflecting off a lake
The beautiful Lake Balaton on an October morning

A Look at Our Spending Per Day

Our budget allows for spending of $143 per day. We spent only $114 per day. Here are our 2020 daily costs by location:

LocationTotal CostDaysCost per Day
Bansko, Bulgaria$10,50063$167
Budapest, Hungary$27,800295$94
General Expenses$2,400358$7
Totals$40,700358$114
Budget$51,200358$143

How We Travel

Our style of travel was higher than backpacker level and definitely under luxury level. I would classify it as three-star.

Our lodgings were clean and comfortable, often stylish, and always had a kitchen and a separate bedroom. Most of them had a clothes washer.

Stylish kitchen
The kitchen in our first Budapest apartment

Our meals were either cooked at home or eaten in mid-level restaurants.

Comparison to Past Years

Since the number of days we travel (as opposed to being in Jacksonville) varies, the best way to compare the years is by annualizing the cost. I do this by taking the actual daily cost while traveling and multiplying it by the number of days in the year.

YearCost per DayDays in YearAnnualized Cost
2018$160365$58,400
2019$145365$52,900
2020$114366$41,700

Click here for more information on our 2018 and 2019 travel costs.

You can learn more about the ins and outs of full-time travel, including more information on costs, in our post 12 Full-Time Travel Questions Answered.

Looking Forward

We plan to stay in Budapest for the immediate future. We are allowed to remain in Hungary until mid-July 2021. Hopefully, the pandemic will be under control by then, and we can move on. If not, we will probably apply to extend our residence permit.

Thanks for reading. We would love to know what you think!

Stay safe and healthy,
Linda

Featured image by Ursula Schneider on Pixabay.com

Wind and Whim’s 2019 Full-Time Travel Costs: Latin America

With our second year of full-time travel under our belts, it is time for a recap. This post details our Latin America travel costs from February through November of 2019.

When Steve and I first toyed with the idea of traveling the world full-time I was very grateful to Never Ending Voyage and A Little Adrift along with other bloggers who generously shared their travel costs on their blogs.  It is my hope that seeing how affordable and attainable full-time travel can be will inspire you.

Why We Picked Latin America

After returning to Florida in December 2018 we assumed we would spend 2019 continuing to explore various cities in Europe. Then we watched the stock market take a nosedive during the month of December to finish the worst year in ten years.

Knowing that many parts of Europe and the U.K. can be expensive I checked out Price of Travel for an alternative. You can see their list of 137 cities ranked by how costly they are to visit.

The first half is dominated by cities in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. The bottom half contains cities primarily in Western Europe, the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. and Canada.

We decided that Latin America would be a fiscally responsible choice for 2019.

Since our travel philosophy is to go with the flow (hence the name Wind and Whim) we did not detail the locations or related costs. We knew we would start in San Juan, Costa Rica then visit Panama City. After that, it was anyone’s guess.

The Budget

We traveled internationally for eight months (243 days) in 2018 and spent $38,900. This averaged to $160 per day. You can read the details in this article.

We decided on a budget of $45,600 for 2019. This came out to $148 per day for the 309 days we were traveling.

We have been scheduling our stops in four-week intervals for the most part. Our basic four-week budget breaks down like this:

ItemBudget
Lodging$1,500
Food$1,300
Transportation
& Activities
$1,000
Total$3,800

In addition, we have annual costs like evacuation insurance, vaccinations, and international drivers licenses. You can see the total budget in the next table.

So What Did 10 Months Cost?

Here are the cities we visited with the actual and budgeted costs:

LocationActual CostBudgetOver (Under)
San Jose,
Costa Rica
$4,200$3,500$700
Panama City,
Panama
$2,900$3,500($600)
Cartagena,
Colombia
$3,700$3,800($100)
Galapagos Is.,
Ecuador
$5,500$5,000$500
Quito,
Ecuador
$2,400$3,100($700)
Cuenca,
Ecuador
$2,800$3,800($1,000)
Various Cities,
Peru
$6,100$3,800$2,300
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
$7,200$7,700($500)
Cordoba,
Argentina
$3,100$3,800($700)
Medellin,
Colombia
$4,000$3,800$200
Flight back to U.S.
$100$400($300)
General
Expenses
$2,900$3,400($500)
Totals$44,900$45,600($700)

As you can see we came in $700 under budget at $44,900. This is just over $145 per day.

General Expenses are items that cover the year or aren’t related to a specific place. This includes things like:
Evacuation insurance from MedJet  $1,100
Vaccinations $600
Supplies $500
Virtual mailbox subscription $200

Here is a breakdown of our costs by category:

CategoryCost
Lodging
$15,400
Food$13,600
Transportation$8,800
Activities$3,400
Supplies$500
Medical$2,200
Office Related$200
Telephone$500
Other$300
Total$44,900


We not only spent less per day than in 2018, but we stayed in budget!

A few notes about this analysis:

* All costs are in U.S. dollars.
* All costs are for two people.
* It only includes expenses directly related to travel.

The following items are not included:
* Stateside medical insurance
* Routine medications and visits to doctors
* Base cost of our AT&T cell phone plan
* Storage of our possessions in the U.S.

Our style of travel was higher than backpacker level and definitely under luxury level. I would classify it as three-star.

Our lodgings were clean and comfortable, often stylish, and almost always had a kitchen and a separate bedroom. Most of them had a clothes washer. Our meals were either cooked at home or eaten in mid-level restaurants.

A modern living room opened to a balcony
Our fantastic apartment in Medellin had two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and a huge balcony. It was only $1,350 for four weeks.

Cost By Location

LocationTotal CostDaysCost per Day
San Jose,
Costa Rica
$4,20028
$150


Panama City,
Panama
$2,900

28$104
Cartagena,
Colombia
$3,70028$132
Galapagos
Islands,
Ecuador
$5,50028$196
Quito,
Ecuador
$2,40028$86
Cuenca,
Ecuador
$2,80027$104
Peru Tour$6,10029$210
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
$7,20056$129
Cordoba,
Argentina
$3,10028$111
Medellin,
Colombia
$4,00028$143
Flight to U.S.*$100
1$100

Subtotals
$42,000309$136
General
Expenses

$2,900309$9
Totals$44,900
309$145

* The flight back to the U.S. was inexpensive because we used points from our Chase credit card. The full cost was $600 including baggage costs.

Notes On Budget Variances

We were over budget in:

San Juan, Costa Rica – because of two side trips We took two side trips to beaches while we were San Juan. One was to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast and the other to Jaco on the Pacific Coast. We enjoyed the change of pace at both of them. The total cost for 6 days was $1,600 or $267 per day.

A sloth with a baby hanging from a branch
Mama and baby sloth hanging out at our hotel in Puerto Viejo.

Man and woman throwing shaka sign
With my instructor in Puerto Viejo for my very first surf lesson.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – because of a side trip While visiting the islands we spent most of our time in Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz. In order to see more of the famed wildlife, we spent a few days in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.

The water taxi trip to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was a bit of a nightmare. The captain was trying to avoid an approaching storm. In spite of his best efforts about half of the 40 people on the boat got seasick. Fortunately, the trip back to Santa Cruz Island was much smoother. Even so, the experience made us decide not to visit any more islands.

In spite of the rocky boat ride, we enjoyed our three days in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno which included two hikes to secluded beaches and a few cool experiences in town.

A woman and a sea lion on a beach
A morning hike led us to La Loberia where it was just us and the sea lions.

These 3 days cost $688 or $229 per day

It is well known that visiting the Galápagos Islands is expensive so we budgeted extra for it. We spent four weeks there and feel that it was far too long. You can read about our experiences in “Is A Land-Based Galapagos Trip Right for You?

Peru Tour – because of  a bus tour, a visit to Machu Picchu, and the flight from Cuenca to Lima

Our four weeks in Peru cost $6,100, $600 more than our four weeks in the Galapagos. The reason for this was that we started in Lima, spent 19 days visiting various towns in Peru, and went to Machu Picchu.

At $900, our flight from Cuenca to Lima was the most expensive we have had since we started traveling. From there we took a Peru Hop tour bus which went from Lima to Cusco, a distance of 685 miles or 1,100 km.

The Peru Hop tour lets you chose among several routes and spend as little or as much time as you want in each city. We spent 18 days in a total of 5 cities before heading to Machu Picchu.

The tour took us to several towns we would never have visited on our own including Paracas and Huacachina, an oasis town that introduced us to dune surfing.

A small lake surrounded by palm trees and sand dunes
We had never seen anything like the oasis town of Huacachina, Peru.

Even though we ended up spending sixteen hours in a decrepit little town in Peru because of a protest I would recommend Peru Hop. You can read about our experience with the protest, which included using the worst restroom we have ever seen in “Stranded on the Road in Peru.

Peru Hop and Machu Picchu Costs

ItemCost
Flight to Lima$900
Peru Hop bus$400
Train to Machu
Picchu Town
$300
Machu Picchu tour$300
Accommodations
$1,400
Food$1,000
Total$4,300

The remaining time in Peru was spent in Lima and averaged $160 per day.

We were under budget in:

Panama City, Panama – because of a great deal on lodging  The cost was lower here because we got a great deal on an apartment in a new complex. We paid only $700 for four weeks in a one-bedroom apartment with a washer and dryer in a golf community.

The downside was that it was about 15 minutes from the city and we had to take a taxi everywhere even the grocery store.

Sunrise over a golf course
Sunrise over Panama City and the Panama Canal as seen from our balcony.

Quito, Ecuador – because of illness Both Steve and I felt a little ill not long after we arrived in Quito. At first, we thought it was altitude sickness, but when it lingered for more than a week we determined it was intestinal. I love being under budget, but not for this reason.

Cuenca, Ecuador -because of an inexpensive apartment, low transportation costs, and low activity costs

Since we went to Cuenca from Ecuador the flight was inexpensive ($100). From what we saw, flights within a country were inexpensive, while flights between countries were not.

We found the town to be very walkable. Tours, taxis, and food were all inexpensive. Cuenca is a popular place for U.S. citizens to retire, partly because the cost of living is low.

Buenos Aires – a two-month stay meant lower transportation costs

Both lodging and food were considerably less expensive than you might expect in a city that is nicknamed the Paris of South America. There wasn’t anything in Buenos Aires that we considered expensive.

Our time in Buenos Aires we took a side trip to Iguazu Falls. At $400 per day, this was our most expensive side trip because it involved flying from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu. Even so, it was well worth it.

Crowds of people on a boardwalk at Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Our side trip to Iguazu Falls was definitely worth it.

Cordoba, Argentina – because of low food, transportation, and activity costs

The first reason our expenses were low in Cordoba was that we ate most of our dinners at home because almost all the restaurants closed from late afternoon until 8:00 or 9:00 pm. The second reason is that we went to Cordoba from Buenos Aires so the cost to fly was low. And the third reason was that our activity costs were low because quite frankly there wasn’t a lot to do in Cordoba.

While in Cordoba we took a five-day side trip to the small towns of La Cumbrecita and Villa General Belgrano. The daily cost was only $130 and included 3 days at a spa.

Was It Worth It?

Absolutely!

Latin America was not at the top of our list before December 2018, and in the beginning, we didn’t love it. But we stuck with it and fell in love with several places including Buenos Aires and Medellin.

Machu Picchu was an experience of a lifetime and worth the effort and expense to get there. It is truly a magical place.

Even the places we didn’t love so much had many positives and I am glad to have experienced them.

We came home with many happy memories and a few scary ones. Best of all, we met so many friendly and inspiring people along the way.

Further Reading

You can see what we spent during our first 8 months of full-time travel in Europe in 2018 in “Wind and Whim’s 2018 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe.

Also check out “Our Top 10 Latin American Travel Experiences.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured image by Jason Leung on Unsplash.com

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Wind and Whim’s 2018 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe

You may be wondering what it costs to travel the world full-time. I think you will be surprised to learn that it can be less costly than you think.

When Steve and I first toyed with the idea of traveling the world full-time we thought it might be a pipe dream. Our main concern was that it would be unaffordable. Then we researched world travel costs and found that many people are living a nomadic life and are generous enough to share information about their costs.

Seeing how affordable travel can be was the difference between having a dream and having a goal. Three and a half years later our goal became a reality.

Now we are happy to share our full-time travel costs in the hope that it will help others take the first step toward turning their dreams into reality.

The author’s daughters at a wedding reception
Leaving our daughters, Stephanie and Laura, was the hardest part.

The Budget

We originally set our budget at $3,000 per month. We then tacked on an additional $4,000 a year for general expenses such as supplies, travel insurance, and virtual mailbox service. This put our original budget at $40,000 per year ($36,000 + $4,000).

This budget included an average cost of $1,000 per month for lodging. After our experience with our Paris apartment, which you can read about in “5 Tips for Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals,” we upped the lodging budget to $1,500 per month. This put our monthly budget at $3,500 and our annual budget at $46,000 ($42,000 + $4,000).

All costs are in U.S. dollars. It is important to note that we are only including expenses that relate directly to travel. The following items are not included:
Stateside medical insurance
Routine medications
Base cost of our cell phone plan
Storage of our possessions in the U.S.
Gifts

It is also important to note that we do not have many of the expenses of daily life that we had when we lived in the U.S.  We sold our home and our cars, so we don’t have insurance, maintenance, or property tax expenses. We have no mortgage, rent, or car payments. For the most part, we are spending the money we would have been living on in the U.S. on travel.

The French Pavilion at Versailles
Mow the lawn or visit the French Pavilion at Versailles?

The Reality: Costs by Category

CategoryCost
Food$11,500
Lodging
11,100
Transportation8,000

Activities4,000
Supplies1,800
Medical1,000
Office Related700
Telephone300
Other500
Total$38,900

Our 2018 travels included a fifteen-day Transatlantic cruise with five ports of call and stays in fifteen foreign cities over eight months. As you can see, we spent $38,900 (just under $4,900 per month) during these eight months. Annualized this comes to $58,300. This was $12,300 higher than our annual budget of $46,000.

This is where I should write about how bad we feel for going over budget and vow to do better. But we don’t feel bad.  If we were putting our finances in jeopardy we would be expressing remorse. Steve and I are working closely with a financial advisor and he’s not worried, so neither are we. We made some conscious choices to spend more in certain cases, and we made a few mistakes. The bottom line is we reached our level of comfort and it costs $58,300 per year.

Our style of travel was higher than backpacker level and definitely under luxury level. I would classify it as three-star. Our lodgings were clean and comfortable, often stylish, and almost always had a kitchen and a separate bedroom. Most of them had a clothes washer. Our meals were either cooked at home or eaten in mid-level restaurants.

That being said, I believe a couple could travel for a year on $40,000. However, it would not be three-star all the time and would not include a Transatlantic cruise.

Five people in silly costumes walking on a boardwalk
You can see sights like this one in Sitges, Spain for free.

What These Expenses Include

Lodging – The cost of the cabin for the cruise is not included here.  The entire base cost of the cruise is included in transportation because we chose this method to get to Europe in lieu of flying.

Transportation – This includes all costs to get to each destination and fly back to the U.S. in November. It also includes the cost to travel within each city and the cost of a rental car for two weeks in Byala, Bulgaria.

Supplies – The largest cost here was a MacBook Air and accessories for $1,000. It is included as a travel cost because we would not have bought it if we weren’t traveling since we had a perfectly good desktop computer at home. This category also includes $350 for shoes and hiking boots. You can’t put a price tag on foot comfort. Clothing, in general, is not included, but if something was purchased specifically because we were traveling it is included. We also spent $54 to mail several items home from Strasbourg. According to other nomads, it is not uncommon to take too much when you start out.

Medical – This entire cost was for annual Medjet travel insurance coverage. This provides evacuation services in case of serious illness along with other protections. You can read a little about Medjet’s services in ”12 Trustworthy Travel Services and Apps” or visit their website. Vaccinations and medications needed for travel would be included here but we did not need any for this trip.

Office Related – The largest cost here was $199 for our annual virtual mailbox subscription through Traveling Mailbox Continue reading “Wind and Whim’s 2018 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe”