My name is Andrew Spencer, and I am a spreadsheet-o-holic.
It’s been approximately 3 hours since I last spreadsheet.
I meticulously track every single expense of my life to the cent.
I constantly have a wallet full of receipts due for processing.
I forecast my future cash flow.
Any variation from my future projected cash flow needs to be explained and documented in what the project manager inside of me wants to call a change request for unanticipated scope, while the sad guilty spreadsheet addict inside of me prefers to call justification of present Andrew happiness at the expense of future Andrew happiness.
Would I have more friends if I wasn’t constantly thinking about spreadsheets? Potentially.
Do people think it’s weird that I carry around a wad of receipts every where I go? Perhaps.
Has this unhealthy obsession caused me to be unable to relate to friends who are rampant present thinking consumers, pushing me one step closer to being a social outcast living in a cave growing a thick lustrous beard??? Most definitely.
But on the positive side, this unhealthy socially-ostracising addiction I have has allowed me to collect data about the cost of life in a variety of circumstances much in the way a 40 year old virgin collects postage stamps or spoons, and this is what I would like to share with you in this post.
Katie and I recently took a little over a year off work to travel around; seeing things, touching things, taking pictures of things, eating things, walking up things and then generally walking down things. We saw, touched or walked over these things in Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali and Australia.
I really wanted to gather our expenditure information while we were travelling to work out what it would cost to visit each of these countries again. I find that knowing this really motivates me to save money. When I look at my savings for the month, and work out that my monthly savings equals spending X weeks in Y country it’s really inspiring.
I broke all the costs incurred up into some simple categories so we had some visibility about where the money was going in each country.
Hopefully you find this information useful in planning budgets for travel.
The major lesson learnt from taking a year off to travel is the faster you go, the more money you spend. If you go slow it is a lot cheaper. I think a lot of tourists over commit to going to too many places in a short amount of time so they can put a lot of photos of themselves standing in front of things on the internet, their holiday ends up being more rushed and frantic than work and they really burn cash. Conspicuous consumption. I’m sure some of our costs below could have been a lot cheaper if we went a little slower.
Some notes about the figures for each country:
- The costs do not include the cost of flights etc to get to or leave the country. I’ve removed these because it depends upon where you are coming from as to how much it will cost. These can easily be looked up on Skyscanner or similar anyway.
- I have included all travel costs within each country, for example buses, trains, domestic flights.
- I have included any entry visa costs in the calculations. This was for an Australian citizen, if you’re not Australian it may be a little different.
- One Australian dollar was buying on average about 77 cents of a US dollar while we were travelling.
- PPD means per person per day. There were 2 of us, so there may be some economies of scale, however because sometimes a travelling couple needs some privacy we generally got private rooms in hostels, this is more expensive per person than sleeping in a dorm.
Argentina was our most expensive country on a cost per person per day basis. I put this down to it it being our first country, being completely unplanned and a very expensive flight from Iguazu Falls to El Calafate. We didn’t plan anything before getting here and our route was pretty bad, which equals expensive.
Some notes about how we lived and what activities we did in Argentina:
- We stayed in Hostels the whole time
- We had a very expensive flight from the north to the south
- We went to Iguazu Falls and the Perito Merino glacier
- We went on several walking tours
- We ate out for all meals
Chile was fantastic. It’s such a beautiful country.
- We did a 9 day guided bus tour from Santiago to the Atacama Desert and back to Santiago
- We did an awesome 9 day hike around Torres Del Paine sleeping in a tent, eating the same thing for 9 days, mmmmm spaghetti and tomato puree, never again.
- We stayed in hostels and sometimes camped in our hiking tent. A friend of mine Steve backpacked around Europe staying in a tent rather than in hostels and highly recommended it. Travelling like this has a lot going for it, it’s cheaper and more private.
- We cooked for ourselves mostly.
3. Dominican Republic
I spent a large amount of my time in the Dominican Republic confined to the bathroom. The moral of the story being, if the chicken doesn’t look cooked, it probably isn’t…
- We stayed in hostels the whole time
- We ate out for every meal
- I had a medical bill of a few hundred dollars, (something came out of me that looked a lot like a small see through prawn…)
We had a great time in the US. We hired a car for the entire time we were there and visited a lot of amazing national parks. The scenery is spectacular, and contrary to common opinion people in the US are some of the most friendly you’ll ever come across.
- We hired a car for the entire time.
- We drove 10,620 miles (17,901 km).
- We spent 27 nights in hotels / air bnb.
- There aren’t really any hostels in the US. We only stayed in one the entire time we were there.
- When we weren’t in hotels or air bnb we camped.
- We went to Florida, New Orleans, San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Yosemite, Death Valley, Big Sur, Lava Beds National Monument, Portland, Seattle.
- We did the general touristy things most places we went.
The west coast of Canada seemed to me the most similar to Australia out of all the countries I’ve been to, not from a scenery point of view, but the vibe. Maybe because they’re both British colonies, or maybe because they both have really vast open wilderness and a low population density with only a few major cities.
- We spent 10 nights staying at my mate Shane’s house at Whistler for free.
- I bought a 5 day lift pass to go mountain biking at Whistler – $275 AUD
- I hucked.
- We spent some time camping and hiking on Vancouver Island.
Vietnam is amazing. Friendly people, delicious food and amazing draught beer on the street. One night we drank delicious beer all night and it only cost 4 bucks. You’re almost losing money if you don’t drink all the delicious beer.
- We stayed in hostels
- We ate out for every meal with the exception being breakfast which was usually provided by the hostel
- We spent 2 nights/3 days on a boat in Halong Bay
- We took trains along the length of Vietnam from Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and a bus to Chau Doc
- We did a fair few activities in Vietnam including the Nha Trang theme park, the Cu Chi tunnel tour and a motorbike tour.
We had mixed emotions about Cambodia. We saw some beautiful things, but the locals weren’t that nice. I think it was exaggerated by how friendly everyone was in Vietnam. A few times locals told me to fuck off, and go back to my own country. We were only in the touristy places, and I have heard it’s better in the countryside.
- We stayed in hostels.
- We ate out for every meal
- We went to Angkor Wat, other temples and the killing fields.
I love Bali. Perfect surf, friendly people. One of my favourite places is Balangan Beach where you stay in little huts on the beach. Surf, eat nasi goreng, drink bin tang and repeat. It doesn’t get much more relaxed than that.
- We stayed in hostels.
- We ate out for every meal.
- We did a few touristy things, such as white water rafting and visiting the temple at Uluwatu.
Australia has a reputation as being an expensive country to travel in, and it is, if you stay in the cities and eat out and drink $10 beers. But if you buy (or have) a car, camp and cook for yourself it’s pretty cheap.
- We mostly camped at National Parks in QLD, NT and TAS. Camping in NSW and VIC is a fair bit more expensive.
- Occasionally we’d stop at a caravan park for a night to have a proper long shower, wash clothes and fill up the water tank.
- The transport cost includes the cost of boat fuel. If you don’t have a boat this will be a little cheaper.
- The miscellaneous cost included repairs to the boat trailer and other spare parts and camping accessories. If you’re completely prepared before you leave and your vehicle/trailer is strong enough for the roads you intend on driving on this cost will be less.
- We drove approximately 20,000km over 175 days for a total fuel cost of approximately $4000. This is the biggest expense by far, if you go slower the cost will be a lot cheaper.
So, that’s a lot of spreadsheet action, I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.
Anyway, after all that maths and thriftiness, here’s some photos.