Quest for World Suds-premacy

Some people’s motivation to travel is to try the different foods from around the world. I too have enjoyed the various dishes from different corners of the globe. However, I have never been a “foodie.” I like beer. I set out to try as many different beers as I could on this trip.

Variety is the spice of life they say so I only count each beer once. I have friends that drink 10 Heinekens on the weekend all year long. For this exercise, that counts as one beer. So before before people start saying I have a drinking problem understand I’m only having one or two beers a day. Actually, I do have a drinking problem, it is when I’m in a country and I can’t find any new beers.

With the help of the Untappd app I have been able to keep a very good record of my quest. To date I have had 752 unique beers in 461 days or an average of 1.63 different beers per day.


I have had at least one beer from 59 countries. I’ve only been to 40 countries so far so obviously I’ve been able to snag a few imports from neighboring nations. Here are the major contributors:

Germany- 121

USA- 65

Belgium- 57

Poland- 51

South Africa- 36

Turkey- 34

Netherlands- 29

England- 28

Brazil- 26

Czech Republic- 25

Romania- 25

Israel- 16

Slovakia- 14

Ukraine- 13



Bosnia- 12

France- 11

Italy- 11

Bulgaria- 10

Croatia- 10


Germany’s 121 seems like a big number but I didn’t even scratch the surface, I could easily get triple that number with minimal effort. Turkey on the other hand, 34 is about the best I could do. I looked high and low over a period of months and that was the best I could come up with. I also left a lot on the table, or bar in this case, in the USA, Czech Republic, and Belgium. I am pretty proud of my totals in Poland, South Africa, Romania, and Brazil. Italy is an interesting one as I had 11 but didn’t even enter the country.


I also like to try different styles, I’ve had 64 different type of beer. Here are some of the big ones:

Lager- 250+ (the app only tracks to 250)

Pilsner- 108

Hefeweizen- 39

Blond Ale- 32

Cider- 29

IPA- 28

Pale Ale- 25

Non-Alcoholic- 24

Radler- 21

Dunkelweizen- 17

Fruit Beer- 17

Dubbel/Tripel/Quad- 16

Amber/Red Ale- 16

Porter/Stout- 13

Bock- 13

Strong Ale- 12

Witbier- 11


Most people I meet on this trip know about my quest and often are very helpful in finding new beers, or least drinking with me. Some people will even come to me with questions as a “beer expert.” However, the most common question is, “What is your favorite?” I just can’t answer that, it is like picking your favorite family member.

The quest is far from over but I’ve already learned so much. Sit me down an a bar and I can most likely tell you where each beer is from and the style. Not sure this knowledge is useful but I’m having a blast doing it and that is the main goal.


Off the Tourist Trail

Places like London, Istanbul, Paris, and Dubai are fantastic places to visit. They are among the most popular tourist destinations in the world for good reason. I have visited each on this trip and enjoyed my time there.

Yet, I desire to be a little dissimilar and have different postcards on my figurative refrigerator. So I try to get a little more off the beaten path and explore underappreciated destinations. My extra effort has always been rewarded with amazing experiences in places I often can’t even pronounce.


Football (soccer) on the beach in Muscat

Muscat, Oman- I will admit that Dubai isn’t among my favorite places on earth. Yes, the buildings are cool to look at and the obvious wealth is quite impressive. However, unless you are a rich shopper there isn’t much substance behind the flash. It reminds me of Las Vegas, just without the gambling and drinking. However, just a few hours away is the capital of Oman. Muscat is also very modern and safe, not what you might think about when talking about Middle East travel. The seaside, the historical part of Muscat and the towering mosques all make a visit worthwhile. The people are also much friendlier than Dubai, there is not such a stuck up attitude.


Hello zebras!

Malkerns and Manzini, Swaziland- South Africa is quite possibly my favorite county I’ve visited of the 31 so far on this trip. Still, I had some preconceived idea of what sub-Saharan Africa should look like and South Africa wasn’t it. The game drives I went on in South Africa were truly breathtaking but after days with a group in a jeep for hours and hours I yearned to explore alone on foot. Swaziland was perfect solutions for these “issues.” Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary only has the hippo of the “Big Five” so I could hike for hours in relative safety. Although the park was home to several species of cobras, mambas, adders and a host of other venous snakes. Not to mention lakes dotted with large crocodiles and hippos. Although there were no big cats or elephants or other well-known safari animals the place was teeming with life. It was quite a rush to hike alone in silence and turn the corner only to be face-to-face with a zebra or wildebeest. The city of Mazini had all the sights and sounds that I pictured Africa to be including great food and kind people.


Mileștii Mici, over 125 miles of wine!

Moldova- Trivia question: Where can you find the biggest wine cellar in world? Moldova! You can probably find better wine in Italy, France or in the USA but for the value Moldova might have the best wine in the world. The quality of wine is quite good, but don’t take it from a beer guy like me. Queen Elizabeth and Jimmy Carter are both known to enjoy wine from Moldova. Toss away the wine in a box and grab bottle with a mid-1980s vintage for under $10! Plus, no one looks at you strange when you have several glasses of wine with breakfast.


Beach in Odessa

Odessa, Ukraine- I recently saw an article that was being passed around Facebook that ranked the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries in the World.” I had a hearty chuckle when I saw Ukraine made the list. Yes, there is an armed conflict going on in the northeast part of the country with thousands of dead. You might not have heard much about it, probably because they are not Muslims. Point it, it is very easy to avoid. Ukraine is a huge country. Odessa is an amazing city and 100% safe but many tourists don’t find it on their list. From the cultural gems such as the opera house to the relaxing beaches on the Black Sea to top quality restaurants, Odessa is a place that I won’t soon forget. If you know me, you know I look for value and I’m ready to declare Ukraine the best value in the whole of Europe! European Culture at sub South American prices, simply unbeatable!

As I pen this I sit in Sighisoara, Romania which also belongs on such a list but I’ll let the adventure fully unfurl before I commit it to paper.


Following the Impalas down the trail in Swaziland

How to Find Cheap Airfare

I do not consider myself an inspiration. I am just a regular guy who wanted to take a look around. Still, I’ve had many people tell me that I have inspired them. I’ve allegedly inspired them to travel more or to follow their dream, whatever that may be. After saying that, the next sentence is usually something like, “how did you do it?” In case you are one of those people, one big part is air travel.

Even the most novice of travelers knows that the biggest expense in travel is usually getting to the location. I’m often asked about how to find cheap flights. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet or a magic website that is going to find you the best deal. It requires a lot of research. Here are the basics:



Like most things in life, timing is key. Basically, avoid the times that most other people are flying. You want to see a flight price almost double? Try flying around Christmas. This goes for Thanksgiving, Spring Break and most of the summer. The same idea can be applied for days of the week. Most people on weekend getaways are looking for Friday afternoon/evening flights with a return ticket on Sunday afternoon/evening. These tickets will be a premium. Try flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday and enjoy the savings.



This might sound crazy, but certain airports are cheaper to fly into and out of. Just because you have a trip planned to city X doesn’t mean you can’t fly into city Y. After getting in the ballpark, trains, buses and even helpful friends/family can get you to where you need to go with a pocketful of cash. Think of it like Costco or Sam’s Club, certain airports do more business and economy of scale can apply. Cities like Los Angles, New York, London, Dubai, and Istanbul often have much cheaper fares than cities just a few hours away. For example, I was looking at a ticket from Honolulu to Cleveland in July and it was $900, but a ticket from Honolulu to Toronto was $500 and only a six-hour drive away. The bus cost about $60 each way. Not super convenient, but you wanted to save money, remember?

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Occasionally, you can add another city to your trip for a few more dollars or sometimes even LESS than going straight away. Don’t ask me why this is, I just know it is true. For example, I was looking at flights from Orlando to Honolulu and to add a stop in New York City was just $30 more. Talk about a no brainier! To other people it looks like you are jet setting around the country or world. Sometimes things get completely nuts: I was checking flights from Honolulu to Rio de Janiero in September and the best I could find for one-way was $1,300. After checking stops in almost every country in South and Central America, I found a flight to Rio with a six-day stop in Panama City, Panama for $820! It was like I was getting paid to visit Panama! After looking at a few flights, note where the layovers are, that is usually a good place to start. Sometimes the length of stay matters, some like 48 or less and some are looking at more like a week. Keep your options open.


One Way vs. Round Trip

I’ve been on both sides of this coin and I don’t know how to explain it. No matter what you are looking for, include the other in your search. I’ve saved hundreds by flying two one way tickets and at other times I saved by booking a round trip ticket even though I only needed one way.


Layover is the Destination

This only works if you don’t check luggage. Say a flight from Honolulu to Anchorage, with a layover in Seattle is cheaper than a flight from Honolulu to Seattle, just leave the airport during your layover. Technically, it is against the airlines’ policy, but screw them. Remember, this only works with carry-on luggage.

Be Inconvenienced

When you hear on the loudspeaker. “We have an over…” don’t even wait to hear the rest, race to the podium. You will usually collect between $200-$500 in vouchers to take a later flight. This sometimes also includes free food and/or a hotel room. One time they bumped me up into first class on the next flight for free!

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Where to Look

For international flights I like to use, but also check, especially for the multi city search. Skyscanner has a feature where you can set the destination to “everywhere” and it will show you the cheapest places to fly from a given place. Often you can get great deals to places you hadn’t considered. Once settled on a flight also check that airline’s site sometimes it’s cheaper. Also remember that regional budget airlines aren’t always included in these big search engines. Check them separately.

Take Away Message

When it comes to air travel, the best ability is flexibility. Whether it is the time of year, day of the week, departure/arrival city or type of ticket it is all about being flexible. I understand that at certain times you can’t be flexible and that is ok, just expect to pay more.

Budget Breakdown: Iraq

My trip to Kurdistan was very rewarding, to see a place I had been hearing about my whole life was tremendous. Not to rely on what you see on CNN (or god forbid Fox News) or read in the USA Today, but to see it for yourself, and meet the people, is an incredible experience. Still, people continue to question me on going there. I’d go back 1,000 times out of 1,000 but don’t take it from me, go see for yourself.

As with most rewarding experiences, it will cost you. Iraqi Kurdistan won’t totally break your budget but it is not as cheap as most places I’ve been to on this trip so far. There are few tourists, in fact I met zero other tourists in my week there. This affects the budget in good and bad ways.


My “home”

Accommodation is far and away the biggest expense. In fact, it is a pretty cheap travel destination otherwise. The reason is because there are no hostels in Erbil (hmmm future business idea?). The amount of foreign tourists right now is low (thanks ISIS) and the people who do visit aren’t really the hostel type. Couchsurfing isn’t all that popular there either. So that leaves hotels. I stayed for six nights in a three-star hotel. Although that rating is a bit generous, it cost me $37 per night. That alone puts the daily budget over what I spent in Panama, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Turkey.

I also spent $15 on a hostel in the UAE the seventh night, but since I spent more than 12 hours of the day in Iraq, I’ll include it here. In all, I spent $237 on accommodation or $33.85 per day.


Homemade Dolma

Food was very cheap, and quite good. I would stuff myself full of shawarma for a couple dollars. I spent $24 on dinner ($3.42) an additional $2 ($.28 PD) on lunch and $13 ($1.85 PD) on groceries (snacks). I was also very fortunate to get several free meals from the generous people I met there. I can still taste the homemade dolma, so good! Additionally, I spent $1 on bottled water ($.14) that wasn’t included in meals. The lack of tourists is good for things like food and almost everything else. There is no price gouging for tourists like in many other places.


Having a smoke with some locals

Other was a significant cost in Kurdistan, I spent $35 ($5 per day). Most of it ($15) came from souvenirs, which I usually avoid, but I couldn’t pass up the out-of-print Saddam Hussein currency. As in most places in the Middle East, I smoked a lot of shisha and that falls in this category. As a side note, Erbil has the best shisha that I have ever seen anywhere!

I spent $13 ($1.85 PD) on cabs which was my transportation to and from the airport. The city is quite safe and walkable so I walked almost everywhere, even at night. I also used the local bus which cost me $2 ($.28 PD). Again, the people of Erbil were generous with rides, even complete strangers, so that helped with the transportation costs as well.

As you might expect, beer is limited in Kurdistan. However, that is not to say it can’t be found. I saw one bottle shop where I spent $8 ($1.14 PD) on several regional beers. There were no beers from Iraq available.


Cable car above Shanidar and Minarae Parks

I didn’t do much in the way of paid tourist activities. There are several cool parks that are free to visit. The Citadel, the main attraction in the city, can also be explored for free. For me, Erbil was a cultural experience and not a sightseeing mission. No better way to do that than to just walk around and have a chat over a meal or water pipe. I did however spent $5 on a cable car ride ($.71 PD) at one of the parks.

All told, I spent $340 in my seven days in Kurdistan or $48.57 per day. Still a bargain for the experience I had!


Flag of Kurdistan

Why You Should Visit Turkey

When brainstorming for a vacation destination Turkey doesn’t immediately jump to the forefront of many people’s minds, but maybe it should. Yes, Turkey has some political issues right now. Things with Russia aren’t good. There is a small scale civil war with the Kurds (PKK and YPG). ISIS has also complicated things in recent times with attacks of its own. However, I was just there and these dangers don’t affect most travelers. In fact, better deals can be found now due to some of this unrest. Bad things can happen anywhere, but you already knew that, or you wouldn’t be reading a travel blog.

Point is, Turkey is a seriously underrated travel destination. I have spent over a month there, obviously it is impossible to see it all but here are a few of my must dos in Turkey.

Izmir- Located in Western Turkey it is probably the most liberal city in Turkey. The people dress in a western fashion in name brand clothes, there are several breweries and the locals don’t mind throwing back a pint or three. Public displays of affections are greeted with indifference. It is a predominantly Muslim community but not as hard line as other parts of the world, or even Turkey.

That aside there are world class attractions here. Ephesus is a collection of well-preserved roman ruins, some of the best in the world. There are Biblical sites like the home that the Virgin Mary lived in until her death. One of the ancient wonders of the world, Temple of Artemis, is near Ephesus as well.

If you are not a history buff or a beer fan then you can enjoy the beach. The Çeşme Peninsula is located not far from the city. There are several beaches to choose from, all good for cooling off in the Aegean Sea.


The fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

Cappadocia- After the chaos of the big cities in Turkey, Cappadocia is the perfect small town getaway with stunning natural beauty. The other-worldly landforms known as “fairy chimneys” are a site to behold. An sunrise hot air balloon ride may be the best way to see them, but be sure to bring a little extra cash as they run anywhere from $90-$220 USD. If it is out of your budget, or you don’t like heights, there are plenty of other options including ATV and horseback tours. Of course my personal favorite is DIY and just go for a hike. Unlike Ephesus, the crowds here are minimal and you can get much closer and even in the centuries old caves. Uchisar Castle is the highest point in the region and will give you almost the same view point as the balloons for about $3 USD.

There is also biblical history here as it was an early Christian settlement as well as sites going back to Roman times. There are 36 underground cities in the area including the main two of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu.


Three Beauties

The city of Goreme is probably the best launching point for a Cappadocia adventure but it is a bit pricey as it caters almost exclusively to tourists. It is a bit more conservative than Izmir but it is a wine region and the local wines are served at almost every restaurant. Give it a sip, particularly the white wines.


Maiden’s Tower

Istanbul- This is where the lion’s share of visitors go and with good reason. In a place like Istanbul you can’t help but run into history. The big name attractions are Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) and they are certainly worth your time, but there is so much more. The Suleymaniye Mosque is impressive in its own right and offers great panoramic views of the city. The Ortakoy Mosque is another picturesque mosque on the Bosphorus strait, which is the boundary between Europe and Asia. Don’t miss the fantastic street food nearby. The Galata Tower and the Fortress of Rumeli are two other spots that are must see on a trip to Istanbul. If on the Asian side, the Maiden’s Tower, which is now a restaurant, is worth a visit.


Sultanahmet Mosque

Istanbul is a huge city, one of the biggest in the world, thus you can find almost anything you want there. If you are looking for shopping or nightlife you need to go to Taksim Square. This might be the most liberal area in all of Turkey. You can see all types of people from same sex couples to cross dressers to all walks of life going out for an all-night party.

I visited a few weeks after the attack on the German tourists and it quite frankly scared off a lot of other visitors. I ended up getting a room that is ordinary $150 per night for $25. Was that foolish of me to be there at such a time? Maybe, but think about this: that attack killed 10 people in a city of over 14 million. I’ll take those odds.



Ankara- The first three places I mentioned are well known tourist haunts. To get off the beaten path a little, but not too far, try Ankara. The biggest attraction in Ankara is its people, in my opinion the most hospitable in Turkey- a county known for its hospitality. If you spend any amount of time in Turkey you’ll notice a picture of a man in most homes and businesses, which is the Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk). He is the founder of the Republic of Turkey and has a fantastic mausoleum (Anitkabir) with a wonderful museum about the revolution. You could literally spent most of a day just there. If you are looking for a view of the city, look no further than the Ankara Castle. If you are in search of shopping, bars and restaurants be sure not to miss the lively Kizilay neighborhood. Ankara is a great place is observe the life of the average Turk.


Lake Van

These are just a few of the places to see in the great country of Turkey. Also worth consideration is Van in the east with the country’s biggest lake, or Canakkale and the ancient city of Troy, or the beauty of Pamukkale, or Konya or Antayla, the options are truly endless. On your next trip save some cash and skip the crowds of Western Europe and come to Turkey. You won’t be disappointed.

Budget Breakdown: Latin America

If you have followed along with this blog you know I keep close track of my finances. There are a few reasons for it: It is partly because I need to, when traveling long term you can derail your trip if you don’t know where your money is going. After doing sports statistics almost every day for a decade, that compulsion to quantify everything just doesn’t go away. Also because I think it makes a good blueprint for someone else’s trip. I realize most people don’t do this type of travel but if it helps one person plan then it is worth it.

These are the final numbers for 110 days in Latin America. Keep in mind these numbers reflect basic travel. Few “nice” hotels, even less fancy restaurants, no mid trip airplanes or private tours. It does mean hostels, overnight buses, mom and pop eateries, walking tours, free museums, parks and beaches. It also includes loads of new friends, unlimited laughs and a lifetime of memories.

What wasn’t included here were the flights in and out of Latin America, travel insurance, vaccinations, and the visa for Brazil. These things vary wildly.

Of course these numbers aren’t scientific. Sometimes I spent a little more to be lazy and sometimes I would grind it out to save a buck. Other people’s experience may be different but these are the actual numbers with no manipulation, recorded after every transaction.

Here is the breakdown:

Sometimes a taxi is a moto taxi

Sometimes a taxi is a moto taxi

Cabs- I generally dislike using cabs and prefer to walk but sometimes my hand was forced. Late at night it is not always safe to walk in South America, especially if I was a few drinks in. Also, when arriving or departing a new city I would sometimes opt for a cab in favor of lugging by bags over distance. I know this is a bit lazy, but so be it. I used cabs the most in Panama ($4.50 per day) and the least in Peru ($.55 per day). Overall, I averaged $2.81 per day using cabs.

Hostels aren't all bad, this one in Santa Cruz, Bolivia was under $8

Hostels aren’t all bad, this one in Santa Cruz, Bolivia was under $8

Lodging- This included mostly hostels, a few hotels, some couch surfing and overnight transport. I’m not super picky in this area. Just so long as it is secure, I can deal with anything else. Lack of temperature control, hot water and even electricity were things I overlooked at times. Of course some hostels were fabulous and better than what I had at home. I spent the most in Ecuador ($14.76 per night) because I used hotels more frequently there. I managed to spend just $4.44 per night in Bolivia. In total, I averaged $8.33 per night for a place to sleep.

Picked up a switchblade in Panama for $6

Picked up a switchblade in Panama for $6

Other- This included everything not listed elsewhere. Things like laundry, medicine, clothes, taxes, and various supplies. I spent $6.66 per day in Colombia mostly due to souvenirs and a hefty airport tax. In contrast, I only spent $.61 per day in Ecuador. All said, I dropped $2.20 per day on other.

You can find beers of all types on the road

You can find beers of all types on the road

Beer- This is a very personal one. Some people would drink much more or some less and some not at all. This category includes all alcohol but most times it was beer. I had a real good time in Peru, spending $3.55 per day and only spent $2.11 per day in Bolivia. Of course the price per beer is different in each place but overall I averaged $2.86 per day for beer.

A Lama steak won't break the bank in Bolivia

A Lama steak won’t break the bank in Bolivia ($7)

Food- I lost a total for 4 pounds over the 110 days but it wasn’t because of the food! I ate great all trip! I didn’t always eat breakfast, but if I did it was usually included at the hostel or hotel. That said, I spent $1.19 per day in Brazil while not spending a penny in Panama or Ecuador. In total, I spent an average of just $.38 on the first meal of the day. Lunch was the main meal in some places, like Panama, where I spent $3.87 per day. I got away with just $2.15 per day in Ecuador. Overall, lunch set me back $3.15 per day on average. On the other hand, dinner was big in Ecuador where I spent a whopping $6.61 per day. In Panama, I limited myself to just $1 per day for dinner. In total, I spent $3.84 a day on dinner. I have a bit of a bad habit of snacking as well. I spent $1.19 per day on snacks in Brazil but didn’t give into the temptation at all in Panama. I spent $.54 per day over my time in Latin America. All said, I spent $7.91 per day on food.

Headed in the bush in the Pantanal with my guide Tony

Headed into the bush in the Pantanal with my guide Tony

Tours- In general, I tried to occupy my time with free activities but if there was something that I just had to do, I gladly forked over the cash. The Uyuni Salt Flat tour in Bolivia cost me big, but was worth it. I spent $9.22 per day in Bolivia while I enjoyed the free nature of Ecuador and only spent $.15 per day. On average, I spent $3.65 per day on tours.

A shuttle to the middle of nowhere Brazil

A shuttle to the middle of nowhere, Brazil

Shuttle/Metro- Rather than get a cab I rode shuttles or the local public transportation on occasion but not in every place. On the trip, I spent an average of $.63 per day on shuttles and $.14 per day on public transport.

When the person in front puts their seat back

When the person in front puts their seat back

Buses- This was my main way of getting from city to city and did it quite often with the exception of Panama and Columbia where I stayed in the same place. Brazil was the most expensive with at $5.53 per day while in Bolivia is was just $4. Overall, the bus was a major expense at $3.30 per day.

Gifts- I’m a guy who doesn’t mind getting a round of drinks for his new friends. I got a gift for a local who showed me around or opened their home to me. Overall, I averaged $.38 per day on gifts.

Don't drink the tap water, this feast was $10

Don’t drink the tap water, this feast was $10

Water- Outside of a few places, tap water is not safe to drink in Latin America. Although many hostels/hotels/residences have filters I still bought quite of bit of water. In Bolivia I spent $.66 per day while I went without in Panama. Overall, I spent $.36 a day on water.

All said and done, I spent an average of $32.62 on daily living over 110 days in Central/South America.

Budget Breakdown: Colombia

Colombia. Just the name evokes strong emotions, good and bad. For travelers who have been there in recent times Colombia often tops their list of favorite places in South America, if not the world. For your Aunt Ester, Colombia means cocaine crazed gangsters passing out Colombian Neckties with FARC rebels kidnapping everyone in sight.

The truth is mixed. Palmira and Cali are still in the top 10 for most murders in the world but the violence is way down from the civil war period in the 1940s and 50s and the drug wars of the 1980s and 90s. While cocaine is still a part of Colombia, it was more prevalent in Peru and Bolivia in my experience. However, I’m with most of the backpackers, Colombia is an amazing country and I’m counting the days until I can return someday.

One of the marvelous things about Colombia is the price. Thankfully most American and Canadian tourists haven’t discovered Colombia yet so prices remain low. Unfortunately, I spent just six days in Colombia, all in Cali. Let’s look at the numbers:


Due to the fact that it was the end of my South American leg and that I met some very cool other travelers, I really enjoyed the nightlife. I spent $32 on beer, or $5.33 per day. Beer costs $1-$2 per bottle at most places.

I spent $30 on accommodation ($5 per day (PD)), which included five nights in a hostel and one night on a red eye flight. Although it was a six-bed dorm, it felt like a private room as I bunked with three other travelers I had met on a bus in Ecuador.

The next biggest cost was other which included a departure tax of $15 at the airport and a souvenir. I usually don’t buy souvenirs because I don’t want to carry them around but since I was going home for Christmas I did. Overall, I spent $24 ($4 PD).

I spent $20 on cabs ($3.33 PD) of which $15 came on the ride to the airport. That is another reason I hate to fly. The hidden cost of getting to and from the airports that are usually not close to the city center.

Oddly, I spent exactly $17 on lunch ($2.83 PD) and $17 on dinner while adding $2 on breakfast ($.33 PD) and $8 on snacks ($1.33 PD). The less than $6 a day average for breakfast, lunch and dinner combined may seem like I was starving myself but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I gorged myself several days and could have got by on far less.

I also spent $2 on water ($.33 PD) and $3 dollars on tours ($.50).

Overall, in six days, I spent a total of $155 or an average of $25.83 per day.

Budget Breakdown: Ecuador

Ecuador is a much underrated country. My original plan was to burn through it as fast as possible to have more time in other places like Peru and Colombia. Once getting there I knew I couldn’t do it and spent almost two weeks there (13 days), you could easily spend more.

It is an expensive country as compared to most of Latin America partly because they use the US Dollar. The bills are all from the US and the coins are a mix of Ecuadorian coins and from the US. It is also fairly modern with a big time draw to people with money, the Galápagos Islands. The lion’s share of the tourists come to Ecuador for that reason alone. However, the Republic of Ecuador is so much more.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to Darwin’s lab on this trip. The cost was just too high for my way of traveling, I didn’t talk to anyone who did it for less than $1,200 (7 days) and I talked to several who spent much more. Technically, I could have bit the bullet and paid the money but I decided to save the cash for other opportunities down the path. If nothing else, long term travel is about decisions. Due to the fact I lived in Hawaii, the islands didn’t have a huge draw. Plus, now I have a reason to come back someday.

Ecuador was near or at the top in most budget categories:

The big expense was housing. I blew past the previous leader for most expensive (Brazil) by more than $4.50 a night. I spent $192 or an average of $14.76 a night. I definitely splurged in this area. I stayed in hotels for five nights, hostels for six while also couch surfing and sleeping on a bus one night each. The hotels could have been avoided but after no hotels in Bolivia or Peru I spent a little more. The couch surfing was actually at the hostel. When I wanted extend my stay in Guayaquil it was booked, but the manager offered me to take the couch at the front desk for free. I gladly accepted. Due to the small size of the country, overnight bus options were extremely limited so that also contributed to the high cost.


The food cost was also high. I spent a staggering $86 on dinner and $28 on lunch ($8.76 per day (PD)). Part of the problem here was due to some remote locations with limited dining options. The dinner cost was again the highest on the trip, by just over $2 per day. Due to the high food cost, I also snacked more spending $10 ($.76 PD), this was also the highest in Latin America.

Getting around in Ecuador was reasonable but not cheap. I spent $63 on buses ($4.84 PD) and another $43 on cabs ($3.30 PD). I got as free ride with a lady I met on the bus from the border to Cuenca so that helped, but the short bus rides with lots of switching buses added up. Also, I found the people in Ecuador a lot less willing to bargain on bus and cab costs. I also used the metro bus in Guayaquil a few times, which was only $.25 per ride for a total of $2 ($.15 PD).


I enjoyed the night life in Ecuador, particularly in Guayaquil. I spent $41 on beer ($3.15 per day), each beer hovered around the $2-$4 range. It was the second highest average for beer behind Peru.

I also dropped $8 ($.61 PD) on other, which included laundry service. For those that helped me, I spent $11 ($.84 PD) on gifts. Although Ecuador was surprisingly not that hot, due to elevation, I spent $7 ($.53 PD) on water. I also spent $2 ($.15 PD) on tours, accounting for admission to Quilotoa Lake. Ecuador had many free parks, interesting streets and beaches to explore without cost.

Overall in 13 days in Ecuador, I spent $493 for an average of $37.92 per day. This was the most expensive country I visited in Latin America other than Brazil.

Budget Breakdown: Peru

I have gotten a positive response on these budget breakdowns so I’ll keep them going.

I had a really great time in Peru and I think it was because I mixed a lot of down time with world class attractions. In Cusco and Lima people often recommended various sites that I never heard of. I didn’t go. I’m not saying just because I haven’t heard of it, it can’t be good. What I am saying is when you are traveling long term you can’t pack everyday with sightseeing. I’ve done 1-4 week trips were you have a packed itinerary and by the time you get home you need a vacation from your vacation. My time is unlimited and I’m trying not to burn out.

This take it easy approach is not only good for your mental and physical health but your budget as well. So here is what I spent during my 18 days in Peru.

For the second time on this trip the top cost was food (Bolivia). I heard good things about the Peruvian food before I arrived and it lived up to the billing. Some days when I was laying low I would just walk around and eat, and in Peru, that can be better than sightseeing. I’m a creature of habit even when I have no schedule, once I found a place I liked I kept going back. I went to three different places three times each. I spent $80 on dinner ($4.44 per day (PD)), $45 on lunch ($2.50 PD) and $6 on breakfast ($.33 PD) for a total of $131 or $7.27 per day. That was the second most per day on this trip after Brazil.

Accommodation was another big cost, I spent $107 on 16 nights in a hostel for an average of $5.94 per night. I was able to save a little with two overnight bus rides.

I moved around Peru a good bit and spent a pretty penny on buses. On four long haul bus rides I spent a total of $98 ($5.44 PD). I traveled a total of 1,843 miles across Peru, seeing a good bit of the country. I took a much nicer bus, which was about 40% of the total bus cost, for the long trip to the Ecuador border. I’ve learned to take better buses to the borders because there will be other English speakers on those buses and it will help in the crossing. In country, I still go for the cheap buses that the locals take.

I spent $64 ($3.55 PD) on beer. Most of that was in Lima on back-to-back days. I found an American style sports bar so I posted up and watched football all day Saturday and Sunday, after all, you can’t just sit there and not buy anything. It was my first games of the year on TV, I was in heaven. The beers in Peru are around $2-$3 per bottle.

I dropped $61 on tours ($3.38 per day), most of it on the Machu Picchu trip. My package including transport, three meals and lodging but for the purposes of my budget I broke it up. I estimate $56 of the total price was for admission to the site, admission to Machu Picchu Mountain and a tour guide (for an hour and a half). I spent a few other bucks on a hot spring, the Nazca Lines observation tower and a museum in Nazca.

To get to Machu Picchu I took a shuttle from Cusco to the hydroelectric plant (in the middle of nowhere) where the road ends. From there it was about an eight mile walk to Aguas Calientes where I spent the night. The shuttle ride was hellish, windy, dusty mountain dirt roads. For much of it we were feet from certain death hugging the side of the mountain with no guard rails. This cost $26 ($1.44 PD) but better that than the train which will run you at minimum $60. I then walked to Machu Picchu the next day which saved a further $24 over the lazy people who took the bus.

I also spent $19 ($1.05 PD) on other which included renting towels as I lost mine somewhere in Cusco. It also covered $10 in gambling losses in Lima. I won some and lost some, in the end it was hours of fun for cheap. Only $10 ($.55 PD) was spent on cabs as I felt good walking around. In addition, I spent $5 ($.27) on gifts, $4 ($.22) on water, $2 ($.11) on local buses, and $2 ($.11) on snacks.

Overall, 18 days in Peru cost me $529 or $29.38 per day.


Budget Breakdown: Panama

I know I haven’t posted these in order, but I am caught up now. So when looking at the Panama expenditures it is important to note that it was my first country of the trip. As the first place on a long term trip I was especially careful, okay fanatical, with the budget.

Panama uses the USD as its currency so there is no crazy exchange rate. Also, Panama seems to have made it on to the radar of mainstream travelers from the US. For whatever reason, Belize, Costa Rica, and to a lesser extent, Panama are the destinations in Latin America for travelers from the U.S. Most of these visitors have a week or two, and more importantly, a wad of cash. Because of this prices have gone up across the board.

I saved money by staying in one place and quite frankly going without in some situations. I was in Panama for the shortest time any country with a total of only eight days and I stayed in Panama City the whole time. Let’s look at the breakdown:

I spent the most on accommodation, naturally. I spent $78 on six nights in the hostel but saved with two nights sleeping on planes. The hostel was actual very expensive compared to what awaited me in South America. Overall, I averaged $9.75 per day on housing.

A side note on my hostel philosophy, I go for the cheapest hostel with decent reviews. I look for the least expensive room with at least a 7/10 rating on I don’t care about how many people are in the room, the more the cheaper it is. I’ve gone as high as 15-bed dorms on this trip. I look for two main things in the reviews: hot water and WIFI. Sometimes it works out, sometimes I can’t be picky.

I spent $31 on lunch ($3.87 per day (PD)) and $8 on dinner ($1 PD) for a total of $38 on food or $4.87 per day. While food is a good bargain in Panama, if you go local, it is worth noting that during the two days that I was on planes I did not buy any food. There was no way I was going to blow the budget on obscenely priced airport food. I am not opposed to a little fasting. Thanks to my friend Mark who took me out to lunch during a layover.

Frighteningly, I spent almost as much on cabs as I did food. I dropped $36 ($4.50 PD) on taxis, most of that came on the ride from the airport to the hostel. That is another reason I don’t like to fly if I can help it. Bus stations are typically in the heart of the city and much closer to where you are going.

Fresh off of quitting my job, I enjoyed some beers. I spent $21 or $2.62 per day. The beers ranged anywhere from $3-$5, not much different from the U.S.

The Panama Canal was the only tourist activity that I paid for which cost me $15 ($1.87 PD). I found Panama City quite walkable and enjoyed exploring on foot for free.

I also spent $10 ($1.25 PD) on an airport shuttle and $13 ($1.62 PD) on other. In this case other included a switch blade knife ($6) which is illegal in the U.S. but perfectly okay to have in Panama. I just couldn’t resist.

In the end, I spent $212 over eight days in Panama for an average of $26.50 per day.