Budget Breakdown: Bolivia

In my last blog post I talked about my budget in Brazil, some people were surprised on how cheap it was. Fact is, Brazil is one of the most, if not the most, expensive countries in South America. However, the USD is at an all-time high vs. the Real so that certainly helped my cause. But on to Bolivia:

I only spent nine days in Bolivia due mostly to the fact that I spent so long in Brazil. I guess I shouldn’t say “only” nine days, there has been years were I have taken less vacation. Anyway, I spent the night in nine different places and was constantly on the move. I saw a lot of the country though, traveling 1,864 miles from Santa Cruz to the borders with Chile and Argentina to La Paz. Point being, when you are on the move so much your expenses go way up.

Fair warning, while tremendously beautiful Bolivia is not for the faint of heart. It is the poorest country in South American, and that is saying something. Dirt roads are common and electricity is at a premium is some parts of the country. WIFI and Internet? If you are my age think back to that first dial up modem you had. It’s like that, just less reliable. All this adds up to savings for the budget-minded traveler. Let’s dive into the numbers.

The biggest expense was tours as my trip to Salar de Uyuni wasn’t cheap. I spent a total of $83 on that three-day trip which accounted for my only real tourist activity. Over the nine days it averaged out to $9.22 per day. I walked around Santa Cruz and La Paz and took in the sights but it was my favorite price range, free.

As always, food was big slice of the budget pie, pun intended. I spent $34 on lunch ($3.77 per day (PD)), $42 on dinner ($4.66 PD) and $4 on breakfast ($.44 PD). In total my stomach cost me $80 or $8.88 per day. This cost could be less if you wanted it to be. Most hostels have kitchens and many people buy food and then cook for themselves. That is not me. I’m not much of a cook and I hate doing dishes so I eat out every meal, just like I did stateside.

I stayed five nights at hostels and another four on overnight buses or trains so the savings there was big. I spent a total of $40 on accommodation ($4.44 PD).

Beer was remarkably expensive with prices in the $2.50-$3.00 range per bottle. I didn’t drink much, spending $19 or $2.11 per day. Although, I did trade a book I had finished reading for two beers. Bartering is not, however, included in the budget breakdown.

Another big plus for Bolivia is how cheap the buses are. They are not top of the line by any means but they are cheap. I spent just $36 ($4 PD) on long haul buses or trains.

I did spend almost as much on cabs ($31 or $3.44 PD) but it is just not worth it to risk walking around at night. It kills me because I love to walk. I also sensed a bit of a Gringo surcharge on the cabs but what can you do? You can negotiate prices in Bolivia but sometimes it doesn’t seem worth the argument for a few cents. Besides, these people need the more way more than I do.

Other than that I spent $13 ($1.44 PD) on other, which ranged from Coca leaves to WIFI. I also spent $6 ($.66 PD) on water and another $3 ($.33) on snacks.

All told, I spent $311 in Bolivia over nine days for an average of $34.50 per day.

Budget Breakdown: Brazil

When traveling, two of the comments I constantly get are: “wow, you must be rich.” Or, “I’d love to travel like that but I don’t have money.” I am far, far from rich and yes, you mostly likely do.

Yes, you can spend boatloads of money. The Marriott and Hilton aren’t cheap. Five star restaurants will hurt the wallet. Flying first class will put you in debt. However, to me, traveling isn’t about these things. To me it is about the sights, meeting the people, and trying the food and drink. This can be done for cheap.

When I was planning my around-the-world trip it was hard to find actual budgets. So I decided to keep track of everything I’ve spent to hopefully help you plan.

Of course, everyone is different. Some are willing to rough it more than others. Some want to spend more on activates than lodging or food or transport, others would switch that order up.

Here is my breakdown of my 56 days in Brazil.

The biggest expenditure was housing. I spent $568 or an average of $10.14 a night. It was quite the mix, I Couchsurfed in four places, stayed in many hostels and even a few nice hotels. In fact, $388 of that came in six days in four-star accommodations. If I really wanted to I could have spent under $300.

Now we get into the food. I am not a foodie. I like to try different things but it is not the focus of my day. I spent $215 on lunch ($3.83 per day), $198 on dinner (S3.53 per day), and $67 on breakfast ($1.19) per day. Overall, I dropped $480 or $8.57 per day. I could have done it for less but at times I broke down and had to get some “western” foods. It is also worth noting that most hostels and hotels include breakfast.

The next biggest expense was tours or tourist activates. I spent $382 or an average of $6.82 per day. Most of that was on my quest to see a jaguar, I dropped $254 on guides but it was worth it to me in the end.

Brazil is a huge country and I had to get around. I took eight bus trips of six hours or more, six were 15 or more. That totaled $310 or $5.53 per day. I took one “VIP” bus but other than that I did this about as cheaply as possible, taking the cheapest buses that the locals rode.

I am a guy who enjoys a cold one. Especially when it’s a beer that I’ve never tried. I spent $172 on beer ($3.07 per day (PD)). This varies a lot per person, maybe you don’t drink at all. Maybe you are an alcoholic. How many beers did I have? The cheapest I found was 50 cents and the most expensive was $2.50.

Those were the major expenses. I also spent $102 ($1.82 PD) on other. That is anything from a lock to a cell phone case to medicine. I also dropped $88 on cabs ($1.57 PD), $67 ($1.19 PD) on gifts for people that helped me, $62 ($1.10 PD) on shuttles, $39 on snacks ($.69 PD), $34 ($.60 PD) on local buses/metro, and $25 on water ($.44 PD).

All told, I spent $2,329 in everyday life or just $41.58 per day. If you break it down, I bet you spend more than that between your rent, car payment, food and recreation in your “regular” life. Think about it.

*Disclaimer: this does not include getting to Brazil or the visa if you are from a country that needs one.

Unofficial Ambassador

Never will I be an ambassador, in any official capacity anyway. However, it turns out that when in certain places in the world it is not a job you are appointed to, but a job you inherit. You get the job out of necessity because there is no one else.

I’m not talking about Toronto or London or even Sydney. A fair amount of Americans travel there and the locals can form opinions on our country based on the many interactions they have. However, imagine you’ve never met an American before, or just a few. Where do you get your opinion? The news? TV and movies? No wonder many people don’t like us.

People still bring up George Bush to me on a regular basis. I didn’t vote for Bush, I think he is an imbecilic too. But because I’m American, I get grouped with him. So when traveling off the beaten path I try extra hard to leave a good impression.

In over a month in Brazil I have met a total of three Americans. The sad fact is that most Americans don’t travel and the ones that do are afraid of South America, let’s just be honest. Still, people in Rio probably meet their share of Americans, anywhere else in this huge country, forget it. A small village on a dirt road may very well have never seen an American.

Let me give you an example. I was fishing in a remote part of Brazil, in between Campo Grande and Corumba, about an hour down a dirt road from Buraco Das Piranhas. A place that isn’t on the map. A place that doesn’t have cell service.

On the river I met two Brazilian guys and they asked where I was from. I said the United States. They roared with laughter. I could pick out the words Americano, gringo and puta (bitch) in between their laugher. They bragged about their fishing ability to the guy I was with. I tried not to let it bother me and started fishing. The fish began jumping in the boat. I was averaging about 10 fish an hour. Whenever I looked over at these guys they weren’t catching much.

Soon they ran out of bait and tried to trade cigarettes for some of mine. I wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves, but I didn’t. I refused the cigarettes and gave them half my bait anyway.

By the time I had 24 fish my bucket the bugs were getting bad and it was getting hot so I called it quits. We headed back to camp and there were three maintenance workers painting a fence in the heat of the day. I gave them all my fish. They were both shocked and grateful. They hurriedly started cleaning the fish.

Maybe everyone thinks I’m still a gringo bitch or maybe they have a new view of Americans. I don’t know. But I tried to be an ambassador for my great country and it turns out the white boy can fish.


Why Travel the World?

Brent Went to the Great Wall of China

Many people have asked me why I want to travel around the world. Here are just a few of the reasons.

I want to reach out to Christ the Redeemer in Rio, marvel at Iguazu Falls in Argentina, take in the Salt Flats in Bolivia, learn Spanish in South America, trace the Nazca Lines and reach Machu Picchu in Peru, straddle the equator in Ecuador, evolve in the Galapagos Islands, sample Colombian coffee at the source, observe the ships going through the Panama Canal, explore the jungle of Costa Rica, learn about the Mayans at the Copan Ruins in Honduras and Tikal in Guatemala, put my feet in the sand in Belize, party in Cancun, sail across the Atlantic Ocean, wonder about Stonehenge in England, find the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, snap a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in Paris, watch soccer in Germany, drink lots of vodka in Poland, travel overland through the Balkans, relax on the beaches of Croatia, discover the “forbidden” country of Albania, gaze at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, admire Petra in Jordan, go to the top of the world’s tallest building in Dubai, dive with a Great White Shark in South Africa, trek to find a family of Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, look for the Big Five- including a lion- on an African Safari, search for Bengal Tigers in India, contemplate life in front of the Taj Mahal, hike to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal, party on Khao San Road and watch a muay thai fight in Bangkok, visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and cry at the war sites in Vietnam.

I want to visit old friends and make new. I want to kiss exotic girls. I wanna dance and not care. I want to try foods how they are supposed to be done. I want to eat at McDonalds in every country to remember my roots. I wanna make friends for life. I wanna make friends for a day or a month. I want to relive the glory days with old friends and start new stories. I wanna go where I please, when I please. I wanna sleep in late. I want to taste real freedom. I wanna have ice cream for breakfast. I want to live, if even for only a short time.