Budget: Mexico & Central America

We spent about 8 months in Mexico and Central America and spent a total of $15,253.  That means that we spent on average about $66 per day. The only major cost excluded from this is vehicle insurance, which will vary based on what you are driving. How did the costs break down?

Our largest expense was food ($5,363 – about 35% of the total budget), followed by transportation ($4,478 – about 29% of the total budget), and finally living expenses ($2,900 – about 19% of the total budget). The rest of the money was spent on entertainment and other miscellaneous expenses (spanish language school was the majority of our miscellaneous expenses).

One of our favorite parts of travel is eating all the different types of food that you find in each area, and our food budget definitely reflects that. I’m sure we could have cut this cost dramatically if necessary, it just would have meant more ramen noodles and mac and cheese.

We drove a total of 10,500 miles and spent a total of $3,015 on fuel. We averaged about 16 MPG (miles per gallon). If you are preparing for a trip like this, fuel cost is actually one of the things you can estimate pretty easily. You can calculate distances in Google Maps, divide this by your average vehicle MPG, and then multiply by estimated fuel cost per gallon.

For example, suppose you were going to drive the entire Pan-Am highway (estimates put it around 30,000 miles total). Our truck gets about 16 MPG, and let’s estimate that gas costs about $4.50 per gallon. The total cost for fuel on the trip would be calculated as 30,000 / 16 * $4.50 = $8,438. You can see what a huge factor MPG plays in this equation. If our truck was only getting 12 MPG (if we didn’t have a diesel engine, this might be closer to the real number), then the total cost would be $11,250–almost $3,000 higher!

This chart shows how your total fuel cost when driving the Pan-Am changes drastically based on your vehicle's MPG.

This chart shows how your total fuel cost changes drastically based on your vehicle’s MPG when driving the entire Pan-Am Highway. Assumptions are 30,000 total miles travelled and fuel price of $4.50 per gallon.

It surprised me that our living expenses were such a low percentage of our overall budget, but I suppose that’s what you get when you spend the majority of your time camping. We spent a total of $790 (about 27% of our total living expenses) on hotels. We only stayed in hotels for about 2 weeks total–9 days in Oaxaca when Erica’s mother visited us and 4 days in Mexico City. I am sure that if we didn’t have the XPCamper this cost would have been much higher. The XP is really comfortable for us to live in. We prefer the pillows and bed in our XP over every bed we have found in a hotel or hostel.

The charts below should break everything down.  The chart on the left shows the primary categories.  The chart on the right will break down whatever primary category you select (just click on a wedge slice in the pie chart on the left).  Some reports that these charts aren’t working on Android devices; I’m sorry but I don’t own one yet so I can’t test it.

On to the charts: