Budget: How much does it cost to travel the Americas for two years?

The short answer: $54,883.26. We spent just under 2 years (700 days) traveling the Americas, which means that we spent about $78 per day. We were pretty good at recording all our expenses, but I’m sure that some have fallen through the cracks. Anyhow, this should give you a good idea of the costs involved in a trip like this.

If you eliminate some of our more expensive side trips (two weeks in the Galapagos Islands – $2,500, six weeks partying in Buenos Aires while we waited for our truck to ship – $3,820) the average drops to about $69 per day.

Here’s a chart breaking down our spend into general categories:


Transportation Expenses: $23,063

Transportation was our biggest expense, accounting for $23,063 (%42 of our total budget). No surprise here — this was a road trip after all!


Fuel: $10,320

Breaking down the expenses for transportation, diesel fuel accounted for $10,320 (%44.7). In total, we purchased 2,738 gallons of diesel and on average, a gallon of diesel cost us $3.77. We drove a total of about 45,000 miles, making our gas mileage about 16.4 miles per gallon. The most expensive diesel was in Uruguay ($5.50 per gallon) and the cheapest was in Ecuador ($1.02 per gallon). We purchased a large fuel tank (60 gallon capacity) before the trip, and this really helped us avoid some expensive fuel (we didn’t buy any diesel in Belize, for example).

Here’s a chart breaking down fuel on a per-country basis:

Country Total Gallons Purchased Total Price Average Price / Gallon
United States 543.2 $2064.00 $3.80
Canada 123.7 $584.00 $4.72
Mexico 322.2 $1251.44 $3.88
Guatemala 103.9 $446.67 $4.30
Honduras 48.1 $217.70 $4.53
Costa Rica 104.0 $488.58 $4.70
Panama 52.1 $185.00 $3.55
Colombia 201.2 $870.41 $4.33
Ecuador 138.0 $144.00 $1.04
Peru 175.3 $847.67 $4.83
Bolivia 95.9 $282.14 $2.94
Chile 446.0 $1649.73 $3.70
Argentina 352.0 $1066.20 $3.03
Uruguay 32.2 $176.92 $5.49

Ferries: $6,330

Hero boards a small ferry in Bolivia.

Hero boards a small ferry in Bolivia.

Ferries accounted for $6,330 (%27.4) — this included shipping across the darien gap (about $1,400 total), shipping our truck home from Buenos Aires to Houston, Texas (about $2,600 total), several ferries while doing the inside passage in Alaska (about $1,300 total), and the dozens of other smaller ferries we took along the way.

Maintenance: $3,337

Maintenance on the truck accounted for $3,337 of out transportation budget (%14.5). We performed oil changes every 5,000 to 7,000 miles (depending on how rough the roads were). During every oil change we also changed the fuel filter and about every other oil change we replaced the air filter. Our engine holds about 11 quarts of oil and this typically cost around $100. We changed our oil a total of 6 times during the trip.

Here is a list of other major maintenance we performed on the truck:

  • Tires: $1,500 – 5 new tires purchased in Chile.
  • Clutch Linkage: $300 – our clutch linkage was serviced in Chile.
  • Rear Window: $270 – we replaced the rear window of the XPCamper after it blew out in the Guajira Peninsula.
  • Brake Pads: $150 – we replaced the front brake pads in Peru.
  • Mass Transit – $2,033

    Mass transit included taxis, buses and flights. As a rule, we tried to fly places on miles as much as possible. Here are some of our major mass-transit expenses:

  • Galapagos Islands: $500 – flights were $250 per person out of Guayaquil.
  • Iguazu Falls: $382 – we purchased plane tickets to/from Iguazu Falls (out of Buenos Aires). Originally, the tickets were more expensive, but they cancelled our flight and gave us a partial refund.
  • Machu Picchu: $265 – when we couldn’t drive the road to Machu Picchu due to a landslide, it meant we had to take a train (about $112 each way). This also includes bus tickets to/from the entrance of the park.
  • Darien Gap: $262 – this flight was partially discounted due to miles, but we flew from Panama City to Cartagena.
  • Panama Rental Car: $109 – we rented a car when we dropped off our truck at the port in Panama so we wouldn’t have to worry about taking a bus back to Panama City.
  • Other Transportation Expenses: $1,150

    We spent about $900 on toll roads and parking the entire trip. I guess after two years they just add up. Mandatory auto insurance (required in some countries to be purchased at or near the border) cost in total $150. Our budget does not include a general insurance policy we purchased to cover us during our time traveling in central and south america.

    Food & Drink: $17,326

    In most places, we made our own food rather than eating out. There were a few exceptions; food in Mexico was so cheap (we ate a lot of street food) that we ate out there more than normal. However, in general, we’d probably cook our own food about 80% of the time.

    Here’s a break down of our food and drink budget:


    One caveat: the alcohol budget is artificially low. Unfortunately, we were a little lazy and often times wouldn’t break alcohol expenses out when purchasing other things at the grocery store or having drinks with our meals when eating out. I’m guessing the real alcohol budget is probably closer to $3,000 (with corresponding drops in restaurants and groceries categories).

    Living Expenses: $7,269

    We spent about $10 per day on things like camping or hotels. These expenses also include just under $300 that we spent on laundry services during the trip. Here’s a breakdown:


    Not a huge surprise, camping was our biggest living expense. What really surprised me was how much we spent on hotels/hostels/rentals! We spent the vast majority of our time in our XPCamper which we find so comfortable, so I was surprised to see we had spent that much on hotels/hostels/rentals.

    Here is a breakdown of every time we stayed in a hotel/hostel/rental:

    Where # of Nights Price Notes
    Mexico City 3 Free Used points
    Oaxaca 7 $392 Spent week in central Oaxaca with Erica’s mom
    Utila, Honduras 6 $398 diving for a week on the islands
    Panama City 5 Free Used points to stay in hotel while organizing truck shipping
    Cartagena 14 $232 Stayed in a combination of hotels, hostels and rentals (used some points for hotels)
    Galapagos 13 $340 Hostels on the Galapagos Islands
    Machu Picchu 2 $40 Hostel in Agua Calientes
    Valparaiso 3 $125 Hostel in historic district
    Mendoza 3 $60 Rental in downtown Mendoza
    Punta Arenas 2 $47 Stayed in hostel while Hero had some work done
    Iguazu Falls 2 $18 Used AMEX points to partially pay for this
    Buenos Aires 40 nights $1,192 Combo of rentals in Buenos Aires; had parents visit and treat us for a free week (also used some points)

    In total, we spent about 100 nights in hotels/hostels/rentals, which means that we were sleeping in our wonderful XPCamper over 85% of the time. Looked at another way, for every week we were on the adventure, we spent 6 nights in the XPCamper and 1 night in a hotel/hostel/rental.

    Entertainment: $5,421

    We broke our entertainment into two major categories:

  • Cultural Experiences: things like museums, archaeological sites, etc.
  • Activities: things like scuba diving, bike rentals, whale watching, etc.
  • In total, we spent $4,244 on activities and $1,157 on cultural experiences.

    Breaking down the activities category, here are the big hits:

  • $705: One week of scuba diving on Utila in Honduras
  • $325: Kenai Fjords excursion (by boat) in Alaska
  • $400: excursions while in the Galapagos, including snorkeling, nature hikes, and taxi-tours around the islands.
  • $250: biking down the Death Road in Bolivia
  • $123: wine tasting + lunch in Mendoza
  • $177: Marble caves and Glacier Exploradores excursions in southern Chile.
  • $144: Boat excursion in Los Glaciares National Park in southern Argentina.
  • $160: Rafting the Pacaure river in Costa Rica.
  • The only expense that really sticks out in the cultural category was entrance into Machu Picchu – $304 total. We also spent $86 on a pass to visit about a dozen other Mayan sites in and around Cusco.

    Miscellaneous Expenses: $1,804

    Everything else got shoved into this category. Expenses included language schools in Mexico and Guatemala ($300 total), border fees (about $525 for VISAs and other fees), some dental work for Erica ($130), and migraine medication ($70). It also includes things like SIM cards for our cell phone (usually around $7 per country, but we didn’t buy these everywhere), souvenirs, and ATM fees.

    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: