Time and money is what stops most people from traveling, and though I can’t help you find the time – except to remind you that whatever you wish to do needs to become your very number one priority – I can give you concrete proof that cycle touring doesn’t have to be expensive. Though I kept very careful track of our spending during the first eighteen months of our trip (check out our money page for more about that) here in South America, we haven’t been so concerned about money as we know that we are on the last leg of our trip, and that even if we enjoy a few more luxuries, we will still make it home.
Patagonia was expensive, especially along the Carretera Autral where the small shops in the rural villages sold noodles for three dollars a bag, and cookies for a dollar or two a piece. Camping was typically ten dollars just to sleep in someone’s backyard, and the ferries which bring you from El Chalten to O’Higgins ended up being over 100$ a person. All in all, we wild camped whenever we could (which is very easy down there), cooked all of our own meals, and felt bad about occasionally sleeping in hostels as they were twenty bucks a person. This made Patagonia by far our most expensive region, and even so, it only averaged out to be 15$/day per person during our four month stay.
Bolivia on the other hand is the cheapest country in South America, and though it would be easy to live on less, we averaged 10$/day per person during our six week stay during which time we often slept in alojamientos, ate out whenever we could, and bought new clothes and other extra items. A local meal of soup, rice, potatoes, and fried meat typically cost 1.50$-2$, and a night in a hotel was 3$-6$ a person. Even when we ate out in La Paz, the most expensive city in Bolivia, we were still able to find wraps and pizza for three or four dollars a person. All in all ten dollars a day in Bolivia gets you enough luxury in a simple cyclists lifestyle to make touring easy and carefree.
Though Peru is a bit more expensive than Bolivia, it’s still easy to find a room for five or six dollars a person, and a large meal for a dollar or two a plate. Since we will be traversing through the country on backroads through small rural villages, Peru will be another 10$/day country for us even through we plan to eat out and stay in hostels whenever we encounter them.
The other night we went out to one of the “tourist restaurants,” the restaurants which serve pizza and pasta, have hippy designs, and purely westerners people inside of them. We have tried these places a few times, and the result is always the same. They are expensive, at least two to ten times more than anywhere else around, the portion size is absolutely tinny, and the food was tasteless and cold. These places make their money on appearance – of the restaurant not of the food – and it’s no wonder the locals never step inside because there are so many better options in the local not tourist filled part of the town. We have found this true in every single country, and besides cutting on costs, eating the local food is tastier, faster, and always a much better all around experience.
Including absolutely everything from expensive visas and new gear to daily living, we have each spent a bit under 3,000$ in the last six months – that’s 16$/day per person – riding from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Cusco, Peru, which in our opinion, is 3,000$ very well spent.
Money should never stop you from completing your dreams, there is always a way to work abroad, travel for cheap, or spend less back home so you can save up to travel. If you make it your number one priority, I promise it will happen.