The budget breakdown for Central America.

Some readers have have asked me how I’ve been tracking with the travel budget, so here is a semi detailed summary of how I’m going so far. For those who know me, I am a sucker for a analytics and a spreadsheet so here’s a breakdown of planned budget vs actual spends for the Central America part of the trip.

budgeting central america

Click on the image to access the spreadsheet

As I started planning for the trip, I created the chart above to help me plan the time required as well as how much I would need to save depending on what I wanted to get out of the trip. The original intention was to spend 6 months. However, if I didn’t plan it out properly then I would have been rushing to get from Mexico to Argentina.  As you can see, I broke the trip down into weeks and approximately how I would allocate my spendings. To get a very top line view of how much things costed, I used Nomadic Matt’s guide which is a pretty accurate guide on living costs in each of the countries.

The intention was to update this spreadsheet each week to reflect the actuals and by country. Have I been doing so? No. I got lazy and and in the end, there’s more to life than keeping track of each transaction to the cent and by individual item. There are some bloggers out there that have done so but it’s a bit OCD in my opinion. Instead I’ve been using an app called iXpensit which helps me track my expenses and provides all the analytics on where I am spending the most money. For those who have been following the blog, you can also see that the number of weeks planned in each week is different to what I actually spent. I ended up spending more time in Mexico, Guatemala and less in Costa Rica and Panama. Overall, I spent more time in Central America as I had not reached Colombia by the end of July.


The screen shot from an iExpensit report. As you can see, there are a lot more categories than the spreadsheet



I’ve manually added up the totals of some categories so you can see a like for like comparison between planned vs spent

So. You can see that I’ve gone slightly over budget by $849. I’m not too worried as most of this would have been attributed to costs in Costa Rica and Panama city as they were both expensive cities. Although I didn’t spend much time in Panama, I did spent more than usual buying things I needed for the sailing trip such as a dry bag and replacing or updating things I had lost or broken during the trip so far.

Accommodation: This has been pretty good so far. I may have overestimated slightly but accommodation overall in Central America is fairly cheap especially in Guatemala and Utila. I splurged sometimes on private rooms and especially in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras where we wanted to chill out in a ‘nice’ hotel in one of the sketchiest cities in the world.

Food/drink: Overall the food is cheap but I didn’t want to limit myself to just street food. If there was a nice restaurant that people wanted to go to then I would still go. Also, in Central America I only cooked a couple of times. Call it the honeymoon period but I was going out and buying my food at street stalls or local restaurants. If I bought more food to cook then I would have saved a bit of cash here. I’ve incorporated alcohol into the spreadsheet total above but it’s separated in the iXspensit chart. Note that some drink and alcohol costs are included into the Food costs because splitting alcohol and food costs at a restaurant was the last thing I wanted to be doing at a restaurant. YOLO.

Tourism: I had originally allocated a lot more to scuba diving but ended up spending less on it as it was quite affordable and I felt like the fourteen or so dives that I did was plenty.

Transport: Sometimes you just want to get to places in the least amount of time. I had underestimated how large some of the countries in Central America were and spending 12+ hours on public buses wasn’t my idea of fun when it could be done in half the time in a shuttle or coach. Getting to some places like from Livingstone in Guatemala to Utila would have taken two days involving a border crossing and a couple of bus changes in Honduras. Also the fact that Honduras is the murder capital of the world, it was one of those situations you just pay the $50US for a direct route.

Miscellaneous – This includes books for study, iPhone travel apps, replacement towels, replacement board shorts for the one that got stolen and a replacement for the replacement shorts that fell apart. Also, a The North Face dry bag, new shorts that wouldn’t go manky and sweaty in the heat, toiletries, replacement phone charger etc etc.


Unfortunately, they’re not million dollar notes

So what did I learn about budgeting in Central America? Firstly it’s bloody hard work tracking everything, so download the app and let it do the work for you and don’t beat yourself over the fact everything is not to the cent. Secondly, do some planning up front so you know how much things cost in each country. That way when you get to a more developed city or country then you won’t get such a shock. Last and more importantly, be shrewd with your spending but don’t be a tight arse and say no to things that you set out to experience before the trip because you are running low on cash. If you want to party then go out and party. If you only want to become a yoga guru then focus your energy and focus there.

So my friends, how in depth do you plan your pre trip budget? Do you stick to it or regularly go over/under?

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The budget breakdown for Central America. — 8 Comments

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  2. This is a great summary! I do love a bit of budget spreadsheet’iness from time to time :) Planning my own trip to Central America in November so this is super helpful! I traveled in Colombia in 2012 and remember being quite surprised at the cost..I didn’t do as much researching on budgets that time, so playing things a little differently for this trip!

  3. This is a great summary! I do love a bit of budget spreadsheet’iness from time to time :) I traveled in Colombia in 2012 and remember being quite surprised at the cost..I didn’t do as much researching on budgets that time, so playing things a little differently for this trip!
    Elesha recently posted…Fear of failingMy Profile

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