A Digital Nomad Budget: How Much Does 6 Months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay Cost?

It’s been six months since we sold everything we owned and left the UK permanently to embark on our Never Ending Voyage. We saved enough to keep us going in Latin America on a basic budget for a year, and Simon planned to get his web design and development business up and running to eventually cover our expenses.

We wrote about how to plan a round the world trip budget based on our previous experience, but this time budgeting was difficult. We had no idea where we would be going (except that we would be starting in South America) or for how long.

So, rather arbitrarily we allowed for UK £1000 (US $1500) a month for both of our living expenses for a year, plus an extra £3500 (US $5250) for Spanish classes, big activities (such as the Bolivia Salt Flats tour, staying at an Amazon lodge and scuba diving), and a few internal flights if needed. We have also kept back a few thousand contingency so that if we run completely low we can get a flight somewhere to find a job (such as teaching English in Taiwan).

Six months in are we keeping to our budget and how is our digital nomad income coming along?

Well, the bad news is that we haven’t quite managed to keep to the £1000 monthly budget (it averages at £1248), but the good news is that Simon’s income has covered the overspend and more. Although our income doesn’t currently cover our expenses it looks on track to do so by the end of our first year.

For those of you who are interested in how much a digital nomad life costs here are details of our expenses (for two people) so far.

Expenses for 6 Months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay

(If you’re viewing this in a feed reader, click through to get the breakdown in both GBP and USD).
Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Brazil£1353.6117£79.62
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)£2823.3169£40.92
Paraguay£762.7121£36.32
Argentina 2 (Salta)£2550.9677£33.13
TOTALS:£7,490.59184£40.71
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Brazil£42.57£23.14£9.33£3.70£0.88£79.62
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)£17.67£15.12£3.32£3.97£0.83£40.92
Paraguay£17.75£9.26£5.93£1.06£2.31£36.32
Argentina 2 (Salta)£16.60£9.05£4.59£0.91£1.97£33.13
Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Brazil$2,030.4217$119.44
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)$4,234.9769$61.38
Paraguay$1,144.0721$54.48
Argentina 2 (Salta)$3,826.4477$49.69
TOTALS:$11,235.89184$61.06
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Brazil$63.86$34.71$13.99$5.55$1.33$119.44
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)$26.51$22.68$4.98$5.96$1.25$61.38
Paraguay$26.63$13.89$8.90$1.59$3.47$54.48
Argentina 2 (Salta)$24.90$13.57$6.89$1.36$2.96$49.69

This is the breakdown of how much this works out on an average daily basis.

Notes On Our Expenses

  • These costs cover our basic daily expenses for two people. Larger items are accounted for separately (see below).
  • Our budget for six months was £6000, so we were £1490 over budget. Hopefully we will make this up when we move on to cheaper parts of South America.
  • We definitely could have done things cheaper as we did not skimp on food and sometimes stayed at more expensive hotels. When we stayed in cheap hotels and hostels we usually had a double room with bathroom (occasionally we had shared bathrooms).
  • We spent four months ‘settled down’ in Buenos Aires and Salta so this reduced our expenses.
  • We rented pretty luxurious apartments in Buenos Aires and Salta, which worked out the same price as staying at a basic hostel.
  • Entertainment includes going out to bars and events (which we don’t do often) as well as non-major activities such as horse-riding and entrance fees to attractions.
  • Other includes laundry, medical supplies, and other miscellaneous items.
  • In our travel budgeting tips we recommended working out a daily budget based on about double your accommodation costs. Generally this seems to have worked out about right.

Brazil

  • Brazil was expensive and our budget had no chance there. It was also the very beginning of our trip/ new life so we allowed ourselves some leeway and stayed in nicer accommodation at times.
  • We spent our three weeks in some of the most expensive parts of the country: Rio de Janeiro, Isla Grande and Paraty.
  • Rio is an expensive city but I found the cheapest double room I could for 80 reais (US $45) at Villa Leonor Hostel in Santa Teresa. Our hotel in Paraty cost the same.
  • In Isla Grande we wanted a nice, quiet place to relax and although we looked at lots of options we ended up paying 160 reais (US $90) a night which was really overpriced. It made us long for Asia’s cheap beach huts.
  • We spent more in Brazil than we did in any other country except New Zealand on our last trip.

Argentina

  • Our Argentina travels were in two parts. Part 1 involved four nights at a Buenos Aires hostel, two months renting an apartment in the city, plus short trips to San Antonio de Areco and Puerto Iguazú.
  • Part 2 included couchsurfing for a week and house sitting for three weeks (so we had no accommodation expenses), renting an apartment for six weeks and 12 nights of staying in hotels in Salta and while on a road trip around the area.
  • We self catered a lot (except for when staying in hotels) but ate out 2 – 3 nights a week in Buenos Aires.
  • Transport costs in Argentina Part 2 included hiring a car for a week (US $275).
  • Other costs in Argentina Part 2 included buying extra warm clothes.

Paraguay

  • We spent four nights couchsurfing which saved on accommodation costs. Eight nights were spent in catered accommodation which included all our meals.

Extra Expenses

We budgeted for extra, bigger items separately. These don’t include our pre-trip expenses of flights (London – Rio and Rio-Buenos Aires), travel insurance and gear.

We spent £771 ($1156) on Spanish lessons which included three weeks of 20 hours a week group classes, and 17.5 hours of private lessons each.

We realised that sharing our Macbook Pro wasn’t going to work out, as we both needed to work at the same time in order to share our free time together, so we bought an Asus Eee PC netbook in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately it was a lot more expensive than it would have been in the UK, but luckily the cost was covered by leaving gifts we were given by family.

Income

We earned £4829 in the past six months. This doesn’t cover all of our expenses but the business is growing all of the time so we should get there.

Notes

  • The majority of the income is from Simon’s growing Line In Web Design business. Work has included designing and building web sites and creating custom WordPress plugins (both large and small).
  • He has done minimal promotion for the business and most of the work has come from word of mouth and repeat customers.
  • Making money from blogging is not a focus for us at the moment, but we have taken advantage of some opportunities that came along and £328 of the income has come from this.
  • The blogging income came from commissions for promoting the Language Hacking Guide, advertising on Erin’s Kerala India Travel site and selling a few copies of our Blurb travel photo book (which we created for ourselves).

We are now moving on to cheaper parts of South America (Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador) so hopefully we can start sticking to our budget as well as continuing to develop the income. All in all, I think we’ve made a pretty good start to our digital nomad life.

Note on the tables: Simon created a WordPress plugin that calculates your average daily expenses and displays them in a table in multiple currencies (see our table above). If this is something you are interested in for your blog then please leave a comment, and it’ll inspire him to finish it off and release it.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet

Have you travelled to Brazil, Paraguay or Argentina? Leave a comment and let us know your budget.

54 thoughts on A Digital Nomad Budget: How Much Does 6 Months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay Cost?

  1. This has been very useful for me as we are planning to venture to Argentina next year for a few months.
    Are apartments to rent quite easy to come by in Buenos Aires?

  2. This is one of the most helpful AND inspirational posts you could have written. It made me realize I actually have enough savings to go spend six months in Latin America right now. Just makes it all seem sooooo within reach. Thanks!

    • Thanks Keith. Our road trip was our biggest expense (but totally worth it), but when couchsurfing we hardly spent anything in Salta. Unlike BA there are less temptations to spend money on.

      Yes, Simon can speed up sites -there are various options. If you are interested you can email him at linein@simonfairbairn.com for more info.

  3. Definitely a useful post as this is proof that many people already have enough money saved up to take a trip somewhere. And that’s the best form of motivation there can be…

    And I think the plug-in idea is excellent!

    • Hi Earl, even though we felt bad going over our budget, it still isn’t much really, and definitely within many people’s reach.

      Glad you like the plug-in idea!

  4. A lot of good info there. Thanks for sharing. I have been thinking of moving to Argentina for some time so it definitely is useful to see what others are spending.

  5. I spent about two months in Argentina and found that a rough budget of $1000/month for all expenses was reasonable. I spent a few weeks in BA, then time in Iguazu, Ushuaia, all over Tierra del Fuego and slowly made my way up to Mendoza.

    In BA and Ushuaua I spent between $15 and $25/night on lodging. That averaged out closer to $15 or lower over the whole trip because I camped for a few nights at a time, always chose the dorm room at hostels and stayed in some smaller towns. For the most part I shopped at the grocery store and cooked at the hostel so it wasn’t too hard to stick to $12/day for food.

    Most of my activities involved hiking, touring cities and towns on-foot, asking around about free events, befriending Argentinians and getting into a free local tango club, etc. I also hitchhiked with a friend a bit, which saved money getting around town or from the town out to a sight. We always chose the cheapest seats when traveling by bus.

    So yeah, it was a gritty trip, but I planned it that way. I worked three jobs for one year to save up $19,000. $6000 paid for my two-week trip to Antarctica, $4000 was set aside for grad school, and the rest was left for what was meant to be a seven-month trip from Ushuaia back to NYC by land. I fell off a roof in Mendoza and had to return to the US two months into the trip, so my budget info/experience stops there!

    Safe journeys!

  6. P.S. Haha was a bit consumed with your prompt to leave a comment with my budget! Thanks for your post! I love reading how others make travel work and it’s exciting to read about your trip and how things are going. Congrats on your work and I hope things do continue to go well so your work covers all your expenses! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    • Thanks Jackie for sharing your budget. $1000 a month is really good going in Argentina if you are travelling around quite a bit. We couldn’t resist the great restaurants in Buenos Aires and the best class bus from BA – Iguazú (it was so comfortable!).

      Sorry to hear your trip was cut short – that’s such a shame.

      • Haha yeah my friend said after I had to leave, she took a luxury bus for her last ride in Argentina and it was amazing!

        I managed to work a few restaurants into the budget by eating whatever was on sale at the grocery store. I guess all that’s just specific to each traveler and where you want to spend your money. I was fine with fruit for breakfast and plain pasta for dinner if it meant we could rent bikes for the day. My friend had a harder time with that!

        • It is all about priorities and food is one of ours. I can never convince Simon to compromise on it!

      • We’re definitely noticing how much more expensive things are in Argentina than they were in Peru. I’d say it’s likely you’ll make up the shortfall.

        We’re taking the best class bus from BA to Mendoza – our last long ride before we fly to New Zealand. Looking forward to it!

        Great post Erin. Oh, and I’d also be interested in the WordPress plugin!

        • Enjoy the bus! It’ll be such luxury after Bolivia. It was the first time I have ever been able to sleep on a bus or train, and the time flew by watching the surprisingly good films on our personal screens!

  7. I feel a little bad that my first thought on seeing that $11k figure was “Gosh, imagine all the technology I could buy with that!” It’s pretty crazy how long you can live on what I would have considered a fairly tight budget (given how much money I’ve probably spent in the same period).

    I’m just discovering how easy it is to save (and save up) money just by not buying loads of stuff (as described in your handy how to save money post). For the past few months (year, probably) there’s been a lot of ‘spending all my money just in time for payday’, and not much in the way of saving. But now, cutting down on purchasing stuff slightly, I actually have savings. It’s awesome! Saving for Seattle 2011 starts now!

    • Don’t feel bad, that’s still what I think when I see that figure – Old Stevey boy has got me pretty addicted to his CrackBooks – it’s just that we choose to live in countries where Awesome Shiny Things are either prohibitively expensive or completely unavailable.

      But, yes, saving does mean that you make other crazy cool things happen, so kudos on making it happen. PAX 2011 here we come!

  8. Thanks guys! That’s a detailed post with good info. It’s always interesting to learn how others are making it work. We found Argentina to be the most expensive country on our South American leg (didn’t do Barzil), and Bolivia and Peru were the cheapest.

    • Good to know that we are heading up to cheaper countries now. The only problem will be all the tempting activities: Peru trek, Amazon lodge, Death Road bike road etc.

      • Death road bikeride was amazing! Definitely recommend it. Good trick is to find the Vertigo reps around town – 10% discount. I got it for 480 bolivianos which is less than £50. We had a small group and were overtaking a lot of really large groups who had loads of really slow people holding everyone up!

  9. I am a fool for these types of posts…. I think I am drooling over here over the numbers. Thanks for the detailed post.

    As for the plugin, if I were using WordPress, I would definitely like something like that.

  10. I love these types of post. Even though I am not going to those areas it is still very interesting to see how people manage to make it backpacking around the world. Congrats on being on the road for 6 months.

  11. It’s great to be able to share concrete numbers like this and show others how it is possible to travel rather inexpensively. We found Argentina (and Chile) to be expensive compared with the rest of the places we visited in South America.

    You’ll likely be able to make up some of the overspending in Bolivia and Peru. Now, the internet connectivity there may slow you down a bit and cause a few gray hairs if you’re working on a project. It’s all a trade-off, right?

    • The internet issue is going to be interesting. We were waiting in Salta until Simon had finished a big project, but now another one has come in and we can’t turn down work. Hopefully we have allowed enough time for it to deal with periods off line and slow connections. We’ll see…

  12. Seriously good record keeping guys. I never have much of an idea on specifics of where my money goes. Had a quick look at the apartment – looks amazing… It’s unbelievable how much you can get for your money, the trick is location independent income, and you seem to be doing well on that front!

    • Yeah, I’m a bit anal about writing down everything we spend! The BA apartment was lovely, and great value considering it included all bills and was fully furnished with kitchen equipment etc. We are getting there with the location independent income – things are definitely picking up.

  13. Hey Erin & Simon..
    Just found your blog from twitter – Your site looks great and I love your adventure…

    I was in Latin America for a couple of years – from Mexico down to Argentina.. If you need anything/have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. (p.s. Colombia #1!)
    x

    • Thanks Jordan. Another vote for Colombia – we have only heard good things about it and plan on settling there for a few months if we like it as much as everyone else.

  14. Just the kind of advice we need – we’ll be following a similar path in a month, starting in Rio then Buenos Aires and over to Chile where we’ll fly to NZ and Oz. I work on the net too and have managed to keep my clients working away for the last three UK winters.
    Just a wee nerdy tip whilst we’re chatting – you can get rid of the awful NEXTgen gallery lightbox by using slimbox with it, here is a quote from the clever person that worked this out in the first place

    ‘I have Nextgen gallery working well with Slimbox. I set the Slimbox plugin to use the autoload feature.
    Then, in the Nextgen gallery “Effects” settings, I set “Javascript Thumbnail Effect:” to be “Custom”. I did not change the “Link Code line.”
    Now, Slimbox handles all the image displays for inline images as well as the gallery images. Seems to be working well.’

    You can see it working on my blog – I needed it as the old lightbox I was using conflicting with the jquery on my Rockettheme theme.

    Right, now that’s over we’ll catch up with you somewhere in the big blue for a beer :0)

    Dom

  15. What a great post, going to stumble this for others to see. It’s always nice to see a break down of budget, especially for analytical people. I tend to track every penny I spend and have been thinking of doing a similar post for my time in SE Asia and Australia.

    Good work on getting the web design business going too :-)

    • Thanks for the Stumble Rob. Glad you enjoyed it. I am sure people would be interested in your travel budget – it’s helpful to know what others spent.

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  17. Thanks for sharing your expenses! That gives us a rough idea of what’s coming. I checked out the link to your apartment in Buenos Aires – looks great!!! Bookmarked the website for next year… Brilliant plug-in, by the way!

  18. Pingback: Calculating a daily budget for South America | The amazing journeys of Sarah & Jim

  19. Great article, so many ideas and useful comments.

    My travel plans to Argentina and Chile just took a very big step on to the possible pile.

    How do you keep your laptop going in these places? Do you have any tips?

    All the best
    Phil

    • We haven’t had any problems with the laptop – we have a good case to keep in protected and keep in with us on buses rather than putting it in the luggage compartment. There’s always power and in Argentina usually wifi. It’s still going strong so far.

  20. Pingback: « A Digital Nomad Budget: How Much Does 6 Months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay Cost? » | La page à Pageau

  21. Great post, so helpful! I am wondering what you thought of your Spanish lessons, helpful? Would you do it again?

    Leaving for my 5 month trip to South America at the end of September, starting in BA. Considering staying for a month and taking lessons. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks!

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  24. It’s always awesome to find exactly what you’re looking for, and today this post was it. Thanks a lot for the detailed budget breakdown, and double kudos for including a US$ chart.

    Looks like I’ll be subscribing to you guys in hopes of picking your brains for more about the digital nomad life. Enjoy your travels!

  25. Hey guys,
    Great post about the costs of traveling South America.. It is not as cheap as I would have thought. If you stay for a month in one place you can get accomodation for $300 per month in some places in Brazil and Honduras.

    Best of luck with the app :)

  26. i’m planning on doing south america next year for 5 months and i hear about Brazil being the most expensive. how much, in general, did long distance transportation cost you? say long distance bus ride within brazil. I’m curious because I plan to move around

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