A Digital Nomad Budget: 3 Months in Bolivia & Peru

We have now been digital nomads for nine months. We previously shared how much we spent in our six months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay budget, and now we look at how much three months in Bolivia and Peru cost.

We have set ourselves a monthly budget of £1000 ($1550) for two people, so our daily budget is £33 ($50). We also have an extra few thousand set aside for big expenses like tours, major activities and flights.

Here’s what we spent travelling around Bolivia and Peru for three months. Costs are for two people.

(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
Bolivia£1068.7344£24.29
Peru£1648.9748£34.35
TOTALS:£2,717.7092£29.54
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Bolivia£10.38£8.61£1.95£2.41£0.93£24.29
Peru£15.52£10.71£6.83£0.54£0.76£34.35
Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Bolivia$1,656.5344$37.65
Peru$2,555.9048$53.25
TOTALS:$4,212.4492$45.79
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Bolivia$16.09$13.34$3.03$3.74$1.45$37.65
Peru$24.05$16.60$10.59$0.83$1.18$53.25

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

We ended up slightly underbudget for our daily expenses, which is due to how inexpensive Bolivia is. We did spend a lot on activities and flights though – see below.

Notes on Our Expenses

Bolivia

  • Bolivia is definitely the cheapest country we have visited so far, and we were able to get decent private en-suite rooms for £10 ($16) a night.
  • You could spend less by staying in more basic rooms and eating local food. As we are vegetarian we had to eat in more expensive tourist restaurants most of the time. We only cooked for ourselves a couple of times.
  • Although our daily expenses were under budget we spent a lot on tours (salt flats and jungle) and flights to and from the Amazon region. If you include all these big expenses it takes our daily budget to £46 ($71) a day for two people. See breakdown of extra expenses below.

Peru

  • Peru felt really expensive after Bolivia, although we did only visit the major tourist destinations of Cusco, Arequipa, Lima and Huaraz.
  • We particularly felt this in accommodation prices. In Bolivia we could get a comfortable room for $16, butin Peru what we got for $25wasn’t great. We really wanted a comfortable bed, hot shower and desk to work at so we ended up paying $40-$45 most nights for the first 3.5 weeks. We went a bit “ignore our budget” crazy.
  • As in Bolivia we also ate out twice a day at tourist restaurants which are much more expensive than the un-veggie friendly local places. In addition we had two amazing but super expensive ($40-45) meals at an excellentvegetarian restaurant in Lima. So worth it!
  • Most buses are overnight and distances are long so we went for cama class with the best bus companies (Cruz del Sur & Movil Tours). You could get much cheaper, less comfortable buses.
  • Luckily we were able to make up our major overspend by volunteering at a mountain lodge, where we got free food and accommodation for nearly three weeks.
  • We got stuck in Huaraz for two days because of protesters blocking the roads. We ended up paying a lot to hire a minibus with other travellers to take us an alternative route to Lima. We missed our first flight to Colombia and had to pay to change it (see extra expenses).
  • Although we ended up almost on budget with our daily expenses, if you include our extra expenses of visiting Machu Picchu, replacing the Macbook´s hard drive and buying flights to Colombia, our daily budget goes up to £51 ($79) a day for two people. See breakdown of extra expenses below.

Extra Expenses

We keep a separate budget for big expenses like tours and flights. We spent a lot of this in the last three months as we took advantage of tours in Bolivia, visited expensive Machu Picchu and bought internal flights in Bolivia, and from Peru to Colombia.

These costs are for two people.

Extra Expenses Bolivia
Flights to/from Amazon £320.43
Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) tour £222.22
Spanish lessons (10 hours private) £36.11
Pampas tour £101.85
Jungle lodge £275.55
Total £956.16
Extra Expenses Peru
Machu Picchu (train, bus and entrance) £197.53
Replacement hard drive £70.96
Flights Lima – Medellin, Colombia £470.10
Changing flight date £73.83
Total £812.42

Income

Web design/development £3417.85
Blogging £256.71
Total £3674.56

Notes

  • Our target income for the first year of Simon’s Line In web design and development business is £1000 a month, which was exceeded in the last three months. Jobs have included complete website design and builds; converting designs to WordPress and creating custom WordPress plugins and features (an advanced hotel booking system that integrates a calendar with Paypal).
  • Blogging income is from advertising on Kerala India Travel and affiliate commissions on Never Ending Voyage from promoting the Language Hacking Guide. We are not actively trying to monetise either of those sites at the moment, but take advantage of a few opportunities when they come along.

All in all we are happy with the state of our finances at the moment, especially considering we haven’t tried that hard to keep to our budget. We originally saved enough to live off for a year while we built up the business, and nine months after leaving the UK we only have £2000 less in our bank accounts than when we started. The Line In business is constantly growing and we are set to continue our travels beyond February 2011 (our one year annniversary) and hopefully afford our expensive summer plans.

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 top two tables above). He’ll be releasing it early next year so stay tuned.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet

Leave a comment and let us know your budget for Bolivia and Peru.

42 thoughts on A Digital Nomad Budget: 3 Months in Bolivia & Peru

  1. Wow – thanks for sharing this info. It makes us feel great about the current state of our budget/savings. We are leaving for our RTW trip in May/June 2011, and were hoping to be able to budget $150/day…we will spend more time in Central/South America as well as SEA and India, so we should be laughing. You guys have an incredible site, and your financial updates are extremely helpful.

    Merry Christmas,

    Skott and Shawna

    • You’ll be fine with that budget. We also found India and SEA a lot cheaper than South America so you’ll money will go even further then. Glad you found it useful and good luck with the planning/saving.

  2. Great post! I spent a little over a month in each, and I’d estimate around the same daily costs between two people. I’m fascinated by the wordpress plugin that is coming soon! Can’t wait to see that! Bolivia by far was the cheapest country for me as well in S. America.

    Love your photographs as well!

  3. Great breakdown! I am actually quite surprised that it is that expensive in South America. We’ve been to 5 continents so far in 5 years of family travel, but not yet to SA ( although I have been there long ago).

    I haven’t broken it down like this online yet, but we give ourselves, monthly and yearly budgets. So far we have been able to stay in our 23 dollars a day per person range in 38 countries.

    We also have strict diet restrictions ( though not vegetarians ) so we try to cook our own food when ever possible which helps save lots of money & just works best for us as a family. I like to control our food too. Most people buy food in the food stalls etc here in Penang, as it is cheap & famous for it’s food, but we are enjoying learning to cook Chinese at home…which is even cheaper…& I control the cleanliness & ingredients. ;) We go out on rare occasions too.

    When we added more RTW flights this year, we had to add some sponsors and couchsurfing to keep on budget in expensive places like Bora Bora and Sydney etc, but that added amazing experiences, besides saving money.

    We make a conscious effort to live luxuriously on little, even while traveling in Europe or the USA etc, so have managed to actually save quite a bit of money as we travel the world. That is part of the fun for us. ;)

    Looks like you guys are doing great! Thanks for sharing. Happy Holidays!

    • South America is a bit more expensive than we expected, definitely more expensive than the places we visited in Asia. We could save a lot of money by self-catering but many places we stay in don’t have kitchens and when they do they are often terrible! We are renting an apartment now in Medellin, Colombia and enjoying being able to cook for ourselves.

  4. Love posts like these since they are usually more current than guidebooks. This will help us immensely with our South America planning.

    As for your web design Co. I am so excited to see it take off.

    P.S… I booked 1/2 our tickets tonight…

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It’s so inspiring, and really useful when trying to convince my partner that we could do something like this too. Travel really doesn’t have to be that expensive! Also, I’m really chuffed for you that the location independent income thing is starting to work out. Good for you!

    • Thanks Sam. Good luck with convincing your partner! It took me a while to convince Simon the first time we travelled, and now we are doing it permanently!

  6. Such a detailed overview of your expenses, awesome!! That really helps us to get a better idea of what expenses we’ll have in South America, as we seem to travel in a similar way (private rooms, veggies, activities). It’s great to hear that you haven’t had to dig into your savings too much but can live off Simon’s earnings!

  7. I loved meeting you two in person in Medellin and also love that you are organized enough to lay all these details out for all of us. And frankly, I appreciate your honesty and forthrightness in posts like this. I get so sick of some bloggers that can “live on $26 a day anywhere in the world with a family of three!!!” that never back any of it up with actual information. Thanks!

    • We really enjoyed meeting you too Mike, hopefully we’ll catch up again at some point. I am kind of obsessive about writing down everything we spend, so I might as well share the details with others!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing this guys. I’ve decided in the last week that South America is my place to go next year so these posts help loads. May I ask where your tickets were purchased and how much it was to leave England?

    I can’t seem to find lower than £750

    • Glad you found it useful Anthony. Our flights from London to Rio (via Lisbon) were £415 each one way and we found them on kayak.com. We also met someone recently who got a flight from Colombia to Ireland via Madrid with Iberia for under 300 euros – a week before Christmas as well!

  9. That sounds familiar actually, maybe that person is on my Twitter list or something. I’ve definitely heard of that deal before.

    £415 is a good deal, better than any I’ve seen yet. Cheers for the site I’ll be sure to check it out :)

  10. Great breakdown guys. I and many other people looking to research locations wish there was more of these kind of posts around. I hate the oh just budget this much per day posts without providing any real evidence.

  11. My partner and I hope to travel around South America for around 12 months, starting hopefully in just over a years time. This post and many your other posts, are not only really informative but at the same time very motivating.

  12. Hi,
    First of this information is brilliant! It’s so helpful and actually gives you some sort of confidence when it comes to stuff like budgeting (it’s always so tricky)

    I’m considering applying for an human rights internship in Bogata, Colombia for about 3 months. I’m trying to figure out how much i will need to cover living there – accommodation, transportation, food and whatever expenses I might come across. I’ve searched everywhere online and there’s absolutely no information on this. Any sort of information would be helpful and very much appreciated!

  13. We’re about to head off our RTW journey this year and are trying to figure out a realistic daily budget for South/Central America, so your figures gave us great hope! We also want to do some of the main tours like you did and I was a bit worried these would completely blow the buget. However by the looks of your expenses for these activities you managed to find tour companies who didn’t charge the earth, so we’d be really grateful if you could advise which tour groups you used for Macchu Picchu, the salt flats and pampas tours.

    Thanks again for your detailed information, it’s been so helpful for us.

    Keryn and Kurt

    • Luckily tours are very inexpensive in Bolivia. You can read about our Pampas tour here: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/the-bolivian-amazon-the-jungle-vs-the-pampas/ . We don’t really recommend our company but I think they are all very similar. It’s a cheap, basic tour but if you are prepared for that then it’s fine.

      There is a big difference with tour operators for the salt flats. Generally the ones from Tupiza have a better reputation. We loved Tupiza Tours and highly recommend them. Read more here: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/bolivia-salt-flats-salar-de-uyuni-part-1/

      For Machu Picchu we didn’t do a tour. We booked train tickets from Ollyantambo – Machu Picchu as it’s cheaper. We stayed the night in Aguas Calientes then got up really early to go to Machu Picchu and then got the train back at the end of the day. It’s easy to do independently if you don’t want to trek.

  14. great budget and expenses report (and the previous 6 month one).
    It’s really useful for those of us like myself waiting to take the plunge in the new year (2012). Do you have any thoughts, advice or recs on access, accounts, cards, cash, cheques etc this is something I am still a little worried/confused about and would love to hear what you can advise.

    Keep safe and travel well!

    • Glad you found it useful. I would make sure you have access to your main account through online banking. It’s best to go with an account that doesn’t have too high foreign transaction fees. Then take a stash of emergency cash, and at least 1 debit and 1 credit card. It’s always good to have a few back up cards too in case one gets stolen. We don’t bother with travellers cheques now after not using them in 18 months. I wrote more here about managing finances on the road

      Let us know if you have any more questions and good luck with it. .

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  16. Hi guys, nice of you to make the breakdown in so much detail. It was very surprising to me that my trip to Peru was so expensive, but it is definitely worth the money in my mind as those memories will stay forever and the country has so much uniqueness to offer. Keep writing the great content!

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  18. Going to spend some time going through your blog, thanks for the info!

    My question is…

    Where do you find this cheap accommodation? Do you Google it? If so what are you searching for? Or do you find a hotel and then once you get to the area look for something cheaper locally?

    Thank you

    • A mix of TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, other blogs and friend’s recommendations, and booking.com. The cheapest places often aren’t online so just walking around when you get there also works.

  19. Very useful reading for someone planning to be around these two countries in the next months. I am also a programmer, working on the road as I travel. I noticed you mentioned you replace your hard drive while in Peru, did it had anything to do with altitude of the city you were? I keep reading hard drive aren’t meant to work over 3,000 meters above sea level, wondering if others have experience with this.

    • No, we replaced it because Simon dropped his laptop down some stairs and was worried it was failing. I have heard people having issues with altitude but we didn’t.

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