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

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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.

Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our 47 Useful Gift Ideas for Carry-On Travellers. They are ideal for travel lovers who want to pack light and include something for every budget.

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

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49 Comments (6 pingbacks)

  1. 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

    Reply

  2. 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 🙂

    Reply

  3. 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!

    Reply

  4. 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!

    Reply

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