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

Currency: GBP

Summary
Country Total Spent Days in country Cost per day
TOTALS: £7,489.08 184 £40.70
Brazil £1,353.54 17 £79.62
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires) £2,822.79 69 £40.91
Paraguay £762.51 21 £36.31
Argentina 2 (Salta) £2,550.24 77 £33.12
Breakdown
Country Accommodation Food Transport Entertainment Other Total 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 £40.91
Paraguay £17.75 £9.26 £5.93 £1.06 £2.31 £36.31
Argentina 2 (Salta) £16.60 £9.05 £4.59 £0.91 £1.97 £33.12

Currency: USD

Summary
Country Total Spent Days in country Cost per day
TOTALS: $11,233.62 184 $61.05
Brazil $2,030.31 17 $119.43
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires) $4,234.19 69 $61.37
Paraguay $1,143.77 21 $54.47
Argentina 2 (Salta) $3,825.36 77 $49.68
Breakdown
Country Accommodation Food Transport Entertainment Other Total Per Day
Brazil $63.86 $34.71 $14.00 $5.55 $1.32 $119.43
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires) $26.51 $22.68 $4.98 $5.96 $1.25 $61.37
Paraguay $26.63 $13.89 $8.90 $1.59 $3.47 $54.47
Argentina 2 (Salta) $24.90 $13.58 $6.89 $1.37 $2.96 $49.68

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 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 Gui de, 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.

49 Comments

  1. 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.

    Reply ↓

  2. 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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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!

        Reply ↓

  3. 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!

    Reply ↓

    • 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!

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  4. 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!

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    • 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.

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      • 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!

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        • 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!

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        • 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!

  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!

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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!

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    • 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!

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    • 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 [email protected] for more info.

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  8. 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!

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  9. 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?

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    • Glad you found it useful Jo. There are plenty of apartments to rent in Buenos Aires, including lots on Craigslist. It only took us a few days to find ours (a recommendation from another traveller). It was US$800 a month and we really recommend it. You can see the details here:

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